Although Cinemax isn't known for its original series, "Strike Back" is helping to change that. After a previous incarnation was broadcast on the British network Sky, "Strike Back" came to Cinemax last season and rewrote the rule book for action on TV… mixed in with more than a fair amount of sex scenes. Well… it is on Cinemax, after all.
For the second season on Cinemax (and third overall), Sullivan Stapleton and Philip Winchester made their Comic-Con debuts alongside new cast member, Rhona Mitra, director Michael Bassett as Alan Speinwall of Hitfix moderated the "Strike Back" panel. But first, they ran a clip of the first two minutes of "Strike Back" Cinemax season 2; in which Scott gets under the skin of his new commanding officer, Rachael Dalton (Mitra) before things go horribly wrong during a routine mission.
Early in the panel, Mitra explained that Rachael is not to be trusted and that she has her own agenda. But Mitra added that Rachael will not be a stereotypical ballbreaker and she will be a more hands on leader in the field than her predecessor, the late Colonel Eleanor Grant (Amanda Mealing).
When the season kicks off, Stonebridge will still be out of Section 20 and teaching recruits. Winchester said that Stonebridge is bored and he misses Scott. During a second clip from the season premiere, Stonebridge is visited by an old friend played by Shane Taylor ("Band of Brothers") who pushes Stonebridge to pass a candidate who sounds like he is clearly unfit for duty. In a third clip, Scott volunteers for a suicide mission in response to the events from the opening minutes, as forces within the British government barely hide their attempts to sweep the incident under the rug and shut down Section 20 for good.
Regarding the ongoing bromance between Stonebridge and Scott, the actors stated that their respective characters trust each other professionally even if they sometimes dislike each other. Mitra joked that Stonebridge and Scott are like yin and yang… but the spooning helps.
Another aspect of the show that both actors are still dealing with is their respective accents. Stapleton is an Australian playing an American while Winchester is an American playing a British military man.
Winchester and Stapletonn both undertook extensive training for their roles in "Strike Back," including time spent with real special forces members. Stapleton said that the training was ramped up this year, with live fire exercises and other extreme challenges. Winchester added that the special forces even took the actors along on a live opp. as they targeted and captured a real drug dealer. Winchester made a point of saying that neither he nor Stapleton were carrying weapons or directly in harms way during the operation. He even admitted that he wasn't sure if the opp was real or staged for their benefit. But Winchester did say that he felt a responsibility to those who trained him to portray the reality of their skills… and not stand so close to live bombs this season.
As part of their training, Winchester noted that he has become proficient with a pistol while Stapleton favors a rifle. The African shoots have also allowed the duo to perform several of their own stunts, including fast dropping out of a helicopter onto the roof of a 27 story building. When asked if they were ever in harm's way, the actors related a story about throwing a grenade on a roof when the wind blew it back towards them and singed them. Mitra added that she asked "where are your eye lashes?" afterwards and dryly said that the duo laugh when these things happen to them.
Winchester also acknowledged the dark side of shooting a show like "Strike Back," as he revealed that he suffered violent visions after he returned home and he compared the experience to post traumatic stress disorder. But he found it easier to deal with after the second season.
On "Strike Back," Stapleton frequently had sex scenes with several women last season; which has become a running gag in the show. Winchester related Stapleton's almost comical reaction to his naked fight earlier in the series while Stapleton flat out said that the scene was dumb and added that he felt sorry for the stunt men who probably didn't know he was going to be nude.
Later in the panel, a fan asked if "Strike Back" would revisit John Porter's (Richard Armitage) past despite the character's demise in the previous season. Winchester said that Armitage has gone on to costar in The Hobbit after his time on the Sky incarnation of "Strike Back" and he noted that Porter's past would not be dealt with this season. But Winchester seemed to allow the possibility that it may be revisited in the future.
Near the end of the panel, Mitra shared her observation that the people who trained them… and the people who go off to war have one thing in common: the desire to prove something to themselves or others; which she likened to a strange vulnerability.
The new season of "Strike Back" is heading to Cinemax on Friday, August 17 with two new episodes back-to-back. In the meantime, you can check out our exclusive interviews with Stapleton, Winchester and Mitra from earlier at Comic-Con.