Exclusive Interview: Strike Back’s Philip Winchester On Season 2 Finale, Season 3 Wishes & A Message For Fans

Philip Winchester

There is something to be said about a good ol’ case of revenge.

And no one knows this better than Michael Stonebridge as he gets the opportunity to exact revenge on his arch-nemesis Hanson in the season 2 finale of Strike Back. As part of our Strike Back Day, TV Equals was extremely lucky to be able to talk to the always cool Philip Winchester about what viewers can expect in the season 2 finale of Strike Back, his wishes for season 3 and what he would do if he could meet Michael Stonebridge in real life.

Check out what he had to say below and don’t miss tonight’s season finale 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.)

Congrats on getting a third season

Philip Winchester: It’s exciting isn’t it? You just never know when you do this kind of stuff. You just never know what’s going to land and what isn’t but I’m so glad this is the one that’s taking off.

What can you tease about the upcoming season finale?

Philip Winchester: Well, obviously we have to wrap up a lot of stories and that was the challenging thing this year with the show. I don’t think we’re the type of show that wants to leave things hanging. So we do wrap up some major stories and we actually leave a couple open in true Strike Back fashion. And then the finale obviously takes place in Johannesburg and as far as this season, it’s got some serious cliffhangers and I think [director] Bill Eagles did an amazing job because it was a massive production in these last two episodes and we crammed so much stuff into them but I think it works. I don’t think we sacrificed any drama for action and things like that. I think that they balance out quite nicely.

Obviously there is a build-up between Hanson and Stonebridge leading to that showdown. What can you tease about that?

Philip Winchester: I can tell you that they meet each other. I can tell you that they have a fun confrontation. They definitely resolve things.

Alexandra Moen

Stonebridge went through very dark moments this season with the death of his wife. How do you feel the character has evolved?

Philip Winchester: It’s not as if an actor in my position really has a say on what job he gets or not but when I read the script, I said to my wife: “boy, I really like this character and I would like to have a chance at this character because he is broken, he is flawed.”

And even last season we saw that. He was having an affair with Kate all while still trying to start a family in his marriage, that separation between work and his relationship was just really convoluted and cloudy. And so, coming into this season, all that stuff is still part of Stonebridge’s make-up which has a kind of default where he has to: be the best soldier, to keep going, to keep working hard. In a way, he can’t spend any time in a relationship, part of him is shattered because of the loss of his wife, so this part which he has been trying to dedicate his life to.

We started off the second season with Stonebridge training soldiers for possible Section 20 recruitment and he’s not working with Section 20 anymore because he’s spending time on his marriage in the context of the miscarriage. He’s trying to fix things up, and when that goes, I think there’s a part of that foundation inside of him that cracks and crumbles in a way that he never experienced before. He’s lost people in the field and that’s a different thing. He’s tried to keep his marriage and his work like completely separate and it fails in episode 2.

And so, coming to this season, all those dark things happening, I think what was lovely about the writing and lovely about the way that we were allowed to explore that with the directors was that it was just kind of spontaneous. The stuff would happen and it would happen on a mission field, it would happen while Scott was watching him one moment and then in other moments in episodes three and four where he’s out in the field and he’s chatting with El Soldat. He’s got a signal to shoot and I don’t actually believe that Stonebridge wants to die but I actually believe Stonebridge just in that moment, he’s the best of the best, he’s been trained by the best, he believes that no matter what happens in that moment he’s still going to make it out but it’s a risk he’s willing to take because he doesn’t have a reason to live anymore.

So it’s one of those things where the darkness comes because he lost his reasons and he lost his purpose, and so I think that it was a really nice change this year for him. Plus it was a challenge because we finished last season going: “Okay, I think we know who these characters are and then we started on this season and they were completely different”. As an actor it was fun to kind of figure out these guys in a new light.

Strike Back Season 2 Episode 8 (2)

If you had the opportunity to meet Stonebridge in real life what would you tell him?

Philip Winchester: I think that first of all I’d say thank you for doing what he does. When I meet soldiers, I’ve been really fortunate that I’ve been able to meet a lot of guys who are in the military who enjoy the show, and they’ll come up to me in the airports or [at] different events. We’ve been out in Las Vegas doing events, in New York and L.A. and they’ll come up and say hi. So I’ll just say thank you and then talk about what works and what doesn’t work, and we talk about the show and the reality stuff and the things that they believe and don’t believe.

But if it was out of context, if it was just meeting with this guy, I don’t know if he’s the type of person I’d want to have dinner with, I think he’s too dedicated to what he does. I don’t think he involves himself in that way, I think he has a few drinks with his mates every once in a while but that’s it.

Not that he’s boring, it’s just that he is so into what he does that there’s really nothing else, and I think he expects that to take him through the end. I think there’s a certain part of Stonebridge that expects to die in the field because of what he does and because of the extreme kind of circumstances in which he involves himself in. I don’t think he is counting his days. He doesn’t want to die but he’s really kind of going: “you know what, the odds are stacked against me now. I’ve survived more than I haven’t so I’ve got to take one here soon.”

