Exclusive Interview: Banshee EP Greg Yaitanes Teases Season 2, The Special Episode 5, and More

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Dying to know more about this second season of Cinemax’s Banshee? Executive producer Greg Yaitanes has all the answers!

During my interview with Yaitanes, I tried to get him to tease a few things about what we can expect this season. We also talked about episode 5, which he describes as “Michael Mann and Terrance Malick had a kid” (incidentally it’s my favorite episode this season so far), Banshee Origins and creating an interactive world around the show.

When you come up with the structure, do you know where you want to end at the end of the season?

Greg Yaitanes: Yes. Season two started as a conversation between Jonathan and I, which began with ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to open season two with a truck heist, and restore order to Banshee and interweave all of that together and see what happens?’ Jonathan and I have talked about how ‘Banshee’ ends, and we’ve always kept making sure that we know what that journey is. The great thing is that we’re at the beginning of that journey, but we didn’t want to be that show where we’re like, ‘Well, we don’t know. We’re just making it up as we go.’ We have very clear planned mythology, and that’s why I put so much in the comic book, which is very relevant content if you digest it. I think it’ll make you enjoy some stuff later in the season, but we put that between seasons.

Racine. You learn what his obsession with Rabbit is. These things will come to light. So there’s very much a strong desire that I want the fans to know that this is a show that has a plan and has a journey, and I’ll be there next to you for that journey. So when we structure it, the only thing we want to make sure is that there’s not a predictable rhythm to the show ever.

So while season two picks up on momentum where season one left off, it is structurally very different from season one as what we would want to do with season three is completely different than season [two]. What I can say is that at a conceptual stage I’m more excited about season three than I was at this point when we talked about season two. I love season two. I feel like we’re a show that we also very fearlessly leave everything on the table. I remember when we got done with season one, and Cinemax was like, ‘I don’t know how you guys are going to get back to this,’ and we were like, ‘Okay, we’ve got a plan,’ and we do. Jonathan and I are two creative people and we love making the show. We have a great relationship and a very respectful relationship and we get to build on each other’s ideas nicely.

This season, Hood has an interesting journey so far in that he still loves Carrie, but there might be someone else coming into play. Can you tease that?

Greg Yaitanes: Well, Lucas Hood is a handsome man and the ladies do adore him. I think a really great relationship with brewing with Siobhan. Just because he came there for Carrie doesn’t mean that Carrie is the right person for him. We know that’s something that we want to explore, and even more thematically what that means. What would that relationship be, being built on a lie? How are we going to reckon with that? How is he going to do deal with that? Can he change? We deal with big themes this year, and I love that about us.

What about his daughter? Does that get explored any more because so far we haven’t really seen them reconnect that much?

Greg Yaitanes: Yeah, it’s like anything. We don’t always feel that we have to service everybody at every point, but we do drop in and out of characters. Deva and her relationship to Lucas is something that we’ll look at a little stronger later in the season.

What about Proctor and his journey with Rebecca?

Greg Yaitanes: They have a complex relationship. The nice thing about it is that Rebecca is the Michael Corleone of ‘Banshee.’ She is the one that is taking the biggest journey of all the characters. I mean, she was an Amish girl who’s now slowly…this is the transition year to the dark side.

Rabbit is still in the picture. We thought that we were rid of him.

Greg Yaitanes: Yeah. I love the way we reintroduce him. I think that was a great scripted moment from Jonathan. I love working with Ben [Cross] and it reminds of ‘Harry Potter’ or ‘Lord of the Rings,’ it’s like Rabbit is away, but he’s got to get back to his physical self. He has to get stronger and that is a definite engine that we will hit like a train this season.

Why do you think it is that Lucas keeps going back to his old lifestyle, heists and all of that, even though he has a new life now on Banshee?

Greg Yaitanes: The thing that I love about Lucas is that he gets to live out his secrets. So many people have their secrets hidden away. He goes and acts on it. He’s like, ‘Okay, I’m going to be the sheriff,’ and now, ‘I’m like a criminal at the opener.’ But something he’ll start dealing with in episode six is can we change. He comes back from episode five still questioning and wondering about the things that he took from that experience. That episode affects him very deeply, and he will kind of turn and look at the mirror pretty hard as to what that means for him.

