Philip Winchester & Sullivan Stapleton Say ‘Strike Back’ Return May Not Be Their Last
Fans of the Cinemax action drama have been a little depressed since the former Strike Back stars Sullivan Stapleton (now on Blindspot) and Philip Winchester (Law & Order: SVU) “literally rode off in to the sunset together,” in the words of Winchester.
Section 20’s beloved bromancers, Damien Scott (Stapleton) and Michael Stonebridge (Winchester), are back on the March 30 episode and in the following week’s season finale!
Here, Winchester and Stapleton tell their fans about their decision to return and the good—if rushed—time had by all.
So despite what seemed like a final goodbye, you guys decided to make another appearance on Strike Back.
Philip Winchester: At first, I didn’t how we could top our exit, as Bob Dylan played [as we drove off]—Sully on a Harley and me on a GS 1200 BMW. And then we had the real world of our schedules to contend with. But I agreed to return because it was about Scott and Stonebridge being together again; a tip of our hat to our fans. It was saying to them, ‘This was such an amazing journey and we really appreciate you guys and your support.’
Sullivan Stapleton: Of course I wanted to return. I love that show!
Would you only return as a package?
Winchester: We both had to agree to it. Sully and I talked together and said, ‘Look, we both said if we can make this happen, let’s do it regardless of politics and management and things like that. Let’s make it happen for the fans.’ So we did. It came down to Sully because he had to do it on his weekend off; I wasn’t on SVU yet.
Was it fun to revive the roles ?
Winchester: It ended up being 48 hours of insane shooting. I left Montana on a Thursday afternoon and got to Budapest Friday Night. Sully was caught in a storm, missed his flight out and didn’t get there until Saturday night. We missed a day of filming and it was absolutely bonkers.
Sullivan: I’d call it short and sweet. It was nice to be back in something that we helped create. I had a ball going back to some of the same locations and working with the same crew.
Winchester: The crew was like family. Both of us went into filming with zero sleep because we stayed up all night with everyone catching up. And we also got to meet the new guys and gals.
Did they pass muster?
Winchester: Absolutely! They were great. I remember when Sully and I arrived in the second season, the British audience was angry, saying that the show ‘was very American’ after Richard Armitage and Andrew Lincoln left. Then people got on board and enjoyed us. I think the same will happen for these guys.
Stapleton: I know Dan Macpherson from Australia and I met Warren Brown on chemistry reads for the original Strike Back. It was awesome to see them together. And the two girls are kick-ass. Seeing that team work together was brilliant. It made me a little jealous!
Will we learn where the guys have been since the last season?
Winchester: There are a few little nods.
Do Scott and Stonebridge show up to save the day?
Stapleton: Not quite. They’re on a mission, working as private mercenaries.
Are they on opposite sides from the new Section 20?
Stapleton: No! It depends on who hires them as PMC’s. But no, they’re still the good boys. They haven’t gone to the dark side yet. Stonebridge is a good boy, I should say. Scott is a naughty, good boy. They end up joining up to help the new team.
You guys did all kinds of action and stunts on Strike Back. Were you restrained because you’re both doing other shows?
Winchester: [Laughs] Insurance was always the biggest problem on our show. Insurance would say, ‘Wait, you want our guys to be on fire, jump out of a helicopter, get off a moving train.’ This time, our other shows had to agree to the script because they were freaking out about what we might be doing. We let the young pups do the crazy stuff that we did on before on the show. There’s still a lot of shooting and running around.
How about the other Strike Back action—sex?
Sullivan: None, unfortunately. Because of the delay, we had to cut a sex scene with Scott.
Who did you do most of your scenes with?
Winchester: I got to work with the whole new crew, which was great. They were asking us a lot of questions. Alin Sumarwata (who plays Gracie Novin) said she wants to make what she does look as real as possible for the guys and gals in the military. Sully and I felt the same way. I think she’s crushing it. Her weapon skills are just phenomenal. But the consequence was she was really beat. She’d say to us, ‘How did you do this for four years?’
Phil, you’ve been playing a suit for a while on Law & Order shows. Did you have to do 1,000 sit-ups to get ready to return to action?
Winchester: I keep in shape for the ‘what if?’ factor; that’s been my thing since school. If something comes along, I won’t have to start from ground zero. On SVU, though, it’s the mental Olympics with my closing arguments and cross-examinations; just keeping up with people who have been doing this for up to 19 years. I do miss using my body. My hope in the not too distant future is that these two worlds are going to collide and I’ll get to do something not dissimilar from Strike Back, but maybe a little more high-brow; where I get to run around and use my words, too.
How about you, Sully? Of course, you get a little action on Blindspot.
Stapleton I’m probably more fighting fit. [Laughs]
You haven’t worked together since 2015. Did you easily re-spark your chemistry?
Stapleton: We did. We’re like brothers.
Would you both like to make more SB appearances?
Winchester: It would all depend on Sully. I don’t think we can capture the lightning in a bottle that we had without each other. He’s my buddy. If he was on board, and there was an offer, we’d make it work.
Stapleton: I’m hoping Stonebridge and Scott show up on a lot more missions. [Laughs]
Strike Back, Fridays, 10/9c, Cinemax