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Banshee - Co-Creator Jonathan Tropper Talks ‘Very Satisfying Journey’, Character Arcs and More

4 Oct 2016

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After a run that spanned four seasons on Cinemax, Banshee aired its series finale back in May. Today, October 4th, the fourth and final season is released on DVD and Blu-Ray.

To accompany the release, I spoke with co-creator Jonathan Tropper and actor Hoon Lee, who played Job. Below is the transcript of my conversation with Tropper, while my chat with Lee is here.

So, in season 4, you brought in Frederick Weller as the serial killer. Why choose that route rather than go for one of the existing characters in a similar arc?

Well, it was a combination of factors. There were two points. Most specifically, we were opening up in a new situation where Brock was finally the sheriff of Banshee, and from a storytelling perspective, we really wanted to serve him a little bit of "be careful what you wish for". He had spent all of these years wanting to be sheriff so of course, the second he gets the office, Banshee gets its first serial killer, and it was more just to make it as hard as possible for Brock on the job. And at the same time, admittedly, we also wanted to have a very complicated stew of suspects when it came to Rebecca's death in terms of where you would look to find her killer, and obviously, a serial killer killing young women was definitely a good place to start looking.

Well, a lot of people obviously had speculation and theories at the start of the season of who it was (that killed Rebecca). Quite a few people did, early on, pick out Burton as her killer. Did you expect that to happen?

I expected people to wonder about the Proctor-Burton connection, whether it was Burton, whether it was Proctor or, you know, let there even be a moment where you think that it was Lucas, but for the most part, we thought anyone who'd really been with the show from the beginning was going to be looking very hard at Proctor and Burton. And some of that's because of some of the stuff we were weaving in, some of the flashbacks we were weaving in made it really obvious that there was trouble there.

Was it always the plan for Burton to be the killer?


Regarding Job's PTSD that was introduced in the final season, is that something you wish you could have explored further?

Yeah, I mean, I would've loved - if we had done ten episodes rather than eight or if we hadn't decided that that was going to be our last season, then we would have done a much slower recovery for Job. We really would have let him wallow in that for a while and we would have let his behaviour continue to be influenced by it and damaged by it, but since we knew we were ending and we had this compressed timeframe, we had to bring Job along at a slightly unrealistic speed to bring him back. We certainly wanted to say goodbye to the series with Job in top form.

When you're ending a show and you know you're ending a show, I guess you have both the luxury of making the decisions and, at the same time, it is suddenly compressed storytelling so we definitely took some liberties.

I know it was your decision to end the show with season four. Was it yours to go with eight episodes instead of ten?

No, that was a financial decision. That was out of my hands. If we had done ten - we had the same pot of money so if we chose to do ten that way, we would not have been able to give them the production value they needed.

Is there anything else that you'd have loved to explore more in season four?

Oh, I mean, all of it. I would have loved to see what Lucas was doing for those last two years, [I] would have loved to see where Carrie ends up. It would have been a lot of fun to keep going. The problem for me was just that Lucas' purpose for being there was done and every time we pitched new reasons for him to still be around and new ways for him to still be involved, it started feeling a little bit too much like The Brady Bunch goes to Hawaii. It didn't [feel like] this group of people belonged together anymore and I was just really worried that we were going to go down some roads that would alienate our fans and just turn the show into something it had never been conceived to be.

Was there ever a thought that maybe if Lucas' story is at an end, but there is lots to explore with all of the other characters, that you could do the show without Lucas?

You know, we thought about it, but the thing is I just felt the show Banshee, it always was about this sheriff who isn't really a sheriff, and I just could not come up with an example in my head of a show I love that pulled a move like that that I was able to stick with. Maybe because Antony [Starr]’s such a powerful performer, but I just feel like Lucas Hood was the show and if you're going to invent a new show, start from scratch and invent a new show, but I didn't feel that Banshee, as it existed, would exist without Lucas Hood.

Was it ever on the table that he wouldn't make it out of the show alive?

