Tulsa King Stunt Coordinator Talks Sylvester Stallone’s Action Scenes
Sylvester Stallone has taken on his first ever streaming series with Tulsa King. Premiering on Paramount+ on November 13th, 2022, Tulsa King can now be streamed in its entirety on the platform. Additionally, Tulsa King marks the latest of numerous collaborations between Stallone and stunt profesional Freddie Poole, who not only serves as Stallone’s stuntman on the series but also as stunt coordinator and second unit director.
On Tulsa King, Stallone plays Dwight “The General” Manfredi, who becomes the criminal overlord of Tulsa, Oklahoma after a 25-year prison sentence. As he assembles his associates in his newly formed criminal empire, Dwight also comes to see who his enemies in Tulsa will be.
We speak to Freddie Poole on his work as second unit director, stunt man, and stunt coordinator on Tulsa King, along with some of his past work with Sylvester Stallone.
Freddie Poole on Tulsa King Season 1
Screen Rant: You’ve worked with Sylvester Stallone previously as a stuntman numerous times before. How did you come aboard Tulsa King?
Freddie Poole: Well, it was just the evolutionary process, I guess, of one’s stunt career. We can’t hit the ground forever, and as I’ve progressed in stunts as a stunt man, it just seems like a natural progression to coordinate and second-unit direct. After our last feature we did back in 2020, Samaritan, the question came up about what the next step would be with Stallone, and of course, I’m always happy to double him, but this project came along, and his producer reached out, and asked about my interest in coordinating, and I said ‘Of course, we all know the answer to that!’
With Tulsa King being a series as opposed to a movie, how is it different from other projects you’ve worked on with Stallone in the past?
Freddie Poole: Well, I had to wear three different hats basically, as a stunt coordinator, and I doubled for him in most of our episodes, and I was second unit director, as well. So, it’s a lot more responsibility, doing all three of those.
Was that your first time handling multiple different roles like that, and what were some of the challenges of that?
Freddie Poole: It was the first time that I’ve done all three, yes, but I’ve done them all before. The challenge, of course, is when I’m doubling Stallone, I wear a prosthetic mask, so that’s a two and a half hour application to sit in hair and make-up and do all of that, so all the planning and prepping is super important, because I wasn’t as accessible, at least for the two-and-a-half hours, while they might be setting up a shot or something like that while I’m over in hair and make-up. Fortunately, for me, I had a really good team that I would bring in just to help or stand by my side, so I’d be performing, and we’d have other eyes at the monitors, just to help navigate through the day.
Outside of Tulsa King, what would you say was your favorite collaboration with Sylvester Stallone?
Freddie Poole: I’d have to say Escape Plan. We shot in 2011 or 2012, and I basically had to tread water and while they flew in a Huey over me, drop a metal ladder in the water and swim to it, and the helicopter takes off about 100 feet in the air. We did that about 18 times down in New Orleans, so that was a lot of fun. It was a hard day, because if you’ve never swam with a helicopter above you, the rotor wash pushes you away, so it could be a challenge. And then more recently, Samaritan that we did back in 2020, the challenges obviously were coming back from COVID, with sort of this new world and way of shooting, but with all the protocols that we had to work with, and a lot of them are still in place that we’re used to, but that was just the beginning, so everyone was just acclimating to the new process in order to shoot.
What did you find to be the biggest challenges or some of the most memorable aspects of making Tulsa King?
Freddie Poole: So, the planning for each episode, specifically looking at episode 3 and the car chase, the big brawl at the carnival in episode 4, and then the shootout in the final episode. All the planning that it took, not just from the meetings with the showrunner and the director and Sylvester Stallone to talk through the action with all of them, but also the planning with all the other departments, because it’s not just stunts.
My process is whenever I break down an action sequence, I ask myself, ‘Okay, what do I need from another department, like special effects, set decoration, props?’, and then go through those individual meetings with each department, just to make sure everything is planned for so that there are no hiccups when we shoot. So really, the planning and just making sure we have all the resources we need to accomplish what we’re wanting to do.
With Tulsa King renewed for a second season, will you be returning for it? What can you reveal about season two?
Freddie Poole: Well, I haven’t been given any information beyond a text message from our producer saying ‘Get ready.’ So, I don’t know when we’re going to start or where we’re going to shoot, but I’ll just be ready!
Did you have to deal with any major injuries from the stunts on Tulsa King?
Freddie Poole: No, again, that all goes back to the planning. We to create these big action sequences, but we want to keep everyone as safe as possible, so that goes back to the prep and the rehearsals with our stunt team, the rehearsals with our cast, because a lot of our cast are young guys and they’re gung ho and want to get in there and mix it up just as much as our stunt guys do. But we were able to accomplish in a safe manner just by virtue of having the time to rehearse and work with our cast and crew.
With Stallone having made movies like The Expendables, and you having collaborated with him so much, is Tulsa King something that each of you want to transition into? It’s an episodic series with Stallone as an antihero.
Freddie Poole: I mean, I don’t want to speak for him, but I do know that he is an extremely hard worker, regardless of what he’s doing, whether he’s in front of the camera or behind the camera. He’s just very methodical and cerebral, he’s brilliant, and I’ve always enjoyed during Tulsa King sitting with him and picking his brain a little bit, and sort of dissecting these action sequences, which is something that’s a bit a new for me, at least in episodic television, because we move at a different pace in episodic than we do in a feature. So, to have that rapport with him and to be able to sit down and discuss these action sequences, it was quite an experience for me to be able to do that.
Other than season two of Tulsa King, what other projects do you have coming up?
Freddie Poole: So, I just finished a feature in Cincinnati, Ohio called The Bike Riders, which is based on a book about one of the first biker clubs in the Midwest. We just wrapped just before the holidays, so I spent four months up in Ohio with Austin Butler, Tom Hardy, Jody Comer, Michael Shannon, so we have a brilliant cast and a great script and story. It’s a period piece, so it’s just really fun to be up there with those guys, and I’m looking forward to when that comes out. Right now, they’re editing, and I think probably towards the fall is when that’ll hopefully be released, and what’s cool about that too is we shot it all on film.