Strike Back’s Alin Sumarwata on the chemistry of Section 20

Alin Sumarwata stars as Lance Corporal Gracie Novin in Cinemax's Strike Back. Photo Credit: Sophie Mutevalian/Courtesy of Cinemax
Alin Sumarwata stars as Lance Corporal Gracie Novin in Cinemax's Strike Back. Photo Credit: Sophie Mutevalian/Courtesy of Cinemax /

Strike Back star Alin Sumarwata dishes on the great chemistry with her co-stars and continuing to be an action hero during Strike Back Season 6.

When Strike Back returned for a new season, that meant more of Alin Sumarwata portraying the most kick-butt woman on television. The Cinemax series let her character Gracie Novin be a one-woman wrecking crew, and that’s continued in Strike Back Season 6.

So far this season, TV viewers have seen Novin go to incredible lengths to get revenge after the murder of someone close to her, and Alin continues to be a tremendous actress as her character takes that intense journey.

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But she’s not alone—the show has one of the best ensembles on television, and it’s the bond between the actors who portray the members of Section 20 that makes the show stand out above the rest.

Hidden Remote connected with Alin Sumarwata to talk about the continued growth of Novin and how the chemistry between herself and her co-stars has flourished; learn more about Alin and her character in our interview, then watch a new Strike Back tonight at 10 p.m. on Cinemax!

Hidden Remote: How did you feel returning for Strike Back season 6?

Alin Sumarwata: Honoured and hugely grateful of course, it’s a TV Action show like no other. We had so much training leading up to the first season and of course all the invaluable onset training and knowledge you acquire during filming. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves and we know how high the bar was set. I feel the show really found its wings by the end of last season. Coming into season 6 we knew where to pick it up from, where to focus our energy so we could keep the fire roaring until finish line. These would be some of the advantages to having a season behind your back.

HR: How would you describe Novin’s state of mind this season? She’s got some issues, and she also has an intriguing dynamic with new Section 20 boss Alexander Coltrane (Jamie Bamber).

AS: She continues to wrecking-ball on, if you want to call it that. She’s highly driven by deep-seated desire for revenge. She’s desperately seeking some form of justice for the wrong that’s happened to the people so close to her. In the first couple episodes, she goes directly against Coltrane’s orders. Her desire for revenge overrides her loyalties to him or even the mission at hand. She’s ready to give it all away for the sake of “righting a wrong” but Coltrane gives her an unexpected second chance.

Not only is this a profound demonstration of his character’s understanding of Novin, it shines a curious light on his past. It’s kind of a lovely relationship that these very opposing characters develop. It’s almost like a buddy thing, and you wouldn’t see that from their first encounter, because she’s just going with the motions at the beginning.

HR: That skepticism with Coltrane is because there’s a tight bond between the team, which comes out of the wonderful chemistry you have with Daniel MacPherson and Warren Brown. What is it that’s enabled you to work so well together?

AS: Over the last few years we’ve been through so much.  We’ve seen and experienced things in a close quarters for extended periods of time. I’ve never gone through anything like it with anyone else. You go though a myriad of emotions, injuries and states of being that is totally unique to the experience of working on this show. I am really lucky to work along side two people that are just as passionate about the training involved, to give these characters the physical and weaponry authenticity that Strike Back is known for. We find the fun as we go along; I personally have to. Sometimes it’s the only way to survive it. Often you train so hard for a sequence and the outcome is not what you expect for logistical reasons beyond your control.

I guess somehow it can be in those moments where the silliest little banters and quirks are born. I would say the most popular posts we have put up on social media are born out often crazy or not so desirable situations. The one where Warren’s rocking out to a classical Tamil track, was actually one of the worst days we were having, in terms of vehicles breaking down, crew having to push broken down vehicles uphill while things are going on fire that shouldn’t have been. The pressure really heightens because we are on such a tight and unforgiving schedule to make these epic sequences happen.

Warren and I were standing by in a vehicle, fully kitted up, no aircon in car,  sweltering jungle heat. I turned to Warren and said “hey, man, let’s put on the radio.” This amazing Tamil beat dropped and Warren just bedazzled everyone with one of his many hidden musical skills.  In fact both Dan and Warren have a very unique often hilarious, improv based, bonding musical singing talent.  When you bond through the hard times, the good times are always going to be better.

HR: Have you seen more of that chemistry make it into Strike Back episodes this season?

AS: For sure. It translates naturally into the show on a lot of levels. I don’t know whether it’s subliminal or sub-conscious but definitely, there are things that are parallel. One of the little story arcs of the season [is] about ranks; it’s kind of something that started off-screen because they wanted to make Novin a Sergeant at the beginning of the season and I was like – no way! [Laughs] I love her as Lance Corporal. It becomes a fun little part of the journey in the show to explore another aspect of each character and their relationship in the team.

HR: Your previous TV roles have been totally different from Strike Back. Has the reception that you’ve gotten changed now that the show’s been out for two seasons?

AS: I guess so. I came back to  Australia this time round and my best friend came up to me and said her family and friends had seen the show they can’t believe that’s ‘Auntie Alin’ they were hanging out with at the beach. I was like, PLEASE do not show them these things! (laughs)

HR: So what’s Alin Sumarwata’s highlight from this new season?

AS: That’s tough but I’ll have to say – Another one shot, long shot like Strike Back did last season. This time it’s longer, involves the three of us and not in a hallway. I loved it on the page and I loved doing it on the day. One shots are a magical equation of the all the departmental pieces  –  directors vision, the actors, Camera, Armoury, Stunts, Props, make up, costume – all coming together in a flawless uncut, unedited dance. Everything that Dan, Warren and I had worked for over the last two years including tactical operation and movement had become second nature and it was the feeling of what we achieved as a team that day that will always stay with me.

Next. Read our interview with Strike Back's Daniel MacPherson. dark

Strike Back airs Fridays at 10 p.m. on Cinemax. For more on Strike Back and other Cinemax shows, follow the Cinemax category at Hidden Remote.