The Cinemax drama series Banshee is currently in its second season, as Lucas Hood (Antony Starr), an ex-con and master thief who has assumed the identity of the town sheriff, balances his own criminal activities with solving crimes in a town with more bad elements than any one person can keep track of. It’s intense, violent and bad-ass, but it’s also one of the most fun roller-coaster rides on television. The show also stars Ivana Milicevic, Ulrich Thomsen, Frankie Faison, Hoon Lee, Rus Blackwell, Matt Servitto, Demetrius Grosse, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Lili Simmons, Antony Ruivivar and Odette Annable.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, executive producer Greg Yaitanes talked about when the show really is at its best, how proud he is of Episode 5, that viewers will learn more about Lucas Hood’s past this season, the unexpected journey of Jason Hood (Harrison Thomas), where the threats are coming from in Season 2, how no character is safe, the great interplay between Job (Lee) and Sugar (Faison), the creepiness of Kai Proctor (Thomsen) and Rebecca (Simmons), whether viewers will see the priest (Julian Sands) again, and why the additional material (i.e. the origin stories, the comic and the title sequence) is so important. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be ware that there are some spoilers.
GREG YAITANES: Starting with Episode 6 was where I thought we really hit our groove. It was like, “Okay, I know what this show is and what works about this show, and I know why it’s working.” I feel like we were discovering that. We were doing it and doing okay with it, but I felt like Episode 6 through the finale was really strong for us. I wanted to carry that momentum, so that Episodes 1, 2 and 3 of this season felt like Episodes 11, 12 and 13 of last season. We wanted to pick up on the momentum and continue the things people love about the show, which is being surprised by the characters and story, without repeating the structure. We wanted to keep it unpredictable. Jonathan [Tropper] often references The Empire Strikes Back because of the unpredictability of where they’d go next in that story, and you never quite knew where it was going to end. I think that accurately reflects an episode of Banshee, and we wanted to pack them in. I have 10 weeks to be with everybody, and I want them to feel like they got 13 episodes worth of show. That’s why we really were very ambitious and we worked so hard to make sure they’re really rich. I don’t want people to feel like, “That was good, but I didn’t get enough of it. I wanted more.” With Episode 4, you’ll feel really satisfied.
Episode 5, “The Truth About Unicorns,” is a really interesting departure. How did that come about?
YAITANES: I’m so proud of that episode. It’s my personal favorite. The finale, this year, is some of my best work, but as a producer, when you find the right director to go with such a great script, it’s really rewarding. When we introduced the locket in Season 1, we knew we would go to that house, one day. So, being able to get Babak [Najafi] in from Sweden, and to have him do this ethereal episode, I’ve never seen an episode of TV like that. It’s like if Michael Mann and Terrence Malick had a kid, and that kid made Banshee. I love that sensibility. It uses music, in a big way. The imagery is really beautiful. It’s a departure, but it’s still the show. And I think it expanded the way we tell the story, in a very beautiful way. People can say anything they want about us, but you can’t deny that there’s real filmmakers making this. And Cinemax is so supportive. What everybody is seeing is untouched from what the director gave me. And going into the second half of the season, the impact of what happened in Episode 5 isn’t forgotten.
As viewers, we really don’t know much about who Lucas Hood was, before he got to Banshee and took that identity. Are you looking to reveal more about his past, this season?
YAITANES: Oh, we will. You’re going to learn some more. There’s a whole second half of the season that you’ve gotta see. I think people will definitely walk out of this season, having a little clearer picture of Lucas Hood, and yet still give the promise of more great characters. I’m not avoiding the question. I just want people to be surprised when they get there. Banshee very much lives in the moment. We’re not afraid to look back, but we’re not trying to dwell on it. We try to dwell on the relationships. These people know who they are and who they’re not. For Lucas, he was frozen in time, last year. He got out of jail. He was arrested in his 20s, and he was stunted to 15 years, so he’s coming back in, not fully caught up. But I feel like, by Episode 5, he’s much more in-tune with where things are going. In Episode 6, you’ll see that he has to face whether he can change.
Were you looking to make the Jason Hood character and his motivations unexpected?
YAITANES: I like that it surprises you. We just didn’t want to fall into what would be expected or ordinary with that. It was a great opportunity. It’s not the thrust of that episode, but it’s present. As we get back into Episode 6, that will be something waiting for him. That story and where it’s going, you wouldn’t expect it, but I like that you start seeing the seeds for the fact that there’s an interesting and unexpected bond between them.
