Alpha Trivette Talks ‘Banshee’ [Interview]
Alpha Trivette plays the stern elder of the Amish community in Cinemax’s hit series Banshee, a prominent and pivotal character in the sprawling, media-spanning mythology of the show, but he is also a fan.
“Even if I weren’t in the show, I would still like it,” Alpha told us during our telephone conversation earlier this week, as we discussed what brought the veteran actor to Banshee, what the future holds for his patriarchal character, and even his thoughts on film tax incentives.
Read on for Part 1 of our candid interview with Alpaha Trivette, and then click here for Part 2!
“Watching some of the actors work has been incredible,” Alpha told us about his cast mates. “Working with Ulrich (Thomsen) is just like a clinic every scene I have with him. If I weren’t in the cast, I would still be a fan of the show. Knowing everybody who is in the cast and in the production crew the way I do, I’m just a fan of all of them now actually.”
We asked Trivette to recall how he got to the fictional town of Banshee, Pennsylvania, portrayed on the series by the surrounding areas of Charlotte.
“My agent called and said ‘We’ve got an audition for you. Can you play an Amish elder?’” he remembers. “I said, ‘Well yeah, I probably could.’ So she sent me some of the specs of what they were looking for, and it said ‘Think the old guy from ‘Witness’. I remembered his accent pretty good, so I tried to emulate that accent as best I could, but as time came around I was working on another project and the deadline for submission was coming up. I had to leave that set and go over to my agent’s to record my submission.
“Then I kind of forgot about it for a while, and then I got a call from my agent and she said, ‘Is this Alpha, I mean is this Israel Proctor?’ It took me second to realize what she was talking about, but it was awesome.”
While those who have not yet watched an episode of Banshee might dismiss it as simply an action vehicle, we discussed how producers have effectively layered the show with a history and epic mythology all its own, giving it many more dimensions than skeptics may at first give it credit for.
“I didn’t realize at the time how great the experience was going to be,” Trivette said. “It was not until I got on set and saw everybody, saw how the set was run, did I realize that this is actually a pretty big deal. I kind of figured there were good things in store for it with Alan Ball being involved. I’m not surprised that it’s taken off, because it’s so well done, but I’ve been amazed at what they’ve been able to accomplish.
“I know some people in Europe and some in Australia, and they talk about the show. I had a friend I was working on a project with who said her dad called and just out of the blue mentioned that he’d started watching a show called Banshee. It’s been amazing. It’s really catching on.”
A seasoned performer who had his first big screen appearance in the Wilmington-filmed King Kong Lives, Alpha explained that coming to Banshee was actually a return to North Carolina.
“I actually started my radio career in Charlotte,” he said. “I did standup comedy and radio for about 25 years, and I used to live in Mint Hill, so I know and like Charlotte a lot. The courtroom scenes (in Season 1) were in Monroe (NC), and the farm scenes are up by Lake Norman.”
For the uninitiated, Trivette plays the father of Banshee’s resident big bad guy (played by Ulrich Thomsen), and in a town full of bad, it’s a hard-earned accomplishment to be known as the baddest.
“I play Israel Proctor, who is the elder of that particular sect of the Amish around Banshee,” he said. “My son has been shunned from the family. He was shunned for a reason that he couldn’t particularly understand, and he still doesn’t and he’s still bitter about it.
“Even though he has strong feelings for his family and his roots, he has turned into a guy that not only operates a meat packing plant in Banshee, but also sells drugs, runs prostitutes, and kills people, with great relish I might add.
“A lot of the tension that revolves around that particular segment of the story is the tension slash love that he has for his Amish roots and his family.”
We also talked about how the current second season of Banshee differs from the first.
“There is a great deal of drama that is taking place within the Amish family over the course of this season,” he said, “which I think will really blossom down the road. Right now in this season, we’re learning a lot more back story about these characters and finding out a great deal more about them personally and emotionally than we did in Season 1.
“Part of it is the revelation that there are consequences for behavior, and so a lot of the characters are seeing those things now, whereas they were able to escape them up until this point. Now it’s all coming home to roost.”
As stated above, Trivette is clearly a fan of the series and speaks very highly of the caliber of talent both behind and in front of the camera, including a few familiar faces he is thrilled to be working with again.
“I haven’t had scenes yet with some that I’d like to have scenes with,” he said of his co-stars. “Most of my scenes have been with my Amish family, which includes Samantha Worthen, who plays my daughter, and Steve Coulter, who plays her husband Elijah. They’re both from here in Atlanta, so I actually knew them prior to going on the set. Most of my scenes have been with them, and then I’ve had some very dramatic scenes with Ulrich. I met him the first day we shot, which was the scene in the courthouse.
“In fact Greg (Yaitanes, Banshee‘s showrunner) mentioned in a tweet, that one particular scene we had in Episode 8 last season, that he loved that scene so much we introduced a mother for Ulrich. For all of Season 1 he didn’t have a mom that we knew of and I didn’t have a wife, and so in Season 2 all the sudden I’ve got a wife.
“That scene took place when (Thomsen’s character) Kai realized that Rebecca (Lili Simmons) had been shunned from the family, and that of course brought up big emotions in him. He kind of unloads on his father Israel, saying that they live there only because he allows them to live there. There’s one line he delivers that’s just so powerful, he says, ‘And if I decide you can’t live here, there’s no god that can protect you.’ I get chills every time I see him deliver that line.
“I had a scene with Matt Servitto, and I think he’s a tremendous actor. He can just deliver some lines sometimes in a casual, nuanced way, and they come off so funny the way he delivers them.
“Demetrius Grosse and I did a film in Atlanta called Slice, where he plays a detective and I play a rather crotchety old guy who was not very forthcoming in delivering any information. So it’s a pleasure to work with Demitrious too, another great guy. I hadn’t seen his name in the cast list, but he saw mine and sort of sought me out on set. It felt good to me that he would make the effort to come over and say hello.”
Trivette says that despite the cast members spending most of the year in their respective homes all around the world, each from diverse backgrounds, when they come back together to Banshee, as they will for Season 3 later this year, there is a lot of actual love in this fictional town that has become a very real community.
“They’re big stars,” he said, “but at the same time they’re very approachable. It’s very close-knit. In as much as a cast can be a family, I think that this cast is.”
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