Bringing the popular film series to television, TNT’s new series THE TRANSPORTER stars Chris Vance as the guy that people go to when they have something sensitive to be delivered and they need to ensure it actually gets there. Picking up right where the films stopped, the series features Frank Martin, who lives by three basic rules: (1) never change the deal, (2) no names, and (3) never open the package. As fans know from the films, those rules go out the window when the other party breaks one. Frank is an honorable guy, just trying to make a living, but the people he ends up doing business with are perhaps less than honorable. So Frank’s daily life tends to be a bit more exciting than he likes with bullets flying, crazy car chases and all sorts of other unpredictable trouble.
In an exclusive interview, star Chris Vance talked about what surprised him working on the show and what kinds of crazy stuff his character finds himself involved with.
What is it about the character of Frank Martin appealed to you?
CHRIS: Back in the day, when this first came my way and my agent was approached, I was a available and considering it. I was also aware of the movie franchise and I liked the idea of the loner. At that time in my career, I was looking for something different. I didn’t think I would be playing a central protagonist in an action genre. But I thought, “Hey, that would be a lot of fun, and this guy is kind of interesting and cool.” He is a loner who hides behind a set of rules in order to get the job done and survive and whatnot. So I thought, “Yeah, I’ll have a go at that. Sounds like fun: girls and cars and fighting and all that stuff. So why not?” That’s kind of how it all came to be. I put myself on tape and had a few meetings and I was lucky enough to get it.
So it was the James Bond-esque appeal about the role that you liked?
CHRIS: Yeah, absolutely. I had not explored that as an actor and I thought it would be a lot of fun — and it is. There’s no doubt about it. It is.
What is the funnest part of working on the show, especially now that it is going into its second season?
CHRIS: The most for me are the fight sequences. Now that we are some ways into the series, we have a good rapport. Myself and the main stunt coordinator, we are good friends now. So no matter what the writers come up with, we try to improve and go a little bit crazy and try to entertain in ways that we haven’t before. So the fun bits are fight coordinating and finding cool locations and finding really cool guys to work with, who are game-on to jump in and make it all a bit of a laugh, really. That’s the most fun bits, I think, for me.
Do they actually let you do a lot of these crazy stunts on the show?
CHRIS: Yeah, I do most of them. I do about 95-97% of them. Where I am allowed. The only ones I don’t do are when the insurance company won’t let me. There are some hairy ones that are better left to the experts, to be fair.
What has been one of the outrageous stunts that you have been allowed to do on the show?
CHRIS: In the car, it was driving down a runway after a jet plane in the Audi. Climbing out of the sun roof of the Audi while one of the stunt drivers is wrapped in black doing his thing while we were chasing a jet plane down a runway. That was pretty cool. Then I’ve jumped off several things and landed on various crash mats. They are all kind of nuts and a bit scary at the time. But it has worked out so far. Then there are the old kitchen fights, which are always a winner because there’s all sorts of implements that can go in people’s eyes or break teeth and we’re swinging them about. That is always a bit hairy as well; especially when there are 8-9 guys involved in a fight scene. It always gets a bit edgy. But it’s a laugh.
For Frank, is he the kind of guy who is going to carry a gun or is he not going to carry a gun?
CHRIS: He generally doesn’t carry a weapon at all. It’s not one of his rules. He will, if necessary. But he generally prefers not to. He’s a mixed bag in a lot of ways. He operates sometimes on the wrong side of the law for the right morals and he is sort of that way as a person. Firearms are not his thing. He would much rather avoid confrontation, but when he does, firearms are his last resort.
So Frank is the unusual kind of hero in that he not only doesn’t use a gun, he probably doesn’t use explosives as much either, does he? He’s got to be more inventive.
CHRIS: I think that is the fun of it. If any action hero just walks around with a gun all the time, it’s too easy, isn’t it? So we have embraced that side of it and play it up a bit that he’d rather drop the magazine from the gun and put his fist in the air and take the guy out mano-o-mano. It’s more fun sometimes that way.
Looking at Frank’s motivations, after being in the British SAS, why do you think he chose to be a transporter? What was the lure for him?
