Monday November 26, 2012
Hitting the spot
By YIP WAI YEE
Michelle Lukes finds out she is a crack shot during sniper training for military drama series Strike Back.
MILITARY drama series Strike Back is so testosterone-packed that the predominantly male cast sometimes forget there is a woman among them.
English actress Michelle Lukes, 28, who plays Sergeant Julia Richmond, is one of the few female characters on the British-American series.
“The boys are brilliant but can be bossy sometimes. There is a lot of farting and burping, and I’m like, ‘Excuse me, excuse me’,” she says with a laugh over the telephone from London.
“But they just say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to be one of the boys. So before you know it, I’m treated as one of the lads. But it’s all good.”
Leading the show are hunky beefcake actors Philip Winchester and Sullivan Stapleton, who play sergeants Michael Stonebridge and Damien Scott, respectively.
The series, now in its second season, is centred on Section 20, a branch of the British Secret Intelligence Service, that operates high-risk, counter-terrorism missions around the world.
Lukes plays Section 20’s chief communications officer, who is extremely adept with both technology inside the control room as well as weapons during combat. In real life, she turned out to be quite the ace shot.
Winchester told Britain’s What’s On TV magazine that she hit the target almost every time right from the start during sniper training, a feat matched by no one else in the cast.
Chuckling, she says: “I really surprised myself, because all of the military training is a totally new experience for me, and I had no idea how I would fare, but it turns out, I’m a genius at it. The boys are very competitive, so it was awesome to be able to hold my own. I probably surprised the boys when I won the competition, so I’ll be reminding them of that forever.”
Despite the grittiness of the show and her role, Lukes says she would not have it any other way.
“Obviously, sometimes, when we’re on the set and I come out of my trailer and bump into these fabulous women – as in real hotties who are guest stars – and I’m in my army clothes with slicked-back hair, I feel maybe a twinge for a second for that kind of glum role. But you know, I adore playing Julia. I think she has a warmth and humanity to her, and she does bring a different energy to the macho guys’ locker-room stuff. She’s a good balance of feminine-masculine.”
The role is her most prominent to date. Previously, the actress who trained at theatre company Bristol Old Vic, played fitness instructor Lisa Torres in British soap drama Doctors for two years (2009 to 2011).
Lukes, who is single, says she has a Singaporean connection. The pretty Eurasian actress, an only child born to an English Caucasian father and a Singaporean-Chinese mother, says: “My side of the family is still in Singapore, including my grandfather, so I visit as often as I can. The last time I came by was two years ago, but hopefully I can come again at the end of this year. I do want to keep that side of my heritage alive.”
Until then, she is enjoying her time on Strike Back. “We’ve had a lot of positive feedback and you know, I receive loads of letters from military people and veterans that say, ‘Thank you, it’s so refreshing to see something so brilliantly put together and so accurate’. Obviously I’ve never been in real-life military situations, but from the feedback, it seems that we’re doing something right.
“It’s amazing how much time and effort go into even just our training. We shoot pellets, and though they’re not-real bullets, they hurt. So you’re sweating and your heart races, and it’s just full-on hardcore stuff.”
When it comes to which of the two male leads she finds more attractive, she is much less decisive.
She says with a hearty laugh after much thought: “They’re chalk and cheese, so it’s really impossible to choose. The good thing about them is that there is something for everyone. Maybe the best would be to combine the two into one perfect man. I have to say, they’re both very yummy.” – The Straits Times Singapore/Asia News Network
Strike Back Season Two premieres on Cinemax (Astro Ch 412) tonight at 11pm.