Strike Back

The Strike Back team had just arrived in Mozambique to kick off shooting this season when they ran into a major problem: As the country faced an uprising by thousands of freedom fighters clutching real RPGs and AK-47s, the government wasn't so sure what to make of the show's crew.

Mozambique officials confiscated passports from the group — including stars Philip Winchester, Sullivan Stapleton and Rhona Mitra (who's new to the show's shadowy special forces unit, Section 20, this season) — and left them stranded in an airport for 12 hours before letting them go. After that, Strike Back hightailed it to South Africa, even though it was too late to change the scripts. "What was supposed to be 27 days in Mozambique on a beach turned into three weeks in the most horrific locations in Cape Town," says Winchester.

That's how it goes on Strike Back, where the action behind the scenes is often as intense as it is on camera. "It's like going to war," says Mitra, who plays Rachel Dalton, new head of Section 20. The results have been dynamite: Last summer the show scored Cinemax's best ratings in six years, and the stars (including Stapleton, who snagged a role in the 300 sequel) were swarmed at Comic-Con.

Early in the new season, Boston Legal alum Mitra gets to handle heavy artillery as she joins the boys in the field. But much to the actress' disappointment, Dalton is soon relegated back to a command post. "Men don't like girls playing with their guns," she says. "If you're a woman on Strike Back, you either get shot or shagged. I'm in a no-man's land."

The new batch of 10 Strike Back episodes also introduces a new threat to Section 20: superwealthy madman Conrad Knox (Game of Thrones' Charles Dance), who threatens to detonate nuclear bombs. The devastation, says Stapleton, "is going to be quite something — unless he gets stopped." We're guessing he does, since there's already talk of a third season of Strike Back. And that's just fine with the show's men-of-war, who can't get enough of the action: "It's hard to stay in character," says Stapleton, "and not smile at each other and scream, 'Holy f---, we get paid to do this!'"

Strike Back returns Friday at 10/9c on Cinemax.

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