Spoiler alert: I believe fans on both sides of the Atlantic have now had a chance to see the season finale of "Strike Back," which aired on Cinemax in the U.S. But if you haven't, stop reading.
Amanda Mealing expected strong fan reaction from the death of her character, Col. Eleanor Grant, in the season finale of “Strike Back.”
Her two biggest fans had already seen it—and were “incensed,” she said.
“My sons watched it the other day and they were saying, ‘Mama, why didn’t you wait for Scott to shoot?’” Mealing told me Thursday by phone from New York.
In the knock-out episode, the terrorist Latif (Jimi Mistry) not only escaped from Col. Grant’s Section 20 military unit, but he took her captive in the process. And although part of his plot played out as he hoped, he didn’t count on one thing—Grant’s resolve to take him down no matter what the consequences.
She ended their standoff in bold fashion. Damian Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) had Latif in his sights, but Grant fired his pistol into a bomb she was carrying and killed them both.
“It had to be [that way],” Mealing said. “It was the right thing, We needed that conclusion and it had to be the person that you least expected.
“It was through Grant trying to do the right thing she had done the wrong thing [and unwittingly helped Latif], but in the end she takes him out and does the right thing.”
Before the end came, Grant recorded a message to her soldiers telling them of her involvement in Project Dawn. It was an emotional scene for Mealing to film, and one that co-star Philip Winchester praised.
“She was incredible, wasn’t she?” he said during the same call. “It was this beautiful goodbye by Amanda and by Grant, but it all hit on such a different level for all of us standing there because we knew we weren’t going to see her again.”
Mealing, Winchester and I joked that Grant didn’t get out of the Section 20 headquarters often and when she finally did, she killed herself. Mealing said one of her best days on the job was during Episode 6, when Grant fired from a helicopter while landing to extract Stonebridge. “It really was so much fun; I was ecstatic,” said Mealing, who is about halfway to getting her pilot certification.
Those types of adventurous jobs don’t come along often for women, which is another reason Mealing’s sad to be leaving “Strike Back.”
“I love shooting and flying and fast cars,” she said. “It was really perfect for me.”
Below find more from my conversation with Mealing and Winchester, who also talked about the scene in which Stonebridge had to cut a bomb out of a terrorist’s body.
And, by the way, the finale didn’t really tell us if Stonebridge would return to Section 20, so I asked Winchester if he’d be back in “Strike Back.”
“I hope so,” he said, laughing.
Amanda, are you sad not to be coming back?
Amanda Mealing: I'm hugely, hugely sad not to be coming back because working together for six months and as intensely as we did. We’re all thousands of miles away from home; [the group] becomes your family. It really does become your family, so to not be with the guys next year is heartbreaking…
I liked the fact that she wasn’t the mole. She hasn’t been a double agent. It is just through her desperation to do the right thing and recompense for Project Dawn that actually feeds Latif everything that he needs … My sons watched it the other day and they were saying, “Mama, why didn’t you wait for Scott to shoot?”
Philip Winchester: [Laughs.] Because he would have.
AM: “Well you should have just waited. He was there.”
You should have just ducked.
AM: [Laughs.] I know. I should have ducked. They were incensed, absolutely incensed.
PW: Obviously, Col. Grant is not coming back, but I do think there is a lot of room for possible flashbacks. Amanda and I were talking earlier about the why. This stuff happened and it was kind of a knock-on effect, you know, after Latif had infiltrated us and at the hotel in Delhi—now the why needs to be tackled a little bit. So I think there is a lot of room for conversations that happened in the past, stuff that we didn’t quite see in these 10 episodes, so I hope it’s not the last we see of her.
AM: Or her evil twin.
PW: Some “Mission Impossible” side of it coming out.
You could come back to play a pilot.
AM: Or it could be like “Dallas”: She was just in the shower!
PW: It was all a dream.
I was thinking “Maybe she’ll get injured badly, but she’ll be back eventually.” But the shot of the actual explosion—no way.
PW: Isn’t that incredible?
AM: I don’t think anyone is coming back from that.
PW: Sully and I both—pardon my French—but we both were watching it at the HBO screening room and we at the same time just went, “Fuck me.” It was so brutal and so well done. If you’re going to go like that is—
AM: Yeah, really. If you’re going to go, really go.
PW: It was so well done.
AM: Yeah, it was great.
And you really sold it. The whole thing where you say earlier in the episode that “you know nothing of my will” was a nice little foreshadowing, but I still didn’t think she’d do that.
AM: You didn’t? Oh lovely. We were saying that the difficulty is in this—I suppose the conflict in guerilla warfare—is that when people are willing and prepared and aiming to die, you can’t threaten them. Their will and their desire is stronger and it can’t be broken. That is what they want to do. That is what they are prepared to do.
Yeah, I did think that was a nice little line—and that was mine. I was so pleased. It was important to show you that determination that she knew that if that is what it took then she would do it.
And do you think that is what it was? Do you think she knew at that time that she was going to find a way to do that or just that she knew she would do it?
AM: No, but I think it’s the case of saying I'm prepared to do that, I will do what it takes. I think it’s quite nice that for nine episodes you don’t really—I suppose in Episode 9 you start to see where she is having a fight with Major Sinclair that you get a sense that, “Oh my God this woman is angry, it is there and she does have emotions.” But up until then we don’t really get to see any of that. So it was a nice scene to do. I think the toughest scene for me to do and it was my last scene, was the video tribute to the guys.
PW: Which was so good.
AM: But it was really, really tough for me to do and we had to do it a couple of times because I genuinely kept breaking down because as I said each character I was imagining my friend and I really was saying goodbye because that was my last shot, so it was really tough to do.
I was going to ask if there was a different way you prepare for something like that than any other normal kind of scene.
AM: I'm the kind of actress I can’t fake being upset. Unfortunately, I spent two days and it was quite depressing and exhausting, but I kind of I would draw up various emotions and that’s the way I have to do it. They are genuinely quite dramatic scenes to do and when you film for 12 hours a day as I said it can be quite exhausting, but I think that last one and saying goodbye to the guys was genuinely saying goodbye to the guys because I knew I wouldn’t be back, so it was tough to do.
PW: Well it was cool, Curt. The very last shot of the 10 episodes was Sinclair sitting in front of this screen that had been shot up by Latif’s guys and Section 20 is empty and Sinclair sitting there in front of a screen and there was this long dolly back behind him watching her kind of give this speech and all of us sat there and all of us were in tears.
We were all watching Amanda say goodbye because we knew the story. We knew what was going to happen. We knew she wasn’t coming back, but it was kind of ironic that that was the last shot of the show and it was this beautiful goodbye by Amanda and by Grant, but it all hit on such a different level for all of us standing there because we knew we weren’t going to see her again.
Philip, the scene where you have to cut the guy open.
AM: Ah, that was really disgusting.
PW: It was one of those things again. We literally we were filming up at the palace in Budapest and we had an allotted time to do it and we were running really short on time, so Dan Perceival and Steve Lawes our DP and I got together and I said, “Look, let’s shoot the reactions and we can always shoot the stuff of actually pulling the bomb out later.”
So we literally had 15 minutes to roll, so we just got all the stock we had, put it on the camera and we just rolled and rolled and rolled. Dan was behind the camera kind of calling out what was going on, “The green wire, the red wire and you’re inside.” I had a bloody sponge in my hand and I was just trying to pretend what was going on. I think it works really well because we literally had no time at all. We literally didn’t have any time and then so later on the last day we did the inserts of the bomb coming out of the dummy and stuff. So it was pretty intense.
AM: It was disgusting.