Yes, that was actually the plan for a number of seasons. I always had this idea in my head, even from when we sold the show, that when the final episode came, it would be Lucas sacrificing himself for the Hopewell family, which felt like a very natural arc for him. To have come out of prison with very selfish intentions, to reclaim what's his and then to ultimately give up his life for another family, which was the closest he was to having a family. And it didn't work out that way because, over the course of writing the show for a bunch of years, it occurred to me that Lucas never actually became a person. He was so young when he was pulled into military service and then when he became a thief and then he was incarcerated for 15 years, and he never had a time to actually become a person, and to me, it felt like a more satisfying end to his journey would be that he's riding off to now, in a sense, be born and find out who he actually is. Like, from the minute he got out of jail, he was pretending to be someone else and I thought it was more interesting to send him off into the great wide world to find out who he is.

Well, it was like he said in the season two finale, that he's not really lived any lives.

And that was a line we kind of threw in on the spot because we had Fat Au refer to him as "soldier boy," and that's when you understand that there's a path he had that Carrie doesn't even know about. And so we threw that line in on the spot which is "How many lives have you actually lived?" and he says "None really" and that sort of attached itself thematically to his character so that at the end of the show, we like the idea of sending him off to figure out who he is, to go find a life.

Did it ever play into your mind that no one really leaves Banshee alive? Everyone who comes to Banshee usually winds up dead, so Lucas being able to leave is different.

We started letting people get out, certainly, Lucas got out. We let the FBI agent played by Denis O'Hare get out and we let the FBI agent in season four, Elisa Dushku's character, get out, so we started loosening the exit requirements a bit.

It did seem to start feeling like a prison when everyone kept dying there.


There were a lot of major action set-pieces in the final season that were saved for the series finale. Was that a financial thing?

Actually, that wasn't financial at all. We kind of made a decision going into season four that season three had been sort of the zenith of our action. We had done so many action set-pieces and we thought raised the level to a point that we didn't want to be competing with ourselves, and what we tried to do with season four was go back to the original intention of the show to some degree. When we first sold the show, we didn't sell it to Cinemax, we sold it to HBO, and it was meant to be an HBO show.

And then they launched Cinemax and we had the opportunity to become their flagship show so we moved over to Cinemax, but the fact is, initially the show was meant to be a little more brooding and dark with moments of intense and brutal violence but much less about action set-pieces and fight scenes, and that's something that we kind of grew into organically with the show. It's something that Greg Yaitanes, who was our producing director, really developed as we went along and it became sort of a hallmark of the show. But for season four, we wanted to do something a little darker and more character-driven because we knew it was our final season and rather than just try to up the ante from the action scenes of season three, we tried to go in a more grim and dark and character-driven tone.

And really, there was no topping that heist sequence (from season three).

Yeah, season three did a whole bunch. I mean, even season two, we had done so much already and we just felt like we were chasing our own tails if we tried to do it up more.

There was a lot more criticism about the final season amongst critics than there had been in previous years. How do you feel about that?

You know, we definitely knew we were taking a chance by not delivering a replica of season three, but I certainly didn't want to do season three again. I loved doing it, but we wanted to take it somewhere else. In retrospect, I think we might not have realised the implications of using the serial killer trope which is, I think, where most of the criticism came from. I think that was a combination of us being a little bit narrowly focused on our story and not thinking about the broader TV world, and maybe our execution of it wasn't perfect. So I understood that was sort of taking Banshee in a direction people felt was too familiar. At the same time, I think we did some really satisfying things with the characters and I felt a lot of people were satisfied overall with the finale and with where we started and where we ended. I think we might have misjudged a few things along the way but I'd much prefer to do that than have just done a remake of season three.

The Carrie and Hood ending, was there ever an idea that they were going to be together at the end, or was it always going to end as it did?

From the beginning, we said that these two - there have to be consequences for their actions. They've just done too much damage. For them to come together would basically be over the graves of Gordon and Siobhan and people who died because of their deception, so that was never an option.

Talk me through the thinking behind Proctor's end.

