When choosing his next television project, former House executive producer Greg Yaitanes simply wanted to get out of a hospital.
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And so, he landed on Banshee, the latest sexy, pulpy thriller in Cinemax's expanding slate of original programming. Also produced by True Blood creator Alan Ball, the show takes its title from the quiet Pennsylvania town in which it's set. But the relative calm of the rural Amish country locale is quickly upset when a recently freed ex-con (Antony Starr) comes to town and, in a violent twist of fate, assumes the identity of the new town sheriff Lucas Hood.
Even though Yaitanes was looking to get away from lupus and lab coats, he says he found more similarities between Banshee and House than he first considered. "Lucas Hood and Gregory House both play by their own rules, and both characters are emotionally immature," he tells TVGuide.com. "They've been stunted in a moment in time. Greg House was sort of frozen when he got his leg surgery. Lucas Hood, at a very impressionable age in his early 20s, was imprisoned, and he's now trying to re-enter [the world] still almost as a 20-year-old. Every week, you're watching the growing-up of Lucas through the world around him."
Inspiring Lucas' emotional growth spurt is the bad news he finds in Banshee: Not only does his ex-girlfriend and former thieving partner Anna (Ivana MilicevicI) not have the $10 million worth of stolen diamonds that sent Lucas away in the first place, but she also has a husband and two kids who know nothing of her criminal past. "He feels like he's been robbed of his life basically for 15 years," Starr says. "The first thing that he wants to do is get what's his."
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Even more than the diamonds and the money, Lucas believes that "what's his" includes Anna, who now goes by the name of Carrie. "I would say Season 1 is all about the girl," Yaitanes says. "That reunion is a lot of Season 1's push and pull. At its core, [the show] is a love story."
But it's a messy one. "Carrie wants her family," Milicevic says. "The relationship with her husband is real. It's not like some false undercover spy thing. Had Lucas never come back, she would have carried on to be an exemplary wife. ... But he comes to town and it is like a sip of alcohol for the alcoholic that has been sober for some time. There's an addiction element happening with Lucas and their old life. That kind of excitement does something to you on a chemical level."
Adds Starr: "The love [Lucas] has for Carrie is so deep and so complete and so all-consuming, that there's no way he can let go of that. This is what's kept him alive for 15 years in prison. That raises very awkward situations for Carrie and she's put in jeopardy."
Indeed, from the moment of his release, Lucas is being hunted by the goons of Mr. Rabbit (Ben Cross), the Ukrainian gangster Lucas and Carrie ripped off. But of more immediate danger to Lucas is Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen), the local criminal kingpin who is troubled by his inability to put the new sheriff in his pocket
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"He runs the town but cannot put his finger on what is different about Lucas," Yaitanes says. "He knows he is the sheriff, but he cannot understand why he seems so much like a criminal. It doesn't compute for him. It is great to watch him sniffing out Lucas' true nature." Adds Starr: "The reason that they're natural enemies is because they're both at the top in their own respects. They're cut of the same cloth. That relationship throughout the series is a very difficult one for Lucas to negotiate."
Assuming Lucas can navigate the tricky web he's created for himself, can he win Carrie back or is their love doomed? "[Co-creator] Jonathan Tropper described it as the end of Peter Pan: Wendy is all grown up, but Peter Pan doesn't want to admit it," Yaitanes says. "Yes, there are all of these external threats, but the biggest threat and the biggest loss would be Anna. Her ultimate rejection would be the most devastating thing."
But isn't that a little mushy for Cinemax's blend of adrenaline and sex? "It's high-end pulp. I feel that I've made a heightened drama with a candy-coated action show around it," Yaitanes says with a laugh. "If people come looking for a rich drama, they get it. If they're coming for action and sex, they are going to get it. The show has so much to offer."
Banshee premieres Friday at 10/9c on Cinemax.