Wednesday, January 9, 2013

'Banshee' star relishes sexy role

Ivana Miličević has been doing film and TV work for 17 years, but her role on Season 1 of "Banshee" -- which premieres on Cinemax at 10 p.m. Friday -- marks a couple of firsts for the Bosnian-born actress.

It's the first time she's been the female lead on a TV series, and it was her first time in North Carolina, which is where all 10 episodes of the series were shot last year.

In "Banshee," Miličević plays a former thief who has been leading a quietly domestic life in Banshee, Pa., under a false cover for years. Her husband-and-two-kids existence is idyllic ... until her old partner-in-crime/lover (Antony Starr) comes back into her life, having stolen the identity of her small town's new sheriff.

Miličević is hardly a household name, but you've probably seen her on-screen before. She's a former Bond girl ("Casino Royale"), and famously appeared opposite Will Smith in 1998's "Enemy of the State" (as an amused salesgirl in a lingerie shop). She also played an American hottie in the British-based Christmas rom-com "Love Actually."

But she calls Carrie the role of a lifetime for her.

"I just love this part," Miličević says. "It’s very lucky and ... it’s rare for a female character to be written so well, and so emotional, and so in love, and so torn, and so tough, and so sexual."

"I loved the script. ... When I read it, it read very pulpy, and I was like, 'Wow, this is so kind Quentin Tarantino-ey in a way, like Coen Brother-ey, and funny in its heightened reality, but so emotional, because I really can feel this love story. So first and foremost, probably the love story drew me in. Second of all ... look at what I get to play. I get to fight. I get to train. I get to love. I get to be sexy. I mean, if not now, when?"

She also loved North Carolina.

"I’m from Michigan, so some bits of it reminded me of Michigan. Especially in the summer. When I got there, I noticed all the wild blackberry bushes everywhere. So I couldn’t wait for those to ripen. And I was really looking forward to the fireflies."

She also didn't mind that it was one of the hottest years on record.

"I loved the weather. I loved it when it got hot. I was just like, 'Come on, bring it.' ... In L.A., it’s never too cold. It gets a little hot for a little bit. But I’m talkin’ some good old-fashioned humidity. I could handle it. I was like, 'Bring it.' I loved it."

Oh, and "Banshee" marked one other key first for Miličević: It was the first time she'd ever taken her clothes off for a role.

"I've never wanted to. I've never been inspired to. But for this, I was," says Miličević, 38. "I was like, 'Oh, for this, it needs to be done, and it needs to be done well. It needs to not be done with a sheet wrapped around me; it needs to be done like a husband and wife do it. ... I just kind of wanted it to be natural. And I don't really find them gratuitous because ... it's part of the story."

In the series pilot airing Friday night, things get hot and heavy between Miličević and on-screen husband Rus Blackwell -- although her character, Carrie, actually has former flame Lucas (Starr) on the brain.

And yeah, believe it or not, there's character development going on here.

"I was telling my family, they were like, 'Oh, we just won’t watch (the sex scene).' But I said, 'No, you kind of have to, because there’s story points in it. It’s not just there to be there, like, 'Hey, let’s take a moment and get turned on.' "

For more on "Banshee," check out this story.