The migration of “Taken” from big screen to small screen was a risky move, but one that’s paid off.
Part of (OK, most of) the credit goes to lead actor Clive Standen (“Vikings“), who’s so masterfully pulled off Liam Neeson’s cinematic role. Lead character Bryan Mills, thanks to Standen, has developed an entirely different identity in the TV series while still maintaining that gruff, hard edge that made him famous.
Standen is one of those rare figures in the biz who quite literally throws himself into his roles. It’s an impressive feat, and he’s so invested that he even suggested he strip naked in a torture scene. The producers were even going to let him keep his pants on, but nope — Standen chose the full Monty.
After a season of chases, gunfights, fistfights and suspense, “Taken” is winding down for its Season 1 finale on Monday, May 1. Global News sat down with Standen in Toronto to talk about the authenticity of the TV version of “Taken” and what fans can expect from the finale.
Global News: You once described a torture scene from Taken‘s first season, when you opted to strip down completely instead of just being shirtless. Can you expand on that? That was dedication to your craft.
Clive Standen: [Laughs] I said, “Why would they just take my top off? This feels like a Chuck Norris movie from the ’80s.” They responded with, “You’re being humiliated by these guys, they’re doing everything they can to make you feel worthless, to get information out of you.” I said that if we’re playing up the humiliation, then I should be completely naked and thereby completely humiliated.
You have this drive to make the show as authentic as possible. Does that carry over into other areas of “Taken”?
Definitely. I’m all-in with anything I do. I don’t do things for the critics, and I definitely don’t do things all the time for the producers. It’s called “show business” for a reason; they’re thinking of the business aspect of it, whereas I’m purely hired to be the creative. I think actors, writers and directors have a responsibility to protect the script and the best-quality thing for the fans. I’d rather do something that’s original.
That’s something you try to do on your other show, “Vikings”, as well, correct?
Yes. That’s what I’m trying to bring to “Taken”. If I’m going to be the leader of a show, I want to lead by example and set that precedent. In the very first episode, I’m hung up in a barn. We shot it in Orangeville [Ontario] and it was in the middle of a three-day ice storm. Freezing. The rain was turning to ice before it hit the floor. I hung there for three days, and it was horrible. Terrible! I kept it all inside. I thought, “If I do this and I can get through this in Episode 1, then no one else has the right to complain about anything.” It empowers the crew, too.
That’s what “Vikings” taught me: it’s about the work ethic, it’s about the cast and crew should be treated as one. I don’t know how it became a thing that actors somehow think they’re more important than everybody else.
Did you do all of your own stunts for this first season?
I always want to do my own stunts. I never wanted to be on an action show that’s just about car chases and explosions. Nowadays, it’s bodies moving in front of cameras and shaky camera work. It makes you eat your popcorn quicker, maybe, but it doesn’t engage the audience. The only way to really, truly engage an audience on an action show is if you make it about character. The way you do that is if you have the camera in the actor’s face instead of the back of a stuntman’s head. The anger, the frustration, the cowardice, the plan that’s forming in the character’s head, the whites of his eyes… you can see all of it.
How would you describe the end of the season?
I’ve always said the main theme of Season 1 is the difference between revenge and retribution. Bryan wants revenge, but working under a government agency, he can somehow justify it as retribution. It’s going to get nasty and dark, and Bryan has seen what it’s like on the dark side… and it’s going to get a hell of a lot darker before he comes out the other end.
And what about the finale specifically? Is it a cliffhanger?
The very last frame of the first season leaves Bryan in a very, very awkward predicament. Awkward isn’t the right word… the way it ends, Bryan will never be the same. I invest in the character. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I wanted to start Season 1 of Taken just like I did with Rollo [his character] on “Vikings”: he is not the finished article.
He is definitely not anything like the Bryan Mills of the movie, that’s where I’m going to end up. The start of that character is the very last episode of Season 1. I wanted him to be a man without the answer to everything. Where we end in Season 1, there’s no going back for him.
[This interview has been edited and condensed.]