A version of this story about Peewee Piemonte and Julie Michaels first appeared in the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.
It took two stunt coordinators to execute one of the most daring maneuvers this season on the CBS military drama “SEAL Team.” To stage a SPIE RIG, or a “special patrol insertion/extraction,” in which six soldiers were strapped to a SPIE rope dangling from a helicopter and pulled off a mountain ridge, the show needed one coordinator in the air and another on the ground with the guys. Communication between the two would be key to keep things safe.
Thankfully, Julie Michaels and Peewee Piemonte are in perfect sync. That’s because they’ve been married for 25 years and have been working together “hot and heavy” since 1998. But for the first time this year, they’ve been Emmy-nominated jointly for their stunt work on “SEAL Team,” joining this year’s other married nominees, including “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” writer-producer-directors Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino and “Schitt’s Creek” actress Catherine O’Hara and “A Series of Unfortunate Events” production designer Bo Welch.
You may know Michaels as the dangerous blond bombshell from the Patrick Swayze favorites “Road House” and “Point Break,” and Piemonte is a two-time Emmy winner for his work on “Southland.” And while most shows don’t carry two full-time stunt coordinators, Michaels said the 1,000 man-days of stunt work on “SEAL Team” required an extra hand.
“Peewee put his foot down and said this was best for the safety of the show,” Michaels said, who was already on set constantly to keep conditions safe. “We really need her full time, and you can see why.”
Having a married couple working together meant a clear line of communication for their team of stuntmen, many of them actual military veterans.
“These guys, they move a certain way, there’s just a swagger, an attitude, that the best stunt guy can try to replicate, but there’s just something missing,” Piemonte said. “It forced our actors to step up their game.”
“Their training really translates to what works on set, their ethics, their understanding of chain of command and their deep training. I can tell you my stunt guys all lifted their game as well, because when there’s real good ethics on set, things are safe,” Michaels said. “When they look at me, they say, ‘Yes ma’am’ and do it. They understand chain of command even though I’m 5-foot-3 and they’re 6-foot-6. They don’t waver, and it makes a big difference.”
While the military guys have been down this road before, they’re still working in dangerous conditions with an eye toward realism without the aid of CGI. And it’s meant that Michaels and Piemonte need to go above and beyond to create a safe working environment.
“We tell them in an email before they perform, we say, ‘It’s not only your right, it’s your responsibility to speak up for safety. The times have changed. There’s no more of this, ‘I’m just scared to say something, I might get fired,'” Michaels said. “When everyone has a say in their universe, the universe works. It works perfectly. So Peewee and I together are really proponents of no suppression on set and giving our stunt performers and actors the right to speak up.”
The two say their collaboration has been crucial to keeping the production safe as well as moving efficiently. “We could tag-team,” Piemonte said. “While I was doing one thing, Julie was doing the other thing. It enabled us to cover all our bases and double check the other without ever feeling pressured.”
Michaels added, “Because Peewee and I finish each other’s sentences, we’re always on the same line. People aren’t getting mixed messages. The key to safety is strong communication. Those guys know exactly what they’re going to do because they get it exactly the same from both of us.”
Read more from the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.