Zombies. These days they're everywhere -- and that includes on HBO Canada's new "Transporter" TV series. Based on the popular "Transporter" movies, the show revolves around Frank Martin, a former Special Forces operative turned freelance courier driver. For the right price, he will deliver any item, package or person anywhere. Unfortunately, these missions often go horribly awry and Frank finds himself thrust into dire circumstances.
On a blistering July morning in a Toronto alley, leading man Chris Vance ("Prison Break", "All Saints") is busy filming 'Cherchez La Femme,' the 11th of 12 episodes. The English-born actor is darting between the undead as he chases his latest package, a fleeing hacker named Jet (Chelsea Hobbs) through a zombie parade.
Dressed in Frank's trademark suit and tie, a dapper Vance sat down with HuffPost TV Canada during a camera turnaround to discuss cars, combat sequences and bringing "Transporter" to the small screen.
Was being an action star always on your radar?
Like any other boy in the world that does a little bit of rough-and-tumble and playing around when they're a kid, who doesn't want to be an action star at some point? I guess in some ways, you could say it started a long time ago. It's interesting because I got to a point in my career where I suddenly realized I had something in the region of 70 or 80 episodes of TV playing either a doctor or a lawyer. For a while, I was looking for something that was anything but that. I didn't know it would be action hero. When this opportunity came along, it did fulfill a few ambitions and wishes I had.
What grabbed you about the character Frank and the "Transporter" concept?
I was a big fan of the franchise. I thought it was wonderful storytelling. I love what Jason Statham did to establish the character and the way he played him. It was just bang-on. When the opportunity came up, I was a little bit apprehensive because obviously it's such a well-known character and well-known franchise. I was apprehensive that it could be done well for television. Obviously, I was a little bit apprehensive about the inevitable comparisons that were going to be made when the show came out. But, once I read a few of the scripts, and as I got into it, I just fell in love with it. I can bring a lot to this role, I think, and it's certainly one that is going to challenge me both mentally and physically.
Do you see Frank as a hero or anti-hero?
He has his own moral compass, which doesn't completely align with conventional standards. He does operate in a seedy underworld, often on the wrong side of the law. But it's the wrong thing for the right reasons. Through his actions comes the heroism. Frank always makes the right wrong choice, so I see him as a hero.
How is the series fleshing Frank out? Will we get a more well-rounded view of who he is and what makes him tick?
You see some character growth in Frank that perhaps you didn't get an entire picture of in the movies, because there wasn't enough time in the narrative. Characters like Inspector Tarconi, played by Francois Berleand, they provide [a way of] getting to know Frank. Tarconi is obviously the counterpoint to Frank. He's often on the very opposite wall to Frank, but for the right reasons, he'll ask Frank to do stuff. So there's that relationship. It's slightly a distant relationship with Tarconi, but it's very trusting. Then we have Dieter, who is Frank's mechanic, played by Charly Hubner, who is hilarious. He's very, very funny and has great timing. A beautiful actor. That's a more intimate relationship with Frank, because it's kind of a bro love thing. You get to see Frank completely relaxed and chin wag about his troubles. We play off the boys-with-toys humour.
In "Prison Break," you participated in some physically demanding scenes. Has it been any easier this time around?
I had done them before, but not on this level, or the technicality of it, either. Each fight is its own story. It's not just fighting for fighting's sake. We're paying homage to the movies, but we're trying to reinvent the style of fighting. As for the challenges, obviously with our schedule being so tight, it's quite physically demanding. Over so many months, you have to keep going. Also, the mental side of this, staying in character and trying to look super-cool, when you really don't know what the hell is going on, is a challenge in itself. It's a lot of fun and I love doing it.
What kind of fighter is Frank?
He rarely uses guns. We have, on one or two occasions in the show. It's hand-to-hand combat. It depends on who he's fighting. If it requires the full-on discipline martial arts, we go at it.
Has that resulted in any injuries?
Yeah, we had to put production on hiatus for a little bit. It was just one of those unfortunate things. I ripped a muscle ligament and some cartilage out of my hip rotator joint. But touch on wood, it's only been one time. There's the odd little knock, dent or bruise. Actually, there are a lot of those. I've lost count.
Why will this version not only appeal to the loyal "Transporter" fans, but to those who haven't followed Frank's adventures before?
The honest answer is there's nothing like this on television. The volume of action we've got in this thing and the pace of it, there really isn't another show like it. There are plenty of procedural cop shows and yes, there are plenty of fights. I think the comic element to the "Transporter" fighting and the car chases and Frank's interaction with the girls makes it wildly entertaining, but it's fast-paced at the same time.
Lastly, are you a better driver after doing this series?
I'm certainly a better driver. I've worked with the car guys quite a lot. It's just basic stuff, but they've really shown me the difference between what I thought was driving and what is driving. They've taught me a few things like the slight turns and the 180 degree turns, which you don't get to do usually. I can't wipe the smile off my face when I get out of my car after that stuff.