Whoosh! Issue 66 - March 2002

AN INTERVIEW WITH ALBERT ROUNDS HEIMULI (STUNT ACTOR)
By CR
Content © 2002 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 2002 held by Whoosh!
1447 words


Introduction (01-03)
Albert Rounds Heimuli (04-09)
Stunt Work (10-17)
Conclusion (18-19)
Articles
Biography



AN INTERVIEW WITH ALBERT ROUNDS HEIMULI
(STUNT ACTOR)



Introduction

[01] When I walked onto the site of the Xena props auction at Pacific Renaissance's old headquarters at 550 Rosebank Road, I noticed that the security guard on the gate was dressed in full Roman uniform, complete with spear—a nice touch. He did, however, seem reassuringly friendly, unlike most of the Romans we have seen on the show.

Will the REAL Albert Rounds Heimuli please step forward?
A Roman Guard

[02] Another Roman later joined him, and when I eventually realized they looked rather familiar, I asked them if I had seen them on Xena. They exchanged amused glances and admitted that, yes, they had been on the show a couple of times.

[03] I decided that since they were such familiar faces that even I recognized them, and since so many people have been interviewed on the Internet but not, as far as I know, any regular actor/stunties, I would try my hand at interviewing them. Never having interviewed anybody before, I was somewhat nervous about asking, but I reasoned that, as actors, they would be willing to talk about their work. What follows is from my furiously scribbled notes, aided by my memory.


Albert Rounds Heimuli

That skull belonged to the last person who made me angry.  You wouldn't like me when I'm angry...
Albert Rounds Heimuli

[04] The first Roman guard I approached was Albert Rounds Heimuli, a well-built 'soldier' who I would not care to confront on a battlefield. I could just imagine a legion of him conquering Britain. However, his frankness and amiability soon put me at ease. He cheerfully posed for a photo, and he did the same for a number of auction-goers.

[05] Heimuli was amused that he had, just a short while before, been approached by a foreign-sounding lady: "I've seen you a lot of times" "Where?" "On Spanish television". The worldwide extent of Xena's coverage surprises even those who work on the show.

[06] I commented that I had seen him myself just a few days before in IDES OF MARCH, rushing in to kill Xena as she lay helpless on the ground, with a truly ferocious expression on his face. He was the first victim of Gabrielle's killing spree. I asked if that scene was acted with doubles, and he said the fighting was done by Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor, and filmed by the main unit, but the 'Xena' lying on the ground was a second unit stunt double.

Prototype of the NFL linebacker of today
Rushing in to finish off Xena

[07] When Heimuli saw himself in that episode, the first thing he noticed on screen was that he had put on a lot of weight. This was due to the good set-catering food. Much of the time on set was spent standing around waiting, which was tiring and made people hungry, but did not afford any exercise. At the end of the very long day, Heimuli would be too tired to do anything but go to bed.

[08] I asked Heimuli how many episodes he had been in, but this was not easy to answer. He has acted in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess, Young Hercules, Amazon High, Cleopatra 2525, and Jack of All Trades — every Pacific Renaissance series. He has worked on Renaissance productions full-time for six years. He has played every sort of baddie, plus Romans, Asians, and many other ethnic groups. His looks suit him for it. I commented that he looked perfect for a Roman soldier, possibly a mercenary from one of the Roman-occupied territories. Heimuli said he had often been told that. He stated that the Roman costume is quite comfortable to wear, and he is well used to it after wearing it on frequent occasions for the last six years. Other costumes have been much less comfortable.

[09] Before Hercules, Heimuli was into amateur acting when an actor friend suggested stunting as full-time work. Stunting, on PacRen (Pacific Renaissance) productions, includes acting and delivering the occasional one-liner. He recalls being the leader of the villains on one occasion, delivering a line before being beaten up by Hercules or Xena. He usually played villains, and has been killed numerous times. In most of his appearances he has been knocked about or beaten up by Xena, Hercules, or the hero of the day.


Stunt Work

Let's see...Eggs, bread, milk...Wonder if she meant skim or whole milk?...tomatoes, lettuce...Oh, forget it.  It's SO hard to concentrate when your throat's being faux-slit!
Ambushed by Xena in A GOOD DAY

[10] Heimuli made the point that, though the public does not appreciate the difference, he is a stuntie not an extra. Collecting the spear from Gabrielle in IDES OF MARCH is an example of stunt work, not being an extra.

[11] Heimuli has been in many fight scenes with Lucy Lawless, Renee O'Connor, and others. He would rehearse the fight scenes with them first, then play it for real with the cameras rolling. Occasionally, stunties are hit accidentally. The rehearsal should allow them to avoid this, but sometimes mistakes happen.

[12] Heimuli stated that Lucy Lawless, Renee O'Connor, Kevin Sorbo, Kevin Smith, and Bruce Campbell are all good to work with. They know what they are doing and very rarely hit the stuntie by mistake. Some guest actors are a bit uncoordinated and need to rehearse the moves repeatedly, while others are much better.

[13] Heimuli has done 'high falls' on Xena and Hercules. That is, falling off the top of a castle or a tower to land on an airbag. It is vital to land properly, usually on one's back, and the stuntie has to judge his fall so he lands in the proper position. Landing feet-first could cause serious injury.

[14] Another very tricky stunt is falling off horses. The stuntie has to hit the mark, right in front of the camera, so the camera can follow him down to the ground. This requires good timing and, preferably, a well-trained horse. Not all horses are well trained. Sometimes it is a matter of luck which horse the stuntie gets. There is no airbag to land on either. The stuntie has padded clothing—shoulders, elbows, back, and knees—but he has to deal with the ground as best he can. Sometimes it is possible to spread some loose sand on the ground to soften it up.

You like this hat better than the Legionary helmet?  Really?  What about the color?  I wasn't sure if the red would work...
About to tell Xena all in SEEDS OF FAITH

[15] Most of Heimuli's work has been at Lion Park (Pacific Renaissance's permanent outdoor sets), but he has also been to most of the other locations. The stunties would have to get up before 5 a.m. to be on set in time to be dressed and made up. On occasion, when there were crowds of extras, the day would start even earlier. Sometimes, the stunties would be released early if their parts were finished, but frequently it would be getting dark by the time they got home. It made for long days.

[16] Now that it is over, Heimuli is hoping to get more stunt or acting work. The last five or six years have been a great experience, meeting interesting people, and working for different directors. He hopes that he will be able to find an opportunity like that again.

[17] Heimuli's last memory of the show is special to him. It was the final episode, FRIEND IN NEED, directed by Robert Tapert himself, during a night shoot on the final day of shooting. Tapert turned to Heimuli and the other stuntie present and said, "Do you realize you're in the very last shot of Xena?". Heimuli counts it as an honor to have been there, at the very end, working under the direction of Robert Tapert.


Conclusion

[18] Though we fans, understandably perhaps, tend to concentrate on the lead actors, the work of the stunties, like that of the set designers and prop makers, adds richness to the show. The show could manage with less elaborate 'action', just as it could with far simpler sets and much less dramatic locations, but Hercules and Xena have always given full value to those aspects. This is part of the reason for their following.

[19] I wish Albert Heimuli the very best in his future career.


Articles

Xena's Travels in THE DEBT. WHOOSH #29 (February 1999)

A Most Delightful Villain. WHOOSH #32 (May 1999)

If It's Tuesday, Then This Must Be Attica: Xena's Travels in Greece. WHOOSH #40 (January 2000)


Biography

cr CR
Editor, Sequence of Xena: Warrior Princess Episodes

CR is an engineer living in Auckland, New Zealand.


 

 

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