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Cinemax's 'Strike Back' stars decompress after defusing threats

If you want to make Philip Winchester laugh, ask him about his four seasons playing British military intelligence operative Michael Stonebridge on the Cinemax action series "Strike Back."

From leaping moving car to moving car to hanging off the side of a building to even doing boot-camp training, Winchester and on-screen partner Sullivan Stapleton -- who plays fellow MI6 hotshot Damien Scott -- have certainly done enough envelope-pushing stunts to qualify as adrenaline junkies. In fact, Winchester found himself becoming one.

"We call it the 'Strike Back' PTSD," the 34-year-old Montana-reared, London-trained actor says, "which was the post-traumatic stress disorder of finishing a show like this and living at such a high level for such a long time. I actually spoke with a neurologist about this and she had said, 'You are absolutely right. You guys are living at this certain level and you're getting all this dopamine and all this oxytocin and all these chemicals dumped into your body, and if you don't do something with them you create these neuro pathways where that's what you get used to doing. So when you go back to your normal life . . . you are going to be a little jittery.'

"I'd come home and after about two weeks of being home, my wife would finally look at me and go, 'Oh, it's nice to have you back, honey. It took about two weeks, but there you are.' You've got to get it out of your system."

The fifth and final season of the series kicks off Friday at 10 p.m., and once again Scott and Stonebridge are pursuing threats to world peace. This time, it comes in the form of the kidnapping of a British diplomat's daughter that turns out to be the first step in a global terror plot that involves the Japanese yakuza, the Russian mafia, cyberterrorists and other nefarious forces. The duo find themselves crisscrossing Asia and Europe to defuse the threat.

All 10 episodes this season were shot from August to December of 2014 in Hungary and Thailand, which Winchester says created a unique ambience to the story line.

"I think it added this very visceral element to the show," he says. "I mean, we had it because of South Africa (in Season 3), and we had it because of these amazing locations across Europe. But Bangkok kind of just became this other character, this other nemesis to Section 20. The heat, the locations we were in -- as much as they were beautiful, they were really challenging, so I think for everyone across the board it was more of a challenge than we thought it was going to be, but ultimately it added something to this season of the show which I don't think we've had for a while."

Though the series hasn't yet ended for viewers, it's been done seven months for Winchester, who is now shooting the NBC fall drama series "The Player." He recently ran into Stapleton -- who himself will headline that network's drama "Blindspot" come September -- recently at an NBC event and got caught up with his former co-star.

"We had such a gas on 'Strike Back,' " Winchester says. "I think we'll spend a lot of our careers trying to replicate the feeling and the emotions and the trust we had in these crazy situations we were in and we were asked to be in. So I totally miss the guy.

"He's a pain in the ass, and I love him," he says, laughing. "He'd probably say the same about me, too."

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