Whoosh! Issue 68 - May 2002

AN INTERVIEW WITH CAMPBELL ROUSELLE (STUNT ACTOR)
By CR
Content © 2002 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 2002 held by Whoosh!
1816 words

Author's notes:

CR interviewed the two 'Roman' guards on the gate at the Pacific Renaissiance auction. The first interview is in Whoosh #66.




Campbell Rouselle (01-03)
Hercules (04-10)
Stunts (11-17)
Working With the Guest Stars (18-23)
Conclusion (24-25)
Articles
Biography



AN INTERVIEW WITH CAMPBELL ROUSELLE (STUNT ACTOR)



Campbell Rouselle

Doorman at Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas
"Gladiator? Never heard of it!"

[01] Sharing duty on the gate at the Xena props auction (November 2000) was a Roman guard who looked familiar, though I could not place him immediately. In fact, his face has cropped up in a variety of roles during the Xena series.

[02] Campbell Rouselle readily agreed to be interviewed, but at first the 'interview' was a bit halting, as the inexperienced interviewer (me) could not think of any intelligent questions to ask. Nevertheless, as soon as the topic of his work came up, Rouselle's obvious enthusiasm made any further questions unnecessary. All I had to do was write.

Ever try shaving with one of these on?
I do not play a centurion on TV, I really am one!

[03] Rouselle is a stuntie [stunt man] and actor, and has worked on all the Pacific Renaissance productions, most recently Jack of All Trades, on which he has done a lot of stunt work and some speaking parts. He has been stunting virtually full time for eight years, three days a week for forty weeks a year on average. Before that, he was a 'struggling actor'. He had tried to get work with Peter Bell [Hercules and Xena stunt coordinator] several years earlier, but there was not much going at the time. Later he met Peter Bell as an actor on the New Zealand television series Plainclothes, and got into stunts that way.


Hercules

[04] Rouselle's first work for Pacific Renaissance was late in the first season of the Hercules TV series. He got the part through New Zealand Stunts, and recalls that it was to do with gladiatorial sports, and had Ian Mune in it [it was, in fact, GLADIATOR]. Shortly thereafter, his acting agent got him a speaking part. This was, he recalls, the end of the first season of Hercules. He was hassling Hercules and Xena promptly bashed him. [Rouselle's memory is correct. This was UNCHAINED HEART. Xena ambushed him from behind.]

I wonder where that Warrior Princess got to...
No stuntie is safe when Xena is around...UNCHAINED HEART

[05] When the Hercules series first started, stunting was very heavy work. They would typically go through three takes of a fight, from at least three angles for each take. With these, plus of course the rehearsals beforehand, Rouselle sometimes did as many as 50 backfalls in one day. "Each of those takes it out of you, no matter how fit you are. I would end up totally exhausted."

[06] Later on, things got easier. They had more stunties and there would be a separate man for each move. As everyone learned to do their jobs better (camera, stunts, props, and special effects) and became more accommodating, fewer takes would be needed. Fewer angles and anything missed on the main unit could be filled in by the second unit doubles.

[07] Quite unprompted by the interviewer, Rouselle said that working with Lucy Lawless, Renee O'Connor, Kevin Sorbo, and all the leads on Hercules and Xena was always a pleasure.

[08] He would always try to get into Bruce Campbell's and O'Connor's fights because he enjoyed working with them so much. Campbell was incredibly funny, and O'Connor had such amazing energy.

Kill me if you've heard this one...
Rouselle (right) gets to kill Gabrielle in BEEN THERE DONE THAT, but not permanently

[09] Kevin Sorbo liked stunties and treated them extra well. On occasion, when it was apparent that they would not be needed again that day, Kevin would ask for the stunties to be released to go home. The stunties would have considered it unprofessional to ask for themselves. If on some occasions there were not enough crew gifts to go around, Kevin would buy the extra ones out of his own pocket. At the Hercules wrap party, Kevin specially thanked all the stunties, and emphasized that the action made the show.

[10] Lucy Lawless is an extremely versatile actor who can do serious and comedy roles equally well. Rouselle commented that, on set, she does not appear to be doing very much acting, but the results on screen are intense. Similarly, Kevin Sorbo appears to be effortless on set, but comes over very dynamic on screen. With some other actors, the opposite happens. They look good live on set, but it does not translate well to film. Rouselle found this interesting to see, and valuable for his own craft as an actor.


Stunts

[11] He noted that the same applies to stunts. Sometimes a stunt that feels great looks quite unspectacular on screen. At other times, it is the other way around. However, "you know you've done a good job when you're lying on the ground and half the crew walk up and ask if you're okay -- and you are."

