On-Set Injuries That Made It Into The Shows

On-Set Injuries That Made It Into The Shows


It might seem like it's a great deal safer to make television shows than to make movies. For the most part, that is true — more so than film, most TV shows are produced on small sets, have fewer stunts, and perhaps most importantly, need to make sure all of the actors are able to come back day after day for months at a time. Still, it's not only in the course of making big screen productions that injuries have occurred that ended up on screen. Television has a number of examples of that exact same thing.

It's easy to assume that all of the injuries below come from big budget, action-packed shows full of elaborate set pieces and dangerous stunts. But while that is true of a number of them, there are also some where an otherwise low-stakes category of television like a sitcom or a sketch comedy show saw an actor hurt themselves on screen. 

The uniting factor of all of these injuries is that they not only happened while a show was being filmed, but that the exact take in which the injury occurred is the one that was used in the final version of the episode that aired or streamed. In a few cases, the injury was so severe that future storylines had to be altered to explain why a character was suddenly bruised or bandaged up in subsequent episodes. Let's take a look at on-set injuries that made it into the TV shows themselves.


Marina Sirtis — Star Trek: The Next Generation

On-Set Injuries That Made It Into The Shows


One thing that used to set "Star Trek" apart from many of its sci-fi peers is that there was often very little in the way of action. This is especially true of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," which simply didn't have the budget for the kind of pulse-pounding fist fights and shootouts seen in more recent "Star Trek" series like "Picard" and "Discovery." That's not to say that the actors on "TNG" never had to throw a punch or take a tumble — which is something that Marina Sirtis can attest to. 

As the empathic Counselor Deanna Troi, Sirtis hardly ever got involved in the infrequent action moments on "TNG," and was also seldom seen off the Enterprise at all. But in a rare exception to both of those rules, Counselor Troi not only found herself as part of an away team for the Season 5 episode "Power Play," but also being knocked to the ground by a powerful blast of air. Sirtis decided to forgo a stunt double for the scene and filmed the shot herself, flinging herself onto the ground flat on her back. As a result, the actor broke her tailbone and was unable to walk for weeks. The real kicker, according to Sirtis, was that the moment ended up being shot from so far away that it was impossible to even tell it was her doing the stunt anyway.


Matt LeBlanc — Friends

On-Set Injuries That Made It Into The Shows


Surely a multi-camera sitcom that takes place almost entirely in either an apartment or a coffee shop is going to be a pretty low-risk job for an actor. Well, tell that to Matt LeBlanc, who managed to dislocate his shoulder while filming "Friends." For what it's worth, the injury at least occurred while making one of the best "Friends" episodes, "The One Where No One's Ready." 

Joey (LeBlanc) and Chandler (Matthew Perry) spend much of the episode fighting over a chair like a couple of children. At one point, Joey leaps across the room and lands on the chair before Chandler can get to it. LeBlanc probably thought there was no danger in jumping onto a soft comfy chair — and in fact, he already done so for three takes without incident. But on the fourth attempt, the one that was used in the finished episode, LeBlanc got tripped up on the coffee table and landed wrong on the chair. Filming had to be halted so LeBlanc could be rushed to the hospital. 

The show must go on, however, and LeBlanc had to be in a sling for the next episode. A line was added at the beginning of the episode explaining that Joey was jumping on his bed and fell off — thus the sling. Audiences thought nothing of it, because it was an entirely believable incident for Joey to suffer. 


Aaron Paul — Breaking Bad

On-Set Injuries That Made It Into The Shows


Those that watched "Breaking Bad" from the beginning as it aired on AMC would probably never have predicted the places it would go. The first few episodes were heavy on tender family moments and even slapstick comedy — two things which the show couldn't have gotten further away from by the end of Season 1. At times, it made a case for itself being the darkest show on television. And Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz) was one of the most unhinged and terrifying characters that had been seen on a screen of any size in years.

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Some of the scariest moments on "Breaking Bad" came whenever Tuco was leading the scene, including the Season 2 standoff between him, Walt (Bryan Cranston), and Jesse (Aaron Paul) in a rundown desert shack. Things eventually escalate to brutal violence as Tuco throws Jesse through a screen door, and the collision looks nasty. As it turns out, it was indeed as nasty as it looked for not only Jesse but Aaron Paul — the actor suffered a bizarre injury on the set that resulted in a concussion after he got tangled up in the door frame as he crashed through it. Cruz thought Paul was just doing a great job selling the fall and proceeded to manhandle him, thinking that Paul's cries for Cruz to stop were still in character as Jesse. Paul eventually blacked out — and woke up to a medic shining a flashlight in his eyes.


