Banshee‘s fourth and final season airs tonight, and we were lucky enough to sit down with the some of the cast at last year’s New York Comic Con to get their thoughts on the end of the series. Tune in to Cinemax (channel 515) tonight at 10/9c to watch the premiere episode of Banshee’s final season.
What can you tell us about the final season of Banshee?
Anthony Starr: It’s funny—it’s one of the things about Banshee, starting right in the middle of story. And almost right off the bat there are spoilers, so it’s kind of difficult to talk about specific events. But in terms of Season 4 and where Lucas is coming from, he’s dealing with redemption and the consequences of the past three seasons. Within the story it’s only been around three months, a very short span of time. But a lot has happened in that time, so Season 4 is much more internalized, whereas the first three seasons were about dealing with the world around him and trying to force his way into that world. This season is more about dealing with the consequences internally, about his guilt and the responsibility he takes upon himself for all the mess he’s made—it weighs on him, it pushes him into some really interesting places. It’s not going to be something that is necessarily comfortable for people to watch, but then again the show never has been particularly comfortable to watch!
Frankie Faison: I think you can expect some different things than what preceded us in the first three seasons. When you have a final season, you want to do some unexpected things and go out with some style and class, and you want to have that ‘wow’ factor. Apart from that, you’ll have a sense of conclusion from the show, and that’s very important.
Ivana Milicevic: I can tell you that “Banshee has reached it’s boiling point,” that’s for sure! There’s a serial killer who’s on the loose, and we’re going to explore the satanic subculture that’s in Banshee that we didn’t even know was there, but there it is. Hood is not the Sheriff, and for Carrie, her whole thing this year is “fix it” even though she can’t really fix anything, she’s going to make herself real busy rebuilding her life. She thinks she can fix the whole world.
Matt Servitto: It’s funny for the first time, there are so many talking points that we’re not supposed to divulge! Talking with all of you, it’s like a drinking game! The thing that is so amazing—when we got the first script for this season, my first thought was—I’m cutting ahead to 6, 7, 8 months from now, when I’m sitting and talking with someone about the show, saying how am I going to talk about this season? How is this network going to cut together a one minute promo without immediately giving away spoilers. This season immediately starts in a place, and with an energy, and with a story that will blow the fans’ minds. It’s just so different. Still the same characters, still the same town, but everything is different. Both in the narrative and in the look of things. I’m most excited for the fans, and one of my first thoughts was “man they’re so lucky, we’re not just retreading this.” We’re not just going to recycle story lines, we’ve reinvented the wheel. If you’re a fan of the show, by the end of the first episode you’re going to say “oh my god, thank you thank you thank you this is amazing, just when I thought your show couldn’t do anything new!”— and this’s the thing, when every character is vulnerable to being killed off which we’ve also done, when you blow up every building, what else can you do? I always described the show as aerobic, and by the end of Season 3 we had sprinted a mile. I thought, how are we going to top that? We stopped running in Season 4 and now we’re just walking, slowly in a very creepy way, and I thought ‘AHH this is great!’ It has a different tone.
Jonathan Tropper (series creator): There are a lot of big surprises this season. We had the benefit of going in knowing this would be the last season, so the entire season is written as a single, kind of requiem for the show, and I think emotionally it’s much more layered and it goes to a much deeper place emotionally. At the same time, we wanted to give a very satisfying end to our viewers, so we paid attention to every character and made sure that we gave everyone a satisfying ending.
Are you sure you won’t wake up with an inspiration one day to continue the show?
JT: Oh I already did! But ending the show was the right decision. Once we announced it, I woke up in a cold sweat the next morning, but it’s more of a personal thing. You go from being a guy in charge of a show to another writer in his underpants trying to get something else produced—it’s scary. We spent a lot of time talking about Season 5 and nothing felt right to me. There are shows I’ve loved that you realize that they’re just milking it and it’s no longer fun—they clearly spun out their story and now they’re just making money. Luckily we’re in premium cable so we don’t make a lot of money! Ha! It was time. This show walks a tight rope between pulp and absurdity, and you’re in danger every season of crossing that line, and fortunately we never did.