We still don’t know what Hood’s real name is. Is that something that you know and want to reveal at all, or would you rather just keep it Lucas Hood?

Greg Yaitanes: As you go through the season, I think, and as people look through the origin content, the origin content will make more sense as the season goes on. We don’t necessarily know if Lucas Hood, the Sheriff, is the first time that he’s reinvented himself.

You have strong female characters as well. A character like Nola usually tends to be a male character. Making them female, is that something you consciously do?

Greg Yaitanes: No. When Nola showed up in episode eight, I just feel like the show got bigger last year. I love when Jonathan writes these characters and the way that he comes up with it. It’s not a question of whether this could be male or female. He just finds what’s organic to the story, and I love that Alex has a sister, and that sister, she has a complicated past and what does that mean. Why is she the way she is? What’s her secret? These are all things that I hope to explore further.

I’ve seen five episodes of the new season, and so far the fifth episode has been my favorite.

Greg Yaitanes: Five was such a uniquely special thing. The thing that I loved that Babak [Najafi] did is that it’s not like any episode of TV that I’ve seen. It’s as though Michael Mann and Terrance Malick had a kid and that kid made ‘Banshee.’ Babak is out of Sweden. He’s Persian, but he lives in Sweden and he just had the exact eye and sensibility, and it has this beautiful, ethereal dreaminess. It expanded the vocabulary of how he we make the show, and I felt that the show really grew up in a big way. People who really appreciate the cinema of the show, you can’t call it a guilty pleasure after episode five. It’s like we’re as good as anything out there, working as hard as anything out there with great people behind it.

He also directed episode six, is that going to be a similar feel?

Greg Yaitanes: No. The great thing is that five is kind of like our midseason stopping point, and then six gets back to what we call the business of ‘Banshee.’ So when you come back in six, seven, eight, that’s going to be a strong Proctor/Lucas arc that begins. So it’s kind of like a three part Lucas/Proctor really centric story with other surprises in there as well. Then we head in to the finale block. I could say that no one could see coming what we’re doing with the finale.

I cannot wait. It’s really a cool season, and we were trying to do two things. We wanted to carry the momentum of season one into season two so that you feel like you’re seeing episode eleven and twelve and thirteen, that we didn’t like get here and then we’re back and we’re just getting to the same spot. We’re on a trajectory that will just keep escalating throughout the season. But at the same time we wanted to expand and grow and do all these things that we wanted to do, and one of those things was to continue to surprise the way the season unfolds. You think it’s going this way and then all of a sudden there’s a dead Kinaho girl on Amish land and that’s going to blow everything up in Banshee. Have they shown you any of the origin content?

No, I haven’t gotten a chance yet.

Greg Yaitanes: We created a hub [welcometobanshee.com]. It was an idea that I had last year, which was I wanted in ten episodes to make an eleventh episode. So we made an additional episode of content that is back stories of the characters. It was very successful and so we went in more funded and we were able to make and plan additional content that will compliment your experience of the season. So you’ll go back and see the interrogation of Lucas Hood, when he was arrested and what that is. That’s going to unfold and payoff in episode nine. And if you can go back and forth between that world, there’s all this great stuff. They’re all made by us, and if you want to geek out further, you can get into the title sequence which changes every week and has numerology and those numbers are appearing.

It’s funny how everybody gets on the case of Lost‘s numbers and what’s the significance, but if you want the significance there’s a whole numerology to Banshee that really people take to Twitter to discover, but it’s another layer that exists on the show. There’s Easter eggs all over the season.

So the opening sequence changes every week?

Greg Yaitanes: It’s changing a little bit every week. In fact, there are three things we wanted. The title sequence was created by my brother and Biz Stone who co-founded Twitter, and they started a media company. I went to traditional title houses, and I’m like, ‘Can you make something that tells a story, is social and it changes every week?’ They were like, ‘Yeah, yeah, how about this?’ And we came up with this great idea about the safe dial and the photographs on the table and who’s looking at the photographs and the story they’re telling. So they’re either foreshadowing or they either tell their own story of ten episode micro-story or they’re telling or foreshadowing something that’s going to happen in the season, and they unlock content online too. Last year’s safe dial, as of today, would unlock what’s in there now.

