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Up close and personal with Philip Winchester

Up close and personal with Philip Winchester
Highlights

Best known for his role in ‘The Patriot’, ‘The Hi-Line’ and ‘CSI: Miami & King Lear’, Philip C Winchester’s latest is Sgt Michael Stonebridge, the tough, troubled Special Forces counter-terrorism operative in the TV series ‘Strike Back’.

Best known for his role in ‘The Patriot’, ‘The Hi-Line’ and ‘CSI: Miami & King Lear’, Philip C Winchester’s latest is Sgt Michael Stonebridge, the tough, troubled Special Forces counter-terrorism operative in the TV series ‘Strike Back’.

The actor, who has also starred in ‘Crusoe’, ‘Maneater’, ‘Fringe’ and ‘Camelot’ amongst other shows opens up about his role, his bond with co-star Sullivan Stapleton and his detox routine as an actor.

Excerpts.

Did you base your character on anyone in real life?

He was an amalgamation of two guys. When I was 18, I had a friend while I was at drama school who was British military; he was in the Paras (The Parachute Regiment). He was a great guy but I would see this switch go in him once in a while and it didn’t matter who was in the room, he would clear it out.

And I wanted Stonebridge to have that switch. And the other guy that I based him on was our military trainer in South Africa for the first season and we became very good friends and I based a lot of Stonebridge on him – the emotional toughness that he displays on a public level but covering so much pain.

How has Stonebridge developed as a character over the three seasons?

For me what made Stonebridge interesting was that when I read the scripts for the first season there was this portrayal of Stonebridge as the perfect soldier, having a wonderful marriage, wanting children, being really good at what he did and that was all established by page 20. And by page 60 he was waking up with another woman and I was like ‘wow, I didn’t see that coming..’ So right away you see that Stonebridge is broken.

You clearly have a great bond with Sullivan Stapleton. Was that just good casting or did you have to work at it?

One of the accidents that happened on this show was that they put us together and they said, ‘go and have fun, go and train, go and become soldiers..’ And through the training – the running at 6 in the morning in Cape Town, the special ops training – it created this brotherhood. I wouldn’t want to do the show without him.

Have you ever been tempted by the military life?

I have never been a soldier. My grandfather was a communications specialist on a destroyer in World War Two and I’ve heard the stories from my father. And I do remember 9.11 happening and I was in drama school and for a good chunk of time afterwards, I was saying, ‘I’m going to drop out and I’m going to join up and I’m going to fight for what I believe in..’ But I didn’t. But the men and women who are doing that for real are another category of brave. They are immense people.

Why do you think the show is so successful?

I like to think the show is successful because we work hard on it. But we are very lucky. It’s not a network show and we can get away with a lot. People have asked us about the violence in the show and yes it is violent but only if it’s necessary. And there are moments for gentleness, there are moments to be tender, and there are moments to walk in a room and kill everybody in it.

What do you do to detox from the show?

We have a house in Montana and it’s beautiful there. But first of all I go to London to see my Nan. She is one of the biggest reasons why this is possible. So I go and see family and then I go home to Montana and I hang out with my wife and we go hiking. We turn our phones off and I tell my agent, ‘unless it’s really important, please just leave us alone for a while..’ And this year, after we’ve had a little break, I want to do a play. I think that will be really cathartic.

Your father worked in community theatre in Montana. Was he encouraging when you said you wanted to act?

Oh yes, I had a great upbringing, my parents are fantastic. And they were very encouraging. I said to Mum and Dad ‘I want to be an actor..’ and they weren’t surprised. And they said, ‘well, then you go and train in London..’ At the time it was horrible because I was madly in love with this girl and we had to separate but we ended up getting married so it worked out (laughs).

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