Following FBI: Most Wanted's Emmy Nominations, Executive Producer Talks Importance Of Practical Stunts: 'We Don't Cheat'

 FBI: Most Wanted's Edwin Hodge, Alexa Davalos, and Roxy Sternberg
FBI: Most Wanted's Edwin Hodge, Alexa Davalos, and Roxy Sternberg

FBI: Most Wanted is a top show on television when it comes to high-stakes crime drama, and has been going strong through many challenges (and cast changes) over the four seasons so far. Season 4 actually took CBS' hit to new heights, as the show was nominated for not one but two Emmys: Outstanding Stunt Performance and Outstanding Stunt Coordination. Executive producer Ken Girotti spoke with CinemaBlend about the nominations and Most Wanted's approach to its remarkable stunts.

In recent years, network TV shows aren't nominated for stuntwork quite as often as streaming and premium cable series, so FBI: Most Wanted's dual nominations for the 2023 Emmys show just how much the CBS drama has distinguished itself. When I spoke with EP Ken Girotti about the nominations, he shared his thoughts on bringing a network TV show from the 2023 TV schedule to the pool of Emmy contenders with stunt coordinator Declan Mulvey:


Well, obviously, I'm very proud of the entire team that was a part of it, and I'm very proud of Declan. I think he redefined the culture this season on the show when it came to that sort of thing. His attention to detail. We're very proud.

Attention to detail is especially impressive for a show like FBI: Most Wanted, which ran for 22 action-packed episodes in Season 4 and included moments ranging from flipping a full-sized ambulance over a static camera to stunt sequences that took multiple acts to complete. Ken Girotti went on to note the challenges of delivering the high-quality stunts for nearly two dozen episodes of Season 4:

I think that the challenge for us is with this time crunch that we often have. It's not like we can lean on visual effects. It's not like we can [say], 'Okay, well, we'll just do that explosion in post' or 'We'll have those two cars hit and we'll flip them in a computer in some guy's basement.' We don't have time for that, because that would take weeks to build. We've got to do it for real, and we've got to make it work. And we do it episode after episode after episode. So I like to think our challenge is by the sheer volume of stunts that we do, and the timeframe within which we do them. Declan's accomplishment this year stands alone.

As Ken Girotti noted, FBI: Most Wanted just doesn't have the time to rely on visual effects, and they have to "do it for real" to "make it work." With Most Wanted responsible for expanding the FBI franchise as the first offshoot of the original while also standing on its own and delivering action week in and week out, the show has certainly found a recipe for its own success. When I noted that viewers can appreciate practical stunts over visual effects, the executive producer continued:

I think the audience can tell the difference in a lot of cases, so in a way we're kind of rejoicing in the limitations that we have and the limitations [of] our timeframe and just the deadlines we've got to meet. So we do whatever we can to make them look real. Like obviously, when a script comes in, we'll read the script and the script will go into detail about what a stunt sequence might be, but the writer is not with us on the streets of New York.

As part of the TV magic of FBI: Most Wanted, the show films in New York even as the agents travel all over the country while pursuing the worst of the worst fugitives. While what the team accomplishes looks great for fans watching from home, it comes with unique challenges. Girotti continued:

We're a New York show. That's the other challenge, shooting in New York. New York's fantastic, but it's a challenge to shoot in that city. And we love it. We love New York. But the bottom line is I think we take great pride in the fact that we do do stuff for real and we don't cheat. When we think we can do it, then we do it. If we think it might be tempting fate a little bit, we never do that. We always err on the side of safety, but I don't think we've ever this season come close to biting off more than we could chew. At the same time, that doesn't mean I wasn't biting my nails now and again.

Safety is the priority when it comes to stuntwork on FBI: Most Wanted, even if the finished product always looks suitably harrowing for viewers from home. As Ken Girotti said, the show doesn't "cheat" by taking the easiest route that doesn't look as good, which has made this project a standout for stuntwork on the small screen that earned its Emmy recognition.

When I mentioned in our interview that the scale of the action seems film-quality rather than what viewers might expect to find on television, the executive producer credited Declan Mulvey and the various departments of FBI: Most Wanted for a "really smooth and deep and trusting collaboration." Girotti elaborated:

Every nine days or ten days, we've got one or probably two big set pieces that we have to plan for. Often we'll get notions of what they're going to be in advance of that in terms of the nuts and bolts of how we're going to do them. We don't really understand that until we get the script and we don't get the script until just before prep. So the time crunch on, especially Declan and the stunt team, and all the departments as his needs sort of grow out of that, is huge.

The finished product of the stunts on FBI: Most Wanted is certainly a team effort, leading up to the Emmy nominations. The executive producer went on to detail what exactly stunt coordinator Declan Mulvey does in the process of bringing a stunt from script to screen, saying:

First of all, Declan has to understand what's in the director's head, and then he has to interpret that and then it just blows up to all the departments. The art department, props, costumes, special effects, locations, production in general, how much time do we have to do it? So it demands a level of – on this show especially – interdepartmental cooperation I don't know that I've ever experienced because we're making 22 episodes a season, and we're a stunt-heavy show, so that's one of the most important things

Only time will tell whether FBI: Most Wanted will win in the categories of Outstanding Stunt Performance and Outstanding Stunt Coordination at the 2023 Emmy Awards, but there's no denying that the show puts in the work week in and week out to deliver film-quality stunts on CBS. You can find the fourth season streaming with a Paramount+ subscription, and look forward to when FBI: Most Wanted will return.

Like sister series FBI and FBI: International, Most Wanted was renewed for the 2023-2024 TV season, but production has not yet begun on Season 5 due to the WGA writers strike and SAG-AFTRA actors strike. You can also check out a look behind the scenes at the spring's Season 4 finale, including star Dylan McDermott (and his dog) on set.