“I spent 15 years picturing this day, and I got to tell you, this is not how I saw it playing out,” Lucas Hood (played by Antony Starr, “Rush”) tells his ex-lover — understating things just a little — on the new Cinemax action drama “Banshee,” premiering Friday, Jan. 11.
Immediately upon his release from state prison, Lucas has a busy day that would tucker out any ex-con. He hits a bar, steals a car, gets in a chase and shootout in Manhattan, boosts a motorcycle, stalks his ex-lover in the rural Pennsylvania Dutch town that gives the series its title, and kills two guys in a bar fight. Oh, and by nightfall, he’s the town’s sheriff.
The premise of the show — executive produced by Alan Ball (“Six Feet Under,” “True Blood”) — may seem a little preposterous and over the top, but that’s what makes it incredibly engrossing and a lot of fun. Like its Cinemax series brethren “Strike Back” and “Hunted,” “Banshee” is a serious drama that smartly doesn’t take itself too seriously.
“You have to buy into the heightened reality of the show,” Starr tells Zap2it. “One of the great things about the show is that when we have very serious moments, that we have just a pinch of something else, a pinch of color, just to remind us that it’s not real. We are existing in this heightened universe.”
The “Banshee” universe is a surreal, sleazy stew of ex-cons, techie drag queens, politicians, corrupt businessmen, drug dealers, Ukrainian gangsters, rebellious teenagers and local yokels — all with their own secrets and agendas. And yes, there are Amish.
“You can’t turn the corner at the moment without seeing something about Amish,” Starr says. “They’re so hot right now. It’s amazing. Every time I turn on the TV, there’s another reality show about Amish.”
But “Banshee” isn’t just jumping on the trend buggy. The Amish country backdrop adds rich layers to the story.
“There are a lot of bad people in the town of Banshee,” Starr says, “and having this idyllic Pennsylvania [setting], sort of pristine ideas that run along with the Amish ideology, is a backdrop for the criminal enterprises that are going on, the bad people that are around. It’s a stark contrast for the world. It really creates a landscape where there’s true good and true evil, and they’re really polarized next to each other.”
The Amish would definitely shun “Banshee” for all the sex scenes (it is Cinemax, after all). Ivana Milicevic (“Casino Royale”) plays Carrie, Lucas’ past partner in crime and in bed, who has reinvented herself as a wife and mother while hiding from the gangsters she and Lucas betrayed years ago.
Milicevic, a former model and Bond girl, has plenty of steamy screen time in “Banshee.”
“As for sex scenes,” she says, “I’m sure everyone you’ve ever asked always tells you the same thing: They are awkward and ridiculous. Everything about them is embarrassing and a funny story. Although the cool thing is that we really wanted the sex scenes to kind of be natural and real.
“I really wanted them to be like, ‘If we’re going to do them, let’s kind of do it.’ I mean not ‘do it’ do it, but I wanted it to be natural,” she says. “It’s just the whole thing is really funny. And it’s got nothing to do with sexiness or anything. You just kind of do it.
“And the cast and crew were all so close,” she continues, “it was pretty comfortable considering how awkward the whole thing is. And then you just kind of get used to it.”