BANSHEE: Executive Producer Greg Yaitanes Talks Season 3’s Forbidden Romance and Criminal Crossroads (2015)


Returning for its third season on Cinemax, BANSHEE takes viewers back into the high-octane, adrenaline-pumping world of Sheriff Lucas Hood (Antony Starr) where criminals run rampant and the law is no holds barred.  When last seen in the Season 2 finale, one of BANSHEE’s finest, Deputy Emmett Yawners (Demetrius Grosse) was struck down by a vicious Neo-Nazi.  So, as Season 3 picks up, Hood and his fellow law enforcement crew are out for blood, and as was seen last week’s Season 3 premiere, their blood-lust for vengeance was satisfied.  But that is not the only bad blood brewing in the sleepy little town of Banshee — Chayton Littlestone (Geno Segers) pulled off a daring weapon’s heist and seems intent on stirring up a hornet’s nest of trouble.

In an exclusive interview, executive producer Greg Yaitanes talked about Lucas’ conflicted duality as both a career criminal and taking on the mantle of sheriff, as well as how the other characters rise and fall around him whether caught up in the natural violence infesting Banshee or not.  

What can you share about Season 3?  What is the arc or theme that you are going to pursue?
GREG:  We made the promise last year of bringing Chayton back and I would say Chayton is the driving force of the season.  In true BANSHEE-style, where the other storylines will come will seem completely unexpected.  So we sort of set up Camp Genoa in the first episode for this season and we will be revisiting that later in the season.  But for the here and now, Chayton and the war he has declared is going to affect everybody.  

Does Chayton have something more on his mind than just war?  It seems like he might have something else going on, like to be a criminal mastermind and to set up business.
GREG:  No. There isn’t anything like that. Alex Longshadow (Anthony Ruivivar) had bigger aspirations.  He could have seen himself become mayor or governor of the state.  He was very much trying to make the moves to do good at a bigger level, but ultimately got corrupted and went down that road.  In order to do good, he had to sell-out for the bigger picture and that complexity last year really led to his downfall.  Chayton, on the other hand, is driven and has a sense of entitlement.  He truly believes what is happening is coming out of a place of force and chaos.  There isn’t a bigger aspiration, other than truly believing in feeling robbed of something that is deeply his.  So he is coming from a far scarier place.  It’s not in his head; it’s in his heart.  When people are working from that place, it can be very powerful.  It is very emotional and it is very hard to overcome.  


Is Chayton even worried what Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen) is going to do?  Kai does want to run the criminal element around Banshee. I do not see him sitting back and saying, “That’s fine by me if you want to go crazy out here.”
GREG:  No, he isn’t. Chayton’s war is directed to both Proctor to avenge Alex’s death, as well as the world at large.  So Chayton very specifically has Proctor targeted and he is now on Lucas’ radar, which is going to affect everything.  So it’s a very interconnected season this year.  In the absence of Rabbit (Ben Cross), we tried to interconnect the town and its goings ons, and pull it all together in a complex psychological way.  

Those are always my favorite kinds of stories to watch because you are not sure exactly what is going on and who is playing who, or if they even care.  So it seems like Rabbit’s ghost may loom.  He had such a profound effect on all the major characters in the show.  Is that going to be address further, or is that story now completely closed?
GREG:  We really closed the book on it.  That’s why we started this season back up a month later.  It really doesn’t.  He’s dead and gone.  It’s put to bed.  We pick up at that point where they are past thinking about it as much and now it’s about:  what’s next?  That was something I had directed into the finale after killing Rabbit — the question of: what’s next?  That was on Lucas’ face after Rabbit killed himself.  It goes back to that psychological messiness. That is where we find everybody — trying to find themselves in the absence of that.  We did not explicitly say it, but Rabbit’s death did not automatically fix everything.  Everybody is still in a particular state when we catch up with them.


