Exclusive Banshee Interview: Creator Jonathan Tropper Talks Season 2, Strong Female Characters, Season 3 Plans, and More

banshee jonathan tropper interview

Jonathan Tropper is the brain behind Cinemax’s Banshee, along with David Schickler, he created the series that has become an obsession for most people who have seen it. And now in its second season, there is much more Banshee has to give its viewers.

During my interview with Tropper, we talked about what we can expect in this second season, his plans for the series beyond season 2, strong female characters, fan reaction to the series and more.

Season one ended in a crazy way. Did you already have an idea where to go in season two from that point?

Jonathan Tropper: It’s funny because when I sent the script in to Cinemax for episode ten, the final episode of the first season, I got an email from our executive saying, ‘This is great. Hope you know what you’re doing.’ I honestly knew we’d figure something out, but I didn’t have any idea really, but I knew we’d be able to put the pieces back together. The objective always was to get Lucas back into the office, and that’s where we came up with the character of Jim Racine, somebody with the influence and the power to pull the all strings. It turned out to just be needing to find that solution. It also turned out to be the excuse to create a really interesting and compelling character and Racine is just a blast to write for because the guy doesn’t shut up. He’s just a lot of fun.

You’re also an author. How different is it to write a book versus coming up with a show and a story that keeps on going?

Jonathan Tropper: It’s very different. First of all, a book has a beginning and a middle and an end. A show does not. You have to continue to reinvent. Also, I write a book alone. Writing a book is kind of lonely. You sit alone for about a year and you write a book and nobody sees it and you give it to your editor and you get some feedback and then it gets published. Writing a script for a show like ours, it’s something that never stops evolving. You write the script, and then the other executive producers read it and give notes and then the studio gives you notes, and then when you have the working draft, there are production meetings and you hear from stunts and wardrobe and locations and set and suddenly you’re like, ‘Oh, we have to change this for that, and location wise, what if we did this instead of that?’ And then the stunt guy will say, ‘Hey, here’s a great idea. What if we did this,’ and then we find out budget wise we can’t do that or schedule wise we can’t get that actor for here, and so what if we switch this. The script never stops evolving until you finish postproduction. So there’s a tremendous amount of collaboration and it’s the opposite of the lonely process of writing a book. You’re never not working with other people. So for somebody who spent a lot of years just writing books, it’s a very welcome community to be creating in.

Do you like that aspect of it?

Jonathan Tropper: I like it because I still get to go back and write books by myself. For people who only do that, maybe it gets a little frustrating, but I like being able to go do things where I don’t collaborate with anybody and then go do something where the whole thing is a hive mind.

How did the idea for ‘Banshee’ come about?

Jonathan Tropper: Well, I was invited to come in and pitch to HBO and they were really expecting me to pitch shows more like my books, and so the first few I pitched were like that. They never bought them and the idea of a cop who’s really a criminal was an idea that I’d been playing with in my head since high school, when I read ‘The Count of Monte Cristo.’ I had this idea of a movie really about a criminal who becomes a cop, and it evolved over time, and then finally, after I failed to sell any of the shows I had tried before, I decided to go in with this idea. I approached [David] Schickler who was a friend of mine and asked him if he wanted to develop it with me. We spent about six or eight months developing it, I set a meeting with Alan Ball and I pitched it to him, and it just sold. But the idea initially started out as something I’d been thinking about in one way or another since high school.

When you come up with a season, do you already know where you want to end?

Jonathan Tropper: Yeah, we generally know what we want to see with our main characters, where we want to start the season with them and where we want to end. Then we’ll have a few ideas of what we want to see happen along the way, and then once we have a few basic signposts for the season, then we sit down with the writers room and begin brainstorming everything. The first season, Schickler and I did that alone. Now there’s a whole bunch of writers doing it, which is great because you need new ideas. You need fresh takes on it.

Do you have any idea where you want to go in season three?

Jonathan Tropper: Season three is already completely broken. The writer’s room has already met. We’re already outlining season three. We’ve got all ten episodes mapped out for the most part.

I hear that the season two finale is pretty insane.

Jonathan Tropper: Yeah. Everything about season two is a few steps up from season one, and the season two finale we shot in New York City, and there’s a lot of crazy stuff going on.

What can you tease about season two?

Jonathan Tropper: Season two takes everything we did in season one and ups the ante significantly. We have some really interesting and exciting new adversaries for Lucas. Everything about season two just feels like bigger and denser and more fully realized than season one, and there are some really big surprises along the way, big changes with characters. There’s some big surprises coming.

You have a lot of very fleshed out characters who don’t always interact with each other. Are you ever thinking about taking, for example, Rebecca and giving her more scenes with Carrie?

Jonathan Tropper: It just has to make sense organically. At this point, there’d be no reason for Rebecca and Carrie to interact. So generally it’s organic. It’s where the characters belong. We do like whatever is happening in the show to have a connectedness with everybody else, but I don’t know that you’d ever see a scene between Rebecca and Carrie. I’m just not sure why that would happen. If our story took us in that direction, but for now, Rebecca is very much on her path and Carrie is on her path and there hasn’t been any reason for them to interact at this point.

Rebecca and Proctor, they have quite the interesting relationship.

Jonathan Tropper: Yeah, it gets more interesting in season two. It’s pretty twisted.

What can you tease about that?

