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TV Shows That Caused Serious Damage To Actors' Bodies

From the outside, it might appear as though actors live charmed lives, though some projects are far from walks in the park. Every aspect of filming a movie or television production must be executed perfectly for it to meet the ever-higher expectations of Hollywood. This usually entails shooting multiple takes of the same scene and occasionally necessitates introducing more risk in the name of realism. Despite great advances in stunt technology and the prevalence of CGI, it's not unheard of for actors to pick up bumps and bruises on set, especially when the movie or show involves a lot of action. If they're lucky, they'll be able to shake it off and get back to work the next day, but that's not always the case. From time to time, actors get injured so badly that their bodies take serious damage.

SAG-AFTRA, the union that represents actors, takes such incidents very seriously and is constantly looking for new ways to guarantee that sets are safe places to work. Despite enormous progress, there will always be new lessons to be learned. Sadly, these lessons are frequently discovered after individuals have been harmed. Here are some examples of TV shows that severely damaged actors' bodies on set.

Kristin Chenoweth fractured her skull on The Good Wife

"The Good Wife" is a courtroom drama that debuted in 2009. The show's creators, Michelle and Robert King, were inspired after seeing many cases of wives standing by their disgraced politician husbands on the news after they confessed to an affair. The series also served as Julianna Margulies' long-awaited comeback to television. These elements proved to be a recipe for success, with the CBS show garnering outstanding ratings and critical acclaim.

It's surprising that a courtroom drama made the cut for a list like this. Nevertheless, stunts aren't the only thing that may go wrong on set. Kristin Chenoweth was on the set of "The Good Wife" for an outdoor sequence when a piece of lighting production equipment fell on her head. She told Andy Cohen on his talk show "Watch What Happens Live" about the terrifying event, saying that she was "practically killed."

Chenoweth revealed in the interview that she fell unconscious instantly and woke up in a hospital bed. The horrific accident left her with a 7-inch skull fracture and broken teeth, among other injuries. The actor's doctor told her that if it hadn't been for her hair extensions, she would have died that day, since they held the hairline fracture on her head together. She told Cohen that she has "long standing injuries" as a result of the event and regrets not suing CBS over it. "I didn't do it out of fear and anxiety," she explained.

John Cho suffered a bad knee injury making Cowboy Bebop

Netflix had its work cut out for it when adapting "Cowboy Bebop," one of the best anime shows of all time. The beloved sci-fi series has a dedicated cult following, so getting the right cast was always going to be vital. John Cho was cast as protagonist Spike Spiegel, which some fans found odd given the age difference between the character and the actor — Spike is 27 in the source material, and Cho was approaching his 50th birthday. Cho hurt his knee during the filming of the highly anticipated show, tearing his ACL. The ACL tissue is the muscle that links the thigh bone to the shin and is commonly torn in athletes.

Cho's recuperation from his ACL injury took a toll on him not only physically but also mentally. In a promotional interview for the series, he told Vulture that he was concerned about his extended time off and was motivated to make his performance compensate for the long gap he caused in the show's production. "I felt very guilty that I had let the production down, and my cast, and the crew in New Zealand that had had a job, and then they didn't the next day."

Alan Ritchson tore an oblique muscle on Reacher

Fans are usually ecstatic when a novel is adapted for television rather than film, because there's more time to go deeper into the story and do it justice. For those who are unfamiliar, "Jack Reacher" is a book series written by Lee Child that follows the character as he travels throughout America solving crimes in tiny towns, utilizing the abilities he developed in the U.S. Army's military police. Reacher was famously played by Tom Cruise on the big screen, but he's portrayed by Alan Ritchson in Amazon Prime's "Reacher."

Ritchson was already accustomed to on-screen fighting before he won the role, but the show's supervising stunt coordinator Buster Reeves has a very "specific" style, the actor revealed during a press junket. This meant learning a new way of fighting, and there was quite the learning curve. "Once we stripped my style down to the basics and rebuilt, then it was just months of training, and that's going to take its toll on the body," he said (via Metro). "There was a fight where I was elbowing the hell out of somebody and I tore an oblique, and that's a difficult one to... you can't breathe, you can't sit, stand, there's just no position to be in where it doesn't get you, but we fought through."

Ronda Rousey almost lost a finger in 9-1-1

It's always a daunting task for television executives to develop a police procedural that stands out from the crowd. The method "9-1-1" adopted was depending on the sheer star power of actors like Angela Bassett and Peter Krause while bringing in talented guest stars to support them. UFC and WWE star Ronda Rousey was one such guest. However, Rousey's guest appearance did not go as planned — she sustained a gruesome injury while filming. Rousey described the event in a social media post, revealing that on the very first take on a specific day, her finger was crushed by a boat door and nearly severed.