Hood is kind of interesting in that he could technically be free. He doesn’t have that bullseye on his back, so to speak, anymore.  So is he just sticking around because he wants to be with Carrie (Ivana Milicevic) or does he just want to be a dad?  What is his motivation for being a part of this town still?
GREG:  He’s genuinely inhabiting the role of sheriff, and also wants to be close to Deva (Ryann Shane).  At the end of last season, Deva found out that Lucas is her dad, her biological father.  So that’s a new chapter.  And this is like a homecoming for him.  He got out of prison and this is where he came.  But he’s in a spot because there was no big score like he thought.  Yet he’s got the perfect front because he can still make money and, then in last week’s episode, he sees his ticket out.

Lucas’ motivations are always quite interesting because it seemed like he wanted to find his true love, he wanted to find the diamonds, he wanted to reestablish himself as a criminal mastermind, but now with this father-figure position that he is thrown into, it sort of — well, not really softened him — but it definitely changed some of what he was planning to do with his life.  Is he going to be focused on being a father-figure at this point?
GREG:  You are picking up on things that may affect him later in the season, especially the things that you are subtly picking up on now.  They are going to make all the difference in the coming episodes.  So you are dead on with that thought.  For Lucas, he is doing all his growing up in a hurry.  Because you have to imagine he was arrested in his 20’s and he was frozen in that moment and that maturity and that age because he went to prison.  So he has a 15 year gap of life that he has not experience and he is experiencing it all at once. So everything you say is true and he is going through all that.  At first, it was like:  “This is going to be a great front for my criminal enterprises and I really truly love Carrie” and then it’s: “I’ve got a daughter.”  It’s all those feelings.  In BANSHEE, the three seasons of the show have only taken place over maybe a year.  So he has a lot coming at him.  

Everything is definitely heightened and accelerated, which is part of the adrenaline-rush of watching it.
GREG:  And don’t leave anything on the table.  We do every season like it is our last.  In fact, this year, especially, we designed it so there are multiple season finale-type episodes throughout the season.  Part of it for this year for the 10 episodes is we want the audience to know:  “Don’t miss any episodes.”  Every episode is going to have something big and crazy happening in it.  

Do you get feedback from Cinemax saying, “Hey, we love this show. We want it to go forever”?
GREG:  Yes, they love the show.  We have fans corporately, like people who just love the show, and that’s such a great thing.  There is no better compliment or award than people within the culture of the company loving what they are making. So when things are made at Cinemax or HBO, they are made because they love that project and they have to tell that story, and it is important to them to tell those stories. In terms of how long the show will run, the great thing is Cinemax has promised that when it does finish its run, we get to respectfully end it.  Like we will know it and we’ll be able to work towards it.  So Season 3 is not the end of the story.

You have created all these rich characters and each kind of has their own through-line which doesn’t have to intersect with the other characters.  There’s Kai Proctor and Rebecca (Lili Simmons) having their own story; there’s Deva (Ryann Shane) having her own story, simultaneously; then we have Gordon’s (Rus Blackwell) situation going on; then you’ve got the deputies.  How challenging is it to interweave those stories so that they intersect more?
GREG:  This is really where Jonathan Tropper’s skill and his work as a writer comes into play — and also that we have similar cultural influences from other movies.  Jonathan really likes structure in the town’s goings on, like “The Empire Strikes Back” where you have all these separate stories that are globally interconnected.  But you don’t know what story you’re going to go to from scene to scene because Banshee is very unpredictable and you do not know from one moment to the next what is going to happen, which is what I think is part of its appeal.  There’s so few things that still surprise an audience and you may think, “Oh yeah, this is going to get dealt with,” and then you might be in a very general sense, but you’ll never imagine how we’re going to handle it.  Like until Camp Genoa starts to unfold, you could not imagine how that would actually happen.  