Jonathan Tropper: Well, Proctor got shunned twenty years ago, and since then he’s really been an isolated figure, and now Rebecca gets shunned and goes through exactly what he went through and suddenly he has this beautiful young woman who’s probably the only person in the world who also understands what he went through. Now there’s this tremendous bond between them. So when you’ve been alone for so long and you have this bond, it’s obviously with these two people, it’s crossing some lines. The question is where it will take them and how far it will go, but in a sense they live in their own universe. So it can almost go anywhere, but it’s definitely not a healthy relationship.

What about Hood, what’s his journey?

Jonathan Tropper: Well, in season one Hood was sort of a horse out of the gate. All he wanted was to get back what he felt he was owed and to get back the life he had lost and he didn’t care who he had hurt doing that. But by the end of the season, he had hurt a lot of people and he started to take responsibility for that. Season two he realizes all these people risked their lives for him and he’s not going to ride off with the girl into the sunset. Now he has a daughter and he has all these people who risked their lives for him and risked their careers for him, and so he feels a much greater sense of responsibility for these people. He can no longer be as reckless as he was in season one because now the stakes are much higher. At the same time, he’s not a real cop and he’s still a thief and he still wants to rebuild his life. So he’s sort of a much more conflicted character in this season because he actually cares about these people now.

How does Carrie come into play?

Jonathan Tropper: Carrie is going through a really hard time now because she was fully exposed last season, and so she has a family that doesn’t want anything to do with her anymore. She’s mourning the loss of that family while trying to get them back, but also, now that Ana in her has been woken up, she’s finding it very hard to put her back to sleep. So she’s dealing with who is she. Is she Carrie? Is she Ana and where does she belong now?

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You have very strong female characters in the show. Is that something you planned from the start?

Jonathan Tropper: I didn’t want any damsels in distress. I wanted women who stand up for themselves, who are dangerous and are as every bit as dangerous as the men. I just feel like it’s boring to just watch women who just need to be saved. It’s interesting and different to watch women who can actually do some of the saving and who are just as dangerous to the men as the men are to them. So I just think men, whether they know it or not, men enjoy seeing powerful women and I think women do too, which is better.

We’re seeing a little more of Siobhan this season. Was that always in the plans?

Jonathan Tropper: Our problem was that we had eleven series regulars and only ten episodes, and obviously we had to focus on our leads and the main stories. So we had a lot of plot for the secondary characters that we just couldn’t get to. The episode when Siobhan’s ex-husband comes back in season two, that was planned for season one. We just couldn’t fit it in. There’s way more in our files than ever makes it to the screen for all these characters because we’ve discovered ten episodes is just not a lot of time to tell story with this many characters. So we have to prioritize.

Can you talk about Nola? She’s a very interesting character.

Jonathan Tropper: You see a lot of Nola in season two. We teased her in season one with the intention of just introducing her and getting her involved in season two. Nola is another complicated character. You kind of want to root for her even though she doesn’t have the interest of your heroes at heart, and another really dangerous, fucked up woman who is completely unpredictable and seems to have one agenda, but secretly has another one like everybody in Banshee. It’s just a lot of fun to watch her doing that.

It’s still very compelling because you do get so much in there.

Jonathan Tropper: Well, our goal really is that there’s a density to it and every time you think you’re done with the story, then you remember, ‘Oh, but also that’s going on and that’s going on,’ and they were constantly flipping back and forth around the different stories, which is what I think makes the show a lot of fun, that you’re not following around one guy for an hour. You’re following three or four different stories that are all going to intersect somehow a little bit.

In terms of flashback and character history, are we going to find out a little bit more about the characters?

Jonathan Tropper: Yeah, we’re always going to dip into the mythology of these characters, especially Lucas, but we really want to tease it out carefully and slowly. We don’t want to give you ten minutes of exposition, but you’re definitely going to see a good chunk of…I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to read that graphic novel, but a lot of what happens in there will be dramatized on the screen this year. We’re going to get a little more into the history of Lucas and Rabbit and give the viewers a chance to see what that looked like.

What’s been the most surprising thing for you in creating ‘Banshee’?

Jonathan Tropper: Just having it take on a life of its own. The characters lived in my head for so long, and David’s head, and then suddenly actors own these characters and there’s directors and there’s producers and there’s a network and everyone talks about them like they own them. Suddenly you’re watching these actors walk in front of you. To me, there’s really no other feeling like seeing this stuff you’ve thought about come into three dimensional life in front of you. It’s really a fantastically surreal feeling when you’ve watched these characters doing things and delivering lines that you wrote in your underwear. Writers generally remember where they were, have a sense memory of where they were when they wrote everything.

What’s been the fan reaction to the show?

Jonathan Tropper: I’m not that plugged into it, but what I’ve seen has been really like…I always knew the fans that found the show, if they were cut out for the show, would become really loyal fans. I think that we have a really rabid fan base with a great reception internationally. The show has been really successful internationally, and our goal is just to keep giving them what it is that they came for and then building on it, building the word of mouth and building the reputation of the show.

It seems like people really get addicted to it.

Jonathan Tropper: It’s not a show that I think you can just feel or have moderate feelings about. You’re either going to love it or it’s not going to be for you, but one of the advantages to serializing it the way we do is if you’re interested you’ve just got to see where it’s going because there’s always somewhere else for it to go. We really try to keep it completely unpredictable, like you could just never imagine what’s going to happen within the episode and then what’s going to happen in the next episode. There should be no way to actually predict what’s going to happen.

Banshee airs on Fridays at 10pm on Cinemax.

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