Under the Radar

Daniel MacPherson Gives the Spec Ops Lowdown on 'Strike Back'

Daniel MacPherson as Sgt Samuel Wyatt in "Strike Back" (Sky One)

Daniel MacPherson joined the cast of the international military thriller series "Strike Back" as part of a new cast and a total reboot of the show's Section 20 special ops unit. That reboot comes to home video this week, as "Strike Back: The Complete Fifth Season" is out now on Blu-ray and DVD.

"Strike Back" is a big hit show in the U.K., Australia and around the globe and it features both male and female members on its team. In American film and TV, international special operators usually show up as post-military mercenaries doing dirty work for the bad guys. This show gives some perspective on how the rest of the world handles its covert operations.

Although he's from Australia, MacPherson plays the team's lone American operator Marine Sgt. Samuel Wyatt. He's got the classic buddy cop friction with Sergeant Thomas ‘Mac’ McAllister, a veteran of the U.K.'s Special Air Service played by Warren Brown. They're joined by Captain Natalie Reynolds (Roxanne McKee) from a U.K. Special Recon Regiment and Lance Corporal Grace Reynolds (Alin Sumarwata) from the Australian Army Special Operations Command.

Daniel answered some questions about "Strike Back" and his role in the show's new direction.

What kind of tactical training did the cast do for this series?

As soon as i got the job, which was about 4 months before we started filming, I signed up for as many weekend weapons training courses as I could. Very basic pistol and rifle days run by various veteran instructors around the LA area.

To say I was coming in blind would be an understatement, so I just immersed myself in the culture as much as I could. I ordered a bunch of full metal airsoft weapons & holsters just to have around the house so I could become 'at home' with having firearms with me at all times. I borrowed a SIRT pistol to train with at home.

As the show got closer, and my skills were improving, I began doing some specific tactical training, solo and small groups with former SEAL guys, like Geoff Reeves from Shadow Works, and Mike Sauers from Forged, who have become great buddies, and I still get advice from them for the show. We spend some time out with Taran at Taran Tactical also.

This was all prior to boot camp! I left LA in March and headed to Amman, Jordan to meet the cast and do a three-week intensive boot camp at KASOTC. We were trained by Jordanian SF instructors, all live fire drills, lots of 2, 3, 4 man moving drills, days of room clearing and CQB drills. It was one hell of an experience, and we took in a lot of information in a very small time, before we stepped foot on set.

I also listened to as many podcasts, and read as many books as I could. "Outlaw Platoon" by Sean Parnell (…who, after a chance meeting, has become a good pal!), "Red Platoon" by Clinton Romesha, "War" & "Tribe" both by Sebastian Junger have been standouts, and I do like the Team Never Quit podcast.

Daniel MacPherson, Roxanne McKee, Warren Brown and Alin Sumarwata in "Strike Back" (Cinemax)

What kind of PT did you do to prepare?

We all trained hard individually before we hit boot camp. I come from an Ironman & endurance sports background, Warren came from Muay Thai fighting so we each trained our own way. Obviously a lot of weight training, and I was doing a lot of fasted cardio & long weekend hikes with heavy rucks, just to get used to moving with all that gear.

I wanted to add as much bulk as I could in a short time, but had to be lean in episodes 1-2 for the story. As a cast in boot camp, we did 1 hour gym, 1 hour JuJitsu, 1 hour rock climbing, 4-6 at KASOTC (plus our own training outside of that) every day!

When I got back from season 5, and in prep for season 6, I joined up at Crossfit Santa Monica, and have found that really helpful for my overall shape, adding more bulk for Wyatt, as well strength & mobility.

(L-R) Alin Sumarwata, Warren Brown, Daniel MacPherson, Roxanne McKee in "Strike Back" (Cinemax)

Who were your trainers?

In the US, Geoff Reeves, US Navy SEAL, trained Alin, Roxanne & Myself and I still keep in regular comms with Geoff on anything from new gear & equipment, tactics, to injuries. He's become a great buddy. I've done plenty of range days with Mike Sauers, also SEAL, who set up his clothing brand Forged.

