STACK chats with the British actor about stepping into the role made famous by Liam Neeson for the TV series Taken.
Based on the film franchise of the same name, TV spin-off Taken introduces the tenacious Bryan Mills at an earlier point in his life. Played by Vikings star Clive Standen, this younger incarnation is reeling from a personal tragedy when he’s recruited by a government agency and moulded into the man with “a particular set of skills”.
“This is a fresh Bryan Mills at the beginning of his journey,” Standen tells STACK. “In the film, Liam Neeson plays the grizzled veteran of the CIA. This is Bryan Mills when he’s still stumbling and learning.
“He’s obviously got a particular set of skills because he was a Green Beret. Most people in the Special Forces have that particular set of skills he talks about in terms of espionage and spycraft, but the skills we’re talking about with Bryan Mills is this innate ability to keep going forwards and to be selfless.
“When he goes into these situations he’s emotionally attached to the people he’s trying to save and that’s what I love about Liam’s character in the films – you had to put a bullet between his eyes to stop him. He’s after you and he’s not going to give up.
“In the film it’s about his daughter, and nothing is going to stop him from saving her. In the series, each episode has that same feeling – something has been taken and it’s about that skill Bryan Mills has to do anything he can to get it back.”
Standen did indeed approach Neeson for pointers on the character when the pair met at the Irish Film and TV Awards.
“We talked Taken and he said, ‘There are a lot of action shows that aren’t very realistic – the star can run up walls and do backflips without any exertion. This is about a guy with a particular set of skills, but most importantly he has heart. He’s a human being who is punched, shot and smashed through glass and he gets back up and limps and is crumbling. It’s that motivation that keeps him going.’ And that’s why I signed on for it. It was good to be on the same train of thought.
“Some of these action heroes don’t cry or feel, they’re like robots,” he adds. “This guy’s not. It’s nice to play a live wire who’ll start screaming and shouting, who’ll lose control and feel.”
The actor admits he was surprised when he learned that Taken was being developed as a TV series.
“My agent said, ‘They’ve offered you the role of Bryan Mills in Taken,’ and I was like, ‘They’re making a TV show?’ I imagined it would just be full of explosions and not a lot else, but I was interested because of the amazing showrunner on season one, Alex Cary, who was one of the main writers on Homeland.
“When I read Alex’s name and then the script, I was really pleasantly surprised to see a story that was driven from the very first episode where his sister is killed, and that draws you in straight away. You realise this guy is putting families back together but he’s lost something he can never get back.”
Having been regularly beaten up on the battlefield in Vikings, Standen is no stranger to physically demanding roles and says that Taken proved equally strenuous, beginning with a two-week boot camp with members of the Special Forces.
“Some of [the preparation] was about hand-to-hand combat but there was also the technology and spycraft, which was interesting to learn. I had a guy sit with me with a mobile phone and show me how easy it is to find out where somebody lives using Instagram. It’s terrifying how easy it is to stalk somebody or track someone on the internet these days. It made me really paranoid, like Bryan Mills.”