On a show like 1923, where the cast famously had to attend “cowboy camp” to gain frontier skills ahead of starting production, we weren’t surprised to learn that Brandon Sklenar did his own stunts for Episode 6’s shipwreck scenes.
However, we never pictured the training for those scenes taking place in a community pool more commonly frequented by early morning lap swimmers, toddlers learning how to float and Aquacizers. (Sklenar will explain in a moment.)
If you need a quick refresher of the soggy episode: Spencer (Sklenar) and girlfriend Alexandra (played by Julia Schlaepfer) were aboard a tugboat when it collided with a ghost ship and wound up capsizing. Lucky for them, she was caught in an air pocket when the craft turned over; Spencer, who’d surfaced on his own, was able to rescue her and then dive back into the vessel to grab some supplies. Sharks circled as the pair hoped for rescue, which eventually came in the form of a passing ship. (Read a full recap here and make sure to hear Sklenar’s thoughts on the episode — and what to expect from Spencer in Season 2 — here.)
When we spoke with Sklenar about Sunday’s Season 1 finale, we obviously also wanted all the details about Spencer’s bobbing bit of bravado earlier in the season. To our great amusement, he delivered.
TVLINE | I have not talked to you since you guys shot the shipwreck scene. That was you doing a lot of that, right?
All that, it’s all me. Yeah.
TVLINE | All of that underwater work would be my nightmare. Talk to me about shooting it.
We were in Montana, and Jason Rodriguez, our stunt coordinator — who’s a legend. The guy’s amazing — asked Julia and I, “Oh, how’s your swimming?” And I grew up racing sailboats and on the water and swimming a lot. I was like, “I’m good. I can swim.” [Laughs] And then they did a little swimming test.
And then I realized, well, s–t, I haven’t actually swum, like, a proper lap in a while. Turns out I’m not that good at swimming. [Laughs] So, yeah. They had us in the water for probably six weeks, every day at the YMCA in Montana, swimming and doing breathwork. And by the time we got to Malta, we were feeling pretty capable. But even then, you know, the water was cold. And it was ocean water, and the air was cold.
And we were in there six, seven hours constantly… It’s just a few minutes in the film, but we were in that tank swimming every day for five days, and it gets a little claustrophobic in there. Definitely. And you’ve got to regulate your breath and not burn yourself out. It’s tough.
How Taylor [Sheridan, executive producer] writes, we’d joke about it. Because you’d have these intense action scenes, incredibly physical, whether it be flipping in the car [in Episode 3] or the swimming. And then in between are these really heartfelt, emotional beats. And when you put them together, your nervous system just is on overload. You’re in between takes, you just start crying. You don’t know what’s going on. [Laughs] Both Julia and I would be shaking and crying. Yeah, so those were pretty wild days, but it turned out great. It really did.
TVLINE | I also love the visual — and I don’t even know if this happened — of, like, little old ladies doing their laps in the pool next to you at the Y.
And we do it in full wardrobe! So, we’re showing up at a YMCA in Butte, Montana, in my hunting outfit, just jumping in the water with my boots on.