Bella Ramsey — The Last of Us

On-Set Injuries That Made It Into The Shows


Based on the acclaimed video game series of the same name, the viewership record-destroying HBO hit "The Last of Us" pulls very few punches in its unflinching look at people trying to survive a brutal post-apocalyptic world. It's definitely one of the best video game adaptations of all time, thanks in no small part to the incredible performances of a flawlessly chosen cast. But stealing almost every scene they're in is Bella Ramsey, who brings tragic young Ellie from the game to life so effectively that it's hard not to assume the character was originally based on them to begin with.

While much of the show involves Joel (Pedro Pascal) protecting Ellie, he isn't always able to completely keep her out of harm's way. And, unfortunately for Ramsey, they weren't able to entirely avoid danger themselves in filming the show. Ramsey told IGN that not only did they get plenty of bruises during the production of Season 1, but there was also a moment where they were accidentally hit in the eye by a flailing clicker's arm as the creature was dying. The result was a black eye that Ramsey said they were proud of. 


Andrew Sachs — Fawlty Towers

On-Set Injuries That Made It Into The Shows


The first member of comedy troupe Monty Python to have a successful TV show after "Monty Python's Flying Circus" was John Cleese. That show was "Fawlty Towers," which saw Cleese take his quick wit and manic energy to absurdly brilliant heights as frazzled hotel owner Basil Fawlty. While it was largely a showcase for Cleese, it was still very much an ensemble piece that saw plenty of comedic heavy lifting from his co-stars — including character actor Andrew Sachs as waiter Manuel.

Putting aside the poorly-aged fact that Sachs was a Caucasian actor playing a Spaniard who spoke with broken English and an over-the-top accent, Sachs proved to be an incredibly gifted performer who was often the funniest part of any scene he was in. Sachs truly gave his all to the role — so much so that he was seriously injured several times while filming the series. In one example, a prop mix-up led to Cleese hitting Sachs in the head with a metal frying pan rather than the rubber one used during rehearsal, leaving Sachs temporarily unable to get back up off the floor.

But the more notorious example saw Sachs suffer severe burns to his arm while filming a scene where Manuel accidentally starts a fire in the kitchen. It would take several years for the scars to fade. And, yes, both of those moments were used in the final cuts of their respective episodes. 


KJ Apa — Riverdale

On-Set Injuries That Made It Into The Shows


Taking the long-running "Archie" comics and reimagining them as an edgy teen drama was a risky move, and sounds like a recipe for disaster on paper. Yet the CW's "Riverdale" was a hit with critics and audiences alike than ran for seven seasons and even spawned two spin-offs — "The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" and "Katy Keane." Most of the characters were drastically reinvented for the series, including a much tougher version of Archie that had gone into the army and became a sergeant. 

Actor KJ Apa took that toughness seriously, up to and including throwing a punch so hard that he broke his hand. But don't worry, it wasn't one of his co-stars or even a stunt performer that was on the receiving end of Apa's fist. Rather, the injury occurred during a scene where Archie is trying to rescue Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) after she falls through some ice into the Sweetwater River. Although a foam mat had been laid down over the top of the ice for Apa to punch so he wouldn't hurt himself, he got a little too Method in the moment and punched the mat so hard that he still managed to break his hand. Even worse is that, due to the cold, he didn't even know his hand was broken until 20 minutes later when he started to warm back up again.


Danny DeVito — It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

On-Set Injuries That Made It Into The Shows


Cable sitcoms don't have the best track record, with even the most successful tending to only last a handful of seasons at most. And then there's "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," which eventually made history – after debuting on FX in 2005 — as the longest-running live-action sitcom of all time, cable or otherwise. As of now, it's been renewed through at least Season 18, ensuring that its record will be a difficult one to beat.

One of the aspects of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" that helped attract viewers in the early years was the involvement of Danny DeVito, joining the ensemble in Season 2 and being a main cast member ever since. It's clearly a project DeVito enjoys working on, even though the show almost cost him his life. 

In an appearance on "Conan," co-star Charlie Day revealed that DeVito nearly drowned while filming a Season 11 episode. In a scene where everyone had to be underwater together, DeVito needed weights to keep him submerged. When he came up for air, he seemed to stall halfway up, and needed to be rescued by safety divers. But they got the shot they needed — and DeVito decided to call it a day after his near-death experience. 


Mariska Hargitay — Law and Order: SVU

On-Set Injuries That Made It Into The Shows


It's not often that a spin-off becomes the new de facto "main" series in a franchise, but that's arguably what has happened with "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit." It continued even after the original "Law and Order" series ended — though it has since been revived — and "SVU" has it beat by two seasons in terms of length. "SVU" has also been better at retaining its core cast members than "Law and Order" ever was, with Mariska Hargitay holding an oddly specific record in television history for the length of time she's been playing Detective Olivia Benson. 

