Clive Standen takes on the role of Bryan Mills -- a former Green Beret who faces and works through personal tragedy -- in NBC's new series, Taken that premiered Monday night. NBC10 sat down with the actor to talk about the new show and how he hopes to make this twist on a classic film story connect with a new generation.
Tell me a little bit about the show. Is it like a prequel to the ‘Taken’ films?
CS: Well, it’s not a prequel -- it’s a modern day origin story. We’ve rebooted the character from the Taken films and made him 35 years old, so he has a skill set but it is not particular yet. We’re taking the Bryan Mills character and trying to relaunch him for a younger audience. The original film is 10 years old now. I definitely find him fascinating. This man is a grizzled veteran in his 60s and the film was just a father looking for his daughter. But, when you take a character like that you think, 'How does he become that man?' So, we’re starting right at the beginning of his journey where he joins the CIA and starts refining that skill set.
You’re stepping into some big shoes, but how are you hoping to mold the character into your own?
CS: Well you say I’m stepping into big shoes -- I’ve got big feet. It’s easy to make it my own because he is right in the beginning of his journey. So, all I really have to look at is Liam Neeson’s performance in the film, and think ‘This is the man in his 60s, this is what he becomes’ but it gives you free reign to actually go on this roller coaster journey of how he gets there.
How will this series differ from the film franchise?
CS: On the TV show, we don’t want the finished product -- it would get very boring very quickly if every episode the guy has an answer to everything. So, we have a Bryan Mills who’s going to trip and stumble and get back up again and hopefully the audience will be in the action with him and be rooting for him to get back up and learn from his mistakes.
You spoke to Liam Neeson about playing the role. What kind of advice did he give you?
CS: It was great, he was a big fan of Vikings, the show I was on before, so we talked a little about that. But, he just said ‘make it your own and not to forget about the heart of this character.'
When you did your research, you mentioned you watched the entire 'Taken' franchise. Are there things that you look for in the series that would help your character or do you just block it out and plan to start new?
CS: You have to play some of the character to a certain extent, but you also get this relentless intensity that Bryan Mills has. He’s always got this forward momentum going through the thick of it.
You have background in martial arts -- did any of this help you fit into the role? Did you do your own stunts?
CS: I do -- I’m an actor who does stunts. I used to do a lot of stunts when I was younger and I learned how to horse ride and sword fight and tumble and things like that way before I was into acting. In Taken, I do nearly every stunt apart from the car chases -- I’ll leave that to the stuntmen to make sure I don’t hurt anyone. When it comes to someone else’s safety comes, then I don’t like taking control because I don’t want to have something go wrong with a car and then injure lots of civilians. But, all the fighting, the parkour, the running-jumping-climbing trees kind of stunts, I do.
Do you think there is a big difference between action in film and action on television?
CS: On a TV show I think it’s very easy for action to just become explosions and car chases and you don’t connect with the character. With a character like Bryan you need to be in there with him and be there on his journey. I feel like if the director puts a camera on your face and you start to tell the story through the action. Sometimes the audience will see me get hit by cars or fighting bad guys or jumping from building to building, and I think it just helps because you’ll start to see Bryan’s emotions -- his anger, his frustration, and him thinking outside the box. Sometimes in the whites of the eyes you see the fear and then you’re in there, you see his emotions mirror back.
How is this role different from your previous roles?
CS: When I was in Vikings I played a character that was a historical figure, he was the great-great-great grandfather of William the Conquer, but that’s where he ended up in history. There is nothing to say what he was like in the beginning of his dream. The script in Vikings made him a very questionable -- he was sort of living on the margins, a very base character. But, it gives you such an amazing character arc to kind of think, 'How is he going to end up there?' Bryan is at the beginning of this journey so we will get to see where this character began.
Have you always wanted to play this fast-action sort of character?
CS: I always just look for a character who has fire in his belly. That’s what really turns me on when I read a script -- someone that will stand up for something, someone that burns brightly and Bryan Mills is that guy. He’s unstoppable, but he has to go through the ringer to get what he wants and that’s when you start to think about the flip side of the coin. I don’t believe anyone’s a hero or anyone’s a villain and what’s interesting when you watch Taken is that you realize everyone is a bad guy to somebody. You know, Brian in the first episode -- the man he is hunting down -- has his own reasons to hate Bryan. That’s what drama is built on for me. Drama is built on conflict and when you’ve got two characters who believe they’re right in a scene then you’ve got a good scene. I just look for characters that are multi-faceted.
What can fans expect from the show?
CS: I think the show is relentless, I think you can expect some really big twists and turns in the story line. The show-runner of Taken wrote some, and is responsible for, many of the episodes on the five seasons of Homeland. If you take the sort of real-world scenario in Homeland with the espionage, and the covert action that the characters are going through, but you take it with that relentless pace of the Taken franchise, then you end up with something that has far more action and intrigue and adventure.
Tune into Taken, Monday nights at 10 p.m. on NBC.