About the Post

Author Information

Janna is a staff writer for The Hudsucker. Born and raised in a small Ontario town, she made her move to Toronto for university and immediately fell in love with the excitement and pace of the big city. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production from York University, specializing in editing and screenwriting. She currently works as an assistant editor for a television production company. Janna loves stories told in all mediums, especially film, and takes herself to the movies as much as she possibly can. She can generally be found taking a Zumba class, exploring some of Toronto’s lesser-known gems, or relaxing with her fluffy feline roommate.

More Than A Sharp Pair of Stilettos: BANSHEE’s Hoon Lee

I love television—I always have. I love being swept up in a story and having the opportunity to get to know captivating characters, to get to return to their lives week after week. As I’ve gotten older and started to explore film-making myself, my appreciation for shows that take risks has really grown. I admire shows that break new ground and try different things. If it’s left of center, I’m on board.

Last week, I had the opportunity to chat with one of the stars of the show Banshee—one of the most left of center shows I’ve seen in a long time.

Cinemax’s Banshee follows the life of Lucas Hood, an ex-con who tracks down the love of his life after leaving jail, finding her in her new, reinvented life in small-town Pennsylvania, and immediately becomes mixed up with the town’s underbelly of deceit and danger. Now in its second season, Banshee has been renewed for a third, and recently won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role.

Credit Cinemax

One of the most beloved characters on Banshee is Job, a cross-dressing career criminal and talented computer hacker. I had the chance to catch up with Hoon Lee, the actor who portrays Job, and couldn’t wait to talk to him about all things Banshee.

“There’s a lot that happens on our show,” Hoon Lee says with a laugh from his home in New York. As an avid watcher of the show, I have often felt overwhelmed with the pace of the storyline and the richness of the characters. Overwhelmed in a good way, of course, and I tell him so.

Lee agrees with me. “Our creators are very much intent on trying to sort of saturate each episode—they really want people to feel like they’re getting a little mini-movie every week,” he says. “[The creators] take their references from the golden-era of action movies. Jonathan Tropper, one of our executive producers and creators, often says he was making the show that he was trying to watch. He had insomnia one night, he was [channel-surfing], and that’s not the time that you want to start exploring the depths of human psychology. You want something that’s satisfying on a visceral sort of level, that’s entertaining and thrilling, and that’s kind of the show they set out to make.”

What a show it is! Banshee is full of drama, gore, sex and scandal – all centered around developed characters with interesting arcs and detailed backgrounds. With such great material to work with, it’s no wonder that the cast and crew love their jobs. Lee tells me that not only is the work rewarding, but that shooting on location in North Carolina is like summer camp—with everyone being a little isolated, the cast spends a ton of time together. Everyone gets along and everyone hangs out, and that’s made it all the more fun for the cast and crew. Lee especially loves getting to portray Job, a character unlike anything he’s ever tackled before.

“Right from the get-go, people were aware that Job runs a lot of risks as a character,” Lee says, referring to Job’s fondness for experimenting with fashion and portrayals of gender. “In many ways, the character runs the same risk that would be encountered by that person if he existed in real life—prejudice and pre-judgement and making a lot of assumptions. Things like that.”

Credit Neilson Barnard/Getty Images North America)

Not only is Job a character that cross-dresses, he’s also a career criminal—he’s intelligent and pragmatic, always assessing a situation before inserting himself into the mix. Lee says that Job’s pragmatism isn’t something that’s ever forgotten when selecting a new look for him to try out.

“[Costume Designer] Patia Prouty’s primary concern is furthering story and putting the actor in a position to feel most successful, and she’s been extremely willing to collaborate and to discuss things with me,” Lee shares. “I think we both came to the table understanding what the challenges were and understanding that we had to strike a balance between sort of a sensational quality, which is part of what Job is going for, and the pragmatism of being a career criminal. If Job walked into a bank heist in high heels and a constraining dress, it means that his desire for ostentatious presentation is outweighing his better judgment as a criminal. So you can make those [costume] choices, but it just tells you a lot about the character. Before we do something like that, we have to consider what that means for the character—what that says about who he is or where he is emotionally or whatever that might be.

