A Hitman with Heart: The Sixth Wall Chats with Georgie Daburas, Star of Hitman 101
By Ariel Nishli
Silver screen contract killers have historically been older, hardened men with nothing to lose and no ties to sever. When they speak, it’s minimalist and foreboding. When they set out to do something, it’s methodical, cold, and calculating.
These preconceptions of what Hollywood’s hitmen are supposed to embody came crashing down as soon I watched the first episode of KoldCast TV’s Hitman 101. When I polished off the second, third, and fourth episodes in one sitting, I knew I was face to face with a golden egg of Internet TV; a product of the unbridled artistic freedom that comes with the platform.
The series’ John Smith is anything but stereotypical. Hardened introversion is traded in for reflective sensitivity. Guarded words are replaced with heart-pouring video confessionals. Cold professionalism becomes an emotional crusade of sorts.
You are watching the first episode of HITMAN 101, “Always The Hardest”
The deliciousness of this show is not a complete juxtaposition of the genre. Smith is still a certified badass who you’d not want to cross. It’s the little boy at the heart of the hardened killer who begins to poke through as the show progresses that makes you connect to his dirty work in a way that makes you question your own values.
When Georgie Daburas’ baby-face appeared on my Skype screen for our interview, a casting director hat floated down gently onto my head as I immediately recognized the genius behind the decision to anoint him a hardened killer. In real life, Daburas is anything but the type. He’s a sensitive, grateful soul with a wide-eyed appreciation for his craft and a practical, honed skill as an observer.
We chatted about the boy behind the man, the man behind the series, and how a few daily karate moves in the backyard may pay off in unexpected ways.
THE SIXTH WALL (T6W): What is your relationship with “John Smith,” the mysterious, morally flawed character you play on Hitman 101?
GEORGIE DABURAS: John Smith… John Smith… One of the interesting things is that you don’t learn his real name. One of my favorite movies is Léon: The Professional with Jean Reno. I watched it a few times and read the script as many times as possible. There are many similarities to Hitman 101. The one thing that I truly connected with was the desire that John had to make his parents proud. Although he seems to know why he’s doing what he’s doing, it all stems from trying to avenge his parents.
T6W: Do you think the desire to please mom and dad is ultimately what serves as the underlying source of people’s ambitions?
GEORGIE: Well, yeah. I, at least, have that freedom in acting to go there and say, “OK, well, why is John really doing that?” He thinks that he’s doing the right thing, that he has to do what he has to do, and that’s how I had to see it. I had to accept that reality.
T6W: What’s interesting about him is that he’s somewhat remorseful. His conscience leaks out after he commits these vile crimes and the audience ends up on his side as a result.
GEORGIE: In order to follow me on my journey, the audience has to be forgiving, or at least willing to understand why I’m doing it. If I was merely a stone cold killer… I just don’t know. I thought that John had more depth. It was, in a sick way, coming from his heart.
T6W: Your physical skills in the series are pretty remarkable and presumably the show was not operating on a significant budget. How did you get trained to become a professional killer?
GEORGIE: I’ve always been athletic. I’ve always played sports and from that perspective I was somewhat prepared for the stamina and the physicality of it. I did study some martial arts. I wanted to approach it from John Smith’s perspective so I thought to myself, ‘OK, here we have an amateur guy that doesn’t have any friends. He has cut himself off from society so to speak, and is training on his own to become a professional killer.’ How would he go about it today? The first thing that came to me was reading books and watching martial arts videos online. I could see him training by himself in his room or in a backyard somewhere. I pretty much spent two or three weeks doing the same, hoping that it would prepare me somehow.
T6W: You used your lack of skills as an opportunity to paint it into the character’s backstory?
GEORGIE: Yeah. Granted, John spent a few more years training so he would be way more professional than I was. But luckily, Scott Staven, the writer, producer and director of Hitman 101, has an awesome shooting style. Coupled with the great people who had some stunt experience, they made my work seem so much better than it was.
T6W: What was your experience working with Scott? This was your first Internet TV series, is that right?
GEORGIE: Yes. This was my first time. Scott has a wonderful background as a writer. He’s also a complete filmmaker. He writes very, very well but he does everything else too. He pretty much handled the camera the entire time. He was everything and everywhere, and when we were done shooting he dedicated the remainder of his time to editing, color correcting, and working with the music composer, the sound engineer… Everything. I’m glad that I got to witness it. Every time he would do something, he would call me for my two cents. “OK, I’m doing this scene a little differently. Would you like to check it out?” I would go over to take a look, and of course it was better. So I went through this entire process with him and it was truly a magnificent thing. He’s very passionate about story and how to tell it truthfully and engagingly.
