Philip Winchester interview

<em>Strike Back</em> star on M16 drama ahead of OSN launch

Time In
Time In

If you’re a fan of counter-terrorism novels, you’ll love taking a back seat and watching a worldwide terrorist manhunt unfold on the small screen this month. Taking its storylines from real-world events (the show is loosely based on a book penned by former SAS soldier Chris Ryan, who became known as the only man to escape an eight-person SAS mission during the first Gulf War in 1991), Strike Back follows the members of Section 20, a special intelligence branch of MI6, who have been tasked with tracking down and capturing a Pakistani terrorist who’s plotting a disastrous attack. Expect plenty of gun-wielding action as the search leads them across the globe, from Kuala Lumpur to New Delhi and London. We hear from 30-year-old US actor Philip Winchester about what it was like playing a commando.

How would you describe your character, Michael Stonebridge?
He is dedicated, disciplined, always plays by the rules and often saves the day. Stonebridge directs his energy trying to protect others.

What is Section 20?
Section 20 is a hand-picked group of elite peacekeepers put together by Colonel Eleanor Grant. Grant is in charge of the overall group and has to take the fall if anything goes wrong. Stonebridge is in charge of the team on the ground. He’s out in the field, giving the orders, dodging the bullets and trying to protect those under him.

What was the training like?
We got off the plane in Cape Town and went straight into intensive military training for about a month. [Co-star] Sully, the trainer and I would meet every morning at 6am. Our trainers were ex-SAS guys who made us study everything in detail.

How do you keep in shape?
With our physical trainers, we had to plan a regime not only to make us look like soldiers, but to stay looking like soldiers when working 13- to 14-hour days on set. We were doing all the physical stuff with no time to rest or recover. The military guys came up with a 4,000-calorie-a-day diet plan, which I try to do. It’s exhausting eating that much food.

How do you feel working with squibs and explosions?
There are days when we’re running around shooting guns and some days we have to really involve ourselves in intense drama. It is a balancing act – the show almost becomes your life.
Strike Back is on OSN First every Wednesday at 10pm.

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