Banshee is one of those shows you go on a complete bender watching. Hell, I did. It’s from the creators of True Blood, starring New Zealand native Antony Starr as Lucas Hood, an ex-con and master thief who assumes the identity of the sheriff of Banshee, PA, where he continues his criminal activities, even as he is hunted by the shadowy gangster he betrayed years earlier.
Each and every episode not only brings some of the craziest and twisted physical scenes but also a culmination of story lines from each of its characters. You’ve got the townies, thugs, Ukrainian gangsters, and political powerhouses all squeezed into a little-known rural town all battling for control. And, of course, Antony Starr as Hood.
If you haven’t been watching this Cinemax edge-of-your-seat thriller, here’s a quick recap of what you've been missing.
Season 1 brings us into the world of the ex-con Lucas Hood (Antony Starr). Hood is released from prison after 15 years, and while looking for the love of his life, his former accomplice and love Carrie/Anna (played by Ivana Milicevic), through a series of action-packed events he ends up as the new sheriff in the quirky small town of Banshee. In the close of Season 1, our ex-con and master thief, but presumed ‘hero’, finds himself in an all-out battle for his life when his past catches up with him.
In Season 2, Sheriff Hood, having evaded his past and coming face-to-face with an abrupt sudden revelation such as he fathered a child with Carrie/Anna (Ivana Milicevic), who has also been living under a false identity now married to the town’s District Attorney. In this season it would appear we find all of Banshee’s characters living the proverbial double life: locked and loaded with temptation. Everyone is faced with a crossroad of some sorts, questioning what life they should or can have in deciding to either turn left or right.
With the Season 2 finale airing on Friday, March 14 at 10 p.m. ET on Cinemax, and a Season 3 already in the works, we were fortunate enough to score time with the star himself to chat about some of the rumblings within the small town of Banshee, how he connects with his character, and what’s created a hardcore and rapidly growing following, “Fanshees.”
[portrait credit: Eric Williams]
Men’s Fitness: So, Lucas Hood on Banshee, that’s pretty much your first U.S. role. What about that character really got you hooked?
Antony Starr: There were a number of things really appealing and fascinating, not only to the character, but also to the whole project, because for someone in my position, working down in Australia, I was doing fine. I was working on TV shows and some films down there, but when Alan Ball comes sniffing around and gives you an opportunity and Greg Yaitanes is involved as well, and the chance to work for Cinemax under the HBO umbrella, it’s a pretty good offer. And when I read the script and thought about what they were trying to do, it looked really ambitious and something that would be really challenging. There’s a lot of action, and I’ve never done any action before. It was a bit of a no brainer with the people and the kind of creativity that was involved. I just looked at it and went “Yeah!” It’s been a roller-coaster, though, man, it really is challenging in every way. It’s challenging emotionally, physically, geographically for me because I live down here and work over there. It really is a really daunting prospect going into each season, but it’s all worth it.
MF: Love it, but how would you describe that character, or your role in the series?
AS: He’s almost as developed as your classic antihero. He’s the guy who is doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. The same way with the other shows around have made their leading men like Breaking Bad and Dexter, he’s not exactly an angel, yet you side with him. And he’s definitely operating by his own code that’s really not everyone’s cup of tea, but at the same time, there’s a part of everyone that wants to see justice prevail in a much more hands-on way than is often seen through the courts. So often, we sit and we read the newspaper and go, ‘God, I wish I could be left alone with that guy and a baseball bat for half an hour in a room.’ Of course that’s just the emotional reactions to things that we see, but I guess, it’s a safe way of entertaining that thought process becoming a reality. I think that’s one of the attractive things about the character. He gets to operate in a way, because the show is obviously a very heightened reality, we’re not dealing with anything close to real. He’s allowed to sort of get away with literally murder. There’s something really satisfying about that.
MF: Speaking of the violence, You yourself get tossed around quite a bit in the show. It gets pretty gnarly. How do you stay fit and in shape?
AS: First of all, yeah, it’s brutal. They seem to relish throwing me into these fight scenes with men who are well over 200 pounds. I think most of them are 220, 230, 250. You try wrestling around with enormous men, for hours and hours at a time, and it really is pretty taxing. So I think staying in shape is important to survive the season and we’ve got a great trainer, this guy Brandon Peters, he’s based out of LA and he comes over for the shoot. But to be honest, it’s really difficult to maintain any sort of structured fitness because we’re working 15, 16 hours a day, sometimes five days a week. So it can be pretty difficult. I also have a limited attention span when it comes to exercise and can get really bored with same thing over and over. We do a bit of boxing, and I try and mix it up.
MF: Yeah, boxing, you look very natural. Do you have a background in any of that stuff?
AS: Yeah, I did martial arts and karate for eight years when I was growing up. That sort of landed me in pretty good stead. We didn’t have an enormous amount of time to prep for it before we started, so sharpening that up again was essential. I was very lucky to have that. Then building on that, when I was training for the show in Sydney, I had a great trainer over there as well who happened to be a Muay Thai fighter. We did a lot of kicks, elbows, knees, and started bringing a bit of dirty boxing into it as well. Just because, you know, the guy's going to be someone who’s clearly well trained but also spent 15 years scrapping, so he really needs to have a very dirty, sort of anything goes, feel to the fight. And that’s something that we get a great stunt team to come up with some pretty amazing choreography. Where I come in, I try and keep it as close to honest as we can, while not training on their terms. We try to find that balance of being real but interesting.
MF: The show is getting great reviews, and you’re getting this hardcore following called "Fanshees." What do you think is making it so successful?
AS: I think it doesn’t pull any punches. It’s really unapologetic about what it is, and I think everyone’s really committed. I’ve always had this rule of thumb, if you have fun making it, then someone will have fun watching it. I think that proves we have a lot of fun on set and we’re all committed to making the best product possible. As far as what it really comes down to it's the chemistry from the actors to the directors to the writers to the producers, to the whole, and all the crew. It’s easy to get it wrong, and all of a sudden when you get it right it’s really noticeable.
And I think because we have a slightly comic book feel to the show and because it's very obviously a heightened reality and a bit quirky, it makes all that stuff much less real and much easier to take. The violence in the show is often quite funny, and there’s a certain amount of humor through things that are going on. We all like going to the dark side of things, we all like dipping into worlds that we don’t know anything about, or hopefully don’t know anything about. I think Banshee gives people a chance to do that pretty safely because we all know there’s a solid buffer between the show and reality.
MF: Okay, we’re not going to keep you. Congrats on signing for Season 3. Anything you can leak about the finale or next season?
AS: If I’m honest, I don’t know, I have only a very broad outline of Season 3 so I can’t give you a hell of a lot of information about that, other than, I heard it and I got excited. The ideas are so fresh and so interesting. All I thought, and I said to Jonathan (Tropper) was, "That’s so fucking cool." It just sounds like we’re going to have so much fun doing it, so hopefully the people will have fun watching it. As far as Season 2 goes, the finale really is just epic. It covers so much ground, and for anyone who’s been watching the show, after that point, it’s one of those things where it is, how do I put it, a culmination of 19 episodes previous, all coming to a head, like a train smash. It’s just a rollercoaster from start to finish. And it’s something that fans won’t want to miss. And people who haven’t seen the show should check it out.
Don't forget to tune in for the Season 2 finale airing on Friday, March 14 at 10 p.m. ET on Cinemax.