Bryan Mills might be one of the world’s most (in)famous dads — in the 2008 action movie Taken, Liam Neeson played the covert operative who embarks on a skull-cracking spree across Paris to reclaim his teen daughter from Albanian sex traffickers. Now Clive Standen, who’s best-known for fives seasons as Vikings‘ Rollo, is stepping into Neeson’s shoes as a younger version of Mills.
Fans of Taken will recall Neeson kick-starting his three-movie European killing spree with a growled monologue declaring his “very particular set of skills,” and Standen points how the singular motivation of that moment will drive his character throughout Taken‘s 10-episode first season on NBC.
“The important thing to remember about that line is that his daughter is the thing that’s closest to his heart, and protecting that is when he’s most ruthless,” the 35-year-old Northern Ireland-born actor tells PEOPLE. “He’s also a character who feels like every flower he touches turns to a weed. He has a bit of a complex about people getting close to him.”
The message hasn’t been lost on Standen, who is father to 10-year-old daughter Edi and sons Hayden, 14, and Rafferty, 6.
The task of becoming Mills has “been the closest to the bone for me because I’ve got three kids and I’m married,” he shares. “I really do feel like I’ve been holding his heart on my sleeve for the whole of the filming.”
In fact, says Standen, “When I was in the middle of doing episode 1, Edi was still in England, and she was going on a school trip to Paris with her school. And I thought of the irony of playing Bryan Mills with my daughter headed off to Paris.”
And though the actor does all his own stunts and is extensively trained in stage combat, Muay Thai, tumbling and even contemporary dance, if you were to ask his children where their father excels, they might say “Clive’s particular set of skills are being an expert tickle monster and knowing everything there is to know about American Girl dolls,” he says with a laugh. “I’m a demon tickle monster: I get them in a tickle lock, and they can’t get out. It’s like UFC tickling.”
Adds Standen, “You don’t want to play hide and seek with me, I take it far too seriously. We’ll be playing, and they’re like, ‘Where’s dad?’ They’ve given up 45 minutes ago, and I’m in a closet hiding where it would be impossible for anyone to find me, like Spider-Man or something.”
Sounds like Bryan Mills could learn a thing or two from Standen after all.
Taken premieres Monday at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.