Ask 10 people to name a role played by Ivana Miličević, and you’re likely to get 10 different answers. To many, she is Anastasia Rabitov and Carrie Hopewell from the Cinemax series Banshee, the fourth season of which premieres on April 1. To others, she was first noticed as Julia from the critically acclaimed CBS show, Love Monkey. I first came to know Ivana while she played Missy on HBO’s cult hit The Mind Of The Married Man. And these are just the television roles. Ivana has appeared in numerous big screen hits, including Casino Royale, Love Actually, Vanilla Sky, Jerry Maguire and Enemy of the State.
Prior to Ivana’s success as an actress, she was a steadily working model. The Michigander was born in Sarajevo and first came to New York in her late teens for modeling. Currently, Ivana is bi-coastal, keeping homes in both SoHo and Los Angeles. She spoke to Downtown about what’s ahead for her once Banshee wraps. [Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Downtown Magazine.]
At what point did you realize that you were a working actress and not just a model? Was it being cast in Vanilla Sky?
Ivana Miličević: It was very “ombre,” actually. I was modeling into my 20’s, and somewhere along the way I had less and less time for modeling jobs, because I was getting more acting jobs. It was quite lucky and very seamless. I don’t remember the tipping point, though.
It was definitely around the time we were shooting Vanilla Sky. Plus, Vanilla Sky was so fun, because there were so many people cast in it for that super-fancy party scene, including my friend and co-star from Head Over Heels, Shalom Harlow.
Your show Banshee started filming in Pennsylvania this season. Had you spent much time there prior to this season?
I: This was my first time in Pennsylvania. The other years I was just pretending to be in Pennsylvania, because the show was previously shot in North Carolina! It was interesting to be in the actual state where our show takes place. I was sorry that I didn’t go to Amish areas, though. I think I would have enjoyed that very much.
How would you describe Banshee to someone who hasn’t yet seen the show?
I: Oh, man, that is always such a hard question. It’s an over-the-top roller coaster ride. It’s violent, it’s pulpy, and it explores passionate love for family, passionate love of…well, passionate love, revenge, friendship and how many ways you can skin a cat. Plus, it’s a show where we have an ex-con posing as a cop, a gangster’s daughter posing as a soccer mom, an old Cadillac dealership posing as a police station. Nothing is as it seems.
Do a lot of people confuse you, Ivana, for your character Anastasia?
I: (laughs) Um, no? But if I’m not smiling and I have a certain look on my face, I think people can be intimidated by me. I’m a tall lady.
I understand that you are bi-coastal and keep a place in SoHo. What is it that drew you to SoHo in the first place?
I: I have always regarded SoHo as a special place since I was 18 and came to New York for the first time. To me, it was the epitome of “downtown”—THE downtown.
Where in New York did you live when you first had a place here?
I: When I was 19, I lived in a model’s apartment on 54th and Broadway with four other girls. People were always talking about Studio 54, which was a block away. I used to fantasize that maybe in a very recent past life I had died there. Perhaps trying to get in through a vent or maybe I just passed out one night on my roller skates.
What do you like about New York that you feel you don’t get from living in Los Angeles?
I: I have been shooting a recurring arc on the Starz show Power, which has kept me in New York for much of the winter. I have seen so many great plays! I wrote a kid’s poem. I don’t do things like that normally. I also wrote an essay for New York-based start-up PYPO.com. I took an acting intensive with my Banshee babe, Trieste Dunn, with her teacher from the North Carolina School of the Arts. All of these different ways to be creative have been filling my days when I have time off from the show! I am not saying that L.A. doesn’t have its own creative energy; it’s just different.
You did theater in L.A., appearing in Greedy. Do you have any New York theatrical aspirations?
I: After spending this past fall and winter in New York, I did get a bit of the stage bug. I participated in a O reading of Women of Manhattan, at the Circle in the Square Theater, on Broadway. I kept calling it my Broadway debut! So I would love to, if the right thing came along at the right time and, most importantly, if New York theater would have me!
Is there a Croatian restaurant in New York that you can recommend to our readers?
I: Yes! Well, technically, it’s Serbian, but it’s basically the same. I’m going there today, actually. It’s called Kafana, and it’s on Avenue C. Have the cevaps, lepinje, avjar… The branzino is served whole with just olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Divine! Have it with the potatoes and the Swiss chard. Heaven! Oh, and grow a pair and have a shot of slivovic, but just kind of sip it. Like little kisses. That’s how you get used to it. Let it wash over your tongue and the roof of your mouth like gasoline!
I remember reading your name in Mary Weiland’s memoir about life with her ex-husband Scott. How did you two first meet?
I: Wow, what a wonderful question! To this day, Mary is one of my best friends. The first time we laid eyes on each other was at a casting in Los Angeles. We bonded over notoriously always “forgetting” our bathing suits when the audition might call for that. Then we lived together many, many times, including in New York.
Also on the surprising connection end, your brother plays in 30 Seconds To Mars. Did you yourself have musical aspirations growing up?
I: (laughs) No, not really. Well, I always wanted to play the harp. My second choice was playing the drums—my rhythm has always been better than my tone—but a harp was too expensive and impractical. Drums were too loud. So my parents made me play piano, which I didn’t like.
Banshee aside, what can you tell me about your work on Power?
I: It’s a great show starring Omari Hardwick and 50 Cent. I play a hotel heiress who needs a club man like James St. Patrick to help her open clubs in her new eco-luxe boutique hotels. And then shenanigans ensue.
When you’re not busy with your career, how do you ideally spend your free time?
I: With family and friends. I have a very close relationship with my parents and brothers. We cook a lot. We laugh a lot. It is very cozy. I also really love to travel. I was just in Tokyo for the first time and was floored by how much I love it there. In lieu of taking selfies, I made a trailer starring my friend’s sock as a sock puppet. You can see it on my Facebook page, if you’re interested. No pressure, of course!
You can follow Ivana on Twitter via @ivanamilicevic.