“All of the looks that get presented, whether they’re more traditional and masculine or whether they’re the hybrid looks, feminine looks, they’re considered on that level first. What is happening in the story and what makes the most sense here? And in the context of the small Amish town like Banshee, coming out in full drag or with some sort of heightened appearance is definitely a middle finger to the situation he finds himself in and isn’t particularly fond of. Job never wanted to be in this situation, so there’s a certain amount of defiance that happens there. But on the other hand, if he’s on a take, he’s not necessarily going to bust out the blonde wig.”

I remember that blonde wig extremely well—it’s right up there with the short purple hair as one of my favorite looks for Job. And I’m curious to know if Lee has a favorite, too.

“I liked the one that turned up in Episode 4 of Season 2, which was kind of a black-tie, corseted tuxedo look. I saw it as a real evolution of the things they’d done before. But sometimes the more pragmatic nature of our show is what creates an appreciation for the outfit. Like, ‘Hey, I get to be in pants!’,” he laughs.

Credit Cinemax

Lee gets me laughing too, thinking of his excitement to be able to step out of the skirts for a day. He’s easy to talk to and incredibly well-spoken, and I find myself fascinated when he starts discussing Job’s role in Banshee’s diverse cast of characters. He mentions the opportunities he’s given to bring a little humor to dark, serious storylines; Job’s snark and attitude are some of my favorite things about him, so I’m thrilled to gain more insight on that.

“I see it as a little bit of a position of honor in some ways. Whenever I watch drama or something very heavy, it’s very much like any other artistic medium… certain flavors really only come to the front when they have a counterpoint,” he says. “We can only get so dark, we can only become so grim without some levity. If we don’t create the other end of that spectrum, it limits what we can do.”

Lee likens it to the amount of trust you need to find in another actor when you’re working with them—the more you trust the person you’re playing against, the more risks you’re willing to take. “You feel safe, so you can push it and go right for the throat because you have each others’ backs,” he says.

“And in a similar way, the more lightness there is in brief spots, the darker things can become. If you can get someone watching our show and laughing in a moment or enjoying themselves at that level, you’re somewhat setting them up for the sucker punch, you know?” Lee says. “That’s something I take seriously in my role. It happens to be something I enjoy, something that’s very fun for me. And I know that the writers like writing it as well—they get to exercise different muscles when they write for Job, and I can see that in the scripts, so I really like being part of it. There’s certainly more than enough action and more than enough lines and more than enough darkness to go around!”

Speaking of action and darkness, I’m itching to try and find out more about the last couple episodes of Season 2. When I ask Lee for some hints or spoilers, he isn’t as forthcoming as my inner Banshee fan was hoping for!

Credit Cinemax

“You know, I think if people have been following along, there’s some clear trajectories that are being set up,” Lee says, chuckling at the eagerness in my voice when I ask for details on the Season 2 finale. “We have the tension that’s been building lately with the skinheads and the Amish country, we have the ebb and flow in the relationship between Proctor and Longshadow, and you have the over-arching of, “Where’s Rabbit?”

“We have ten episodes to work things out, and that has certain advantages in that it forces us to try to be as succinct as possible. But at the same time, it means that if you’re going to feature one story line for an episode or two, you have to use up a fifth of your season [to do so]. So the first six episodes are somewhat about laying the groundwork for the last arcs that are going to come in, and then more often than not on our show, these things collide as opposed to running parallel. So I can’t give away—that’s incredibly non-specific, I’m sorry,” he laughs again.

Though I don’t say anything, I can tell that he wishes he could give me more information than he’s let on so far. He’s quick to add, “But I will say that we knew going in that people were going to be learning new things in the first half of the season, with new characters and information. But we also knew that the second half was going to be like a bull charging through a china store. The consequences are going to unravel in such a way that anything can happen. I’m incredibly excited for people to see the last few episodes.”

