TESTS OF FAITH
TV’S TODD SAMPSON ON THE STUNTS THAT REALLY SCARED HIM
Redesign my Brain, Body Hack and now your latest show Life on the Line – what is it about danger and pain that draws you? It’s not that I’m attracted to danger and pain, I’m just a really inquisitive person that likes to explore the natural world, science and concept of human potential. I don’t see danger as a stop sign, I see it as something to keep in mind while you’re doing it. In many ways, Redesign My Brain, Bodyhack and Life on the Line are a trilogy that combine two of my loves – science and adventure.
During filming, was there a real risk of death? How controlled was the environment? Were there people used as test dummies beforehand? Give us the gritty details.
There were no stunt doubles involved as I didn’t want someone else to take the risk before me on my behalf. We did have a dummy, I called him Bob. Bob was designed with my dimensions and got really smashed up in some of the pre-tests. We tried to control the environment as much as possible but there was always room for human error, mechanical error and nature to have its way.
Which experiment was your favourite to do?
My favourite was the underwater gunshot, because I had never stood in front of a loaded AK-47 before. I was robbed once at gun point in Mexico, but that was different – that gun was smaller. There was tension and doubt on set the entire time. When the gun went off, because of the shockwaves in the water and my body’s reaction, for a moment everyone thought I was shot. It was the strangest feeling. It was just bizarre to put a gun in a pool and stand at point blank range. Once in a lifetime, hopefully.
Which experiment scared you the most, or did you have the most doubt about performing?
The balloon flight was the scariest. The first real test was the actual flight, we had a very small window of opportunity and when I got up 120m I couldn’t help but think if something goes wrong falling from that height wouldn’t be good and there was nothing I could do about it once I was up there. Even Jeff my director went through some serious doubts the night before. It looks so easy and almost childlike but it really was potentially deadly. Life on the Line premieres March 21 at 7pm on ABC.
Who dares wins: Todd Sampson combines science and adventure in his high-risk experiments.