Interview: “Banshee” Star Antony Starr

Antony Starr
brings sexy swagger to the role of Lucas Hood
on the new Cinemax drama,

Cinemax has been in the TV series game for awhile now with action-packed acquired series like Strike Back and Hunted, but its first original series, Banshee kicked off last month. With intriguing characters, jaw-dropping happenings and, of course, a hunky star who isn’t shy about taking off his clothes, the series quickly garnered a second season renewal.

In the series, Executive Produced by True Blood’s Alan Ball & House alum Greg Yaitanes, ex-con/thief Lucas Hood, played by New Zealander Antony Starr, gets out of prison and heads to the town of Banshee, PA, where, through some violent occurrences in the pilot, sees the opportunity to start anew by assuming the identity of the new Sheriff in town. Add an ex-love/accomplice (Ivana Milicevic), a transvestite computer hacker (played with wonderful bravado by Hoon Lee), an Amish community and a slew of bad guys and Banshee is one hell of a series ride.

We recently sat down with Starr to talk about taking on the role and whether he’s gotten used to not only the action sequences but the frequent state of undress his character finds himself in.

I mean, Antony Starr is working HARD for those many shirtless scenes on Banshee!

AfterElton: Lucas Hood is a very brooding and tough kind of guy and in person you’re all smiles and charm. How easy or difficult was it to get into character?
Antony Starr:
I’m not someone that goes around getting in fights and engaging in criminal activity, so for me it’s about research and just trying to psychologically and emotionally put myself in the position of [Hood]. It’s difficult as well because this guy’s been to prison for fifteen years. That was a daunting prospect…there’s further to go if you’ve got someone that’s not the natural tough guy to start with, but who’s been made into a tough guy. Then you can access different parts of yourself which maybe isn’t the stock standard tough guy. You might struggle with it a bit more because ultimately we want this guy to be human. And the show’s a love story at its heart, right? So we want this guy that is going to be able to have those softer moments as well, and if I was in real life a gang member that cracked heads for a job then maybe there wouldn’t be the same layers.

AE: Speaking of love, is that what’s basically driving him, at least in the beginning of the series?
I think in the beginning of the series, in the back story, every part of this character has been about love. I spent a lot of time thinking about how does someone survive fifteen years in prison? And looking physically at who I am and what I am…what are the challenges of making this character real or at least real in this world? I’m not a huge guy, so how do I survive physically in this environment? Anchoring himself to that love and making that an inseparable part of being is the only thing that got this guy through fifteen years of prison. And so what does he do? He gets out and beelines for that love… and then that’s rejected. So it’s “where do we go from there?” that catapults the story into the next phase… and the next phase and the next phase. But ultimately, anchored through the whole thing is that love story. And then there’s action soup thrown all over the top of it.

Don’t mess with Job (played by Hoon Lee, r) or you’ll
pay the price! And that goes for YOU, too, Hood!

Banshee photos courtesy of Fred Norris/Cinemax

AE: I love the character of Job and the relationship Hood has with him. They both annoy the hell out of each other but yet they’ve got each other’s back.
It is very much that sibling rivalry. They’re both outsiders. Both probably quite lonely characters and pretty lonely sort of upbringings and back stories. I’m a believer that like finds like. And I think there’s always going to be elements where he thinks I’m an idiot, and I think he’s just a flamboyant drag queen. There’re those things.

And there’s always going to be a teasing element, but when it comes down to it, each character would die for each other or kill for each other, which they do, and it’s a great relationship. And that character I think, that Job character, is one of the ones that on the page is completely different in my head. A lot of people have said this, but [the show and actor Hoon Lee] came up with a really strong character, really compelling. Job becomes an integral part of the characters’ lives and of the world of Banshee.


AE: You have your clothes off a lot on the show.
A lot.

AE: Is that something you’re comfortable with? What’s the fitness regimen like?
My approach to that wasn’t so much about trying to get in shape and look good. It was more about, okay, what are the physical demands, one, of the shoot? Because that’s got to be of primary importance. If I break down we can’t shoot. So we can have all the stories in the world, but if they can’t be told then we’re in trouble. So getting ready for that, the training was fairly intense. That said, nothing was going to be enough to get ready for the shoot. I mean, we’re shooting very quickly and there’s like a huge fight a week. And you get knocked and the first day I had six stitches in my lip and it was brutal. It was like an intense boot camp which I actually enjoyed. There’s a masochistic part of myself…

AE: Did you feel good to have done all that?
Yeah. I did. I did martial arts when I was a kid, so it was great. That said, that was twenty years ago, but I had a base there, and I enjoy that physical side of the work. I haven’t done a lot of it so it was quite new for me, but I really enjoy it.

Wet and Wild! A publicity shot of Starr from earlier in his career.

AE: And the taking off of clothes frequently? Has that been a part of your work in the past?
I did a show in New Zealand called Outrageous Fortune which I played twins, two young guys, they were meant to be mid-twenties and mid-twenty-year-olds often get a bit of action so when you play two of them in one show, naturally you spend a lot of time when you have your top off and a reasonable amount of time with my bottom out as well. So I’m pretty comfortable with that side of things. That said, I’m not very comfortable if it’s gratuitous, so all of the sets in this show…let’s call them love scenes…when you see them they’re all about a character of the story, and I can justify every exposure of flesh that comes up in the show.

AE: What do you think about good and evil on the show? From where I sat it seemed like the distinction wasn’t very clear.
I don’t think anyone can be written off as one or the other. I think duality comes out. Duality is represented really strongly in the show. You’ve got from the town that is basically this small town with an Amish society filtering through…I mean it’s founded in this Amish community, and then it’s got some of the worst scumbags you can imagine. There’s so much criminal activity so that in itself as a backdrop, as a seating, there’re polar opposites in that and then when it gets down to characters, no. You can’t turn and say any one character is good or bad. Or if they’re bad, then you get to see some of the reasons why they’re bad and you go, ‘Oh, that’s not so bad when you see the context and why is he doing what he’s doing.’

AE: And this is your American debut, right?
Yeah. This is the first thing I’ve done here. Yeah. I’ve done American projects in New Zealand, but this is the first one that I’ve actually come and worked in the States for. I feel really lucky. I’ve put a ton of tapes down before this, but I was fortunate enough to be working back home. It’s pretty phenomenal. I feel very lucky to be a part of it.

Banshee airs Fridays at 10pm on Cinemax.