You’re right. Every season there is at least one thing that totally surprises me. It is a lot of fun watching something that unpredictable.  So that is definitely a hook for the audience.  It makes you think:  “Where did that character come from and how did that come up?”  So what, for you, has been the biggest surprise working on this project?
GREG:  I would say my creative marriage to Jonathan [Tropper].  It has been a great pleasure and intoxicating aspect to have a creative partner that challenges you, that pleases you, that you can be honest with.  We have a short-hand.  That was unknown when I first took the job.  When I came on, I was the last person to the party and I need to creatively shepherd this show from script form into a whole world of mythology, and to have someone who is really game — and Jonathan is really game to build on the mythology and the canon and the bigger ideas and moments we’d need.  There’s a lot of action at times and the show feels rooted in the ’80’s and ’90’s with all the action and drama and the films of that time since that is what we both grew up on.  That’s the part that surprises me the most.  That is something I would not have predicted that I valued the most.


It seems like you are taking the show into some “forbidden fruit” areas.  We have always known about Hood and Carrie, of course, but now there is Kai Proctor and Rebecca. Why did you decide to pursue that relationship in the show?
GREG:  Because that was the honest outcome of what was going on.  If you look at the psychology of both those characters, Rebecca clearly knew of her uncle’s attraction and really saved consummating that until she was in a real power position.  She was too vulnerable at first and she knew that, so it was really a sense of survival that she had been saying “keep away.”  But once she found the line where it would be okay for them to cross, where she wasn’t going to be just dismissed and she was actually going to start learning the business, that’s when she fell into it. But, at the same time, she’s really grown into her strength and power.  So that when she felt she could make that relationship work.  There’s definitely an “ew” factor, but there’s also an honesty factor that these are two characters that would end up doing this.  It kept wanting to point that way and it was just a question of when.  We resisted doing it a lot sooner because of the psychology.  So we very much track the motivation of characters, and really tracked it very carefully and very honestly.  I am not condoning it, but what I’m saying is happening for the characters is honest to those characters. I don’t want to say that our show supports incest, because I’m not. What I’m really getting at is that we are deliberately setting the story, like where and when it happened, and we tried to handle it in the most interesting way to approach it.

The show did seem to hint that Rebecca is not really in it for love, she’s just doing it because she wants to attain more power. She isn’t motivated by love, but rather she wants to be a power player. Is that kind of the angle that the show is pursuing?
GREG:  That’s exactly right. She’s Michael Corleone. Michael Corleone could not inherit his father’s mantle until he was ready, and once you see his journey in “The Godfather,” you see the way he starts to become ready and then you see the power begins to intoxicate him.  For Rebecca, it’s the same thing.  She’s built up strength from Season 1.  It is built on clay feet because she doesn’t know what she doesn’t know yet.

Is Rebecca going to be a threat to Hood, or is that completely separate from his world at the moment?
GREG:  Any action of any of these characters is all going to fall into Hood’s orbit.  Rebecca’s actions and future actions this season are definitely going to pull Hood into it.

Unfortunately, Lucas Hood seems to always be a bit hood-winked by women, like he doesn’t expect them to be a threat.
GREG:  Definitely.  There’s more of that this year.  He’s more savvy, but ultimately he can’t control what he can’t control.  So the actions of Carrie, the actions of Rebecca, the actions of Nola (Odette Annable), the actions of Deva — these are the women in Lucas’ life and they all have a profound effect.


