Antony Starr worries that he's angered the producers of his Cinemax series "Banshee," or possibly the universe in general.
"If I'm honest it has crossed my mind that possibly I've done wrong to someone, I've pissed them off in some way," the New Zealand native said during a recent phone chat, "because the guys that I'm fighting just seem to get bigger and bigger. And every day I do a fight sequence I come out of it battered and bruised. So, you know, it's payback for some transgression either in this or a past life."
As Sheriff Lucas Hood in the action series, Starr squares off against increasingly larger foes, often getting beat to a pulp even if he comes out on top in the end. In the show's first season, Hood faced down a character known as The Albino in prison. This season's answer to that bruiser is Chayton Littlestone (Geno Segers), a member of the Kinaho tribe living next to the Amish outside of Banshee, Penn.
"That guy is huge! He is huge," exec producer Greg Yaitanes told me in a separate interview. "If you are a big human being you have a good shot at being on 'Banshee.'"
Littlestone and Hood battle in "The Warrior Class," airing at 9 p.m. Jan. 24 on Cinemax, when the sheriff attempts to question Littlestone's friend in connection with the murder a girl from the tribe. As you can see in the video preview above, Starr once again gets tossed about in the epic fight.
Exec producer, writer and creator Jonathan Tropper didn't sound too distressed about putting Starr in the line of fire when I spoke to him, telling me, "Some guys just look better bloody."
Not that Starr is complaining about the stunt work. He actually enjoys getting the crap beat out of him.
"Yeah, look, I'd be lying if I said I didn't. I do quite enjoy them—weirdly and maybe in a slightly masochistic way," he said. "What I love about them is not getting battered and bruised but I love the fact that the character goes in against all odds and sort of pits himself against ridiculous ogres of men. And it's the spirit that triumphs in the end."
Starr, who before "Banshee" had done mostly TV work in New Zealand, had never done much stunt work. He said the stunts are demanding but a challenge he enjoys. Part of the prep work for a season on "Banshee" includes a lot of physical training, he said, but nothing really prepares you for filming the fight scenes, which can take up to 25 hours to shoot.
"I mean, I'm not a huge guy. I'm about 180 pounds and I'm fighting guys that are like anywhere from 230 to 250. So it really is getting thrown around by big dudes and getting hit by them," he said. "Even when it's just play acting it does take its toll after a while. So it's pretty brutal."
Starr talked more about the toll of fight scenes, Lucas Hood's state of mind in Season 2, and his love life.
I read you were injured in Season 1.
Yeah, actually day one of shooting as an introductory gift, a welcoming gift I got six stitches in my lip from a fight sequence when the choreography just got slightly mixed up and someone's head went into my face at a time when it wasn't supposed to. And I wasn't ready for it and it just split my whole lip open. So that was day one. It was a welcome to "Banshee."
Do they carry on and just keep shooting?
We carried on. I think the schedule was pretty tight because that was the pilot episode. So we could have taken me off to hospital but we only had this location for one day so it was kind of over to me. They could take me off to the hospital or I could make the choice to keep shooting. So I kept shooting and then they took me at the end of the day. We shot another six hours and then they took me off and I got stitched up and went back to work the next day. Yeah, it was a lot of fun.
Always a challenge.
Always a challenge. I could do without that, if I'm honest. That's going a little too far because it was on my lip and I was doing a new American accent. So it was a bit of a hindrance; having a face full of meat that's exposed was kind of awful.
It looked good on camera though, right?
Oh my God. I think they spent so much time and energy at the end of the pilot episode just painting out my puffy lip. ... It was day one and that fight happened about halfway through the episode so everything after that fight sequence they could leave alone. But everything up to there had to be painted out. So it was quite a lot of work in post-production.
This season Lucas seems a little messed up. He's having these visions of Rabbit and panic attacks.
Yeah, I mean psychologically he's been messed up. I reckon since he got out I think there's been a lot of mental issues going on as a part of getting released and facing up to it to where he's at. But this season definitely if you look at what happened at the end of the first season he effectively committed suicide by swapping himself out for the boy. And then went unconscious, came back to consciousness and is still alive.
