From ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ to ‘GLOW,’ Streamers Get Extra Physical With Their Stunts

To see how far TV series are going to wow viewers with stunts worthy of a big-screen blockbuster, one might need a subscription to a streaming service.

A case in point: the spectacular zero-gravity fight scene in the second season finale of CBS All Access’ “Star Trek: Discovery.” Producers weren’t content to fake it with CGI trickery. Inspired by a spinning hallway fight scene in Christopher Nolan’s 2010 feature “Inception,” they had the art department construct a 30-foot long section of the titular space ship’s hexagonal corridor on a Toronto soundstage that could be mounted on a gimbal and rotated 360 degrees like a rotisserie.

But because this was TV, with all the attendant time and budget constraints, the rotating set wasn’t ready for stunt coordinator Christopher McGuire to test his fight choreography until two days before they shot the scene.

“We discovered many things very quickly,” recalls McGuire. “It made you sick and you had no point of reference, so if you were standing at the top of that floor and you weren’t ready, you’d fall 15 feet, which was not safe. So I was on the microphone coaching the [stunt] performers, saying, ‘You need to move here.’”

On Amazon’s “Hanna,” the action is more the traditional brawl and chase variety, epitomized by the series’ opening sequences, which take viewers from a fight in front of an open incinerator to a high-speed pursuit with baby Hanna onboard. The episode then jumps years forward to teen Hanna (Esme Creed-Miles) as an assassin in training, fighting her father (Joel Kinnaman), shooting targets and scaling tall pine trees.

A double was used for all but Creed-Miles’ close-ups on the tree-climbing scene but “as the show went on and Esme got more and more experienced, physically capable and trained, she took on more of the action scenes and performed more of own fights,” says the show’s stunt coordinator Domonkos Pardanyi. “On the other hand, Joel was performing the full fights and we didn’t need to double him.”

The cast of Netflix’s “GLOW,” meanwhile, quickly regained its wrestling chops for season two. “We can go in, find each girl’s strength and build on it, and then you can showcase it with the camera right on their face,” says “GLOW” stunt coordinator Shauna Duggins. “If one actress isn’t as strong with a particular move, we ask, ‘Would you rather change the move or double them?,’ and 99% of the time they’ll say change it, because they really want to see [the actresses].”

Stunt coordinator Jean Frenette had only three weeks to prep for Amazon’s globetrotting action series “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” during which time he worked closely with star John Krasinksi.

“We would train and talk about what his character would and wouldn’t do, because he knows how to fight, but he’s not a superhero,” says Frenette. “We’d do a pre-vis [of a stunt sequence] and he’d say, ‘I wouldn’t go that far,’ or ‘I’d do this.’ On the day of the shoot, things would change, because it keeps evolving, but it’s always a question of: Are we keeping everything safe?”

Popular on Variety

More Artisans

  • Roma Cinematography

    'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' and 'Roma' Win LMGI Awards for Motion Pictures

    Two major 2018 releases – actioner “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and critics’ darling “Roma” – were honored for film location work by the Location Managers Guild International at a ceremony this evening at the Eli & Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The 6th Annual LMGI Awards also recognized “Chernobyl” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” [...]

  • Peaky Blinders Season 5

    Time-Jumping Season 5 of 'Peaky Blinders' Aims for a More Cinematic Look

    Cinematographer Si Bell was thrilled to learn he and director Anthony Byrne had been tapped to shoot the fifth season of BBC’s “Peaky Blinders,” but surprised to find out how free a hand executive producers Caryn Mandabach and Jamie Glazebrook were giving them to determine the scheme of their six-episode run. “I expected to meet the [...]

  • Ad Astra

    How 'Ad Astra' Production Crew Created Authentic Look for Brad Pitt Space Drama

    In “Ad Astra,” Brad Pitt’s astronaut Roy McBride crosses the solar system to find and confront his long-lost father, requiring the movie crew to create an authentic-looking future that conveys the theme of traveling long distances to learn the lesson that it’s where you started from that has the most value. “Visually, the aim was [...]

  • Women in Animation Logo

    WIA Partners With Animation Mentor, Toon Boom to Expand Scholarship Program

    Women in Animation has partnered with Animation Mentor and Toon Boom to expand the organization’s WIA Scholarship Program with workshops and software packages. WIA scholarships are given to animation students with a financial need and who demonstrate talent and passion for animation that will lead to a promising career in the field. The Animation Mentor [...]

  • Steven Poster ICG National President

    DP Steven Poster to Receive SOC Lifetime Achievement Award

    Stephen Poster, cinematographer on such classics as “Donnie Darko” and Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” will receive the Lifetime Achievement Distinguished Service Award from the Society of Camera Operators at a ceremony on Jan. 18, 2020. SOC grants the award to an Individual who has served the community at large and/or the Society through outstanding service [...]

  • Swedes Call for Incentives to Keep

    Swedes Call for Incentives to Keep Potential Runaways at Home

    Horror film “Midsommar” did it last year. A new adaptation of the Swedish classic “The Emigrants” will do it next year. Prestigious productions that could have taken advantage of beautiful Swedish locations and craft expertise continue to run away to foreign locations for lower costs and tax incentives. Despite having a strong film industry creatively [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content