"I thought I just jammed my fingers so I finished the take before looking (I know it sounds crazy, but I'm used to live audiences and never showing pain unless I'm supposed to) after a break in the action I told our director the situation and was rushed via ambulance to the hospital where they promptly reattached my bone and tendon with a plate and screws," Rousey said (via Entertainment Tonight). "I returned to filming the next day and finished my scenes before returning home to recover." She went on to praise the medical team that worked on her finger, revealing that 50% of normal motion had returned within three days of her surgery.

Dominic Purcell split his head open during a Prison Break scene

"Prison Break" debuted in 2005 and quickly became a cultural phenomenon. The drama morphed into a sort of travel show with the main characters being pulled into an ever-growing government conspiracy that forces them into different prisons all over the world. In Season 5, a conspiracy leads the gang to Yemen. During the shooting of an action scene, an iron bar fell from 20 feet and struck Dominic Purcell on the head, leaving him seriously injured. "I dropped to my knees, and I was in shock," he told Deadline. "I'm just leaning over and the blood is just pouring out like a shower, and my stunt guy came up beside me, and I looked at him and said, 'Dude, what the f***'s going on? What happened?' And he said, 'Your head's split right open, I can see your skull, your nose is on the other side of your face.'"

Because they were shooting in a remote part of Morocco, the kind of medical assistance he needed wasn't immediately available. When the doctors at the local clinic he was taken to started arguing amongst themselves, he walked out. His girlfriend then "took control" of the situation, Purcell explained. "[She] poured alcohol on my head, and wrapped me up in gauze, and then Fox got a helicopter and they flew me out from Ouarzazate to Casablanca." He was taken to a renowned plastic surgeon in Casablanca, who was able to fix him up. The actor was lucky to escape the ordeal with his life, but he still has visible scars on his scalp to this day.

Mariska Hargitay's lung collapsed after a Law & Order: SVU stunt

Mariska Hargitay has starred as Olivia Benson in over 500 episodes of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" to date. Not every episode has been a joy to film for Hargitay, but one led to a very serious injury. "I was doing a stunt chasing a bad guy," she recalled during an interview with Redbook. "I jumped and landed on pads, but on the second take something happened — I just landed wrong. I got up and felt that something inside was not quite right."

The actor shrugged it off as a muscle injury, and she seemed to get better. However, three months later, she was walking on the beach when she suddenly experienced an intense, stabbing pain in her chest and was unable to catch her breath. "They took an X-ray and found that my right lung was 50% collapsed," she said. "I began to panic. I was so scared. I had a procedure hoping to stave off more serious surgery, but it didn't work, and I ended up in surgery about two weeks later."

Hargitay was told that the repaired lung was now healthier than the other one and that there was about a one in 1,000 chance that it would collapse again. It turned out she was that one in 1,000, because it happened again. However, she isn't bitter about it. "I get to be the one in 1,000 in so many positive ways, it balances out," she said. "I have so many blessings, and I've learned from all of my experiences and my losses."

Stephen Amell suffered a compression fracture on Heels

As Stephen Amell's tenure on "Arrow" ended, fans hoped that his next project would capitalize on his abilities as a physical actor with considerable dramatic chops. When the trailer for "Heels" was released, it promised to do just that in an inventive way. The show is about a wrestler in a small town attempting to build a wrestling dynasty. The nature of the show meant that Amell would have to do a lot of physical stuff, putting himself in potential danger. It wasn't long before he picked up a nasty injury.

"I overshot it coast to coast on our first day of filming wrestling stuff and suffered a compression fracture," he told ABC. "I'm very fortunate and lucky that it was an injury that sounds scary, but didn't require surgery. [It] just sort of healed on its own." It was a terrifying moment not just for him, but for everyone involved in the production. "I certainly scared a lot of people," the actor said. Amell developed a huge respect for professional wrestlers while making the show. He went on to say that he has no intention of swapping his comfortable life as an actor for the grind of the pro-wrestling circuit anytime soon.

Johnny Knoxville has to see doctors regularly because of Jackass

"Jackass" was once the most contentious show on television. The show's concept stems back to the 1990s when Johnny Knoxville was trying to break into Hollywood. He couldn't find acting work so he turned to journalism — he intended to put together an article about himself testing self-defense equipment. When Jeff Tremaine, the editor of a skateboard magazine, heard about the idea, he asked if he could film it. Knoxville was introduced to a bunch of like-minded skaters and "Jackass" was born. The MTV show went on to be a massive success. But, with a concept like that, serious injuries are inevitable.

