When stunt coordinator Anton Moon staged the slave ship mutiny for History Channel’s new miniseries adaptation of “Roots,” he had to deliver more than just exciting action with 20 stunt people and 200 extras. He had to make sure the fighting style accurately reflected the background of 18th century Mandinka captives, not modern action movie conventions.
“No kicking, punching, no head-butting — none of the old go-to favorites,” says Moon. “The Mandinka had to be very light-footed, very fast-moving, in contrast to the European sailors, who would throw a normal punch and move kind of heavy-footed.”
Moon’s work in “Roots” is representative of the intricate, large-scale complex stunt work being done in television today on shows such as FX’s “American Horror Story: Hotel,” Netflix’s “Daredevil” and Syfy’s “The Expanse.”
For the season three finale of Starz’s “Black Sails,” stunt coordinator Franz Spilhaus had to rig four major stunt sequences on a TV schedule — a ship explosion, a forest battle, a naval chase and a large-scale beach invasion.
“We pretty much shoot all our stunt sequences beforehand on a DSLR camera, edit them and put in the sound effects and the blood and all of that,” says Spilhaus.
On ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.,” stunt coordinator Tanner Gill has to help bring the characters’ superhuman abilities to life. That can mean flying cast members on wires or executing impossibly intricate moves, such as the one in which stunt driver Greg Tracy drove a 16.7-foot-long Jaguar across the polished concrete of a warehouse floor, weaving in and out of pillars with only 18.6 feet of clearance between them, while another stuntman clung to the hood.
“I like to say we make a feature every nine days,” Gill says. “The stunts we do on our show are every bit as big as the same or similar stunts on features.”
Pictured above: “Daredevil”