Cinemax’s “Strike Back” wraps up its explosive second season this Friday and star Philip Winchester, who plays Sgt. Michael Stonebridge, revealed no one is safe.
In fact, when the network announced it had picked up the show for a third season recently, the cast list – including its two main stars – Philip and Sullivan Stapleton (who plays ex-US military man Damien Scott) – were left out of the press release to avoid plot spoilers.
With “Strike Back” close to “Game of Thrones” in its penchant for offing central figures, the boys are suiting up for battle. But whether Stonebridge and Scott will get the man trying to make Africa a nuclear power — Conrad Knox (played by “GOT’s” Charles Dance) — or Craig Hanson (who murdered Stonebridge’s wife earlier in the season) is still anyone’s guess.
Luckily, Philip gave AccessHollywood.com a few clues about what’s to come.
AccessHollywood.com: Leaving the cast list off of the Season 3 pickup news sounds like bad news for the team in the Season 2 finale. How bad is it?
Philip Winchester: (Laughs) Well, because it’s ‘Strike Back,’ it can be as bad as you like or as good as you like. The thing that I really enjoy about the show is that a lot of the time ‘winning’ means just surviving, so whether we get the bad guys or not, if we survive…that says we got away with it. So, [in this finale] there will be some things that happen, there will be some people that die. I would love to come back next year to do another season of ‘Strike Back,’ but I just can’t tell you that (laughs again).
Access: There’s a rumor Sullivan “Sully” Stapleton (Damien Scott) only had a two-year contract, so now I’m worried it could be him going.
Philip: Every time Sully and I get a script — because of the nature of the show and last year, with Richard Armitage, [who played John Porter] in the first episode, getting shot, and then Col. Grant in Episode 10 — we read the beginning of the script and the end of the script and we kind of call each other and say, ‘Hey! I guess we’re here for another few weeks. Let’s keep going.’
Access: Could you do the show without him? Could he do the show without you?
Philip: I can’t speak for Sully, but I know that just the experiences that I’ve had on ‘Strike Back’ are 99-percent with Sully… I think the integrity of what we’ve created together and this fun banter and competition that happens naturally because we just enjoy working together — I just wouldn’t want to do it without him. I don’t think I could enjoy the show as much as I do without his sort of madness and his spontaneity.
Access: Let’s talk about the potential threats for the ‘Strike Back’ season finale. You’ve got Conrad, Hanson, Matlock, the crazy ex-CIA woman and the Nigerians. Who’s the biggest threat?
Philip: For Stonebridge, it’s gotta be Hanson, and that whole whether or not he can or can’t finish [things] with Hanson… I think this whole season [has been] building up to that point… I think for the audience – I’ll let you know that much – there will be a confrontation with our two guys with Hanson and Stonebridge and one of them walks away and one of them doesn’t.
Access: Are we going to get cliffhangers in the season finale or is it resolution?
Philip: We do get some resolution… It does leave a couple things open, what’s gonna happen with Section 20, who’s gonna lead Section 20… But it’s ‘Strike Back.’ It can’t be too clean.
Access: I love how ‘Strike Back’ has this strange connection to ‘Game of Thrones’ – actors come on your show either before or after!
Philip: (Laughs) Iain Glenn. Charles Dance. I know, it’s fantastic.
Access: And Liam Cunningham who told us the show has ‘two sexy guys for the leads’ and one of the best opening songs ever.
Philip: (Laughs) He is absolutely brilliant. I think one of the reasons behind the success of ‘Strike Back’ is that yes, I know we do shoot a lot of people, but we have incredible guest stars. They come in and they are seasoned enough and experienced enough to pick up the reigns right where we are. To come into this mad shooting schedule — we’re shooting a feature film in 24 days — it’s bonkers. And they come on board and they say, ‘How can we be a part of this? How can we help?’… It takes a certain attitude for someone to say, ‘Oh, I’ve got it. I can do this.’ So we’re really fortunate and [Cinemax’s parent company] HBO has their fingers on a lot of the pulse in the acting industry and they’re able to pull the plug on some people that maybe we couldn’t get otherwise.
Access: Now, a fair few people are only now learning ‘Homeland’s’ Damien Lewis is British. Are people surprised to find the reverse about you – you’re American, but play a Brit like you did in ‘Camelot’ on Starz?
Philip: (Laughs) When I moved to Los Angeles, I’d go into [an audition] and they’d go, ‘Gosh, you’ve got a really good American accent. I really appreciate that you put the work in.’ I’m like, ‘Guys, I grew Bozeman, Montana, I better have a good American accent.’ [After high school] I moved to London [and] I went to drama school. My mum’s English, I’ve always had an ear for it, so it’s not a huge leap… For me, as an actor, it’s sort of an immediate layer that I can put on to a character.
Access: Since I brought up ‘Camelot’ – I have to ask — do you ever miss those Leontes locks you had on the show?
Philip: My wife misses it… She keeps saying to me — like in the interim between ‘Strike Back’ — ‘Can you please grow it out?’ I’m like, ‘Babe, it took like a year to grow that out.’ So I don’t’ know if I could do it before the season starts. I’m doing like a No. 2 or a No. 1 on my head now because I just love how easy it is. I just shave my head and go out.
The Season 2 finale of “Strike Back” airs Friday at 10 PM on Cinemax.
-- Jolie Lash