Transporter returns to TV screen

JAMES CROOT
Last updated 05:00 10/06/2014
Chris Vance

FILLING BIG SHOES: Chris Vance is playing Frank Martin in the TV adaptation of Transporter.

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Frank Martin was an easy sell to Chris Vance.

Sure the character was synonymous with British action star Jason Statham, who played the mysterious Transporter in three cinematic outings between 2002 and 2008, but 32-year-old fellow Brit Vance was sure he could make Martin his own in the planned TV spinoff - and besides it was truly a dream role.

"Between the cool one-liners, the girls, the guns, the driving, the huge action sequences... I thought to myself, how can I not want to jump at this one?" the former Prison Break and Mental star says of his reaction when first approached about the role in 2011.

He admits he had seen all three films in the Transporter trilogy and "loved what Jason brought to the part".

"His strength and cool charm was very compelling. But I wasn't intimidated."

In order to put his own spin on the character, Vance says he "ended up asking a thousand questions about the character, the genre of story, the narrative landscape Frank Martin interacts with". 

"Questions like what are his strengths, weaknesses and ultimately why is he who he is and why does he do what he does?"

Having Statham's Transporter offsider Francois Berleand (who plays police inspector Tarconi in both the large and small screen versions of the franchise) also helped him find his way. "We are extremely lucky that he is on board. He brings such charm, humour and depth to the show. He's a delightful man - on and off set."

While shooting the 12-episode season saw the production take in the sights and sounds of Paris, Berlin and Nice, as well its Toronto base, things didn't go exactly smoothly for the London-born Vance.

"I was injured during an action sequence, in which I tore a ligament in my hip and herniated a disk in my spine. I was back at work after five days, but obviously I couldn't do the action sequences until I was fully recovered which took about a month or so.  However, It didn't put me off doing the fight scenes at all. We're currently filming the second season and I'm actually doing more of my own stunts now."

Some of his athleticism and fearlessness can be put down to his teenage career as a promising footballer. "The physical demands of shooting this series in particular, are very similar to the demands placed on your body during a long and arduous football season. It takes a lot of physical and mental stamina to bring your best game to the table each day of a five or six-month shoot. Being the lead of a show could also be compared to being the captain of a football team in many ways. The best ones lead by example."

Talk of football inevitably leads to the upcoming World Cup. How does think England will fare in Brazil? "Who honestly can say how England will fare at the World Cup? Let me just say, I hope they go all the way."

It's a sentiment he also expresses about The Transporter series, because he's keen to continue playing Frank Martin for as long as possible. When asked what he thinks his enduring appeal of the character and the franchise, Vance has an easy answer.

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"I think the core of its appeal is true escapism. As I mentioned previously, it's all about the girls, the guns, the cars and the fights. Frank Martin is just bloody cool, isn't he? He's the action hero we all would love to be at times."

Transporter - The Series  8.30pm, Tuesday, The Box

- Stuff

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