Then what is going on with Brock (Matt Servitto) and Siobhan (Trieste Kelly Dunn)?  They are steadfast in standing behind Hood, but at the same time, they seem to be wondering, “What the hell?” and “How did we get into this?!”
GREG:  What I love is the unseen scenes between seasons of them deciding that they were going to take out Hondo (Tyson Sullivan).  They were going to be prepared. There is no other justice and justice had to be done.  So there definitely has been a shift.  There had to be a phenomenal amount of emotion to get them together and we always said that Emmett’s death would be far-reaching.  We knew what the outcome was going to be starting in episode seven of last year, and it was important to see evil for evil.  Every action had a consequence and we kept upping the stakes.  It all started in a junkyard and it kept evolving.  Everyone kept taking from the other until this point.  By the time it reaches its conclusion, the effects of the Hondo execution in episode one was they could not stop it.  Brock has tried to do this job by the book, but now he’s got a far wider reach.  I think one of the great things about this season is that Brock really comes to the foreground.  Matt Servitto’s character was originally conceived of, before we started casting, to die three-quarters of the way through Season 1.  That he was going to stumble on Lucas’ secrets.  But it was a combination of things, we didn’t feel like we had the real estate to tell that story and, more importantly, Matt really brought the character to such life that we just couldn’t imagine getting rid of him.  We just had to keep finding ways to integrate him into the story, and Brock very naturally moves to the foreground of the storytelling this year.  I am just blown away by the gears that Matt Servitto has an actor.  We just keep finding new layers and complexities.  He was always like, “Give me the ball,” and we gave him the story ball in Season 3 and he owned it.  The best work of his is yet to come this year.

You do seem to take background characters and develop them so that they are on the forefront, which is fascinating to see because of the unexpectedness of it really captures our attention.
GREG:  I don’t really like when shows do it for the wrong reason, but in this case it was completely motivated by character.  Alexa Fogel really put together an amazing cast of relatively unknown talent or talent that you had not seen in this new way.  She did just a good job with that.  It’s very motivating because you can throw the ball to anybody and they know how to run with it.  It’s just incredible to watch how good our cast is.  We always knew that our show was dramatic enough that we just couldn’t sit here and have non-stop action and non-stop crazy, we had to really ground it and we ground it with great actors.  The talent of our cast, you can’t point to anybody that doesn’t just knock it out of the park.

Another character that has risen to the forefront is Job (Hoon Lee).  He just sort of takes over the screen when he is on.  Is there going to be a strong enough motivation for him to stick around and be a part of this crazy world in the town of Banshee?
GREG:  The promise of the heist is what got him back to Banshee and that will be happening in the background for a while as we deal with other things on the show. But Job’s involvement is definitely there.  We are all careful to not write too much Job.  We don’t want to over do it because it then loses impact.  

What can you tease about what’s coming up that fans do not want to miss?
GREG:   I would say that this week we have a title sequence just for the fans on Friday night’s episode and then the week after we have what I think is one of the best fight sequences.  I know exactly what everybody will be talking about in the third episode. That’s all I want to say on that, but I do want to say it is one of the best showdowns and one of the best fight sequences is definitely coming.  

BANSHEE’s fight sequences are always astounding.  They scare the crap out of me, but it is riveting watching them.
REG:  Marcus Young, our stunt coordinator, is a gifted artist in fight choreography. There’s a lot of unsung heroes on BANSHEE.  Marcus has come in and really defined the fight style and just knows no limits to how far he will go or take something, and yet still in the parameters of the world and the story.  So there are people contributing from all sides, outside of Jonathan and I, that are making extremely lasting contributions to the show.  That’s the great thing that I’ve loved about television is because there is that time to find those collaborations and to find that gold.  In a movie, you are just blowing through things.  You have to stick to a singular vision and hope it works.  But with BANSHEE, you find that people’s talents start to come through.  So while you are also making a show, you’re incubating that talent and that talent is making the show better. That’s why I feel in our third year that it’s not an accident that we have gotten such a great critical response.  We have worked phenomenally hard to bring a season that would surprise and to satisfy and still be everything you wanted to tell for the audience.  We never wanted to be that show where someone says, “Oh, they are stuck” and be repetitive.  We’re always pushing each other — pushing the limits — and aiming to do right by the audience at all times.

To see the culmination of all that zest and love as the show raises the bar and delivers another unpredictable and yet thrilling new season just for their audience, be sure to tune in for all new episodes of BANSHEE, airing Friday nights at 10:00 p.m. on Cinemax. 

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