Safety First? ‘MacGyver’ stuntman injured…

Stunt co-ordinator Justin Sundquist has been hurt again on another CBS action show...

There seems to be some off-screen drama regarding the reboot of MacGyver which is currently shooting its third season in Atlanta and will return to CBS on 28th September.

Stunt co-ordinator Justin Sundquist was left with a traumatic head injury and put in a medically-induced coma after a stunt went wrong this week. According to industry site Deadline, the stunt apparently involved falling off a tractor-trailer and rolling away, but Sundquist hit his head during the fall. The incident is being investigated – as per normal procedures – by the OSHA (the Occupational Health and Safety Organisation).

Sundquist came on to the reboot series this year, replacing Jeff Wolfe who had served on the first two seasons  It appears there may have been some consternation with the personnel change. Veteran co-ordinator Wolfe – whose previous credits include NCIS, Castle, Banshee, Scandal, Furious 7, Punisher: War Zone, Rush Hour: The Series and The Expendables (where he doubled for Gary Daniels) appeared not to be impressed, making the allegation that the change of staff wasn’t for the right reasons and safety wasn’t being considered the top priority – without specifically naming Sundquist and the changes, he nevertheless warned personnel the importance of paying particular attention to their own personal safety.

Sundquist, also a veteran of over a hundred productions which include Captain America: Civil War, The Fate of the Furious, Dexter, 24 and Heroes,  joined MacGyver after an incident on Hawaii Five-0  (where he doubled for star Alex O’Loughlin) in 2016 which resulted in legal action. He was hit by a camera-car during a stunt and his resulting lawsuit officially claimed that corners were being cut because of the tight schedule and  possible non-professionalism by another member of the team. The suit also claimed that the subsequent injury could potentially put an end to Sundquist’s  ‘stellar career’ and requested a trial by jury and unspecified damages. However Sundquist recovered and as part of the agreed settlement with CBS, he became the stunt co-ordinator for MacGyver. After the latest accident, CBS  has stated that they are co-operating with the investigation and their primary concern is Justin’s recovery.

Though stunt work has got more and more ambitious and complex as demands increase, more due care and attention is usually taken and accidents still remain thankfully rare. However some events – due either to negligence, speed of production or even despite the best precautions sometimes happen. In addition to the accidents on Hawaii Five-0 and MacGyver there have also been notable incidents such as the death of John Bernecker on the set of The Walking Dead, a serious injury on the set of film Rough Night and a fatal crash involving stuntwoman Joi ‘SJ’ Harris on the set of Deadpool 2.

EchoChamber spoke to several industry contacts familiar with the stunt industry and its practises and both Wolfe and Sundquist have their supporters – but everyone a) wishes Sundquist a fast and full recovery, b) agrees that safety has to come first and foremost and ahead of any other concerns regarding budget, friendships or schedules… and  c) that’s not always proven to be the case for every situation and given the obvious inherent dangers involved, needs to improve.