On Jan. 11, HBO sister network Cinemax will premiere the first episode of Banshee, a violent, film-noirish crime drama from openly gay producer Alan Ball (Six Feet Under/True Blood).
The series follows jewel thief Lucas Hood (Antony Starr). Recently released from prison, Hood assumes a dead man's identity and takes a job as sheriff of the titular town of Banshee, a crime ridden burb in the Pennsylvania Dutch country.
Hood is occasionally aided and abetted by Job (Hoon Lee) a cross-dressing hairdresser who moonlights as a computer hacker. In the very first show, Job shows that he has no compunction about killing.
Actor Hoon Lee is well aware of the fact that his portrayal of a cross-dressing killer is likely to push some buttons.
"I'm sensitive to that," he said in an interview with Windy City Times. "As an Asian-American, I can't tell you how many times I auditioned for gangster roles. "I'm very aware of how this character is going to be conceived, and hope that I could contribute to the character in a meaningful way."
Lee sees the character as an outlaw, but with layers. "I see Job as someone who is exploring identity," he said. "He feels free to explore whatever direction his identity follows. As an actor, it's an amazing opportunity for me."
Lee wants to assure viewers that there's no intention on his part, or on the part of the producers, to offend anyone. "Being part of a minority group myself, you want to be responsible for the people you represent," he said. "I talked to the creative team and asked, 'What do we mean when we say transgender or cross-dresser?' I spoke to a friend whose partner works with transgender troubled youth. I try to find the dimensions within the character, the reasons why this person does the things they do."
Job is not a drag queen, according to Lee. "Job doesn't have a drag name," he said. "He looks very male, and very female. A lot of the creative process comes from the fact that he sees himself as a chameleon. There are things we learned about Job that carry over when he's not in drag."
The actor urged viewers from the trans community to not rush to judgement regarding Banshee's portrayal of Job. "I was never asked to audition for a role like this," he said. "Anyone who's creative looks for opportunities to challenge themselves. I wanted to do the best work I could for this character."
"I hope people will give the show a chance," said Hoon Lee. "There's a certain reward for people who hang in there."
Banshee debuts Friday, Jan. 11, on Cinemax.