CHRIS: In my mind, you have to go back to the movie franchise. They established the character of Tarconi, and there several exchanges between Frank Martin and Tarconi in which Frank expressed he was slightly disillusioned by his superiors in the SAS for reasons that were not explained. There are set periods in the military and when his time came, Frank opted out because of that disillusionment. How and why he came to be in the transporter business is largely yet to be revealed in our series, to be perfectly honest. I have some ideas. But how and why he came to be there, we are going to reveal, I think. Why does he do it? Well, it’s for the girls and the guns and the cars and the money and the prestige of it all. He also likes that over accounting or being an architect and working with other people because he is something of a loner and likes to keep it that way.
Frank also has these notorious three rules: (1) never change the deal, (2) no names, and (3) never open the package, which he does not always follow. So then the question then becomes, why doesn’t he do away with the rules?
CHRIS: (Laughs) That is a very good question. It is something that we are exploring in the series; largely in the second season. We kind of have a little bit of fun with that — not enough, in my opinion — but we will get there eventually in terms of questioning these rules and how they came to be. Basically, in order to operate at all, Frank has to break them all the time, which is part of the fun of it. But it is a bit of a tiny pain in the ass, isn’t it? So we have kind of mixed it up a little bit and we are exploring at the moment what we can do to make them inventive and reinvent them, and at the same time, not lose them and ultimately pay respect to them because that is what the character lives by.
It also seems like due to his occupation that Frank doesn’t have time for romance or romantic liaisons, but he also strikes me as the kind of guy that couldn’t avoid them either. So is he looking for romance and relationships, or does he kind of follow his heart when something comes along?
CHRIS: That’s an interesting question and one that we have yet to nail. I don’t think our writing team got that right, so far. Personally, I think Frank is looking for love. But, whoever that lovely lady might be, is going to immediately be in danger because of his occupation and the background to his occupation. So it’s a 50/50 for Frank. I think he is probably searching for someone special, but knowing that he would put her in danger, keeps him a loner for the time being.
There are two women in Frank’s life, romantic or otherwise, Carla and Juliette. How do they figure into Frank’s world?
CHRIS: In Season 1, Juliette comes along and there is a bit of a romantic arc. But Juliette is not all upfront and honest, as you will see. Then Carla is very much a colleague. As I’ve said, Frank is a loner and likes to keep it that way. He likes to keep his identity under wraps as much as possible. So he needs someone to field his interactions with the world, this professional world at least, and that is what Carla does. She is a facilitator. She gets the jobs vetted, and acts as a go-between for Frank and protecting his identity.
He also has Tarconi and Dieter in his world. These are kind of interesting additions as well. Frank, for a loner, has a remarkable number of friends.
CHRIS: (Laughs) Yes, that’s true. Well, let’s put it this way: Frank wants to be a loner, but he exists in the real world. It’s difficult to do both, particularly with his occupation. He has to get out there and there are obstacles to cross, and sometimes he needs help. So Tarconi and Dieter fill those roles in different ways. Tarconi is more of moral support and a confidence adviser. Then Dieter is much more of a guy’s friend. Certainly Dieter is involved very much in the mechanics of the cars and keeping Frank safe, and all that, or trying to as Dieter does. All four of the characters around Frank this season function around him in balance. We tried to develop them, given the constraints of the show, and at the same time try to keep Frank isolated because he is a loner.
If you were able to sit down face-to-face with Frank, what kind of advice would you give him?
CHRIS: I’d say, “You’re getting too old for this shit, mate. Give it up.” (Laughs)
With the show about to premiere here in the U.S., what can you tease about the first episode, “The General’s Daughter”?
CHRIS: The basic plotline is a pretty scary adventure delivering a particularly unique automotive part to the Paris Motor Show — and *SPOILER ALERT* you will see a young lady called Lynn Daily, who is the main guest star in that episode and portrayed by a wonderful actress and who is now my wife, Moon. We got together and we now have a 1-year old son, and we are very much in love. So you will see how the chemistry between us came to be.
Looking at the overall arc of the first season, what should fans look forward to and anticipate?CHRIS: There’s no real arc. It is mostly an episodic show. It’s largely tongue-and-cheek and fun. So just expect girls, cars, fights, action, some crazy-ass villains and a lot of good old fashioned romping around delivering packages. That’s what I would say. It’s just fun the whole way and sort of an adrenaline ride.
To see how Frank manages to extricate himself from some pretty tough situations, be sure to tune in for the premiere of THE TRANSPORTER on Saturday, October 18th at 9:00 p.m. on TNT.
Chris Vance on Twitter @kitvance