Across multiple sports, it’s not uncommon to find athletes that have crossed over into the entertainment field. While MMA has had its share of fighters turn to acting of late, it is not the only combat sport to see such things happen, as former two-time Muay Thai champion Warren Brown has shown.
After breaking into acting on various British soap operas and dramas, Brown recently took a turn into action when he joined the recent revival of the popular Cinemax/Sky One series Strike Back, where he portrays former U.K. Special Forces Sergeant Thomas “Mac” McAllister.
Shortly before Strike Back’s mid-season episode American premier, Brown spoke with MMAWeekly.com about his fighting career, Strike Back, and getting to shoot an MMA fight scene in the season’s third episode.
MMAWeekly.com: Firstly, Warren, tell us how you got into Muay Thai and give us your thoughts on your career in the sport.
Warren Brown: When I was about 15 years old, one of my best mates was a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu, and the place he trained at had recently started a Thai boxing class. He asked if I came along and I said, “Sure, why not?” I just fell in love with Thai boxing straight away. Quite early on I found I had a knack for it and was actually pretty good at it. It just kind of took over my life.
A year later was my first fight. I won three British titles. I won a Commonwealth title. And then approaching my 21st birthday, I was approached to fight in Italy against the current world champion (Carlo Barbuto). I went out there very much the underdog. He was quite dirty, but as the fight went on, I started getting on top of him, and won on points. So a week after my 21st birthday, I became a WAKO world champion at light-welterweight.
MMAWeekly.com: Do you miss fighting?
Warren Brown: I train on and off as much as I can, but with what I do now I’m often out of country and am not near a gym, but I really, really miss it. Acting was something I could really put all my energy into, it really softened the blow. (I put) that energy, that focus, that dedication into something that seems a million miles apart. After a few years, I realized there were more parallels than I initially had though. Acting fills that void a bit, but I still miss it and train as much as I can.
MMAWeekly.com: Was MMA ever an option during your fighting career?
Warren Brown: Thai boxing was my first love. I did have one pro boxing fight and there was talk of maybe pursuing that. Especially in the UK, there wasn’t any money in there to make a substantial living. I always thought I was going to need to get a proper job at some point. I’ve been acting 15 years and I still feel I need to get a proper job at some point. MMA towards the end of my fight career, it was starting to take off and people were more aware of it. The irony is I’ve quite a few friends have gone from Thai boxing to MMA.
MMAWeekly.com: Let’s talk about Strike Back, which is currently airing on Cinemax here in the U.S. What were your thoughts when you found out you’d be part of the series’ revival?
Warren Brown: It was amazing. I was in Budapest finishing off Season 3 of a show called X Company about spies in WW2 that just kicked in America in Ovation, and I had a job when I got back to the U.K. on a series called Liar. So I was in a good position of ending one show and coming on to another when my agent called and said he’s got a tape for me. I was like, “I have a job. What could this possibly be?” And she said they were rebooting Strike Back with a new team.
It was the perfect time in my career to do something of that genre. The work that I had done previously had been high-end predominantly British shows like Luther. The opportunity to do something a little more physical, I’ve relished. Strike Back is a TV show unlike anything. I can’t think of another show like it in terms of what they’re trying to achieve. Every week is so epic and so ambitious. It’s like an action movie every week.
MMAWeekly.com: In this season’s third episode you got to do an MMA fight scene. Was there any pressure on you to perform well because of your fighting background, or did that make it easier?
Warren Brown: There is that pressure there that this was my field, so I better look good, but I was excited to do it. It was strange getting up that day knowing that was the big thing we were working towards. It took me back a bit to fighting. It was a bit like waking up that morning and knowing this is the day, this is my big day today. It’s a very ensemble show, but there are those days where it’s particularly heavy on one thing. It was all gathered around this fight for that particular day (of shooting).
MMAWeekly.com: Did you have any input to the fight’s choreography or was that already in place?
Warren Brown: They kind of put something together, and then looked at it with myself and Josh (Herdman), the actor in the scene who also comes from an MMA background, so that was the main bulk of it. You’re doing it in around other things going on, but we were able to play around with it and go with what worked really well and stuff. It was a little bit of a collaboration, but for the most part they’ve got it (worked out).
MMAWeekly.com: Thanks for taking time out for us, Warren. Is there anything you want to say in closing?
Warren Brown: The DNA of the old Strike Back is still there, but with a new dynamic of a new team. If you’re fans of the previous ones, you’re definitely going to enjoy it. Come along for the ride. Some people have had reservations, but the feedback I’ve been seeing has been amazing in America and back here as well.
We enjoy filming every day, regardless of how physical it is, we’d be in the gym every night for an hour or two. Dan (MacPherson) is a beast in the gym. He was like having a personal trainer. The girls (Roxanne McKee and Alin Sumarwata) as well were in the gym all the time. There’s a fight coming up in Episode 5 that Alin does that will blow your mind. It’s one of the best TV fights I’ve ever seen. I’ll put that out there and put my neck on the line to say that.
Hopefully there will be more Strike Back. The current season is on right now on Cinemax on Fridays. X Company, the WW2 I did is on Ovation TV, that’s on Mondays. Other than that, I’m on Instagram at WarrenBrown1.
(Photos courtesy of Warren Brown and Cinemax)