Strike Back: Jamie Bamber goes into battle with Section 20

Jamie Bamber stars as Alexander Coltrane, the new leader of Section 20, in Strike Back. Photo Credit: Hal Shinnie/Courtesy of Cinemax.
Jamie Bamber stars as Alexander Coltrane, the new leader of Section 20, in Strike Back. Photo Credit: Hal Shinnie/Courtesy of Cinemax. /

When Strike Back returns, Jamie Bamber will be running Section 20. He spoke to Hidden Remote about bringing his talent to Strike Back Season 6.

Strike Back has an impressive new boss. The Cinemax series has recruited Jamie Bamber to take over Section 20, bringing one of TV’s most underrated actors back to the small screen in a role he was made for.

The Battlestar Galactica and Law & Order: UK veteran stars as Alexander Coltrane, who comes in as the new commanding officer to lead Section 20. But Coltrane also has his own personal journey to save a career derailed by tragedy.

Bamber has elevated every show that he’s ever been a part of, and he’s taking on an entirely new challenge with Strike Back, which is the most intense series on television. His joining the squad is a huge plus, and he talked extensively to Hidden Remote about the new role.

Learn more about Jamie Bamber and his latest character below, then don’t miss the Strike Back Season 6 premiere tonight at 10 p.m. on Cinemax.

Hidden Remote: What made you want to join the cast of Strike Back?

Jamie Bamber: What made me want to do it is one phrase in the character description, which is what if James Bond became M. At that point I was like yeah, what if? What if that was me?

I read about the character Coltrane; I liked the fact that he had been a young star in the British army. He’d been in all the conflict zones around the world and had been a hotshot young officer—and then had a serious setback and lost a whole company of young men with this initiative [that] backfired. Subsequent to that, he’s had a breakdown, hit the bottle, taken a back seat and gone into more desk jobs and training roles in Brunei and around the world.

So we discover him getting back into the saddle at the beginning of this first episode with Section 20, or what’s left of Section 20. He’s fully aware there’s no more perilous situation than to try and control section 20 and this is his shot at redemption.

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HR: Is Coltrane aware of what happened with his predecessor Adeena Donovan and does that color how he approaches the team?

Bamber: He knows everything. He knows exactly what happened, he knows why they’ve been put out to pasture, as he has to be fair. This is all of them having a reprieve and they’re thrown together. He’s fully aware they’re uncommandable and their track record is not good with authority, and he’s also aware that this is his shot at redemption.

If he can get through this then he can validate everything that he’s done with his career. This is really huge for him; he’s basically coming out of retirement and they’ve been furloughed as well, so they’re all dependent on each other to redeem themselves. I think he’s not entirely trusting of them at first, and he has to win their trust as well.

HR: How would you describe Coltrane’s command style compared to Strike Back‘s previous leaders? It seems he’s coming at this job in a way his predecessors haven’t before.

Bamber: I think he is not someone that shows too much emotion. He’s come into the Army probably through a family tradition; it wasn’t something that he maybe had to think too much about. but what he has done with his life is chosen a different route. Anyone who chooses special forces is someone who is really trying to test themselves and wants to find out about who they really are and not to rely on the politics of what it’s like to be an officer in the Army.

It’s a level playing field once you get into special forces. Everyone’s the same, the rank doesn’t mean what it means in the general military, and I think that’s something he’s constantly thrown himself into. He wants to be just one of the men, so he doesn’t want to talk too much, he wants actions to speak for themselves, and he also wants them to understand that he’s one of them. He sees them as an equal and contemporary rather than [in] the chain of command.

You’re no stranger to action sequences, but Strike Back is well known for being tougher than any other show on TV. Was there an adjustment period for you in joining the show?

Bamber: Yeah, because I honestly did think he was going to be behind a desk most of the time. Or dealing with more political situations, having to put fires out, in terms of command and being in foreign countries and sort of thing. It gradually dawned on me that they wanted to get me out of that and to see who this guy actually is, and to get to see a bit of his skill set from his past and understand he’s more than just a political figure.

It dawned on me as soon as they said do you want to make use of the personal trainer. They were going to give me all the healthy, high-protein meals that the other kids get on set, and I thought why would they do that if they didn’t really expect me to be in the same physical shape and do the same physical stuff. And that’s something I’ve embraced in the past and loved to do; I didn’t think I would be doing it on this show.

I thought I would be just observing the others kick ass and I was quite ready to watch them sweat their guts out in the gym every day and not join them. Me being me, once I realized that was an option, that the character could go there, I was very keen for that to happen. I love the physical side of working with action and stunts and all that. I’ve done a lot of it in the past, it’s been a while, so for me, it felt like I was part of Strike Back after that.

HR: So what was the most fun part of Strike Back season 6 for you? Is there a great Jamie Bamber moment in there?

Bamber: I get into a bar fight near the end of the series, and I’ve never done that one before. Pool cues, bar stools, billiard balls—it was awesome. It was a whole day shooting and it was me and Alin [Sumarwata] playing a two and a half page scene in a bar. It was fun in itself and then it erupts into this massive fight so that for me was one of my most fun days on a set ever.

I wrote to Jack that night and said look, thanks so much for the opportunity, I can’t believe all the aspects of this character I got to explore in one day. I was just very grateful for the writing and for the experience and to work with Alin, I’m a big fan of her work. That was my best day.

HR: What have you taken away from the experience so far?

Bamber: I couldn’t be prouder to be associated with it. I really appreciate the experience of doing this. [It] really brings people closer together because there’s a lot of behind the scenes work, physical work, weapons work and tactical work and we’re all on location for six months of the year. We really are our own support group and it does feel like we served on a conflict on the other side of the world. I enjoy experiences like that.

The Malaysian crew was amazing. We were working under very difficult situations, very hot and humid, and the poor costume department changing my shirt every ten minutes to match a sweat stain that’s constantly evolving. They were extraordinary. Makeup department [was the] same. And the stunt department, I can’t say enough about the stunt department. They’re on set all day, every day, whether it’s an action sequence day or not so that we can work on the stuff coming up. It’s a tremendous team effort.

HR: Hopefully, we’ll see more of you in another season, but Strike Back‘s supervisors tend to have a short shelf life. Were you aware of that when you signed on to play Coltrane?

Bamber: No. Nobody told me going in what the character would or wouldn’t be. I was aware, I will say; I haven’t watched much of Strike Back but the way you become aware [is] if you look through the IMDB and see who’s been in the show and for how many episodes. You can kind of construct a shelf life for leaders, which is really a maximum of eight episodes, so you kind of work it out from there.  I had a pretty good idea that leaders are in a precarious position just by being the leader of Section 20—so eyes open, never took anything for granted and I can’t possibly comment as to what happens.

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New episodes of Strike Back start on Cinemax this Friday at 10 p.m. For more on this and other shows on Cinemax, visit the Cinemax category at Hidden Remote.