We just felt the show, from the beginning, the two alpha males in Banshee were Lucas and Proctor and they had been butting heads for four seasons, but at the same time, there was some kind of, something beyond respect between them. There was a familiarity between them and in some sense, these two guys understood each other better than either of them understood anyone else or were understood by anyone else, so we always felt that only one of them could make it through the series. But we didn't feel that it should be Lucas killing Proctor. Ultimately, we feel like those two guys - no one should ever have bested the other. At the same time, Proctor has lived an incredibly reckless and criminal life and it made a lot of sense that he would have ultimately bit off more than he can chew and it was time for his reign to come to an end.

And reducing the conflict between them in the final season, was that a case of not having enough time to fit it in?

No, I think the conflict was still there, it's just they were both adversarial and united by the death of Rebecca, and the way we felt was rather than just kill Proctor, what was almost worse was to break Burton and drop him in Proctor's lap. Like, ‘now you're going to have to kill him.’ What Lucas did to Proctor, in the end, was a lot more painful than Lucas just killing Proctor in a fight.

You played around with time a lot in season four. Why did you want to do that?

Two reasons. The first reason was we moved production from Charlotte to Pittsburgh, and so we were going to need to explain why certain things had changed, like the police station and things like that. Once we started thinking about it, I've always - and this is going to be very random - but I was a big fan of the show Battlestar Galactica, that was on a few years ago. And there was a season, I think it might have been their season two where suddenly you came to the show and they had jumped ahead quite a bit in time, and it was both disconcerting to me and incredibly rewarding once I got over it, and I just liked the idea of taking our viewers on a similar journey where they come back thinking they know the terrain and realising that in between seasons, the terrain has shifted so much that they'd be playing catch up for a little while.

Looking back, are you satisfied with what you achieved on Banshee?

Yeah, I'm very satisfied. I think there are shows coming out now that are similar [to Banshee], but when we put Banshee on the air, there had not been a show like it. There had not been a show that really celebrated that level of pulp [while] still insisting on character-driven scripts and performances and I think we put something really strange and original on television that had never really been on there before. And I'm really happy we also managed to find a fanbase for it, so I thought it was a very satisfying journey.

Do you think you've maybe fueled having more of these kinds of shows in the future?

Well, I think there are shows now that owe something to what Banshee did. I mean, to that kind of pulp violence and that kind of excitement. I see ads for shows coming all the time that seem to be in that vein and even the show I'm doing now with Cinemax (Warrior), it's going to be different but I think it's sort of standing on Banshee's shoulders. Television has been a great place for a while now but I don't think it was a place that had ever had a show that had that kind of pulp and violence married to really grounded characters. There's been plenty of comic book stuff turned into television but this feels like - even though it never was a graphic novel - this feels like the first real graphic novel in TV form.

Though there was a good fanbase for Banshee, it didn't have a huge one. Do you hope that over the next five years or so, more people will start discovering this?

Well, TV has become a blessing and a curse. The real problem is that there are so many shows right now that it's much harder to build those kinds of numbers, especially on a network like Cinemax which is the little sibling of HBO. There are more barriers to viewership because you need a separate subscription to Cinemax. We were on a network that wasn't in as many homes and that didn't have as many subscribers, so we were starting out at a disadvantage. Plus, when you look at the amount of shows on TV, it's just much harder now to get that show that everybody can watch, even if you do get that kind of critical mass. In the case of Banshee, Banshee was never going to have a mass appeal. Banshee is a niche show for a very targeted market and I think we found that audience, and it was never going to be a Game of Thrones, it was never going to be a Mad Men. It was a much more targeted show. I do think that content will find its viewers, but it has become much harder now and so every time you put on a show, you're taking your chances that the audience will find it because there are so many places to look.

About the Author - Bradley Adams
18 year old based in England, currently Senior Staff at SpoilerTV. Most of his posts are news/spoiler based, though he is currently the reviewer of Person of Interest, co-host on the SpoilerTV Podcast. Created and is in charge of the yearly Favourite Episode Competition and currently runs the Favourite Series Competition. A big TV fan, his range of shows are almost exclusively dramas, while some of his all-time favourite shows include 24, LOST, Breaking Bad and Friends. Some of his current favourites include Person of Interest, Banshee, Arrow, The Flash, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Better Call Saul and many more. He also runs an Arrow fans site, ArrowFansUK, and aside from TV, is a keen cricketer. Get in touch with him via the links below or via email
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