Cinemax's action series "Banshee" is a shotgun loaded with sex, violence and bad behavior, but star Ivana Milicevic sees something sweeter in all the darkness: love.
"I grabbed onto this understanding of loving desperately somebody that you have no business loving," Milicevic told me during a recent phone conversation about the show's second season airing at 9 p.m. Fridays.
Milicevic's character, Carrie Hopewell, currently sits in jail for shooting up her gangster father, Mr. Rabbit (Ben Cross), and his henchmen in the show's first season after he kidnapped her son and Banshee Sheriff Lucas Hood (Antony Starr), who also is hiding his criminal past as her former partner in crime and in bed. She's estranged from her hubby, Banshee's district attorney Gordon Hopewell (Rus Blackwell), and their children after she lied to them about her past. They still don't know all of the details, specifically about her relationship with Hood.
"It's like you've got such a good thing going, but there's somebody from your past you passionately love and you have no business being with but you love him anyway because the heart wants what the heart wants," Milicevic continued, explaining the very complicated Carrie and her desire to be both loving wife and a thief—and to love both the men who come with those extremes. "She wants both. She wants both and neither and it's just all a big mess."
Milicevic and I talked more about Carrie, why filming the show's fight scenes is a lot more fun than the sex scenes, and what's coming in Season 2.
Read all that in the Q&A below, but first, here's her secret for getting rid of a cold: "Apple cider vinegar. Hot water and, like, half a bottle of Bragg vinegar and just cover up under blankets and sweat it all out."
You probably get asked about the fight scenes all the time, but ...
I know, but I love talking about it. It's one of my favorite aspects of the show.
You enjoy the stunts and doing all that?
I do. By the end of the season I get really, really tired and my adrenals get shot and it's just harder. It's a lot of training. I get really fit but it's really scary. I get a lot of bruises. Like, I don't ever break anything. My bones are really strong, but man, I bruise like a banana.
The Season 1 fight with Olek I thought, "Is this thing ever gonna end?" Did you feel that way filming it?
Yes. But you know what? You get so much adrenalin and you start to have tunnel vision that you just go, go, go till it's done. And then you're so tired. You're just spent afterwards. And it took one day, like really, one day. We shot a little bit of the beginning before it gets messy. And a little more the next day when I'm already in the blood. The hardest part of it was all that sticky blood and putting on the hard, crusty, sticky blood clothes the next day to shoot me on the floor. That was probably the worst part. The adrenaline really pumps you up because your brain doesn't know the difference if it's happening for real or not.
Those fights are heavily choreographed. Is there room to just let loose?
Heavily choreographed. Yes, because I'm pretty clumsy. Things happen because there's a lot of movement. So in that fight scene that you're talking about, I gave myself a little black eye ... And then I hit my ankle on a corner being pushed around. Your body just gets it. But they padded his whole apartment for me because that was the fight of the season.
And then this year in Episode 2, [the prison fight] was also heavily choreographed but we made room for some improvised bits that looked really brutal, but they're actually less brutal to film than how they look--like when we're kind of pulling each other's hair.
When you're fighting those folks do you just get up and go, "Hey, nice job," or do you kick them again for good measure?
No! I'm constantly checking to see if they're OK. Because, listen, these are stunt women I'm fighting. It's designed for me to win. They are actually way more badass than I am—and they take much more of a licking than I do.
But you do most of that work, right?
I do most of it. They'll save me for a rehearsal, because the way we shoot we just go through the whole fight over and over and over again and the cameras are just being set up. We don't shoot it in pieces. We shoot the whole fight over and over again. I mean maybe they'll get the beginning of the fight and then we'll pick it up from another area ... It's not like planned shots for how to shoot it.
The other big topic of discussion about this show is the sex. Which scenes are easier to film, sex or fighting?
They're both equally hard for different reasons. The fight scenes take so much out of you physically. The sex scenes take a lot out of you emotionally because you're worried about your body, you're worried about the light, you're worried about everyone's comfort. But I trust the actors I'm working with so much. Even if it doesn't look like we're covered, we are. And I trust the crew and they deal with the whole thing very respectfully.
