Antony Starr may be making the big time in the US, but if he ever starts acting like a spoilt Hollywood big-shot, there’s one woman who can bring him back down to earth – his mum.
The star is set to hit TV screens next year playing the lead in US drama Banshee and when shooting wrapped recently, Antony made sure he jumped on a plane back to New Zealand to see his mum, who he says would have killed him if he wasn’t home for Christmas. “I think she would skin me alive if I didn’t come back,” he laughs.
The actor, who jokes about being “world famous… in New Zealand”, is back home with his family for some well-deserved downtime. 2012 has been a big year for the Auckland star, best known for playing twins Jethro and Van West in Kiwi comedy-drama Outrageous Fortune.
Banshee is his first US role and the series is produced by Alan Ball, of True Blood and Six Feet Under fame. Antony plays ex-con Lucas Hood, a role he says he’s found challenging.
“[Hood] has had a hard life and has a substantial chip on his shoulder,” he says. “He’s a pretty messed-up individual who’s been locked up for 15 years and is really out to get what’s his and what’s been taken away from him – the love of his life. It’s quite a nice, soft, love story underneath but it’s shrouded in violence.”
Antony (37) was working in Sydney when casting began and sent over an audition tape he’d filmed in his living room. He was flown in for a screen test and landed the lead role.
With rugged features and baby blue eyes, Antony was a great fit to play Hood. But despite his success, he remains a laid-back Kiwi at heart and can’t say why he might have won the role over other actors. “I haven’t really thought about that,” he says, brushing aside the question.
“I said thank you very much and have been head down and focused on my part of the job. It hasn't involved me sitting down and wondering why.”
Lucky for Antony, his co-star, Bosnian actress Ivana Milicevic, has an answer for him. “He’s dreamy,” she says. “And he’s so intense, he really is. Besides his awesome acting, it is such good casting because he always looks heartbroken – just the shape of his face and his features.”
When Outrageous Fortune ended, Antony went looking for work in Sydney and LA. This year he appeared in the Australian movie Wish You Were Here and gave a performance that has just earned him a nomination for an Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts award. He’s also been on new Aussie TV drama Tricky Business and is in the running for a 2013 Silver Logie award for Most Popular Actor.
Antony says the US industry is similar to back home. “The scale is different. Everything’s a bit bigger, there’s more money thrown around, but work is still work. The American system is all pretty civilised. You hear horror stories of 20 recall auditions or more and it’s all very dramatic and horrible, but this was very fluid and great to be a part of.”
Banshee is filmed in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Antony says the largely international cast has made being away from home easier to deal with.
“I work with a great bunch of people. You are here primarily to work, but everyone is away from home so it would be kind of horrible if everyone were jerks,” he says. An action role seems worlds away from Outrageous Fortune, but it wasn’t an intentional move away from comedy.
“I’m a working actor so if there’s a job on offer and it looks like something interesting, I’ll probably do it,” he says. “[Banshee] has great people behind it... the scripts are great so it was kind of a no-brainer.”
As for what might come next, that’s under wraps. “I don't sit around doing nothing, waiting by the phone to see what’s happened,” says Antony, with a hint of sarcasm. “I’ve got a couple of things that I’m looking at but nothing definite as yet. But something will turn up.”
For now at least, there’s no doubt his mum’s keeping him busy.
Banshee is on SoHo on Tuesdays at 8.30pm from January 15, 2013