The NBC series Taken is back for Season 2, with a new team and a new focus. From executive producer Luc Besson, the thriller follows a young but deadly Bryan Mills (Clive Standen), a covert operative who goes on rescue missions that require his very particular and very dangerous set of skills, along with the help of his team – made up of former CIA spy Christina Hart (Jennifer Beals), Santana (Jessica Camacho), a rule breaker who believes that bigger is better, and Kilroy (Adam Goldberg), a black hat hacker.
While at the TCA Press Tour for the NBC presentation, Collider got the opportunity to sit down with actor Clive Standen for this 1-on-1 interview about what they learned from Season 1, why they wanted to shift the focus of Season 2, why the physical demands of the series never get any easier, how the dynamic of the team has evolved and changed, and the journey that Bryan Mills goes on this season. He also talked about the graphic novel that he’s writing and hoping to develop into a TV series.
Collider: Looking back on Season 1, when do you think the show was at its best and what did you want to build on for Season 2?
CLIVE STANDEN: That’s a good question. With Season 1, when you take a film franchise and turn it into a TV show, the big thing that’s tough and that’s very important is that you have to acknowledge that the film is two hours and has a beginning, middle and end. Whereas with a TV show, you hopefully will have 50 hours and you don’t have to worry about the end until you’re in the last season. We all know that season to season, you never know if something is going to get dropped or if it’s going to find its natural conclusion, but you don’t want to rush. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
What we got right in Season 1 is that you can’t give the audience the finished product, especially when that finished product is a 60-year-old man who’s a griseled veteran of the CIA, so Bryan Mills needed to be a little bit reckless. He needed to come out of one world, which is the Green Berets, into an entire different world, which is the CIA and black ops. They set a team around him to teach him the rules, so that he knew there was a sacrifice and that sometimes it’s all right to go on instinct and smash down doors, but other people can get hurt in that. If it doesn’t go right, there is collaborative damage. That’s what I think Christina Hart (Jennifer Beals) teaches him. She almost Mr. Miyagis him. But in doing that, in Season 1, you have a man who’s very famous in a film for having a particular set of skills and you surround him with six guys who have the same skill set, which doesn’t make him very special. That’s what frustrated me in Season 1.
Thankfully, the people who invested in the show and NBC gave it Season 2. Now, with a new showrunner (Greg Plageman) and a new dynamic to the team, it allows us to start picking away at the Liam Neeson character from the films, which is a man who is unstoppable, relentless and selfless. He’ll stop at nothing until he gets his objective. He thinks outside the box and he’s a master chess player who is always thinking six steps ahead of his opponents. Because his opponents are meatheads who are driven by one thing, which is usually greed or money or power, he is vulnerable and is emotionally connected to each and every one of his missions. We’re going back to that character now. It’s all about Bryan Mills, which is why we tune in. We want to watch this guy kick down doors and save his daughter. That’s what the film is about.
Now that Christina Hart has left the faction she had within the CIA, now it’s a small team that’s just Bryan, Christina, and the two new characters, Kilroy (Adam Goldberg) and Santana (Jessica Camacho). Not every mission is going to be a big nuclear warhead that’s stolen or about a terrorist organization in Afghanistan. There are a lot of personal missions for Bryan, that will be about a family or just one person that society or the government seems to have forgotten about, but who’s been wronged, or they’re involved in something that’s much bigger and yet they still have so much to lose. Bryan Mills will sock it to the man for them because he has that particular set of skills that they don’t have.
It reminds me, at times, of a show I used to love growing up, which is The Equalizer. That’s the show I wanted to make, and that’s the show they told me I was gonna make, and now we’re making it. That’s why I’m really excited. It just means that I’m in every scene now and I’m getting my ass kicked. I’m doing 17-18 hour days usually, and I have nothing left in the gas tank, at the end of the week.
Does it get any easier, the more that you do it?
STANDEN: No, because every time you do it easily, you set a precedent and they just make it harder on you for the next episode. They write bigger, and at the end of the day, you just want to strangle them, but I love it. When I broke down the character, and I saw the film and saw Liam do it, I thought, “This is a character that’s got a lot of heart, but I also see a man who never leaves anything for the way back.” That’s what I love about him. He’s all in. He doesn’t worry about backwards because he’s not going that way, and that’s how I get through the day’s filming. Everyone gets tired. Mentally, sometimes you just hit a wall. Every character I play, I’m always interested in what they do when they get back up. When I find myself falling, as Clive Standen, I just look forward and keep going. If that energy and enthusiasm carries me through the day, then the crew sees it, as well, and it keeps them going. I get through the end of the day, go home to my wife, and then just let it all out on her. I get into a bath of Epsom salts. I think the first episode of Season 3 should just be a chess game, and Bryan has to beat this guy at chess or the world will explode. It will be the most intense episode, but with no action.