Thanks to extensive military training and their own fitness, "Strike Back" stars Philip Winchester and Sullivan Stapleton can handle pretty much any stunt that's thrown at them while filming the action series in Cape Town, South Africa.
Real Special Forces soldiers have trained the actors in explosives, evasive driving, live-fire weapons and close-quarter fighting. The advisers also schooled them in everything from the proper way to hold weapons to how soldiers clear rooms or advance in a firefight.
But while filming a chase scene for the new season's third episode, airing at 9 p.m. Aug. 24, the actors got a big shock—and a few singed body parts. (Click here for Ep. 13 photos and videos.)
In the episode, their soldier characters search for a man they believe is transporting stolen nuclear triggers that, if they fall into the wrong hands, could be used by terrorists to set off nuclear bombs. In one scene, the courier tosses a grenade in a stairwell leading to a hotel rooftop where Winchester's Sgt. Michael Stonebridge and Sullivan's Damian Scott are standing.
To create the grenade explosion, the show's demolitions team used a "bomb pot," Winchester told me during a recent phone conversation. The pot contained a six-liter tub of diesel fuel and a charge, talcum powder, cork and "all sort of stuff so when it explodes it looks like it's eating up the door frame," he said.
Everything went as planned for the scene, except when the "grenade" exploded, a wind gust blew flames, smoke and debris right at the actors.
"I lost all the hair on my right side of my arm—I mean, we were shocked," Winchester said, chuckling. "Both our heads were steaming and the stunt guys and the firemen and the medic came running in and doused us. Parts of our clothes were on fire! The demolitions guys, their eyes were as big as saucers."
The actors weren't hurt seriously, but both have suffered bumps, bruises, strains, cuts and, as Stapleton says in the video above, cork in the butt. But despite their ability to bounce back from the wounds—and despite the month of military training they receive before each season begins filming—Winchester isn't kidding himself that he, Stapleton or any of their cast mates would fair too well in a real battle zone.
"We're getting better at making it look good, but there's certainly a big difference between making it look good and doing it for real," he said. "When you talk to our military guys or you sit down with the real deals, you just go, 'I'm an actor; you're an actual SAS [British Special Air Service] guy.'
"I'll speak for myself; I don't think we would [make it in a real battle]. It's a mind set; it's training. It's years and years and years of professionalism and soldiering and being in the real thing."
Here's an exclusive clip from Ep. 13 of "Strike Back:"
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