Along with Rabbit still being out there, where would you say the biggest threats are coming from, this season?
YAITANES: He’s a real interesting, brewing threat, and I love that we have that out there. The threats are coming from all sides. I love the introduction of Chayton Littlestone. He is great. I love him. He’s a force. And you have Racine and Proctor and Jason. Small in stature and large in stature threats are everywhere. It’s coming at him, from all sides. There’s no reprieve.
Is Lucas Hood past the point of no return? Could you ever really go somewhere else and live a normal life?
YAITANES: That lingers out there. The story of Banshee takes place over just a few months, so far. Things are happening and a week’s gone by, before you know it. The characters and their reality are growing quite quickly. But in terms of just packing up and going, he has something here. Now, with a daughter that doesn’t know about him being her dad, that brewing relationship is keeping him there. And Siobhan is keeping him there. These are all things that are complex. At the beginning of Episode 6, Job says, “Bad things happen to people that get too close to you,” and that’s something that’s really going to echo throughout Lucas’ orbit. If you get to close, you get burned.
YAITANES: Yeah, but it’s the kind of show where anybody could go, at any time. We made different deals with different people, and we were going to renegotiate on one of the actor’s contracts. He was like, “Greg, I’m on board. You know why? ‘Cause this is the kind of show where I’m just sitting there, minding my business and having coffee, and Rebecca walks by and presses a button and the whole place blows up.” That could happen anytime on Banshee. I think everyone knows we’re the kind of show where anything can happen, and that keeps people on their toes. Anyone could go, at any time, and that frequency is not wrong to feel.
When did you realize how great the relationship and interplay was between Job and Sugar?
YAITANES: That was born out of their chemistry. I never expected that to happen, but once you got them together, it just happened. Now, we can write to it. They’re just great. They’re our odd couple. In a fun way, we’re also protective of that. Part of what makes all this work is that we give you just enough. We never want to overstay our welcome with anybody. We came up with Season 2 before Season 1 aired, and largely figured out what Season 3 would be about before Season 2 aired. We don’t want the influence of what the reaction is. We want to be in the bubble and just make the show that we intend to make ‘cause we know that the fans will love that.
The relationship between Kai Proctor and Rebecca seems so twisted, creepy and wrong. Is that intentional?
YAITANES: It’s complex. It’s so wrong. Everything sounds wrong when I put adjectives to it. It is very loving, but it is a complex relationship. There is something a little twisted there. Jonathan [Tropper] is a twisted guy. What can I say? That’s how Jonathan conceived it. Ulrich [Thomsen] and Lili [Simmons] are just great in their parts. I was geeking out on the season opener this year, when I rolled cameras on it. I get to know what happens! It’s great. In some ways, we know where it’s all going, but we want people really along for the ride and we want them to know that there’s a plan in place. This is going to be a highly entertaining ride, if they come with us on it.
What can you say about the priest, played by Julian Sands?
YAITANES: I think it’s safe to say that it’s not the last time we’ll be going to New York, this year. You can interpret that how you’d like. He’s an interesting character. We actually did some good origins with him, as well. We did one with him and Racine, and we did one with him and Rabbit, so you can learn more about who he is online, too.
YAITANES: You’re exactly right. Banshee is a story, and we have a lot of outlets that we want to tell that story. You can’t fit all of it into an episode. Banshee: Origins, the comic book and the title sequence are all ways to tell the story of Banshee. The origins tell the backstory and the comic book tell the backstory. The origins and the comic book are going to make a lot more sense to you, later in the season. The title sequence foreshadows things that are happening. The title sequence changes every week. The numerology is very strong, this year. The numerology is going to be significant throughout the season, for the super fan that wants to look for it and figure out what it means.
I want everything to be show quality. Jonathan wrote the comic book, I did the visuals and Alan [Ball] did the forward. We took it very seriously. The origins are written by Jonathan and mostly directed by me. They are real parts of our storytelling. If five people watch them, I don’t care. They have to be as good as everything else. I don’t want people to just get hit straight on. I want to be a big blanket that wraps around them and entertains them on a Friday night. It’s not just deleted re-purposing. It’s legitimate canon. While they tie to individual episodes, they are all significant to where I’m going with the end of the season.
Banshee airs on Friday nights on Cinemax.