IN ‘COUNTERSTRIKE’, ELITE CRIME-BUSTERS TAKE ON INTERNATIONAL THUGS
It won’t win any awards for plausibility but Counterstrike (CTV, Saturdays) is just what the action fan ordered — a combination of James Bond, Mission: Impossible and Charlie’s Angels with the accent on pyrotechnics. The plot spins on the exploits of an elite strike team of international crime-fighters.
Christopher Plummer gets star billing, but 39-year-old British actor Simon MacCorkindale is the series’ power-source. Although he has plenty of stage experience, MacCorkindale is best known to Canadian audiences for the movies Death on the Nile and The Sword and the Sorcerer, and for TV roles in I, Claudius, Falcon Crest, and Dynasty. He brings a natural credibility and depth of personality to Peter Sinclair, the dashing team leader recruited because of his savvy as Scotland Yard’s youngest-ever inspector.
MacCorkindale infuses the Sinclair character with a keen mind and persuasive leadership qualities as well as a refreshing international perspective.
Sinclair has the ability to be resourceful and at ease just about anywhere in the world, as the Counterstrike team flies from one caper to the next in the lavishly appointed aircraft provided by billionaire industrialist Alexander Addington, played by Plummer.
Along with Nikki Beaumont (Cyrielle Claire), a danger-loving sophisticate who is equally adept at disarming intricate alarm systems and charming the jet-set brigade; Luke Brenner (Stephen Shellen), a go-anywhere-and-do-anything-for-the-right-money con man; and Suzanne (Laurence Ashley), the billionaire’s computer-whiz daughter — Sinclair masterminds the missions ordered by Addington, who is determined to rescue his kidnapped wife while fighting tyranny around the world.
MacCorkindale became involved with Counterstrike at the invitation of Robert Lantos, whose Toronto-based Alliance Communications is coproducing with two other companies in France.
“Robert and I had talked about working together, and he phoned me in England to say he had a part he thought would be right up my alley.”
The call came at the right moment: MacCorkindale was giving serious thought to returning to acting after having set up Amy International, a production company with his wife, actress Susan George (Straw Dogs).
“We spent nearly three years producing films (including Stealing Heaven, a steamy retelling of the Abelard and Heloise legend), writing screenplays and doing the whole business side as well,” says MacCorkindale.
“Counterstrike appealed to me because I could do some performing and get my company involved in the production at the same time,” he continues. “I had been making progress in the European film and television market, and Alliance had made a deal with the USA Cable channel, which has already aired some episodes. So this project has a lot of mutual benefits.”
Initially, MacCorkindale was content with acting in Counterstrike but, as the series unfolded, he felt the scripts were too plot-driven rather than character-driven. Lantos agreed to let MacCorkindale participate in the writing, and also to have more say in the overall production as executive production consultant.
“With my background, I know I’m a storyteller, and I tend to have a good overview. I can back off from a scene I’m acting in, to see which roles should be emphasized or played down a bit,” says MacCorkindale. “In performing as Sinclair, who leads the team and disseminates information and orders, I found that if I stifled that leadership aspect or impulse, the scenes didn’t have the drive and centre they needed.
“It became perfectly logical mid-season when I suggested it may help the show a great deal if I had more authority on the set, so that I could make quicker judgments on behalf of the production. The other performers readily agreed, since some had already been seeking my advice on their parts. So I think everyone’s pleased now — we’re actually shooting the second season.
“I’m happy because I’m totally involved, creatively, in the production, and they’re getting their money’s worth out of me.” It’s a double Counterstrike.