At the heart of Strike Back is Section 20 and at the heart of Section 20, there is Sgt Julia Richmond.
Brilliantly played by the stunning Michelle Lukes, Sgt Richmond has taken a far more prominent role this season as she began to be more central to the operations in the crib and also as she joined the boys in the field.
As part of our Strike Back Day, TV Equals had the immense pleasure to chat with the charming Ms Lukes and ask her our most burning questions about her character, the upcoming season 2 finale, the emotional scenes this season and more. Check out what she had to say below and don’t miss her in tonight’s season finale episode of Strike Back which airs at 10pm on Cinemax.
(Note: The following interview contains spoilers of the current season. Do not read it if you haven’t caught up yet and don’t want to be spoiled.)
Congratulations on getting a third season. It must be really exciting.
Michelle Lukes: It’s really, really, really good news. I’m thrilled for the show and I’m thrilled for the cast and the crew and everyone that worked so hard on “Strike Back.” It’s just awesome and I think it’s a really nice fitting way to sort of give each other a pat on the back.
Let’s talk about Richmond for a second. This season, she was far more involved in the action sequences. That must have been fun for you.
Michelle Lukes: I absolutely loved it. Last year, I kept seeing the boys going into battle and seeing them training behind the camera. It just looked like so much fun. I was so keen to get involved, but at that stage, I didn’t know whether that was the direction Julia would go in. I kind of knew that at the end of last season, I would get in a little bit of action because the ambush that was put in in ep. 10 of last season and it was just brilliant and I loved every second of it. So after I was given a taste of that, I thought, “Oh, what’s going to happen next year?”
I know that they quite enjoyed that and I think they were quite surprised. I always liked Julia in that scene and I guess they felt it was an interesting avenue to explore, and I’m really pleased they did. I’ve had the best time this year. It’s fun, exhilarating and challenging. I guess it’s just a side to the character that’s evolving. Julia’s evolving and it’s fun to sort of see her flourish in that way. It’s been brilliant. I’ve loved every second of it.
Speaking of character development, I think this season was the season where we saw that Section 20 is like a family, especially when Sinclair died. Can you talk about those scenes?
Michelle Lukes: Gosh. I don’t even know where to start. I mean, for me, on a on a personal level, it was difficult because Rhashan and I obviously have been in the show together since the beginning, and he was like my best mate. So personally, it was a really tough to shoot the last scene.
So it’s hard for me, Michelle, but also for Julia. I’d like to say at this point I just absolutely loved those episodes and I really enjoyed shooting them. It was so different than anything that I’ve had to do of all that’s been asked of me since starting “Strike Back,” exploring her emotionally. I guess because the first series, it was more professional and Julia never really got to see past the surface of how she functions. And this year, it’s similar but you get to see her in the field so it’s a new side, but it’s still very much sort of Julia at work.
The difference about these episodes was that you’ve got to explore her relationship with Sinclair, and to see how that affects her, to see the sort of repercussions of that and the decisions she made obviously to murder Dreyer. And it was essentially really tough and emotional and I sort of had forgotten to do that a little bit. It was quite scary having to explore those emotions when you haven’t exercised them for so long. But I hope that what we got was good, and not just for me on a personal level but also because I really wanted to give Rhashan a bloody good sendoff, and I felt that was a huge responsibility on my part to contribute to that. I hope that came through. I desperately do.
I was watching that and I was crushed. I’m not going to lie.
Michelle Lukes: Were you surprised?
It was not pretty. I was surprised. I was like in disbelief. I was like, “No, it just grazed him. He’s alive.”
Michelle Lukes: Yes and there’s a “Strike Back Fan Page,” when the episode actually came on in the States, the feedback for Sinclair was just overwhelming. It was really lovely to read actually. But, I think what was so brilliant about that episode was that it was such a massive surprise, and while I don’t usually comment on these pages, I wrote a little note to everyone and just said, “Guys, in England, we’re like four episodes behind. So no spoilers, please.”