Do you share a similar sentiment to Jonathan that the show is indeed concluding at a natural ending point?
AS: 100%. That was a conversation he and I had at a fairly early stage. He and I sat down and talked about the idea that he couldn’t really think of anything post-Season 4 that wasn’t stretching the story. My take on that was, go out on a good note. There are some shows that have come and gone that have kicked the corpse of the good show for an extra season or two, and I’ve actually been involved in a show that did that, and it was pretty awful! You know when a show is singing and when a show is choking, and it doesn’t feel good when everyone has that sense that the material isn’t as good. Banshee has a heightened reality and we’ve always pushed the envelope anyway, and sometimes we might have crossed the line, but generally we walk right up to that line of “believable,” but you don’t want to get to a point where you consistently jump over. If you’re pushing for that line of the extreme, sometimes you’ll spill over and you’ll have to pinch yourself to bring yourself back. But if you’re consistently going over, going boldly into the world of shit, you lose a lot of credit and people remember that.
FF: I think it’s the right time to end it. I think you could have stretched out a fifth season if you wanted to, but I think that if he would have stretched it out, it would have been something totally different even than what we’ve seen thus far. At least with the fourth season, it can be just a little bit different.
MS: We didn’t go into this season knowing it was the end. Some folks had an idea I’m sure, but I kind of like that. Once it did leak to us that this could be the final season, it didn’t effect the scripts because—there’s still a mystery that needed to be solved. We always have a beginning, middle and end in the writing that was not going to be effected. Without giving anything away, there’s a lot that happens in the last episodes, but there is a pulse. It didn’t end the way I expected it to. My expectations were everything going down in flames. Literally burning the town to the ground. There are moments of that. Whether that’s what they did? You’ll have to see.
Is there anything the show hasn’t accomplished that you wanted it to accomplish during this run?
AS: I always wanted the show to go a little deeper internally, in terms of consequences, and that’s exactly what Season 4 does. When Jonathan and Adam rolled out their plans for Season 4, it was fantastic so I took their information and said “Ok, well what about this and this?” trying to push and probe them to go deeper and deeper and deeper, and they went with it! For me personally what I find satisfying is that we’re dealing with things as deeply as the character possibly can, and on a show like Banshee that’s not always the easiest thing to do. We leave on a good note and I think Jonathan totally made the right call. I think we did achieve what the show set out to achieve, and should have achieved. I don’t feel like we’ve left anything hanging.
What are you most proud of, looking back at Banshee?
AS: I’m most proud, and not in a patronizing way, of everyone that worked on the show because it was an extremely tough show to shoot. Basically we turned the word impossible into ambitious. Every day we’d wake up and look at the goal sheet filled with everything we had to do and it was absurd. Somehow the group of people who were there, hands on, day in and day out, made it happen. They pulled it off. I come from New Zealand where we do a lot of TV on a very small budget, and while the budget on Banshee was bigger, we really stretched every dollar, and I’ve never worked on anything quite like this show. We were really ambitious. My hat goes off to everyone who made the show and hopefully you enjoy the last season.
FF: I’m most proud of the fan adulation, so many people from so many different walks of life have gravitated towards this show and they have shown their appreciation. I run into them on the streets and at times I’m surprised. I see everyone from the working class folks to people from the “hierarchy” just everyone! Lawyers, doctors, Indian chiefs, they have just loved this show and I think there’s something in this show for everyone. I’m very happy to have been a part of something that connects so many people.
IM: Everyone who was involved in making Banshee. This was Jonathan Tropper’s first show, it was my first show as a lead, it was Anthony’s first show in America, it was CINEMAX’s first show that they were producing in house, so we were absolutely their first baby and I’m proud that we delivered on what we needed to. We got the baby brother of HBO going on a path that’s now becoming a hot trend (cable network TV programming), and that’s kind of cool to say you were a part of that. And four seasons is no small thing to achieve. How many beautiful ideas aren’t able to get this honor? So, it’s so great.
