CHARLOTTE – The sheriff of Banshee, Penn., is back as a man who takes matters of justice into his own hands in Cinemax's second season of the Emmy Award-winning drama, "Banshee."
A red carpet blanketed in bright lights greeted some of the show's stars Jan. 9 during a Charlotte premiere party at McGlohon Theater. The show had filmed in parts of Charlotte, Mooresville and Lincoln County.
"I think it's pulpy. It's violent and sexy, but it also has really sophisticated storytelling and great characters," Kary Antholis, president of HBO and Cinemax miniseries, said of the series. "We try to do a really good action movie in each episode."
“Banshee” stars New Zealand actor Antony Starr as Lucas Hood, an ex-con and thief who steals the identity of the murdered sheriff of the town after spending 15 years in prison for diamond snatching.
Once there, he searches for his former partner-in-crime and ex-girlfriend, Anastasia – who now goes by Carrie Hopewell and is played by Ivana Milicevic – and continues his criminal activities while the gangsters he betrayed years before attempt to find him.
"I'm a huge fan of the show! I was walking around downtown about a year and a half ago, and I saw them filming a car chase scene on Tryon Street," said Henry Thomas, director of broadcasting for the Carolina Panthers. "I actually saw my condo in one of the episodes one time."
Two seasons worth of filming in the Charlotte and Lake Norman area have pumped millions of dollars into the economy and employed thousands of local carpenters, seamstresses and camera operators, Beth Petty said.
Petty directs the Charlotte Regional Film Commission. She helps production companies for television shows, movies and commercials discover the beauty and potential of the area.
As part of the government, the NC Film Office helps grow the state's burgeoning film industry, which has many notable movies to its credit such as "The Last of the Mohicans," "A Walk to Remember" and "The Hunger Games."
"We oversee the state's entire film industry. We're in charge of the tax incentive program and recruit for the entire state," said Aaron Syrett, director of the NC Film Office. "We interface with studios and all production executives and get scripts, read them and break them down and tell studios how to creatively and financially make their films in North Carolina."
"Banshee's" first season is estimated to have had a direct in-state spend in excess of $35 million while creating approximately 4,200 job opportunities, including 250 crew positions for skilled film professionals.
Last spring, "Banshee" filming took place in Mooresville at Pike's Gas Station and Carrigan Farms, as well as along Tunnel Road. The town's Broad Street also serves as the home of the show's sheriff's office.
"We pretty much have Mooresville ice cream every time we're there," Milicevic said.
She particularly enjoys the red velvet, banana cream pie and birthday cake flavors sold by the Mooresville Ice Cream Company.
A bloody and exhausting fight from episode eight still sticks with her, particularly because of all the training she underwent to perfect the scene.
"My body went into tunnel vision. It didn't know if it was really fighting or not," she said. "When people come to talk to you, they really have to get your attention because all you can see is right in front of you."
Starr said it was the tough guy role of Lucas Hood and the quality of the script that attracted him to "Banshee." He'd done a lot of dramatic comedy before taking the job.
"To a certain extent, you're never going to understand what it's like for those guys coming out of prison," he said. "It's artistic license to a certain degree. But we all understand isolation, and I did a lot of research about what happens to convicts when they come out, like post-traumatic stress disorder and antisocial personality disorder."
Ricky Russert joins the cast in season two as a member of the Native American Redbone gang.
"Season two is full of new characters that bring a little bit more heart to the story," he said.
While in town, he spent time boating on Lake Norman and window-shopping at Mooresville's downtown antique shops.
"I saw Epic Chophouse restaurant, which looked like a nice place to have a meal," he added.
The state's tax incentive policy for filming was a major draw for bringing the show to the Charlotte region, Antholis said.
At a gathering of the Mooresville-South Iredell Developer’s Council on Sept. 9, 2013, Petty told local leaders that the state risks production crews packing their bags and searching for greener pastures if the General Assembly refuses to renew its filming tax incentive plan, which ends Jan. 1, 2015.
Signed into law by Gov. Bev Perdue in 2010, the N.C. Film Refundable Tax Credit refunds production companies 25 percent of their total filming expenditures – more specifically for costs that benefited in-state companies and vendors. Films and shows are entitled to cash back if they spend between $250,000 and $20 million in the Tar Heel State.
Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon said he'd love to see a third, fourth and fifth season of "Banshee" filmed here and supports the tax incentive policy.
"It means a great deal for the city of Charlotte in the way of job creation and making sure there's great exposure for the city of Charlotte as well as the region," he said. "Those are things sometimes you just can't buy."
His Mooresville counterpart, Mayor Miles Atkins, said he and his wife, Kim, have watched season one twice because they're such big fans.