Layers the secret of success

Antony Starr has diamonds in his eyes, a far cry from life as a westie in New Zealand. Nigel Benson catches up with the Banshee star.

Antony Starr says he is cradling the telephone gingerly when he calls from Auckland.

The star of new United States drama Banshee is home nursing a hand injured during filming the television series in New York and Charlotte, NC.

''An action drama is very demanding to shoot,'' he says, laconically.

''I'm back for three or four months with the family over Christmas and then, hopefully, we'll be shooting season three.''

Produced by True Blood creator and Emmy and Oscar-winner Alan Ball, Banshee has been critically acclaimed since it debuted last January.

''It has a lot of different layers to it and goes all over the place,'' Starr (38) says.

''TV has got a lot more sophisticated and shows are being produced to a very high level now. Any show that wants to do well should anticipate the audience is more intelligent and sophisticated; rather than the opposite.

''People don't necessarily know what they want, but they do know what they don't want. People want more bang for their buck and to invest time in a show that's going to give them something back,'' he said.

''TV's doing some really good things at the moment, while there are a lot of popcorn films coming out. You hear people talking now about their favourite TV programme, rather than their favourite film.''

Starr started acting in 1995 on Xena: Warrior Princess, followed by roles on television series Street Legal, Shortland Street and Mercy Peak.

He is best known for his portrayal of twins Van and Jethro West in Outrageous Fortune, which won Starr the Qantas Television Award for Best Actor in 2005 and 2007.

He has also appeared in New Zealand films The World's Fastest Indian and In My Father's Den.

In Banshee, he plays a diamond thief who returns, after serving 15 years in prison, to the quiet Pennsylvanian Amish town of Banshee, where his former partner-in-crime and lover Anastasia (Ivana Milicevic) is living a secret life under the alias Carrie Hopewell.

When the town's new lawman, Sheriff Lucas Hood, is murdered, Starr assumes his identity and begins to dispense his own violent brand of justice.

His arch nemesis is Anastasia's father, the ruthless Ukrainian gangster Mr Rabbit (Ben Cross), who is hopping mad at Starr for stealing from him and turning his daughter against him.

The action-packed thriller spins with twists and turns as the ''sheriff'' continues his criminal activities, with the help of colourful accomplices, such as transgender computer hacker Job (Hoon Lee).

''The first season had a really good response, especially in New Zealand, and it's also doing well in Europe and the States,'' Starr says.

''It's nice to have a show produced overseas doing well in your home town.''

The 10-episode second series of Banshee picks up from the first season finale, when Mr Rabbit was left for dead after a climactic warehouse shootout.

Now Sheriff Hood must overcome a suspicious FBI, while keeping out of the clutches of Mr Rabbit and dealing with the unwelcome appearance of the murdered Sheriff Hood's reprobate son.

Meanwhile, long-serving deputy Brock Lotus (Matt Servitto) remains bitter at being passed over for the sheriff's job.

• Season two of Banshee premieres Monday at 8.30pm on SoHo. It is repeated Sundays at 9.30pm.

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