MS: Not to be so cliched but the work. I’ve been doing this a long time now, which sort of caught up to me very quickly, for 25 years now, and I’ve never worked on a show like this. I don’t think I’ll ever work on a show like it again. We tried to do something atypical. Every day we came to work and we thought, how can we make this scene different, how can we make this character different, how can we shoot the scene differently? There was a lot of intimacy, we shot a lot on location so we had a lot of time together. We always felt we were doing an independent film at breakneck speed. We always had this sense of teamwork and we’d all look out for each other and it was an ensemble so there were no true stars, and we got so many character actors to come in from NY and LA to be a part of it, who all did great work on the show. Truly in the end, for myself, I never compromised, where we said we’d take the easy way—we NEVER, even when we would beg the director to do a scene more easily—took the easy way. That wasn’t Banshee. We did it for 4 years, and never stopped.
JT: I’m proud that 5 years ago when we created the show we put out a somewhat transgender character a few years before the trend (in Job), which I thought was fun, and just that we put something out on the air that was very different from everything else on the air, which is true even now. We were determined to make a show that didn’t check any boxes, and that’s what we did.
We also sat down with new cast member Eliza Dushku…
Tell us a little about your character on the show.
There’s an element to Special Agent Veronica Dawson that we want to let reveal itself, so I can’t tell you much! But, she’s a violent crimes FBI agent who comes in to investigate what seems to be a serial killer in Banshee and develops a relationship with Hood and they sort of come to work together because they are more like one another than they may have originally thought. There’s a special relationship—more than friendship—happening. She comes from a place of working with the FBI, but she also does things by her own rules. Obviously Hood can identify with that, so they have this kind of rogue way of handling what needs to be done.
Do you feel a sense of pressure to deliver an outstanding performance, going into a final season of a show where you only really get one shot at building a character?
You can’t think about that stuff, going into everything wanting to knock it out of the park whether it be first season or last season. The show itself makes you want to bring your A game, but I always want to bring my A game! This was my first time on a cable network so that was exciting for me. I’ve done a lot of network TV, which was great in its own way… I’ve never been able to cuss on TV before! Ha! I got to let loose and it was awesome.
What’s your opinion of Comic Con?
I love it. It’s a fan base like no other. I was introduced to this world via Joss Wheden when I started on Buffy, and it just blew my mind. Joss was a part of the original Internet posting boards before the masses were online chatting, Joss of course was, and he would have the cast of Buffy over to his house for these Friday night parties and he would have the computer set up in the kitchen and he would be like, “Ok guys, these are fans, this is a posting board, and I can designate everyone to a different color so that they know that this is Willow or Faith talking” so we could talk to the fans. We’d be drinking and talking to a bunch of fans on the boards! But the response was enormous. Then everyone on that posting board wanted to host a big party, and so they were coming to LA for this large posting board party where that was the first time I felt like a complete and utter rock star—I had no idea how many people were going to show up, just how many of those people on the other side of the posting board were out there! It was a nightclub full of people and they were the most die hard fans ever. You can say nothing and they would just adore and support you until the end of time, I feel! And they want to talk about your character, they’re feminists (at least as they pertain to the Wheden world) and they love the characters and how they help them become stronger women. It’s really special.
Speaking of Buffy, and now that the X-Files is rebooting this year, what would a Buffy or Angel show look like in a rebooted format? Do you anticipate that ever happening one day?
I know people would want to come to the party and want to see it! I have always said it would have to be a Joss Wheden-captained event. I don’t think those characters and that world should be trusted in anyone else’s hands. He’s been kind of busy as of late with those little Avengers movies and small projects like that haha, so we’ll see!
Tune in to Cinemax (channel 515) tonight at 10/9c to watch the premiere episode of Banshee’s final season.