[12] Considering the huge volume of stunts, there have been very few injuries. The last shot of the day, when everyone was tired and in a hurry, would carry a greater risk of injury, usually from hand-to-hand fighting in the background. But in eight years, Rouselle has only suffered minor cuts, abrasions and bruising, and the odd pulled muscle. He was known as a 'hard man', he could take punishment, get up, and keep going. Where others were more athletic, he was more resilient.

[13] Rouselle liked any change in work from the normal fights. He particularly liked doing stair falls. For these, the stuntie is padded up and he must just relax and 'go with it', trying not to make it look too controlled, as this shows up on camera and appears contrived.

[14] Peter Bell [the stunt coordinator] is very satisfying to work with, though very hard to please and sets very high standards. This puts the stunties under pressure to do it right, but is rewarding, as they know the standard is so high. "I understand Peter from the perspective that I'm a perfectionist too."

[15] Most fighting in the background is hand-to-hand, for visual and safety reasons. Swords and sword fights are visually limited. They take up a lot of room but are not very conspicuous in the background. Hand-to-hand fighting, or using 'weapons' such as chairs, jugs, rakes and so on, is much more visible, and also far safer in a crowd. If sword-fighting in a crowd, it is all too easy to hit someone on the backswing [Rouselle demonstrates a good backswing] if they stumble into your area. In addition, a crowd fight, even if carefully choreographed, will very quickly become confused, in about three moves. Lord of the Rings was much more demanding in that respect: more stunties, more extras, and more unforgiving costumes and weapons. With everything in much closer proximity, work on Lord of the Rings was much more risky.

[16] Swords are, therefore, usually reserved for the actors in the foreground. The very soft lightweight foam rubber swords are reserved for lead fights when necessary for safety. Stunties fight with the hard rubber or plastic swords. These are as heavy as real steel swords, typically less well balanced and more unwieldy.

[17] The lead actors were very good at not hitting the stunties. Guest actors ranged from very good to very bad in that respect. With guests, the key was not physical ability, but their attitude. Any guests who kept whacking the stunties under the impression it did not matter were annoying and very frustrating to work with. Guests who made an effort, and treated the stunties as people, not punching bags, even if they sometimes hit a stuntie by mistake and apologized, were always enjoyable to work with. Some guests would be very nervous, especially if they hit the stuntie. It was part of the stuntie's job to reassure the actor and rebuild their confidence.

Perhaps if I turn my back on the prisoner and stand right next to the bars...
Xena gets him again in DIRTY HALF DOZEN.
That will teach him not to grin in the background at Darnall's macho talk

Working With the Guest Stars

[18] Good guests that Rouselle particularly singled out were Hudson Leick, Bruce Campbell, and Ted Raimi.

[19] Hudson was very funny, extremely sensitive, artistic, but also down-to-earth. Rouselle was carefully trying to find the right words to convey her personality. She has, in Rouselle's own words, an inner charismatic beauty.

[20] Bruce Campbell, as Autolycus, was another of Rouselle's favorite guest stars. Rouselle just "bounced off Bruce really well." "Bruce just draws you into whatever it is that he's doing."

[21] "Ted Raimi is so cool. Off set, he is hysterically funny, on set he is a talented actor. In SeaQuest DSV, he had a very straight, serious role. Joxer is quite the opposite, dorky but lovable. It's a lot of fun to be on the set with him."

[22] "The best thing about all the big stars [on Hercules and Xena] is that they're so down-to-earth, they always had time to say 'Hi' and be genuine people."

[23] Now that all the series have finished, Rouselle is looking for future acting opportunities. It is a bit scary, and a bit sad, but an opportunity to pursue acting in a much more aggressive fashion. Rouselle views the end with mixed emotions. Eight years is a long time to do the same thing and, as he puts it, his body does not bounce so well now when he throws himself on the ground.


I thought I was going to be in MOULIN ROUGE
About to go to sleep on the job in JACK OF ALL TRADES

Conclusion

[24] Talking to Campbell Rouselle and his colleague, Albert Heimuli, impressed me with the professionalism and enthusiasm they brought to their work. Stunt work is not just the people who catch fire or fall off tall buildings. Any idea I might have entertained that the men and women throwing themselves around in the background were just extras hired for the day, has gone. I have learned to appreciate that the general melee in the background, although often too fast to follow and not consciously noticed as we watch the foreground action, has been carefully arranged to create the right visual effect. Like good lighting, it is 'invisible' but a vital part of the scene.

[25] I wish Campbell Rouselle the very best with his acting career.


Articles

cr@clear.net.nz. Xena's Travels in THE DEBT. WHOOSH #29 (February 1999)

cr@clear.net.nz. A Most Delightful Villain. WHOOSH #32 (May 1999)

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

cr@orcon.net.nz. An Interview With Albert Rounds Heimuli (Stunt Actor). WHOOSH #66 (March 2002)


Biography

cr CR
Editor, Sequence of XWP Episodes
CR is an engineer living in Auckland, New Zealand.

 

 

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