Jonathan Banks

Crazies, Bad Guys, and Frank McPike

Biography: Bad Guys

(All quotes are from JB. Codes link to bibliography of interviews.)

How to Play a Villain
"The secret to playing a villain well is to convince people the bad guy is having a wonderful time being bad. I learned that from Ralph Richardson who has been my idol for years. He plays heavies with great joy." (UP87) Since the villain rarely survives he has learned the art of dying. "I never knew how many ways there were to die aside from natural causes. The characters I've played have been knocked off in every conceivable fashion. I've been shot, stabbed, drowned, burned, poisoned, fallen from heights and even destroyed by gremlins. I was minced underwater by a boat propeller and demolished in an airplane crash. And I've learned how to be beaten to a pulp by the heroes. I can't remember the last time I won a movie fight." (UP87)

Side Effects
Playing so many bad guys has had unexpected side effects when people recognize him. Once he was "on a street in Beverly Hills. A police officer pulled me over. I put my hands on the dashboard, and I screamed out the window 'I think you're mistaken.' There were cop cars everywhere with guns drawn." (PS89) Other contacts are more enjoyable. "When the public see me on TV they expect a heavy. They approach me on the street to say how much they hated me in a particular show, then they giggle." (UP87)

The Good of Bad Guys
"I really like playing bad guys. Good guys just languish in banality." (WP88) Speculating about why he enjoys bad guy parts, he says "I'm not enough of an amateur shrink to really guess, other than to say they are really wonderful, healthy ways to get out all those aggressions. How often do you get the opportunity to drool on yourself and hit people with sticks in the safety of make-believe? It goes a long way toward making me a milder human being." (NJW88)

No Dailies
After an early experience on Coming Home, he says he never goes to dailies. The improvised drunken party scene he was in took two weeks to shoot, and had the director falling out of his chair laughing during the dailies. In the finished film it was cut to almost nothing. "I never went to dailies again after that. Ever. Ever. I don't ever want to know what happens after that." (PS89)

Relationships and Coaching
During this period he lived with a woman, helping to raise her son Jake, (WT88) to whom he remained devoted, saying "I wish he were mine." (USA89-1) In 1985 the relationship ended, and the breakup hit him hard. "I thought I was going to die. I mean that. I thought I was going to die. I've never felt that kind of pain in my life... I wish her the best." (CT89) He continued to coach Jake's Little League team even after the breakup, (NJW88) until staying in Vancouver for Wiseguy filming made it impossible. (USA89-1). As a coach, "my job is not to be their guru, but to give them pride in themselves. It's important that they have pride and grace when they lose." (NJW88)

Pilots and Series
At the same time this relationship ended, his career was doing well. "And the last four or five years things have been pretty nice." (CT89) Stage, movie, and television roles arrived regularly. After three unsold pilots, he was in two short-lived series, The Gangster Chronicles in 1981, and Report to Murphy in 1982. Also in 1982, he played Zack in Beverly Hills Cop, his best-known role prior to Wiseguy. In 1983 he played a violent, multiple-personality character on Hill Street Blues so realistically that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police use a tape of the episode to demonstrate the kind of havoc that can be created by "somebody completely out of control." (NJW88)

GO TO: Early Years University Early Roles Bad Guys Wiseguy Since Wiseguy

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Page last updated:Mon, Feb 25, 2002