T6W: You have a co-producer credit on the show. How much of a creative role did you play in the series’ production aside from acting in it?
GEORGIE: I had many little creative responsibilities throughout the making of the series. I was always helping Scott with this or that. He said that listing all the other credits of what I actually did on the show would go on forever. To quote him, he said, “Instead of writing all that, I’m just going to give you the co-producer credit so we’re even.” We didn’t know each other when I started. He cast me, and then we started talking about the story, about how we would shoot this. And when we started shooting, Scott would ask me to help whenever he needed something. He would politely say, “Would you mind doing this?” Eventually I told him, “Don’t ask me. Just say, ‘Georgie, do this.’” I love that aspect of independent filmmaking. You get to do a lot of other stuff if you’re open enough and you’re willing. It’s like going back to school. You get to witness all this creativity and be a part of it in more than one way.
T6W: In Grosse Pointe Blank, John Cusack plays a neurotic, comedic version of an assassin. On the other side of the spectrum, there’s The Professional and even the video game Assassin’s Creed. How do you think Hitman 101 evolves the assassin subgenre?
GEORGIE: As far as assassins go, it takes an everyday guy who tries to turn the skill into a profession and ends up relishing the thrill of it, rather than remaining a cold, seasoned killer.
T6W: What do you think, then, is at the heart of John’s motivation?
GEORGIE: There’s a turning point. After John avenges his parents’ death, it becomes more about the realization that he’s good a killing people – and actually enjoys it!
T6W: Is there a second season in the works in which we’ll somehow see the story progress?
GEORGIE: Well, Scott’s brilliance as a writer has given us the opportunity to end it as, or if he decided to create a second season, there are a few ways to develop a storyline following the detective or Eva.
T6W: Speaking of Eva, who’s played by Laura Adkin, what do you think it is that makes her relationship with John so interesting? There’s camaraderie, a respect, almost a little suspicion. There’s a lot going on between these two unlikely partners.
Georgie Daburas and Laura Adkin let off some steam behind the scenes
GEORGIE: John didn’t spend a lot of time socializing when he was younger. He hasn’t had intimate contact with a woman in quite a few years. When one day Eva comes into a café he’s at and kisses him without warning, it becomes the catalyst for their complex relationship. The more that the two get to know each other, it turns into an infatuation that grows into love and then evolves into a business partnership.
T6W: Layered feelings, to say the least. Tell me about the feeling that comes with winning ten awards at the LA Webfest this past April!
GEORGIE: It was amazing… It was surreal. I’m new to this. When I saw the way Scott wrote and shot this project, I knew that people would understand the hard work and thought that we’ve put into it. The awards made me very proud. I was happy to see the cast and crew acknowledged. Winning the awards was amazing. We got one of ten spots at the Marseille Webfest in October. I don’t think I’m going to be able to afford flying there.
T6W: And how did you land a distribution deal with KoldCast TV?
GEORGIE: Once again, it was Scott. He did a lot of research to find new avenues to give the series a home where people would have access to it. KoldCast is one of the best sites I now know for Internet TV. I had no idea until Scott turned me onto it. He said, “KoldCast is an amazing website for a series like ours. They host all the good shows. I think we should definitely put Hitman 101 on there.” I only watch certain shows on TV. Lately I haven’t been watching as much TV as I used to, so having a website where you can watch a new show in five to ten minutes is amazing.
T6W: It also allows for innovative series to shine through that otherwise may not see the light of day. I think we’re going to see the evolution of certain genres and characters that we otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to on the bigger screens.
GEORGIE: Exactly. It’s good stuff. Good stuff.
Click to play Episode 2 of HITMAN 101, “Along Came Eva”
Ariel Nishli is the Editor-in-Chief of The Sixth Wall. He’s got a big apple in his heart but moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. After graduating from Vanderbilt University in 2007, he worked in the motion picture literary department at ICM, then moved on to feature film development at Parkes MacDonald Productions. Ariel’s wardrobe has steadily devolved from designer suits to worn out slippers, as he now focuses on screenwriting and journalism when he’s not obsessing over this magazine.