"I have so many doctors in my phone," Knoxville told Entertainment Weekly ahead of the release of "Jackass Forever," the fourth film in the series. "I have to go for a tune up with one doctor or another at least once a month now." The actor and stuntman sustained so many injuries during his "Jackass" days that it's a wonder he's still walking. From herniated discs and torn tendons to serious concussions (he can't remember how many, but he thinks it's around 17), he's been through it all. "Sometimes after a concussion you get a little down," he admitted. "But it kind of works itself out. I feel like I'm very strong physically and mentally. I'm very lucky — it doesn't always work out like this for a man who's had the amount of injuries that I've had."

Ozzy Osbourne fractured his collarbone while filming The Osbournes

Ozzy Osbourne first gained notoriety in the 1970s as the lead singer of the British rock band Black Sabbath. Osbourne's fame went beyond the band as his antics made him notorious in the tabloids. In the early 2000s, MTV capitalized on Osbourne's celebrity by greenlighting a show about him and his family, kickstarting the reality TV boom. "The Osbournes" didn't shy away from revealing big life events, such as Sharon's cancer battle. One such significant event was the quad bike accident that injured Ozzy. "It was just a terrible, terrible accident," he told ABC.

Osbourne was riding his quad bike on the grounds of the family's estate in England when he hit some uneven ground and was thrown from the vehicle. "As the bike's tumbling and he's tumbling, he actually somehow gets entangled in the bike, and he's rolling with the bike," Osbourne's bodyguard Sam Ruston told ABC. "I turned him over and I put my head on his chest, and I hear no breath, no heartbeat, nothing." Ruston performed mouth-to-mouth on Osbourne when an MTV camera operator called for help and the rocker was transported to hospital when he came around.

Doctors found that one of Osbourne's lungs was partially collapsed and a number of bones were damaged: Eight of his ribs, some of his vertebrae, and his left collarbone were all fractured. In 2019, he revealed that he was still feeling the after effects of the accident. "For the last 10 years, I've been getting electric shocks down my arm," he said in a SiriusXM interview (via Blabbermouth).

Richard Hammond was put in a coma after a Top Gear accident

The original "Top Gear" was a by-the-book analysis of vehicles that concentrated on performance but provided little entertainment value. When the show was brought back in 2002, the idea was to make it fun. The updated show incorporated celebrity guests, timed laps, irreverent comedy, and, most crucially, car-related stunts. After eight seasons, "Top Gear" had become an obligatory stop for movie stars promoting their films in the U.K., and the antics of the three hosts had made them endearing to viewers. However, in the very first episode of the 9th season, one of the show's hosts, Richard Hammond, hopped into a jet-propelled drag racing car and drove at speeds of almost 320mph before crashing, forcing doctors to place him in a medically induced coma.

Fortunately for Hammond (who is also known for his voice acting work), the doctors did an excellent job, and he was back on TV three months later. He was welcomed as a hero and made numerous assertions that he was fully healthy, but as time passed, he began to concede that the aftereffects were scarier than he let on. "I have to consciously write memories down and work hard to recall them sometimes," he said during an interview on "The Diary Of A CEO," a popular podcast (via the BBC). "It might be because I'm 53, it might be because I'm working a lot and I'm tired, it might be the onset of something else." Hammond admitted that he "probably needs an MRI scan" but was "too scared" about what doctors might tell him.

Jonathan Goodwin was paralyzed rehearsing for America's Got Talent: Extreme

Simon Cowell's standing in pop culture at this point in history is more related to his reputation as a caustic judge on numerous talent programs than to his actual day job as a record label head. Few fans are aware that, before becoming the man known for verbally destroying contestants that underwhelmed him, he was a contestant on the obscure talent show "Sale of the Century." His fondness for the format, along with his notion that controversy garners attention, inspired him to create the "Got Talent" franchise, which has spawned over a hundred spin-offs, according to Cowell.

"America's Got Talent: Extreme" was one such spin-off, which regrettably ended after only four episodes. The concept was the same as in previous incarnations, with a combination of the judges, host, and viewers voting for their favorite contestant. The only difference was that this version contained daredevil stunts. A horrific accident on the set resulted in the show being suspended indefinitely in 2021 and Cowell pulled the plug soon after.

Jonathan Goodwin, an experienced British stunt performer, had been in several U.K. television shows, including his own, "The Amazing Mr. Goodwin," before competing on "America's Got Talent: Extreme." He was crushed between two automobiles after his stunt on "America's Got Talent: Extreme" went horribly wrong. As a result, Goodwin was paralyzed from the waist down. "I wouldn't wish it on anybody but I think that with all the physical challenges I've had in my life I'm uniquely adapted to dealing with it," he said during an appearance on Loose Women (via the Daily Mail).