Hargitay's work on the show has brought her eight Primetime Emmy nominations and one win for outstanding lead actress in a drama series. It's also brought her serious injury. Arguably the worst was when she landed too hard after tackling a stunt person in 2008, resulting in a 50% collapse of her right lung. It's unknown exactly which episode the tackle can be seen in, and it's not the easiest thing to narrow down, as Detective Benson has been in physical altercations numerous times throughout the show's run. 

Remarkably, Hargitay initially only thought that the injury was minor and that the wind had just been knocked out of her. It wasn't until she went to the hospital three months later, due to severe chest pains, that the extent of her injury was revealed.


Malibu (Deron McBee) — American Gladiators

On-Set Injuries That Made It Into The Shows


It won't come as a huge shock that there were a lot of injuries during the run of "American Gladiators," both among the titular gladiators as well as the contestants. And of course, most of them happened right there on screen for the viewing audience to witness. But there is one particular incident that stands above the rest, especially because it exposed the deficiencies in the show's safety guidelines.

In fact, it happened on the very first day that Deron McBee — who performed under the gladiator stage name Malibu — appeared on the show. The production was flying by the seat of its pants and the safety of the performers didn't seem too highly prioritized in those early episodes, and McBee was competing in an event called "Human Cannonball." In it, a contestant swings through the air and uses the full force of their entire body to try and knock the gladiator off a platform. With only a football blocking pad for protection — not something designed to have much of an effect against a person swinging through the air at you feet-first — the contestant slammed into McBee and sent him flying off the platform to land head first on the padding below. 

McBee not only sustained a concussion, but needed surgery to realign his forehead as the result of the fall. He did not return to "American Gladiators" for Season 2.


Stephen Amell — Arrow

On-Set Injuries That Made It Into The Shows


Some of the most brutal fisticuffs on television over the last decade or so have been on various superhero shows. This is especially true for those street-level heroes who have to mostly rely on their own raw fighting prowess to save the day, as it were, and that includes Oliver Queen of the CW's "Arrow." Played by Stephen Amell, the character might have impressive archery skills, but that doesn't mean much when he finds himself in close quarters and the punches and kicks are flying.

One of those kicks ended up connecting directly with Amell's face during the filming of a Season 5 fight scene, with the actor nearly breaking his nose. If you believe in karma, you might be interested to know that Amell himself was on the giving end of not one but two broken noses over the course of the show's run. In both cases, they were stunt performers that Amell's stage punches accidentally connected with. For what it's worth, he said he always apologized by buying the injured stunt person a six-pack of beer or some whiskey as compensation for what he did to them. 


Kit Harington — Game of Thrones

On-Set Injuries That Made It Into The Shows


Just because the cast of "Game of Thrones" didn't ever ride on real, flying dragons doesn't mean that they weren't risking injury to film those scenes. Kit Harington, who played Jon Snow for all eight seasons of the HBO fantasy drama series, knows this better than anyone. He recounted a story about sitting on a mechanical dragon in front of a green screen that resulted in the kind of injury that will have you wincing as you hear about it.

As the mechanical dragon bucked around, one of Harington's testicles got caught between two pieces of the machine. Ever the professional — and probably wanting to get it over with and never have to sit on that thing again — Harington braved through the pain and finished filming what needed to be filmed. While Harington doesn't go into much detail on the extent of the injury, other than to say that his testicle was trapped, the Daily Mail described it as "very gory." 

If you watch the show again and see a moment where Jon Snow is riding a dragon, the dragon does a flip, and Jon seems to be especially terrified in that moment — that's probably not terror you are seeing on his face, but blinding pain of the most personal kind. 


Chris Kattan — Saturday Night Live

On-Set Injuries That Made It Into The Shows


One of the reasons that "Saturday Night Live" is so much fun to watch is that anything can happen. With the exception of the pre-taped segments, there are no do-overs for the live sketches. Whatever happens, the performers just have to go with it — up to and including sustaining a serious and potentially life-threatening injury, apparently.

In former "SNL" cast member Chris Kattan's defense, he didn't initially know how badly he had hurt himself when he fell backwards in a chair and hit his head on the floor while filming a "Golden Girls" parody sketch in 2001. And obviously, neither did any of the other cast or crew. It wasn't until the weeks went by after the episode and the pain gradually increased that Kattan started to worry that something wasn't right. It turns out that he came dangerously close to being paralyzed, and he struggled for years with addiction as a result of the pain of the injury and subsequent surgeries. In a 2019 interview, Kattan said he still deals with the effects of the injury, including an inability to fully open his hands. 


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