Not only that, he's got a second chance to take care of the people that he loves. And I think part of the post-traumatic stress disorder that I believe he came back with—part that is the hallucinations and visions and really struggling to cope with what's happened to him. So internally everything's sort of tipped on its head and externally everything's positioned very precariously on the edge. So it's definitely an interesting spot to be in to start the second season.
Do you feel that he's become more thoughtful and caring?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely.
Is he tired of the violence?
Absolutely. Look, I think Lucas when he first got out of prison was all about himself and getting back what was his. And then through the course of Season 1—at the base of it all Lucas wants to be a part of a family and part of a community—like he has the same basic human needs that we all have. And without realizing it he has created that for himself in the deputies and the people in the town. And they come to his aid at the end of Season 1.
In Season 2 there's that realization not only does he have a daughter and a need to protect her, but also he has a responsibility in some way, shape, form to that community that went to bat for him. A lot of what's going on in Season 2 is about looking at other people and realizing that it's not all about him.
Does that realization make him weaker, or I mean more vulnerable?
I don't think it makes him weaker at all. It definitely makes him more vulnerable because when it's just you then you can be physically hurt, but they can't emotionally screw with you in the same way as when you actually love others. And getting to others is a great way to impact him. Rabbit is still at large and at completely unknown quantities. So it's all about protection and taking care of those you love.
He still loves Ana, or Carrie now.
But so much happens that makes me want to ask you, is there a woman that Lucas won't go to bed with?
Ha, ha, ha. I don't know. I think that's a part of it. I think Season 1 was like getting out of prison and that's part and parcel of a man getting out of prison. I self-diagnose the character as having antisocial personality disorder, part of which is promiscuity. So I've always looked at it from a character point of view and a story point of view.
And I think that settles down toward the end of Season 1, but in Season 2 it's still there. He's still human. He's still a man. He has needs and some of those needs can be met by getting entangled with the opposite sex. But inevitably that's not really what the heart of the character is about. That's just the distraction on top that makes him temporarily feel [better]. It's escapism, you know?
He strikes up a relationship this season with somebody from the office.
Yeah, I think with it being he can never be together with Ana, closing the door in that sense opens the door in another sense. It makes him very much free and available to really pursue other romantic avenues with his heart rather than just from a fleshy point of view.
Whenever we do these scenes—the sex scenes or anything like that—there's always a psychology involved. And whilst people might turn up and take it at face value and think that it's superficial and shallow, if you actually look at the scenes and dissect them there's always a lot of story and character going on. So at its heart Lucas is really looking for connection and, yeah, Season 2 entertains that notion.
Well now, I wasn't even talking about sex scenes there.
[Laughs.] Oh no, I know. I figured I'd just throw it in for you.
With Deputy Kelly (Trieste Kelly Dunn), he seems to genuinely care. Does that further his growth in your eyes?
Yeah, absolutely. The show's all about a broken human becoming whole again from his point of view. So it's really the way that we sort of heal ourselves and move forward and grow is true connection with other people. And there's no stronger connection than with an intimate other. So inevitably he's gonna be looking for that and that's something that's gonna be an ongoing [subject].
There's a great line from Job (Hoon Lee) this season. He tells Lucas that people who get close to him get burned or killed. I can't remember exactly what it is, but I loved the line and I'm wondering if you feel Lucas believes that, too? Or do you think he he has a romantic notion that he can change all that?
Both. I think that is a truth. I think it's about not being able to escape your past and having your past coming back to haunt you. But I also think he believes and has to believe that you can achieve more, that you can be more, that you can get rid of the monkey on your back and move forward and become something more than what you are.
And he really wants to get to know Deva, his daughter.
Yeah, I think having that new responsibility of being a father and wanting more—that works hand-in-hand with wanting more out of life and wanting to be there for her and develop in that sense as well.
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