I don’t think it’s possible for him to be more excited than I and countless other fans and viewers are! But there’s another thing to get excited about: the recent announcement of Banshee’s third season.

“We’re going to start shooting in April, but we’re most likely going to be rolling into pre-production in a staggered way earlier than that. With the way our show is, the preparation physically begins a lot earlier. Because if I know our creators, the first episode of Season 3 will start with a big bang,” Lee tells me when I congratulate him on the Season 3 pickup. “We’re shooting for another ten [episodes] this season. It’s interesting because in the television context it’s ten episodes, but from out work perspective it feels more like a twelve or thirteen episode run because we work pretty hard at the supplemental material.”

I have to admit, the mention of supplemental material is news to me and has my ears perking up. I ask Lee to elaborate, and his tone immediately lifts even more.

Credit Cinemax

“There are shorts available on WelcomeToBanshee.com, and they’re like origin stories,” he explains. “I think that material is really great, and I think this season really kicked it up a notch. [The videos] are just as good as anything on the show. And in some ways, they’re even stronger, because the nature of those little segments allows for a different kind of dynamic. It allows Jonathan Tropper to write two-person scenes in a way that might be difficult to do within the context of our show on television. We can really devote a lot of time to just letting these characters establish dialogue with each other and give them breathing room to do that. To have five minutes to do that is a bit of a luxury on a TV show. I’ve been blown away by how much [these segments] have come along in the second season.”

I can feel my fingers already itching to find my laptop and visit the webpage—these shorts are character-driven and involve a lot of back story, which is right up my alley. I actually feel ashamed that I hadn’t heard of them until now, and I tell Lee so.

“I hope that people are finding their way to them,” Lee says sincerely. “Unlike other efforts I’ve seen online in the past from television- or film-based media, [these shorts] really don’t feel tacked-on. They feel integral. If you don’t watch them, you are missing information. You can enjoy the show on its own merits, absolutely, but there’s a sort of richness that comes along with these segments that definitely forms your perception of these characters. There’s a great segment between Kai Proctor and Sugar Bates when Proctor was put in jail years and years ago—the videos are set in the past—and you see a dynamic that you don’t get to see a lot on the show. So having that in your mind informs how you see those interactions on the show and you start to understand a layer of their relationship that isn’t readily apparent, necessarily, onscreen. And that, I think, is wonderful. I know that if I came to a show like this and I knew that the supplemental material was so robust, I’d be so excited.”

Which is exactly how I’m feeling now—excited and almost honored, as I have been in the past, that the cast and crew put so much effort, time, heart and soul into their work on Banshee. It really is a show that’s fiercely loved by everyone involved, and that comes across in everything they do. It makes me proud to be a fan, and I feel fortunate to have been able to sit down and pick Lee’s brain a little this morning.

Credit TV After Dark

Before we part ways, though, I have to ask: if he could play any other character, just for one episode to try it out, who would he play?

And his answer is immediate and firm: “I wouldn’t.”

When I ask him to explain, he laughs. “I love my character. I mean, I think that I get to do things and try things that other people on the show don’t get to do. I have never really received the opportunity to play a character like this in the past—someone who is so out there compared to who I am. You know, when you’re my type, you often get asked to play gangsters and cops. Like, a lot of that.” He laughs again, and the warmth and fondness in his tone is practically radiating down the phone line. “So to be able to play someone who is, yes, a criminal, but is so specific and such a person and has strengths and faults, it’s not something I take for granted. I’m very happy playing Job.”

I think that’s something all Banshee fans can agree on: we, too, are very happy to see our beloved Job played by someone as talented and dedicated as Hoon Lee, and we wouldn’t change that, either—not for a second.

Banshee airs Fridays at 10:00 pm ET on Cinemax. Follow Hoon Lee on Twitter: @MisterHoonLee!

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  1. More Than A Sharp Pair of Stilettos: BANSHEE’s Hoon Lee | Life and Style Flash - March 7, 2014

    […] Janna Jeffrey I love television — I always have. I love being swept up in a story and having the […]

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