On set we had Paul Hornsby advising, who was British Military. This year our Military Advisor on set is Paul Biddis, who was a former British Paratrooper. He's never short of a story and always up for a pint. The Jordanian SF guys had us for 3 weeks too, so we have a real mix of skills and tactics to pick and choose from.

Obviously we're keeping that specific to where each character has come from. With Wyatt coming from the Marines, I've tried to tailor a few things specific to his training and background.

Warren Brown and Daniel MacPherson in "Strike Back" (Cinemax)

You're from Australia. How did you manage to develop such a convincing American accent?

I've been based in LA since 2012, and when I arrived my accent sucked! So surprise surprise, i didn't get any work! So I set about working really hard at getting it right, and it's paying off. It was made harder by the fact that there were no other Americans on set, so I had no one to talk to! The crew were all Brits and Hungarians! This year has been better, I've been sitting in Wyatt's voice a lot more, and there are a few more Americans over here in Asia to jam with. For season 5, I tried to watch a lot of American sports, and FaceTime home to the US as much as I could, just to keep those sounds familiar.

You're part of a new group of actors involved in a reboot of "Strike Back" in season five. Were you a fan before you joined the show?

I was a fan, and I'd auditioned for the show previously. I've also known Sullivan Stapleton for 20 years from back in Australia. I knew that there was no other show on TV that really got down and dirty, right into the middle of the action like "Strike Back."

There's a visceral nature to this show, and it requires a certain type of performer who wants to get dirty and sweaty, battered and bruised, to do justice to the men and women that they are portraying and representing. It's big and explosive, and the action sequences are like nothing else on TV.

Yeah, I was a fan, and I can't believe i get to do it now. Car chases through the desert, jumping out of Blackhawks over the Dead Sea. Gun fights in Budapest, speed boat chases in Croatia. I mean, this show is like nothing else. It's hard NOT to be a fan!

Daniel McPherson, Warren Brown and Roxanne McKee in "Strike Back" (Cinemax)

What kind of feedback have you received from the show's fans?

Obviously we were left an incredible legacy from Scott & Stonebridge, and those who made the show what it was, and obviously a new team is a big shock to a lot of longtime fans. The feedback however has been positive, and has been increasingly so as the series progresses.

I think it took an episode or two for everyone to get their head around it, but the feedback has been really positive, and obviously positive enough for us to be filming a season 6, which we are doing right now in Malaysia. (Bigger, Hotter, Sweatier!)

The response from the military and veteran communities, from not only the U.S., but all around the world - The U.K., Australia, etc. - has just been awesome. We work our asses of to represent them to the best of our ability, and to know that it's appreciated is incredible.

Playing a American Serviceman is a responsibility I take very seriously, and one that I work hard at improving upon everyday. I've had some great connections, support and advice over social media, made some incredible friends, and every day I step on set, I just try do do them proud.

Warren Brown, Alin Sumarwata and Daniel MacPherson in "Strike Back" (Cinemax)

"Strike Back" is a show that airs around the world and it's especially a big deal in the UK. You play the American. On the show, the USA has been portrayed more as a member of an international coalition of badasses than the only Salvation of the Planet (as the Americans often are in most U.S. special forces-centered movies and TV shows). Obviously Great Britain and Australia have their own wickedly effective special ops teams. How does it feel to be part of a show that reminds everyone that there's more than one way to stop a terrorist?

I think that one of the strengths of the new series is, in fact, the international nature of Section 20. U.K., U.S., Australian operators, all working across the globe - Russia, Libya, Poland - and working together to stop the bad guys. "Strike Back" has a great way of showing up the cultural differences between the way the U.S. & U.K. work, and that can be a lot of fun to explore. Certainly it adds a little spice to scenes with Warren & myself. Personally, this show has opened my eyes to the real-world badasses that have been doing what we are pretending to do. The U.S. & U.K., obviously, but there's an awesome spec ops history from Australia, N.Z., Scandinavia, Europe. Yes, it's bloody competitive, but there's obviously a respect to one another from all the spec ops communities. But, of course, Wyatt still walks like he's the top of the tree….

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