walking dead stuntman

Last summer, while filming the AMC zombie series The Walking Dead, 33-year-old John Bernecker fell to his death while performing a stunt. Now Susan Bernecker, the mother of the Walking Dead stuntman, has filed a lawsuit against AMC Networks, saying that they “orchestrated and enforced a pattern of filming and producing The Walking Dead cheaply and, ultimately, unsafely.” Read more about the latest Walking Dead lawsuit below.

According to The Guardian, Bernecker’s lawsuit claims AMC put pressure on Stalwart Productions, the production company responsible for filming the drama series, to keep the show’s budgets low, which resulted in unsafe practices and ultimately the death of her son.

AMC’s response reads in part, “We take the safety of our employees on all of our sets extremely seriously, and meet or exceed industry safety standards.” And believe it or not, they actually had the balls to offer their “thoughts and prayers” to Bernecker and his family and friends. Hasn’t that phrase been banished from our cultural lexicon yet? When the best you can do is offer a banal sentiment so overused that it’s essentially meaningless, maybe you could try to come up with something a little more personal?

After an investigation into the fatal accident concluded earlier this month, Stalwart Productions was hit with a $12,675 fine – but even though that seems like a paltry sum to pay for the loss of a man’s life, it’s unclear whether the production company actually paid that fine or if they contested it instead. Here’s what they said at the time of the citation (via THR):

“This was a tragic and terrible accident. We take the safety of our employees extremely seriously on all of our sets and comply with — and frequently exceed — industry safety standards. We disagree with the issuance of this citation and are considering our response.”

Bernecker’s mother, who has started a foundation in her son’s name with the aim of protecting other stunt performers, told Deadline a few days ago that Hollywood has built a culture of covering up safety issues in the same way it covered up instances of sexual misconduct.

“My goal is to do everything I can to protect other stunt performers and to ensure their safety on the set in the future,” she said in a news release yesterday. “The industry is not doing enough to maintain basic safety guidelines for these performers. Worst of all, they’re scared to speak up.”

John Bernecker

A few days after the Walking Dead accident, Deadpool 2 shut down production because a stuntwoman was killed on the set during a motorcycle crash.

With today’s proliferation of entertainment options, films and TV shows seem to be willing to edge closer and closer to the safety line in order to achieve bigger and better stunts to secure more viewers. But hopefully these tragic accidents will inspire a much-needed conversation about valuing the safety of these performers and result in more reliable conditions across the industry. These people may perform superhuman feats on our screens, but they’re not invulnerable and they deserve to be protected.

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