Because it’s such a shame for the people back here not to see the episodes with fresh eyes and in its entirety without having any sort of hints of what’s to come, because I think the surprise of it was gutting, like it’s physically gutting, when you see him go, “yes.” It gets to you.
What can you tease about what’s coming up in the finale?
Michelle Lukes: What can I tell you? A lot of storylines come to their resolution. You see a big question mark over the future of Section 20 and whether or not that question is answered, you’ll have to wait and see. But it’s a time of uncertainty personally for the characters but also for the unit. There’s still a suitable cliffhanger to leave people wanting more.
Can you guarantee Julia will survive the season finale?
Michelle Lukes: I don’t know if I can tell you that now, you’re going to have to tune in to watch and keep everything crossed that she makes it to the other side. I don’t want to spoil it for you. But, God willing, she does. But I can’t say more than that.
What were the funniest moments during production?
Michelle Lukes: The funniest moments are probably the Section 20 scene. Rhashan, I’m not sure anyone knows this but I’d like to put it out there now, Rhashan Stone [Oliver Sinclair], is an absolute menace on set. He’s the most fun, and we get into all sorts of stuff, which are probably not great for me to be putting out there. But he’s just super fun. And when we’re together in Section 20 and then the boys are in, and it’s like a little family holiday. It’s great because we don’t often get scenes where we’re all together and those are usually the funniest days. There are lots of practical jokes. There are lots of games. It’s like being a kid again. We shoot all the crib stuff at the end of a block. So you’re doing like 15, 16, 70 scenes — 17 scenes in the crib, those long days, and everyone is delirious. So, yes, those are probably the funniest days.
What was the most surprising moment on set?
Michelle Lukes: I suppose when Oliver Sinclair dies, I think. I knew that he was going. He told me very, very, very early on that he was going so I knew it was going to happen. I sort of prepared myself for it but it’s strange, because even knowing for as long as I did that he was going to leave us, coming onto set to shoot the scene and finding him lying in a pool of blood, it really surprised me. I got very emotional because I realized how far we’ve come as a little unit and to say goodbye to him, that was the most surprising moment for me. Sort of emotionally surprising.
Let’s say it’s Season 3 and you are queen for a day, what would you like to happen to your character?
Michelle Lukes: Oh, good question. Do I just get the one episode?
You just get the one episode. Life is unfair, I know.
Michelle Lukes: Times are hard. I would like to see all sorts of things for Julia. I’d love to see her go undercover somewhere. I’d love to see her dress up like a hooker and going into some dingy, old crack house and infiltrating some really nasty people. And then just kick it off single-handedly. I don’t even want the boys there. I’d want it to be all about her and her just kicking ass.
Michelle Lukes: But, on a more serious level, I also would really love to explore inside her head and get to know who she is a little bit. And I don’t know what that means, whether she has a relationship or whether we see scenes in her past. I’d love for people to get to know her better, past what you see in the current series.
I think that calls for a flashback episode. You should have one.
Michelle Lukes: Yes. I love it. I’m sold. Pitch it to them.
Do you have a message for the fans as they get ready to watch the season finale?
Michelle Lukes: I’d definitely like to thank everyone for the support. I’d say the support from the fans have been absolutely overwhelming. Especially for me this season, it’s been great. I’ve got so many letters and e-mails from people just saying, “We love Julia. We love the way that her character is evolving. Keep up the good work.” And I have to say that for me as an actress, it means a lot.
We have such great fun making the show. It’s just brilliant to know that someone out there is enjoying watching it. I really hope that the people that love the show continue to love it. And I’m happy with the way it’s coming out in the season finale.
But yes, just enjoy it, I guess, and keep enjoying it and thank you for letting us go again, because if it wasn’t for the fans, we absolutely wouldn’t be going again. So, thank you, I guess is what I want to say.