The Emmy-nominated series STRIKE BACK returns for its ten-episode third season FRIDAY, AUG. 9 at 10p.m ET on CINEMAX. The full-season will be followed by other episodes debuting subsequent Fridays at the same time.
Philip Winchester (“Crusoe,” “Camelot”) and Sullivan Stapleton (“Animal Kingdom,” the upcoming “300: Rise of an Empire”) reprise their onscreen partnership as counterterrorism operatives Sgt. Michael Stonebridge and Sgt. Damien Scott. HBO/CINEMAX again teams up with the production company Left Bank Pictures and the British channel Sky on the action series.
The returning cast also includes Rhona Mitra (“Underworld: Rise of the Lycans”) as Maj. Rachel Dalton, Michelle Lukes (“Alexander”) as Sgt. Julia Richmond and Liam Garrigan (“Pillars of the Earth”) as Sgt. Liam Baxter.
New cast members include Robson Green (“Wire in the Blood”) as Col. Philip Locke, Dougray Scott (“Desperate Housewives”) as rogue operative James Leatherby, Milauna Jackson (“Blood Done Sign My Name”) as, Kim Martinez, a key player who crosses paths with the counterterrorism team, and Zubin Varla (“Little Dorrit”) as mysterious person of interest Leo Kamali.
Returning directors are Michael J. Bassett (who also serves as a writer and co-executive producer), Julian Holmes and Paul Wilmshurst; returning writers are Simon Burke, James Dormer, John Simpson and Richard Zajdlic. New director Stephen Woolfenden and new writers Tim Vaughan and Ben Newman join the production.
In STRIKE BACK’s third season, stealth counterterrorism unit Section 20 pursues a deadly terrorist network from Colombia to Lebanon to Eastern Europe, uncovering deadly plots that threaten the West. The team tracks the elusive terrorist al-Zuhari and his well-financed drug cartel partners as they target European and American interests, both at home and abroad, including Section 20 itself. The Section 20 team is often forced to resort to extraordinary measures to protect the greater good, making some members question their future with the unit.
As with season two, the show will kick off the new season with exclusive events for fans at Comic-Con International: San Diego 2013, to be held at the San Diego Convention Center. On Saturday, July 20 (7:00-8:00 p.m.), the stars of the show will offer insights about shooting and present exclusive never-before-seen clips of the new season in a panel in Room 6DE. They will also participate in an autograph session on Friday, July 19 at 12:30 p.m. at Warner Bros Booth #4545.
The season begins with a first, as Scott and Stonebridge – two hard-working operatives who never seem to get a day off – are on vacation. “It’s a great start to the season, and one of my favorites, because Stonebridge and Scott are on holiday together,” says Stapleton. “They have to leave suddenly for a mission and get airdropped into the Colombian jungle. There, we find our newest cast member, Martinez, a DEA agent played by Milauna Jackson. She gets sassy with Scott, it’s great banter.”
“The fact that they go on holiday together is a big thing for the two,” says Winchester. “They’ve been through a lot together. They are riding motorcycles down the west coast of the U.S., and getting into all sorts of trouble. Stonebridge wants to head out to a spiritual pilgrimage known as Camino del Santiago, but to Scott, it’s just a walk, and they do a road trip instead.”
Winchester continues, “Stonebridge really needs the break, too. He’s suffered tremendous loss over the past two seasons and it’s scarred him, first with his Section 20 colleague Kate, and then with his wife in last season. Stonebridge knows that there’s loss and it’s going to continue to happen. He’s used his nine lives several times over. He’s not sure about the cause anymore. He likes the purity of soldiering and there’s definitely a gray area that’s a lot bigger than the black-and-white. He doesn’t like the politics and the gray area that interferes with the job, and he prefers the black-and-white.”
In the third season, STRIKE BACK continues to utilize consultants who work in the field of counterterrorism to add to the authenticity of the series, providing essential background on stories, characters, training and settings, while the lead actors do most of their own stunts.
The six-month production began on location in South Africa in January and moved to Budapest in March, where it wrapped at the end of June. South Africa was the location for scenes in Colombia and Lebanon in the first four episodes, while Hungary filled in for several Eastern European nations in the second half of the season.
Continuing the military training of previous seasons, the actors started production with a grueling boot camp. The training focused on a fitness regimen, weapons training and military maneuvers with real specialists in the field. This enabled the lead actors to do the show’s demanding stunts, which have increased in frequency and intensity this season.
Military advisor Paul Hornsby explains, “We trained the cast to hone their abilities, but also we train them for safety; it’s only realistic to do stunts that the actors can do themselves. We focus on their physical training, tactical training, armed combat training with live weapons. I also work with the directors and stunt coordinators helping to make the action sequences more realistic.
“We would train them as if we were training a close protection team or a special forces unit,” he continues. “I think that teaches actors to have respect for the weapons, and we mostly use real weapons on the show. All the cast spent a lot of time hanging out with ex-special forces, ex-policemen who passed on their experiences, so they were soaking up that varying knowledge from different people.”
“We do nearly all of our own stunts in the show,” Winchester explains. “We did a lot of fun things in Johannesburg – I got my scuba certificate and we did some diving this year for water sequences in episodes one and two, shot it in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. I spent a lot of time in the water taking over a boat from a drug cartel, escaping their high-speed pursuit and surviving major explosions. It was really intense but fun.”
Stapleton describes some of the big action sequences in the new season, noting, “We start off with this boat chase down a river. It’s pretty spectacular – there’s constant grenades and explosions. Recently, Philip and I attached ourselves to the end of a rope with one carabineer at our waists, and got lifted up by a helicopter, a couple hundred meters in the air. It was fun.”
“STRIKE BACK is already one of the best action shows on TV so my challenge was to try and raise that bar even higher,” says writer, director and co-executive producer Michael J. Bassett. “We wanted to put the audience in the heart of the chaos, so that they’re alongside our heroes and living the story as they do. We aimed for a cinematic level of mayhem and energy which can only really be achieved with a team working at the fullest extent of their skills and actors who are utterly fearless. Luckily, I had both those things.”
STRIKE BACK received an Emmy® nomination for Outstanding Main Title Design for its first season, which launched in 2011. The second season featured the world premiere of two Bob Dylan songs, “Early Roman Kings” and “Scarlet Town,” prior to the release of the “Tempest” album, which marked his 50th anniversary as a recording artist.
STRIKE BACK is a CINEMAX Presentation in association with British Sky Broadcasting Limited; a Left Bank Pictures Production; executive producer, Andy Harries; series producer, Michael Casey; co-executive producers, Michael J. Bassett, James Dormer and Tim Vaughan; producers, Selwyn Roberts and Chris Thompson; co-producer, Bill Shepard.