Shane Taylor stars as Craig Hanson in Cinemax's "Strike Back." (Cinemax )
Shane Taylor left his mark on the second season of "Strike Back," but the show's stars left their marks on him, too.
The British actor suffered a few hits while playing ruthless soldier-for-hire Craig Hanson in the Cinemax drama which ended its season Friday. (Spoiler alert for those not cuaght up!) Throughout the season, Hanson had run-ins with Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester) and Damian Scott (Sullivan Stapleton), two operatives from the counterterrorism unit called Section 20. The actors in those roles, as fans can see, make the fight scenes look as real as possible.
"I have profound respect now for action-type shows," Taylor told me earlier this week on the phone from London. "I don't think anybody escaped injury. I had my fair share."
Those would be his "Stapleton rib" and "Winchester eye," as he has nicknamed them. A good-natured debate has arisen about whether Stapleton actually cracked the rib, but there's no denying that the black eye, which you can see in a photo Taylor links to from his Twitter feed (@tinker_t), came courtesy of Winchester's elbow.
"Momentarily, momentarily, I thought I was going to black out, but I came back. I learned I could take a punch," Taylor said, chuckling. "Phil's bicep is like the average man's thigh. You know what I mean! In rehearsal he just kind of cracked me, and that kind of put me out.
"I'm not even sure how we managed to do the actual fight. I don't know. I just had to have a big timeout. They had to do other stuff before I could get back in the ring."
Things didn't go perfectly once he got back into the ring either. After cracking his rib earlier in the season, Taylor took some time off to rest it so that he would be fit enough to film the final confrontation between the one-time comrades who had become bitter enemies. The fight was filmed on their last day of shooting in Johannesburg, South Africa, and they had little time to prepare after the fight choreography had been changed, both actors said.
In the scene, Stonebridge throws Hanson on some steps and jumps on top of him. During the shoot, Winchester landed on Taylor and they both heard a cracking sound. "I just felt it against my leg," Winchester said. "It was horrible."
Again Taylor rebounded, and turned in what Winchester called a "flipping brilliant" performance in the scene.
His performance throughout the season gave a depth and sadness to Hanson that I'm not convinced was on the page. Hanson, holding Stonebridge responsible for the death of his brother, retaliated by gunning down the Section 20 agent's wife. But thanks to Taylor, Hanson was more than just a mad man who got off killing people; he was a disillusioned former soldier who had lost the only thing he had left in the world. He also knew that he was partly to blame, and the guilt tore him up inside.
"The motivation for me was always about Hanson's own disgust of himself," Taylor said, adding that he also was challenged by how to make Hanson an intimidating person when Taylor himself isn't imposing physically.
"I always kind of joke, it's 6-foot-2 brawn versus 5-foot-10 scrawn. I mean there's nothing of me," he said. "I trained as much as the rest of them, but I'm never going to bulk up and be like [Winchester and Stapleton].
"I tried to tap into more of a presence, more of somebody that you wouldn't want to mess with. I've come across those people before where there is just something about them. There is an air. There is a way they carry themselves. I hope it worked."
(I believe it did. What do all the fans think?) Taylor and I chatted more about his experience on "Strike Back," the Stapleton rib, how he got into Hanson's head and that he auditioned for the role of Stonebridge.
I was happy you saw the rib story and video and that now we get to clear this up.
[Laughs.] Yeah. That kind of sparked it off really. I just I couldn't help laughing. It was bizarre. ...
But Winchester didn’t mention the black eye that he gave me, a huge black eye right at the end of the show. ... He and I had to go over a good few things first of all. Then the stunties kind of changed it at the last [minute]. A section that was supposed on the floor was now going to be on these steps. We were just going over a few moves, swinging a few arms and stuff like that, and what they call blading, which is not using your fist but just your elbow to protect your hands. ... He got me in my eye socket.
It almost played into the scene because my eye was gradually getting bigger and bigger while we were filming it. There was absolutely no makeup required. [Laughs.] I was having the rocky eye and I could barely see. And it was, of course, incredibly painful. But it worked. It really did help the situation. Yeah.