The Cinemax series Banshee is back for its eight-episode fourth and final season, and ex-con and master thief Lucas Hood (Antony Starr) has become immersed in a new crisis, involving a vicious serial murderer. After having cut himself off from everyone and everything for two years, Hood returns to find a very different Banshee than he left, and the friends he turned his back on may not be so welcoming about having him back.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, which was interrupted in a very Banshee manner by a swearing New Yorker and a fire truck with a very loud siren, actor Matt Servitto talked about playing Brock Lotus for four seasons, how his character was originally supposed to get killed off by the end of Season 1, how finally getting what he wanted isn’t at all what Brock expected, the dynamic between Brock and Bunker (Tom Pelphrey), what Brock’s ideal Banshee would look like, how he really feels about Lucas Hood, and what he’s most proud of with the show. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: What’s it been like to have been a part of Banshee for four seasons?
MATT SERVITTO: I have to say that, for the four years of doing this, it’s been such a blast. In my career, I’ve just never quite had an arc like this character. One of the things a lot of people don’t know is that my character was supposed to be dead at the end of Season 1. I was brought on as a plot device. Right near the end of Season 1, I was supposed to discover that Lucas Hood was a liar and that he wasn’t who he said he was, but then get killed in a shoot-out that we had with the Ukrainian mob. So then, his secret would remain safe, Brock would be dead, and life would go on. Somewhere about half-way through Season 1, the writers and producers came and said, “We’re not killing you. We like the character too much. We like you and Antony [Starr] together. That relationship is fun. We want to keep it going.” And then, Jonathan [Tropper] spent Season 2 trying to unkill me. Because I was no longer dead, he wasn’t sure how to make me a fabric of the town.
I would say almost everybody on the show had a “Welcome to Banshee” moment. There was one moment for everybody where, all of a sudden, they were now in the forefront and their path became very clear. And almost everybody on the show has some sort of mysterious past that is affecting what’s happening to them in the present, except Brock. I was sitting on the sidelines wondering, “Is he just the moral center of this town? Is he just the good guy?” And then, all of a sudden, in Season 3, you just saw the switch go and I had my “Welcome to Banshee” moment. I had a beard, I looked different and my behavior was different, and I was, all of a sudden, on the dark side. This is a little bit of a continuation.
Even though Brock finally got what he wanted, it’s definitely a “be careful what you wish for” scenario. He finally gets to be sheriff, in the most violent town in America. He spends a lot of time in Season 4 just reeling. Nothing has gotten any better and the town that he loves so much is slowly under fire from multiple fronts. Season 4 is a blast because it’s just fun to watch Brock go down the rabbit hole. He truly begins to lose his mind and become unhinged and, as an actor, that was a blast to play. Because Season 4 is a bit of a whodunit and a murder mystery, I got to interact with almost every character on the show because almost everyone is a suspect, at some specific point.
Do you think that Brock would have wanted the position of sheriff, if he knew who he was going to have to deal with as the town mayor?
SERVITTO: Of all the stuff, that is the thing where, when I read the script, I was like, “Oh, really?!” It’s not enough for him to already be dealing with all of this other stuff, but now he’s got to deal with Proctor as mayor. And that is something that’s explored, as well. He got into bed, so to speak, with Proctor because of the things that he has turned a blind eye to. Proctor gets them a new police station, new cars, new uniforms and more people. For three seasons, there were only four cops, and that was it. If one of us wasn’t at the Cadi, nobody was at the Cadi. Very often, we had to come in to do background work. If it was a scene with Lucas and Siobhan, Emmett and Brock would just be in the background, drinking coffee and talking. We kept saying, “Please, can we just get a few other cops to fill in and give us some fabric?” Well, be careful what you wish for. All of a sudden, the Banshee police department was like Law & Order with all of these background, holding cells, interrogation rooms, state-of-the-art weapons, flack jackets and bulletproof vests. I don’t think it would have affected anything. I still think he would have wanted the job. But, to be dealing with that on top of everything else is such a huge 100-pound gorilla in the room that everybody has to deal with.
It’s so much fun to watch the dynamic between Brock and Bunker. How much do you enjoy playing that relationship?
SERVITTO: It’s like a father-son relationship, where only in Banshee would his son be a crazy ex-Neo Nazi, tattooed, body builder guy. There are these moments, throughout the season, where we have these sweet Andy Griffith, Mayberry R.F.D. moments, but only in a very Banshee fashion. It’s like, “Hey, look, you can’t be killing everybody, okay? Let’s think before we do that.” But, it’s the perfect relationship. I love, love, love working with Tom Pelphrey. I got to spend a lot of time with him this year because he’s my right-hand man. And he clearly has his own problems. Once it became clear that this was the last season, the writers really went to town, which was a blast. They just went nuts and started really opening up the storylines. Everybody is involved. Everybody becomes unhinged in their lives and in the town. Every storyline was affecting another one.
In the first couple of seasons, storylines were very segregated and there were characters that I didn’t work with for two or three years. This year, every storyline was colliding, and that was exciting. By the time we had finished, it was so aerobic that we were like, “I guess that’s it.” It was so fast and furious to finish the show that it still felt like we were done, for a week after we were done. I’m so excited to see how the fans are going to respond to it, too. It’s a little bit shorter this year, but we took what is usually a 10-episode season and, in classic Banshee fashion, we just crammed it into eight episodes. It was already a show that felt like every episode was some crazy, hyper, indie action movie, and they didn’t distract anything, but just condensed it. Everything in there has huge purpose and is moving the storyline forward.