The sex scenes are more scary when they're shot and edited and finished. And then you're like, "Wow, that was a lot longer than I remembered it," because of the five different cameras you had set up. And the sex scenes are the shortest to shoot. We shoot those in like 20 minutes. Fight scenes take all day.
Yeah, the sex scenes [in finished episodes] end up a lot longer than you'd expect. And so it's more like how anyone would feel. It's out there for the world to see and weigh in on morally, physically—all sorts of things.
But now that I've already been through it one year, it doesn't really matter. I mean I do things that I think are right for the character. This part is the first time I've ever done it in my career so obviously—and not because I couldn't have done it before—but for this part I felt that it was really important that the characters have sex with the same intensity that they fight and live with. You know, wearing a bra in that circumstance just doesn't seem right.
Before Carrie was found out, she had this past life she was trying to hide. It must take so much energy for her to keep that at bay.
Yes, it does, keeping the secret hidden for the safety of her family.
In the first season when they're at the party and there's the gunshot and she throws her husband to the ground and he's like, "What the hell?" That was a great example of her natural instincts coming out and nearly exposing her.
Exactly, like those little things are so great. And even in the pilot episode, the sex scenes are designed with quite a lot of thought. So that that sex act in the pilot was trying to really set up to show Carrie wasn't a bored housewife. Carrie and Gordon had a hot, sweet, passionate love, a passionate relationship.
And they have a sweet little family with typical teenage problems. So Lucas Hood coming into town wasn't like, "Oh, of course she's gonna get into trouble. She's been so bored." She hasn't been bored. She's been living this other life and Lucas coming into town was like a drop of alcohol to the alcoholic. Like [the sex scenes] really are there for a reason.
Did she marry Gordon just to hide her past?
It started off that way, for sure. It started off like a good friendship and listen, she had nowhere to go. But she grew to love him because he is a good man. I talked to a lot of my friends who are married. I asked them, "Did you marry the love of your life?" And most of them say no, they did not marry the love of their life but they married who they should have married. So I think that's what happened with Carrie. It might not be the love of her life, but it's who she should be with.
Now whether he'll take her back—that's another story.
We were talking about her hiding her past. Do you feel like that's something that viewers can relate to even though they're situation probably isn't as extreme as her situation?
Right. "Banshee" takes everything to the extreme. Of course, I think so. I mean nobody wants ... every mistake from their past bared like dirty laundry.
This season Carrie is no longer sort of transfixed by Lucas, is she?
Not as much because so much has happened and there are too many things that are left unknown. ... In Season 1, she was trying to protect him by saying, "Leave. Save yourself." He wouldn't go. Now she still thinks it's safest for him to leave, but now she's all on her own. And if Rabbit's still alive that means that she needs [Lucas] to be there to help her. And he's got more reason to be there because we all know that Dava's his. So if Rabbit's on the loose and he just kidnapped Max, I mean, who knows what will happen?
But her big focus now is getting her family back?
Yes, but even before with Lucas it was just so addictive. She didn't want to. She tried so hard but it just became impossible. And then she thought, "Well maybe this will work. ... Maybe if I'm nice it'll work. Maybe if we have sex it'll work." You know? Maybe it'll be like, "Ah, I remembered it to be a lot better than it was." That'll work. And none of it worked.
Season 2 we get to see them doing a heist. Was that a fun thing to see how they were before?
Yes. I hope that that element of the show keeps happening. I hope that she's somewhere between Carrie and [her former self,] Ana. And yes, she's a mother—a woman that can have it all. "I can be a mother and I can be a thief. What's the problem?"
Are you happy with her journey this season?
I think she's got really hard choices all the time. I'm very curious about what happens next season, because I think this season is very depressing for her. So, no, I'm not happy about her journey this season because it's very "woe is me. My family won't talk to me. I'm living in a motel. Now I'm in jail. People are beating me up. My husband won't talk to me. My dad's mad at me." And then you'll see other things that happen later on. It's just like, "Oh, now I've got to do it again." It's like no winning. So I wonder if next season—and I don't know this, this is me talking—but I wonder if next season she's just gonna accept all of it. Like, "Yep, I'm a mother. Yep, I'm a criminal. Let's go."
Anything you want to tell the fanshees?
Yeah, fanshees. Season 1 is going to get Bansheed by Season 2.
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