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There’s a lot of secrets surrounding a lot of characters. Are you thinking about having flashback episodes, or can we find these things out through the origins?

Greg Yaitanes: Origins opens up a lot of secrets and insight. There’s even more to come. The thing that I like, and one thing that I think is an appeal to the show is everyone does have a secret, even Banshee. That’s something that I think everybody can take to their life as well. Everybody has something that they don’t want somebody to know.

Do you have an idea already of where you’re going in season three?

Greg Yaitanes: For sure.

Has the show been picked up?

Greg Yaitanes: We’re optimistic. That’s about all I’m allowed to say.

People who watch ‘Banshee’ don’t just like the show, they love it.

Greg Yaitanes: The love it. They devour it. They want to rip you to pieces to get more of it.

What do you think it is about this show that’s so addictive?

Greg Yaitanes: It’s like being on a roller coaster for the first time. You don’t know what the turns are. You don’t know where the drops are. You don’t know what’s coming, and that’s a very thrilling place to be. We deliver that every single week, and then along the way, there’s a very intriguing and pulpy and unique world. It’s like a fun place to go be for an hour on a Friday night.

What’s been the most surprising part of your journey with ‘Banshee’ so far?

Greg Yaitanes: I think it’s a personal one, which is my relationship with Jonathan, to someone who we know is the voice of the show and created the characters, to build on his world in a way that he feels is fully realized. And I feel that we just influence each other’s work. So we’re never like, ‘Nah, I don’t want to do that. I’m not cooperating.’ I’m like, ‘I have this idea,’ and he’s like, ‘That’s pretty cool. What if we do this, and I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah.’ We just have a great rhythm and it’s what I’ve always dreamed of and I feel very fortunate that I love going to work because I love going to work with the people that I work with and I love the show I make. I would be watching this if I wasn’t making it.

If you could go back in time and talk to yourself at the start of season one, what would
you tell yourself?

Greg Yaitanes: Oddly, when I was meeting on the job in December of 2011, I had to actually try to talk to my future self that would be making season three because the challenge is not only making the show, but the important thing is that a show remain relevant. It has to evolve as the years go on. You can’t just decide, ‘This is the show and it’s going to stay this way for five years.’ I had to think in 2011, ‘How will people watch the show in 2013 and 2014 for season two and 2015 for season three?’ It was more about trying to talk to my future self, and I would like to say that my present self would look back and tell my previous self ‘good job.’

We have such a strong social presence. If you look at our call-sheet for a day of work on Banshee, it’s like, ‘Carrie and Gordon doing this, this scene and this scene, Banshee Origins this scene, Banshee Vines Carrie/Lucas.’ We treat everything as if it’s the show and there’s nothing that’s ever a throwaway. If it has the actors in it, we put our stamp on it and stand behind it.

Is that something that you feel is important, having such an interactive way around the show?

Greg Yaitanes: Our origin content is as good quality as the show itself. Last year, all the cast was in it. This year, the main players and the main stories that we want to tell, they’re like almost pieces of theater. They are harder to do than the rest of the show, and for me, I just don’t want TV to be hitting you from the front. I want to be the blanket that wraps around you and if you love the show, it’s like we are going to go there and we’re right there from all sides. I think that interactivity is going to be crucial in the years to come. I think there will always be a percentage of people who just want to witness the show they’re watching, and I want to continue to advance how we interact with our shows and how we get down deeper with the shows that we love.

What’s the fan reaction been to all that content?

Greg Yaitanes: I think a lot of the reaction has been your reaction, which is that they didn’t know it was there. I think we need to do a better job on our part, and I think we need to do more on-air promotion to let people know that that content exists because it’s incredibly high quality, and these are real pieces of storytelling that Babak directed, OC [Madsen] directed, I directed, Jonathan wrote. They are legit. It’s just because I can’t fit everything within an episode. I think our show is equally compelling going backwards as it is forwards.

Banshee airs on Fridays at 10pm on Cinemax.

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