What do you think an ideal Banshee would look like to Brock and what would make him personally happy?
SERVITTO: Brock is the only one who really is from Banshee. Proctor is from the Amish community and is really connected to that, but not the town. Brock’s grandfather is buried in Banshee, his father is buried in Banshee, and he went to high school in Banshee. Everybody else seems to be a transient. Siobhan came from somewhere else. Emmett came from somewhere else. Some were local, but not necessarily from the town of Banshee. So, the only thing that matters to him is the people and the town, itself. He has this idea that he wants to be the knight in shining armor who saves the town, restores it to order, and makes it like it used to be when he was a kid. And even in the best of circumstances, that probably isn’t realistic because everything has changed about Banshee, economically and socially. But he’s an idealist, which is funny in this town where everybody seems to be broken.
Knowing everything that’s happened as a result of Brock’s decision to get involved with Lucas Hood, do you think he would go back and do any or all of it differently, or does he feel like he had to go through all of that to get to the place he’s at now?
SERVITTO: That’s a good question. I did a play once, called Play with Repeats, where the guy wanted the chance to do something over, and when he finally gets the chance, it doesn’t go better, but it actually ends up worse. I often wonder, in my own life, “God, if I just had the chance to go back and do this,” but I don’t know if that would make everything better. I think he did ultimately get what he wanted. Even if Lucas Hood had never showed up in town, I don’t know if Brock would just have become sheriff, ride out 10 years as sheriff, and then retire. He is someone who is married to the job. He has no kids, and he has an ex-wife. And he finally has the opportunity to do some real police work. I get the sense that, before Lucas came to town, it was a lot of traffic tickets and cats in trees. So, I don’t think he has any regrets about Lucas coming to town. You can see that, for better or worse, Lucas changed Brock. He’s not policing the same way that he did before Lucas came to town.
When you look back on the run of the series and the journey that you took with it, as an actor and as a character, what are you most proud of?
SERVITTO: I’ve been doing this for 25 or 30 years, and I’ve never done a show quite like Banshee. I’m not saying that it’s so original that it’s groundbreaking, but we took the pulp fiction/action genre and turned it on its head, and brought in amazing characters with amazing writing. Going to work, every day, I never felt like I could take a day off. Every day, you had to go 110% on this show. You couldn’t phone it in, whether it was an action sequence, a sex scene, an emotional breakdown in the police station, or something on location when it was 100-degree weather or pouring rain. We shot it like a movie, in a lot of locations. I just had never worked like that. So, I’m proudest of what everyone sees on the screen. It really was a labor of love. And it wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows. We had tons of days that were just really difficult and we were in each other’s faces. I love this cast so much because we’d be on location for six months, living in the same apartment building where we’d get up in the morning, go to work, beat each other up, have sex with each other, go home, have dinner together, and then get up and do it all again the next morning. It always had this, “Hey, kids, let’s put on a show” vibe, which I’ve had in the theater world, but never with television.
And they’ve always called us the bastard child of HBO. We’re the Jon Snow of HBO. People don’t even know we’re an HBO show. Cinemax is the bastard channel. Even though we had a million or two fans, I always felt like we were that struggling show whose biggest marketing campaign was some guy in an office going, “You guys, this show is amazing! You have to watch it!” Everywhere I go, I meet people who are like, “Some guy I work with told me about your show, and I watched it and can’t stop.” I would have loved another couple of seasons, but I feel like this show is like when you down a couple of stiff drinks, and then you walk away. You’ve gotta go out on top. This season is amazing and incredible. If the first three seasons are Banshee on cocaine, Season 4 is Banshee on booze. We’re kind of drunk, with all of the going backwards and forwards, and it’s much more mysterious and dark and woozy. I like what they did with the writing. They still did that crazy Banshee thing, but there are these layered elements that I love. It’s a mood that is darker and slower and scarier. I’m just excited for the response to all of it.
Is there anything you wanted to learn about your character that you got to learn about him by the end of the last season, and is there anything about him you wanted to learn, but never got to?
SERVITTO: Because my backstory came late, for me, it was always about trying to figure out who the man was away from the job. But he made it very clear that he really didn’t have much besides the job, and I know those guys. The job is their life. I always wanted to do an Origins that had no lines, and just had a camera panning through a house with high school football stories and some decorated police medals, and that was not really clean with a dumb dog and me sitting there in my boxers, watching Murder, She Wrote, with an over-cooked steak and drinking beer. I feel like that’s what he does on his night off. He tries to solve the mystery on Murder, She Wrote. But in the end, this last season, they gave me such an opportunity to really make up for lost time. There were so many times I felt like I’d accomplish something, only to have it all fall apart. But, I don’t feel like there was any stone unturned. Of course, I would have loved another season. I would have loved to have kept going to see if we finally get things back to order. But, it’s Banshee. How long can you stretch this out before it loses any believability? I feel like I got many, many opportunities, and I’m very grateful to the writers for giving such an arc to a character that wasn’t supposed to get out of Season 1. To be all the way there, to the bitter end on Season 4, was great. I’m truly grateful.
Banshee airs on Friday nights on Cinemax.