You think it would be different if instead of meeting Stonebridge in real life you’d meet Damian Scott?

Philip Winchester: Absolutely, we could go out for some beers. That would be great. I know that my wife wouldn’t like me having him as a friend.

What scene of this season sits with you the most?

Philip Winchester: As you can tell we’ve had some pretty big dramatic, scenes and some climactic scenes. There were a couple in particular that really stuck out. I really enjoyed the collaboration of the stuff inside the jailhouse when we worked with [director] Michael Bassett. It was just this nice, claustrophobic atmosphere that we were able to develop and yet keep the characters in their element of doing what they did and it has to be done within this, 20 by 20 room. I thought that was a really fun way to spend. I think we spent about three or four days shooting that stuff. And then the action scenes that happened in that were really big and really in your face. I like that kind of stylish shooting.

We also shot in a couple of the townships around Capetown and that’s just full on. You throw yourself into these people’s lives and the people that live in the townships were absolutely gracious and understanding that we were firing AK-47s at 6:00 o’clock in the morning and up until 10:00 o’clock at night and just to run around, to see the inner workings of that was a real privilege and I really enjoyed seeing how that works and just to be a part of that was really special for me. And then of course we had some really nice explosions this year which was a lot of fun to a part of.

Strike Back Season 2 Episode 6

Yes, there is a photo of you just flying.

Philip Winchester: There’s a lot of that going on. There was one scene where Damian Scott does the body double trick and puts one of the bodies in the ambulance which explodes next to me.

And just for me, that scene, because I was about 30 feet away from that thing. I was handcuffed. I had duct tape over my mouth. I could run away but I just remember when the thing exploded in front of me, it happened in bullet time in my mind.

So I saw the first explosion take the doors off and then the second one take it off the ground. And then because we’re in a building, all of the fireballs that were around it hit the roof and then started to spiral underneath the van as the van picked up through it. I just thought I cannot believe this is happening.

And then still in my mind, I said thank god, it was bullet time. I was, like: “shit, you got to act. You got to act.” I think it’s one of the better firefights in both seasons coming up in episodes nine and ten. It was really a lot of work but I think it really pays off.

The series does an excellent job of balancing action and drama while also injecting humor. How is that achieved?

Philip Winchester: The banter does come out of that brotherhood competition between Sully and I, like a natural competition him and I. And also, the work is really rigorous and it’s really tough. And if we’re not working the 12-hour, 14-hour days, we’re working in the gym,, we’re training. Or we’re doing military training with our military advisers and stuff.

When there are moments where it can be light, we really go out and run with it. And a lot of time because when writers put that down on their script, when on the page it looks like it can work. Then we also get in a scene where we have like 20 pages of just drama so we decide to lighten things up.

Even if it’s just a dramatic scene, let’s keep it light because one of the things we learned from hanging out with the military guys and having our advising and our military training for the month that we do before we start the show, is they have this real brilliant sense, this gallows humor which is great. They’ve got this really wonderfully wicked way of making light of the most horrific situations and it’s a coping mechanism,. And so we wanted to get that into these characters. We want that to be a part of who they are.

strike Back season 2 finale

I was dying of laughter when you guys were doing the counting thing, so it’s 3, 2, 1, 0 and go

Philip Winchester: [laughs] And that’s like no. That is not right. It’s not right.

I actually agree with Scott on this one. He was like no. It’s 3,2,1 and go. Just saying.

Philip Winchester: [laughs] I know. I had a huge row with the writers because I knew he was right and I knew it made more sense but it was just a flaw in Stonebridge so we had to run with it.

Assuming that there is a third season and you are king for a day, what would you like to happen to your character?

Philip Winchester: I want to get in the water. I think we’ve earned it. I think the audience wants to see it. We want to shoot it. I’d love to get some diving stuff in there. Stonebridge is SBS, the Special Boat Service. He’s a swimmer, right? He’s a diver and I’d love to get him and Scott coming on in the water with all the rigs.

I’d love to get this from a water to a boat and that kind of stuff. I should be careful what I ask for because we’ll probably do it in the dead of winter or something like that. I think that that’s a production element which is totally believable. It’s something that these guys do. It’s what they’re trained for and it’s an element we haven’t seen yet so I’d really like to incorporate that in the coming year/years, god willing that happens.

Also I want to take it away from Africa. I love Africa. I love filming there. I think the crews and everybody there are absolutely amazing, but from an artistic standpoint and from an audience standpoint, we’ve shot so much of Cape Town and Johannesburg and slums and desert and beautiful townships and things like that, I think we’re ready for some really recognizable cities, and I think it would be really cool to get this sucker to London for a finale or to just a major city somewhere in Europe. I know we did Budapest last year and that was great, but I’d love to get it over to London or Paris or something like that. I think it would just be brilliant.

Do you have any message for the fans?

Philip Winchester: Gosh, you know, we were able to be in this second season because of them. Should we survive, we’re looking forward to doing the third season and it really is all for them and we’d love to hear ideas. We love to hear questions and concerns and things like that. But I hope that they enjoy it, and if we survive this at the end of the season finale, I hope we give them what they want next year too.