“I spent 15 years picturing this day, and I got to tell you, this is not how I saw it playing out,” Lucas Hood (played by Antony Starr, “Rush”) tells his ex-lover — understating things just a little bit — in the new Cinemax action series “Banshee,” premiering at 9 p.m. Friday.
Immediately upon his release from state prison, Lucas has a busy day that would tucker out any ex-con. He hits a bar, steals a car, gets in a chase and shoot-out in Manhattan, boosts a motorcycle, stalks his ex-lover in the rural Pennsylvania Dutch town that gives the series its title, and kills two guys in a bar fight. Oh, and by nightfall, he's the town's sheriff.
The premise of the show, executive produced by Alan Ball (“True Blood”), may seem a little preposterous and over the top, but that's what makes it engrossing and fun. Like its Cinemax series brethren “Strike Back” and “Hunted,” “Banshee” is a serious drama that doesn't take itself too seriously.
“You have to buy into the heightened reality of the show,” Starr says. “One of the great things about the show is that when we have very serious moments, that we have just a pinch of something else, a pinch of color, just to remind us that it's not real. We are existing in this heightened universe.”
The “Banshee” universe is a surreal, sleazy stew of ex-cons, techie drag queens, politicians, corrupt businessmen, drug dealers, Ukrainian gangsters, rebellious teenagers and local yokels — all with their own secrets and agendas. And yes, there are Amish.
“There are a lot of bad people in the town of Banshee,” Starr says, “and having this idyllic Pennsylvania (setting), sort of pristine ideas that run along with the Amish ideology, is a backdrop for the criminal enterprises that are going on, the bad people that are around. It's a stark contrast for the world. It really creates a landscape where there's true good and true evil and they're really polarized next to each other.”
Ivana Milicevic (“Casino Royale”) plays Carrie, Lucas' past partner in crime and in bed, who has reinvented herself as a wife and mother while hiding from the gangsters she and Lucas betrayed years ago.