‘Strike Back’: Daniel MacPherson and Warren Brown on the Series’ Rebooted Return
The high-intensity action series Strike Back returns to Cinemax for a 10-episode fifth season, which follows a new Section 20 team on a new mission. When fanatical terrorist Omair Idrisi (Don Hany) escapes from Syrian authorities with plans to launch an unprecedented attack that could change the face of modern warfare, the manhunt is placed into the hands of Captain Natalie Reynolds (Roxanne McKee), Sergeant Samuel Wyatt (Daniel MacPherson), Sergeant Thomas “Mac” McAllister (Warren Brown) and Lance Corporal Gracie Novin (Alin Sumarwata), who must uncover and attempt to dismantle a vast global web of criminal and terrorist activity, all while getting to know each other.
Collider recently got the opportunity to sit down with co-stars Daniel MacPherson and Warren Brown to chat about how they came to this new season of Strike Back, the intense training they had to go through for their roles, being nervous about living up to what fans of the series have come to expect, what they like about this team dynamic, that this new team will come to appreciate each other, and what it’s like to do such high-intensity stunt work.
Collider: How did you guys come to Strike Back and were you nervous about stepping into this show?
WARREN BROWN: Yeah. I was a huge fan of the show, previously, and then, to find out that it was coming back was cool. I got the opportunity to audition for it, and then we all went to London for a couple of days and made it down the line. We got to the chemistry test, where they put 20 or 30 actors in a couple of rooms for a couple of days, to whittle it down to four. Being a fan of the show, and seeing how good it was and the level that Phil [Winchester] and Sully [Stapleton] had gotten to after four years in the show, there was a pressure there, certainly, to try to carry on that baton. Also, you can’t put too much pressure on it to emulate that because this is a new dynamic and new team. We have the opportunity to create our own characters, which are very different, but in that same world.
DANIEL MacPHERSON: There’s no doubt that it was a huge responsibility because the legacy of the show, previously, was so big. The fans are very loyal, and there’s a big military and veteran community that are very passionate about the show. They were amazing in their generosity of information and training. We reached out to people who are now civilians, who just wanted to help us because they like the show. So, we knew there were big shoes to fill. The standard of the show was left on a really high note, and we had to start at that same level. We made sure that the entire cast – all four of us – worked our asses off to get to day one in good shape. I’ve never been so exhausted, starting a job, in my life.
It seems like wanting to be a part of something like this and actually doing it are two very different things.
MacPHERSON: Yeah, and that’s what the audition process was about. It was not only about finding a cast that was good enough to lead a series, but who also had the physical and mental discipline and aptitude to take on this type of role because, like a special operations team or like a SEAL Team, you can’t have a weak link. It’s no coincidence that Warren comes from a fighting background and is a two-time world champion. My background is in endurance sports and the Ironman triathlon. Alin [Sumarwata] is a bad-ass kickboxer.
BROWN: We’re really able to draw on that background. Most roles don’t require this amount of physicality, but to be able to draw on it our histories and our past, and bring the two things together that I’m super passionate about and throw that all in the pot, is certainly a benefit for us.
Warren, at the times that you were really in it with this show and because of how brutal it gets, at times, were you ever longing for the days of Luther and Idris Elba in his long coat?
BROWN: I mean, it was pretty cold for me on Luther. That was a fantastic job for me, and it certainly helped with the next step of my career. People associate me with that, so that opened doors, further down the line. It was a great job for me, and I’m good pals with Idris. We’re in this for the long haul. Despite the brutality, and just how relentless it was, and how tough it was, I don’t think there was a minute where we weren’t in it. You go where the work is, but you also try to do things different and stretch and push yourself. I knew [Strike Back] was going to be a physically and mentally demanding role, and I would have to push myself like I haven’t done before. It was very, very different, and that’s the beauty of this business that we’re fortunate enough to work in. You get to do such a wide array of things that are so far removed from something you’ve done previously.
What did you guys like best about this team dynamic?
MacPHERSON: First and foremost, the TV landscape has changed, from when Strike Back went off the air until now, and I felt that this reimagining of Section 20 is definitely more representative and more current. You’ve got these four very unique personalities, on screen and off, that have this slow burn development, over the course of a series, as opposed to the two-person buddy show where, by Episode 3, they’re locked in as mates. We had multiple relationships evolving, at different times.
