Spotlight: Declan Mulvey
As they gear up for the premiere of their 5th season, FBI: Most Wanted is up for two Emmy awards for its outstanding stunts. None of the show’s adrenaline-fueled action would be possible without Stunt Coordinator Declan Mulvey, the mastermind behind all daring stunts big and small, from slaps to the face to flipped vehicles. We talked with Declan about how he found himself on this career path, how he plans and executes the heart-pumping stunts you see on the show, and the stunts he’ll never forget working on.
Q: How did you become interested in this field, and how did you pursue becoming a stunt coordinator?
A: I grew up watching Schwarzenegger and Stallone, and would re-enact the scenes from their movies with my toys. As I got older I started training in martial arts, and in high school my friends and I would shoot action movies on a VHS-C camcorder. I majored in Film Production and Cinema Studies at New York University — all of my projects were action driven, and I helped my classmates out whenever they had stunts in theirs. I was fortunate enough to have one of my teachers introduce me to a stunt coordinator, Tim Gallin, and that opened the door to my first professional stunt job on a soap opera. After graduating I moved to Los Angeles with my wife Nitasha Bhambree, who is my co-stunt coordinator on FBI: Most Wanted, but stunt performing brought us back to New York.
Q: What does a typical day on set look like for you?
A: I’m always prepping the next episode while I am shooting the current one, so set work is only half my job. When I arrive on set I’ll check in with the assistant director and the director and take my cues on the day’s timing priorities from them. If there is an action scene up first, we may start talking through the blocking of that immediately. If it’s a bigger stunt, I’ll touch base with special effects, props, the art department, and my own stunt performers to make sure they have what they need and are all on the same page about what is happening and when. The director, director of photography, assistant director and I all collaborate on putting together shots and dialing in the elements involved to safely get the best results in the shortest time possible.
I oversee all of the stunts, which can range from someone getting slapped in the face to a car crash. Smaller stunts like a slap can be challenging because I have to integrate the actors into the action, as it can be hard to cheat in stunt doubles. My job is to make it safe, comfortable, and repeatable with people who may not be used to doing stunt work. On the other hand, we have car chases and crashes, which I often direct on a second unit. I’m heavily involved in pulling these additional filming days together with a smaller crew and additional locations, conveying critical story beats, and finding edit points to dovetail with what the main unit is filming. It can be a lot to juggle, but it’s very rewarding when it all comes together.
Q: Do you have a favorite stunt that you’ve executed on the show?
A: In “Black Mirror” in Season 4, we have a car chase that ends with the villain running off the road and flipping his van. That stunt, driven by Chad Hessler, is nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Stunt Performance. In that same episode we did a fight scene in a basement that is very down and dirty. Edwin Hodge, who plays Special Agent Ray Cannon, performed that entire fight himself, so that was a big accomplishment as well.
Q: Do you have a favorite on-set moment or story you can share?
A: I think it would be the first big stunt we did. “Processed” in Season 4 culminates with the perpetrator stealing an ambulance while our heroes are trapped in the back. The ambulance eventually loses control and turns over. We were initially only going to show this from inside the ambulance filmed on a soundstage, but I boldly proposed we flip the ambulance for real. Everyone supported the idea, and the crew, especially Eric Jolley and his special effects department, burned the midnight oil to prepare the stunt. It turned out spectacular. I think that was the beginning of our collective efforts to pay off the action moments in the show in real and impactful ways.
Q: Congratulations on your Emmy nomination for Outstanding Stunt Coordination For A Drama Series! How does it feel to be nominated?
A: Truly unexpected but very exciting. It’s easy to get so caught up in the work that you sort of forget the outside world exists, so when recognition like this comes it’s humbling. It’s really a testament to the incredible group of people we have on the show in front of and behind the camera, including the amazing stunt performers we have here in New York.
Q: What is your favorite episode of FBI: Most Wanted?
A: “Processed” and “Black Mirror” for the aforementioned reasons, but also “Double Fault” in Season 4. Half of the episode was a car chase, and I got to work very closely with our fantastic Producing Director Ken Girotti to pull that together. I’m also very fond of “These Walls” in Season 4 — it’s a prison riot episode and it’s a blast. I love when the show goes hard!
See Declan’s work in action when you stream FBI: Most Wanted on Peacock.