After Cinemax airs the Season 3 finale of “Banshee” at 10 p.m. on Friday night, the ultra-violent crime drama will cease to belong to Charlotte.
It was marked as a goner when North Carolina legislators quashed the state’s film tax credit program last summer, and the news became official last month: Pittsburgh will be the new production home of “Banshee,” which had been filmed primarily in the Charlotte area since 2012.
Although the lights, the cameras and the action all left in September, a key piece of the series has lingered.
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Hoon Lee – who plays “Banshee’s” butt-kicking computer hacker Job – relocated to Charlotte after shooting wrapped, along with his wife (actress Sekiya Billman) and their son.
“There’s a pace that is very exciting about New York, but it’s also exhausting,” said Lee, 41. “Our son grew up in Queens, so there’s basically one playground, and it’s all asphalt. Having spent the past season here all together, we just realized it was such a great place for him to run around and be a kid, and we felt that while we had established a toehold here, we should take advantage of it and enjoy something different.
“The nature of this business is such that I don’t know where we’ll be in five years, so we have to embrace where we are in a given moment and make the most of it.”
In the current given moment, the Massachusetts-born and -raised Harvard graduate is blessed with two steady jobs: In addition to “Banshee,” which shoots from April to September, Lee has provided the voice for the mutant rat Splinter on the past three seasons of Nickelodeon’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
So he’s splitting his time between an animated kids’ show and a pay-cable show that is without question for mature audiences only.
On “Banshee,” the “hero” (played by Antony Starr) is an ex-convict who has stolen the identity of murdered small-town sheriff Lucas Hood; Job (Lee) is his often-reluctant sidekick, a cranky cross-dresser who values money and self-preservation over (almost) everything else.
Over the past nine episodes, Hood has warred with a band of literally-off-the-reservation Native American thugs; made an even bigger enemy of local crime boss Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen); and convinced Job and his other cronies to steal piles of cash from a sadistic army colonel (Langley Kirkwood) who is hellbent on getting them back.
This has been the bloodiest and most flat-out bonkers season yet. Throats have been ripped out, obese gangsters have been trampled by tractor-trailers and bad guys’ faces have been shotgunned clean off their heads.
That’s “Banshee.” It isn’t pretty, but it was Charlotte’s.
“I really, really enjoyed Charlotte – clearly, since I’m still here,” Lee said. “I felt like, throughout the seasons, the population was really rooting for us and carrying us and supporting us. I think in some ways, it’s difficult to feel that in a large city, particularly cities with a lot of media saturation like New York and LA, where everyone’s somewhat got their own thing going on. ...
“And the locations, they set the tone for ‘Banshee.’ Going forward, we’re going to have to use them as a template. I just wish we could use the original.”