“Banshee‘s” Chayton Littlestone has one of the more ironic surnames on television. The actor who plays the Native American gang leader, Geno Segers, is a six-foot-three-inch wall of muscle, and his height is particularly noticeable during season two’s “The Warrior Class,” the first episode in which Chayton appeared.
In “The Warrrior Class,” Sheriff Lucas Hood (Antony Starr) takes on Chayton in single combat, only to be thrown around like a rag doll. Chayton goes down eventually, but not before withstanding two Taser blasts and being choked out with a flashlight. Even then, the sheriff’s department couldn’t keep Chayton in custody for long; the man crashed a police cruiser during an escape, vanishing to parts unknown only to resurface with a vengeance in season three.
“Littlestone”? Not so much.
In Chayton, Segers has created a chaotic force made flesh, driven by rage to start deadly battles on behalf of a lost cause. But the key word in that sentence is “flesh.” Chayton can withstand as much damage as he can dole out, but “Banshee’s” most recent episode ended with him as an FBI fugitive suffering from a deep knife wound and, possibly, a gunshot. From what we can see in the photo accompanying this post and an exclusive clip Cinemax gave to IMDb, he’s far from invulnerable.
Chayton’s personality is the polar opposite of Segers’, a kind, baritone-voiced man whose last major role before “Banshee” was that of a fun-loving dad on Disney XD’s “Pair of Kings.” Segers has an easy laugh and a deep appreciation for all of the opportunities that playing a frightening Kinaho gang leader has brought his way, including the role of the villain Boar Tusks in the upcoming horror Western Bone Tomahawk.
We spoke with Segers about how he makes the transformation from nice guy into “Banshee’s” deadliest villain, whether Chayton Littlestone can be redeemed, and which TV series he thinks Chayton would most relate to.
Please note: If you haven’t seen the most recent episodes of “Banshee,” stop reading now — this conversation discusses events that are major spoilers.
IMDbTV: Chayton has such a formidable presence, and he seems like a completely different character than who you actually are. Can you talk a bit about what it takes to get into the skin of Chayton Littlestone?
Segers: … I try to start with me and get rid of all the things that won’t serve the character: politeness, concern, a warm interest in people – I have always had a love for people. So I really had to take all that away and sort of just start with what I had that served Chayton. I have some formidable size, I have some athleticism, I have a scary voice, when needed. …I started peeling all that back and realized that I was nothing like this guy, deep down.
So I started looking at people who I thought Chayton would line up with ideologically: I looked some Native American activists, some African American activists. But I even thought about looking at Hitler, in terms of his ideas of purity and a pure race of people. I just looked at everybody, you know…I pulled pieces of this and that, pieces of a couple of family members — (Segers laughs) — to pull this guy together.
…The wonderful aspect of Chayton is that they didn’t want him to be a thug, just a scary, unintelligent guy. He became more of a formidable thinker as opposed to a guy who’s just going to hurt you. He was thinking strategically, which made him much more interesting to me.
IMDbTV: Chayton has also done some terrible things – he killed a beloved regular character.
Segers: (sighs) Yeah.
IMDbTV: That must have been an interesting day on the set.
Segers: I couldn’t say enough about Trieste [Kelly Dunn]. She’s an amazing performer, and she made it really easy for me to build up that energy, to take the steps we needed to take to get there. She was actually quite happy that Chayton was going to kill her character….she was happy because her character was, of course, a series regular. The fact that Chayton is the one that takes her character’s life is going to make it even more impactful for the Banshee community.
What’s a better way to go than to be killed by this arch-antagonist, as opposed to killed by a random flying bullet?…No one’s going to remember that. But because it was Chayton, everyone is going to remember it and our characters are forever linked as a result of that event.
IMDbTV: We’ve gotten hints that Chayton has a shred of emotional vulnerability, but there is a moment coming up where we actually see that he is physically vulnerable. Is it possible for Chayton to earn back a bit of empathy from viewers?
Segers: I think that viewers are going to see Chayton in a way they’ve never seen him before. They’re going to see him physically vulnerable. They’re even going see him emotionally vulnerable. They’ve never seen real, genuine fear come from Chayton. So they’re going to see this fear come from Chayton in a way that they’re not expecting.
…That said, Chayton has a chance to earn some of that empathy back. But as the episode goes on, he will of course ruin it. He will ruin any chance of that, I believe.
IMDbTV: A lot of people who watch cable know you as the dad on “Pair of Kings,” which was so different. Is it more fun to be the happy, go-lucky guy, or to play a character like Chayton?
Segers: Chayton has probably, to date, been the most challenging character to take on, because we’re so different from one another. I would love to take on more bad guys, because it stretches me as a performer. It’s so not like me. Now, Mason [Makoola] was relatively easy because he’s a lot like me. It was fun, don’t misunderstand me – I enjoyed every moment of [playing] Mason. But it was enjoyable for different reasons. It wasn’t as huge a stretch for me to play Mason as it is for me to play Chayton. But I will say, in all honesty, I probably enjoy Chayton a little bit more because it’s challenging.
IMDbTV: You have Bone Tomahawk coming up. Can you give us some hints about that project?
Segers: I was really skeptical about Bone Tomahawk until I really started thinking about the challenges to me as an actor. Boar Tusks, the character that I play, is the lead antagonist. And he doesn’t speak. So that makes him difficult for me to muster, because I’m so used to relying on my voice to express and to just help me be present in what I’m doing. … It brings all of the performance right to your eyes, and your face, and your expression.
… I thought, “That’s really going to be a challenge.” I wanted to see if I can help bring this Boar Tusks to life and make him as formidable without saying a word as I’ve been able to make Chayton formidable, vocally. That said, one of my favorite scenes with Chayton, he doesn’t say a word. That’s when he goes to retrieve his brother’s body. He doesn’t say a word, but all of the emotion, all of the pain, the vengeance, the anger and the sadness, came through just from him thinking it. That’s probably my favorite scene of season three.
IMDbTV: Do you think that there is an chance at redemption for Chayton?
Segers: I will say this: Chayton gets exactly what he wants. He can’t have his land back. He can’t beat every single soldier in the United States Army. He doesn’t have the time. So he’s going to take what he can. And Chayton, in the end, gets what he wants.
IMDbTV: Now, the IMDb question. I’m guessing Chayton is very much anti-TV series and movies. But if there were ever a time that he did watch a television show or a film, which film or TV show would he relate to the most?
Segers: He would probably relate to “The Walking Dead,” because he would feel right at home in that scenario, being alive and fighting your way out, fighting your way to live the next day. I think Chayton feels as though he is underwater and he is constantly under siege. He literally has to run, fight, scratch, kill his way to the next day. And I think that’s the beauty of “The Walking Dead.”
A new episode of “Banshee“ airs at 10pm Friday on Cinemax.