EXCLUSIVE: Clive Standen on 'Taken' Season Finale: Bryan Mills Has Been 'The Toughest Character to Play'
By Jennifer Drysdale
Just 10 episodes of NBC's Taken is enough to put Clive Standen and his character, Bryan Mills, through the ringer -- though Standen says he's absolutely ready for more.
As the television series, based on the Liam Neeson thrillers, approaches its season finale on Monday, audiences will see Mills and his "particular set of skills" put to the test, in a move that Standen teased transforms a young, eager, team-playing Mills to the character "that we know and love from the films."
ET caught up with Standen over the phone, where he spoke about the show's upcoming season finale and where he'd like to see his character go in a possible second season, as well as advice he received from Neeson and why Mills has been the "toughest character" for him to play.
"[Being a father] has impacted [my portrayal of Mills] a lot," said Standen, whose young Mills has yet to have children, but still exhibits the intensely protective qualities of Neeson's character in the movies. "I've got three kids and the father thing comes into play. That's my heart on my sleeve. But also I had something happen to me a couple of years that is very close to home with Bryan and his sister's relationship. So I find it very easy to tap into that emotion as well."
Taken's first episode saw Mills' little sister killed by terrorist Carlos Mejia, rooting the character in tragedy, but also introducing his (sometimes uncontrollable) desire for revenge.
"Losing someone that just one day they're there, and the next day they're gone...There is some sort of art mimicking life there, a little bit. It's been the toughest character for me to play, coming from my own experiences," Standen explained. "I'm an actor that likes to have to develop a character that's completely far and removed from myself. I got into acting to draw attention away from myself. I'm not method and I don't like tapping into that so much, but with Bryan, it's been there on the page, so it would be ridiculous not to [tap into that emotion]. It's just there."
"Some of those raw emotions are still kind of quite raw with myself," he added. "So it's been sometimes easy, but there's also the other side of it, sometimes it's hard to pull back and go, 'Oh, hits a little close to home.'"
Standen said the character has become a collaboration between him and writer Alexander Cary, who developed Taken for television.
"He writes from a sense of truth as well, because he was in the armed forces. He has many experiences that he's seen, for lack of a better word, on the battlefield. And we talk quite openly about that as well, so we sometimes have like a form of therapy, reading through his scripts and talking through the character," the 35-year-old actor shared. "It's kind of almost a collaboration between me and Alex, this character. There's bits of me in Bryan, and there's bits of Alex in Bryan. I'm the glue that [holds] the character together, but a lot of it comes from talking to Alex and tapping into his mindset."
Neeson also helped Standen craft this new version of Mills.
"We talked briefly about it. I kind of said what I loved about the character, and he kind of responded by saying, 'That's exactly it. As long as you keep that as your mindset, then you're going to be good,'" he recalled. "The reason that I wanted to play this character is that I have lots of skills that I have acquired throughout my 35 years on this earth. I was a champion in Muay Thai boxing and I've done stunts since before I was an actor. I was riding and jousting and abseiling, and doing bits of parkour and stuff when I was 15 onwards. I like playing real people, and real people, they get hurt."
"Bryan's just a guy. He's a guy with a particular set of skills, yes, but he gets punished and you see his blood, sweat and tears before he gets to the finish line. And that's what I said to Liam," Standen continued. "He said, 'Yes, that's exactly it. You're playing a man. You're playing a man with his heart on his sleeve. There's no reason for Bryan to be running up walls and spin kicking people and things and doing kung fu chops. It always has to be set in reality...You nailed it in one. Just keep that alive, and I'll be proud.'"
Mills has made quite the transformation throughout Taken's first nine episodes, honing and developing his skills alongside the OPCON group -- and learning the value of capturing versus killing their targets. Going into the season finale, however, Mills will be tested as he works to save his girlfriend Asha, who has been captured by Mejia in his attempt to escape punishment for his crimes.
"That was my MO to myself, was that it's a marathon, not a sprint. In a movie, you have a beginning, middle and end over two hours, and you just want to see your lead character kind of kick a** and take names and be the finished product. Liam Neeson's character in the film has become grizzled because of what's he's been put through over all his career. So I really wanted there to be no rush to be that man," Standen said.
"The Bryan I'm playing, he's at the beginning of his career, but he still has that forward momentum, this thing that he's born with, the desire to protect people, that instinct to always be moving forward and thinking outside the box. My Bryan is trying to figure out what he's going to do when he gets there. So he needs to be reigned in," the Vikings actor continued. "By the end of the season, which you're going to see in the finale is when he starts to become the man of the films, because you have to take him to the dark side, and see how he responds. And then my job as an actor is to pull him back from that dark side, and see how his moral compass has changed and has developed as a human being."
So does Mills' dark side mean he'll actually get to kill Mejia? Standen said not so fast.
"This is one of the scenes I've been most interested in playing in the first season, is the difference between revenge and retribution. He wants revenge for his sister's death, and he thinks, maybe subconsciously, that joining a government agency and working under the guise of a government agency will somehow switch revenge to retribution. But then things don't go his way, and when Carlos Mejia takes Asha, that's when this is the beginning of the Bryan Mills that we know and love from the films," he teased. "He has to go solo."
"You'll start to think for a season two, 'Wow, this going to be a completely different Bryan. What's Bryan going to be capable of now?'" he added.
Though a sophomore season is still up in the air, Standen's got a few ideas.
"I'm excited by the last scene that we have in season one. For me it ignites so many opportunities and makes me very excited for what the first episode of season two can be. For me, Clive as the actor and Bryan as the character, it's just the tip of the iceberg. There's so much more I can give to Bryan," he offered. "Season one is about him learning the ropes, he's on a leash. In season two, he'll be off the leash."
The season finale of Taken airs Monday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.