BROWN: Where they left off, the audience had grown with four seasons of something, so they knew what they were going to get when they turned it on. It’s going to take a minute to introduce this new dynamic, and time to go on the journey with them, before they root for these guys to get the job done. If we’re fortunate enough to get to go again, that team dynamic will already be there and people will know what to expect and can jump back into it.
When you do something this physically demanding, do you want to just take a break and sleep for a bit, or do you want to jump right in again?
BROWN: We were eating and eating and eating, and training and training. The food was great, but when you eat that much, I started to lose my appetite.
MacPHERSON: I couldn’t look at another chicken breast.
BROWN: The last couple of weeks, especially, towards the end, were hard.
MacPHERSON: You live at this high-octane, high velocity area for the entire duration.
BROWN: It was great because we were in awesome shape. As soon as I finished, I just went away and drank and ate and didn’t do any exercise. That’s just part of the detachment from it.
MacPHERSON: When you’re in there and you’re working at that kind of level and intensity, day after day, and you’re operating on four, five or six hours of sleep, for weeks on end, it does bring about a rawness, an openness, a vulnerability and an edginess that you can’t get from a great night’s sleep and driving to set from your home in the Hollywood Hills. If you’re living in Eastern Europe and you’re going on no sleep for three months, and then you get tortured, you’re going somewhere else. I don’t care how good you are.
Daniel, your character is the one who’s already complaining about getting stuck with a team.
MacPHERSON: He hates it.
Will he come to appreciate them?
MacPHERSON: He does. He’s running away from so much stuff, and he hates being anchored to things. If he builds up relationships and trust and friendships with these guys, then he’s gonna be anchored to them, and that’s caused him some hurt in the past. For a guy who thinks he doesn’t fit anywhere, he ends up fitting pretty well, and I don’t know how much he likes that. He’s a good soldier and a good team player. He just prefers to do it himself.
BROWN: Given the mission and the environments that they find themselves in, they very quickly can see and respect each other’s abilities, as operators. They’ve all got that in common. They’re able to rely on each other, to get out of those situations. That’s true of all of them.
MacPHERSON: We’ve got very unique personalities and characters. They’re a team of rogues that are forced together to be a rogue team.
Warren, your character is the one who’s lost his previous team. How does that affect him?
BROWN: For sure, there’s apprehension, but his focus is on the shot at redemption and revenge. He thinks he can make the guy who killed his team pay for it. He stared at death himself. Yes, he is a soldier, but this is definitely personal. Whether that causes problems, further down the line on this mission, remains to be seen.
When you guys have to do life-threatening action, like you do on this show, do you ever get so caught up that you forget your lines?
MacPHERSON: No, the skill of it is not blanking in the moment when the boat blows up. That’s the great stuff. That’s the stuff where you walk away going, “Hell, yeah, I can’t believe we got to do that!” You spend the entire day working up to this one moment where the truck blows up and you jump off the top of the truck, and then you jump off the bridge into the river, and you get one shot at it, one take, and one moment to get it right, and you get it right and nail it. That’s what keeps you coming back.
BROWN: Because we were doing that every day, nothing was a one-off. We were doing it every single day, so we quickly adapted to operating like that. You use the frenetic energy in the scene. The reality is, when you’re in a gun fight and you get into a jam, we don’t stop. We carry on because that’s what would happen and that’s what’s real. And then, you know that you’ve still got scenes to play and dialogue.
MacPHERSON: That’s not to say that we haven’t had performers come in, have an explosion go off, scare the living shit out of them, and have them forget their words. That happens.
BROWN: Hopefully, there’s a fucking blooper reel knocking about somewhere. There’s a lot of fun, a lot of swearing, a lot of caffeine and a lot of protein.
Have you ever had any moments where you’ve wondered why the stunt guys weren’t doing the stunt for you?
MacPHERSON: To be honest, it’s the opposite. We go, “Come on, let me do that!” And they’re like, “No, it’s really dangerous.” But then, you watch the take and you’re like, “Yeah, that’s pretty dangerous.” We did the majority of our own stuff, and the majority of it, they wanted us to do. That’s the type of show it is. You want the camera right in our face, when we’re jumping out of an exploding car or an airplane.
BROWN: As an actor, that’s one of the hugely appealing things about this. We get to do the majority of the action. There’s not many TV shows like that.
MacPHERSON: The genre du jour, at the moment, is military shows. There are a handful on the air right now, and having watched those, we get a lot more leeway to get right in the thick of the action and have a bit of fun. I’ll enjoy this ride for as long as it will take me, and I’ll be hanging on.
Strike Back airs on Friday nights on Cinemax.