ABC’s ‘Highwire Live': Why Nik Wallenda Is Totally Cool With Wearing a Safety Harness This Time

Tightrope walker famously hated having to strap in for 2012’s Niagara Falls stunt

Last Updated: June 23, 2019 @ 1:40 PM

Nik Wallenda doesn’t want to die during ABC special “Highwire Live,” but that’s not actually why he is okay with wearing a harness — this time.

On Sunday, Wallenda and his sister Lijana will walk a 1,300 foot-long tightrope, 25-stories atop New York City’s Times Square. They’ll meet around the middle and pass each other going in opposite directions (she’ll sit down and he’ll step over her, Nik Wallenda told TheWrap).

The wire (pictured above, with Nik) is just 3/4” in diameter, about the size of a quarter. If all goes well, they’ll both be safely on a solid surface in about “20-30 minutes,” he said.

For this stunt, Nik and Lijana Wallenda will both be wearing safety harnesses, something Nik normally detests. He famously became very frustrated by having to wear a harness for his 2012 highwire walk over Niagara Falls, which also aired on ABC. The face of the seventh generation Flying Wallendas is happy(-ish) to have the safety gear this time.

“In this situation especially, with my sister involved, I do feel like it’s very important,” he told us. “With everything that she’s gone through, and that near-fatal accident that she went through a couple years ago that we were all involved in, I just think it’s important.”

“To be honest, I don’t think that I would allow her to do this — not that I control her, but I just wouldn’t be comfortable,” he continued. “And I feel like I would be foolish at that point. So, for this one it was a little easier to comply than normal, though it is not my favorite situation, it’s not the ideal situation.”

That “near-fatal accident” Nik is referring to here occurred in 2017, when Lijana was one of five performers who fell off a tightrope while attempting an eight-person pyramid stunt during a Circus Sarasota rehearsal. Lijana was severely injured in the 30-foot fall and has been recovering ever since. “Highwire Live in Times Square” marks her first tightrope performance since the accident.

So there’s that to consider, plus, New York City has “stringent regulations” when it comes to the safety aspect of such stunts, he told us.

But even having this precaution in place doesn’t exactly calm the few nerves Nik still feels for these things, as several of the famous Flying Wallendas have died during performances — some wearing safety devices, some not.

Therefore, Nik said, it’s “ingrained” in the family to not even “trust” the harness, let alone use it as a crutch.

“It does nothing for us mentally … but it does ease the concerns of others,” he said. Nik was presumably talking about you, Disney-ABC lawyers.

“You can never make everybody happy, so I’m either an idiot for walking a wire without one or I shouldn’t be wearing one,” he told TheWrap. We’re not about to call you a coward for attaching a carabiner, Nik.

“Highwire Live in Times Square With Nik Wallenda” starts Sunday at 8/7c on ABC. The live special is set to end at 10 p.m. ET.

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