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UPDATED: Just another day out of the office for local Emmy nominee

'NCIS' stunt coordinator dives into work

Posted: September 12, 2008 6:21 p.m.
Updated: November 15, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Diamond Farnsworth, center, doubles for "NCIS" star Mark Harmon in a scene from "Requiem," an episode from the hit CBS series' 2007 season. Farnsworth was up for an Emmy for "Outstanding Stunt Coordination."

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Slated for filming today and tomorrow: dangerous scene for "NCIS" involving rescue of lead character played by Mark Harmon and an actress from a car that has plunged off a pier and is submerged in 28 feet of water.

The call sheet says to show up at massive water tank in the San Fernando Valley often used to shoot underwater scenes such as this. Coordinate a crew of half a dozen including four safety SCUBA divers with extra tanks and regulators.

Double for Harmon and work with the girl's double, who happens to be your daughter. Keep all the divers and gear out of the shot when the cameras actually roll for a take.

Finish the scene the next day with the real actors, including costar Michael Weatherly, who are stuck in the car long enough to make the rescue look real when the footage is all cut together in the editing room.

Just another couple days out of the office for longtime Saugus resident Diamond Farnsworth.

He's been stunt coordinator on more than 110 "Navy NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service" episodes since the hit series premiered on the CBS television network in September 2003.

Created by Donald P. Bellisario and Don McGill, "NCIS" is produced by Belisarius Productions, based in Santa Clarita's Valencia Industrial Center.

Farnsworth's peers in the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences thought the underwater rescue sequence in this episode -- "Requiem," which premiered Nov. 7, 2007 -- was so gripping and well-executed they nominated him for an "Outstanding Stunt Coordination" Emmy in the 2008 Primetime Creative Arts Awards.

The veteran stunt ace first heard about his nomination from Harmon, who stars in the series as NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Farnsworth often doubles for Harmon.

"I got a phone call from Mark in the morning, and he said, ‘Congratulations!" Farnsworth said before the award ceremony. "'For what?' I asked. ‘You're up for an Emmy!' Mark told me. I said, ‘You've got to be kidding me!'

"I was pretty excited, actually," he added. "I didn't think it was going to happen. The thing is, the other four guys I'm up against are all great guys."

Farnsworth's co-nominees were Merritt Yohnka ("Chuck"); Tom Elliott ("Criminal Minds"); Norman Howell ("CSI: NY"); and Joel Kramer ("Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles").

"I know all of them," Farnsworth said. "So whoever ends up with the Emmy deserves it."

In fact, when the academy handed out the awards at the Nokia Theatre in Hollywood Saturday night, the Emmy went to Merritt Yohnka.

The black-tie ceremony will be telecast next Saturday, Sept. 20 on the E! Entertainment cable channel.

It's actually not surprising that Farnsworth would get the news about the nomination from Harmon. He's one of Diamond's biggest fans.

"What really impresses me about Diamond and ["Requiem"] is that everything was real," Harmon said in a message. "There was no green screen and no wires. He worked his tail off to make sure everything was organized and safe. All of us at ‘NCIS' are so proud of his nomination. He certainly deserves it."

Diamond, 58, is son of legendary stuntman and two-time Oscar-nominated actor Richard Farnsworth, whose early nickname was "Diamond" because his chaps were festooned with the precious stones.

The elder Farnsworth, who died in 2000, was a rodeo cowboy when his son was born in Los Angeles in 1949. "When they announced over the loudspeaker that he had just become a dad, they said, ‘He's got a little Diamond!'" he said. "After that, I was ‘Little Diamond.' Nobody ever called me ‘Richard.'"

"Little Diamond" literally grew up on the Western TV and movie sets where his father worked. "I used to go to all the old Roy Rogers and Gene Autry sets when I was a boy," he said.

As to performing stunts for a living, Diamond said, "I kind of fell into it. Growing up in the business I knew what it was, so it wasn't foreign to me. I told my dad I thought that's what I'd like to go into, so he helped get me started.

"My dad didn't show me a lot of stunts himself," he added, "but I had a lot of his friends, the old-time stunt guys like Loren Janes (a Canyon Country resident) and Joe Canutt (son of stunt pioneer Yakima Canutt) who helped me out, really showed me how to do stuff," Diamond said.

The elder Farnsworth taught his son something more significant than stunt mechanics."The most important thing I learned from my dad was to really listen and pay attention to what everyone around you is saying, especially about doing stunts," Diamond said. "He also taught me to form my own opinions."

The "little" didn't apply as he grew to nearly six feet tall, and began stunting professionally as Diamond Farnsworth around 1970. He's worked as stuntman or stunt coordinator on more than 65 films and TV series, among them "Bonanza," "Alias Smith and Jones," "Rollerball," "Big Wednesday," "How the West Was Won," "Breaking Away," "Ghostbusters," "The Big Easy," "The Fugitive," "Batman Forever" and "Pearl Harbor."

Between other shoots, Farnsworth has been a stunt coordinator with Belisarius more than 20 years. He's worked on the series "Tales of the Gold Monkey," "Quantum Leap" (stunts only). "Magnum: P.I.," "JAG" (227 episodes as stunt coordinator from 1995-2005) and now "NCIS."

Sometimes, as on "Requiem," he gets to work with his 28-year-old daughter Courtney Farnsworth, who in addition to underwater stunts like escaping from a submerged car is an ace at crashing a bicycle.

"You wouldn't think that was a big deal, but it's a hard stunt," Diamond said. "When you crash a bicycle, it's really hard to get away from it. Every time you hit the ground, the bicycle eats you. Everyone says, ‘What's the big deal?' I say, ‘Go out and do one yourself!'"

Farnsworth may not have brought an award Saturday night, but things haven't changed much. "NCIS" is starting its sixth season and there's plenty more stunt coordination to be done.

"I'm just happy to work," he said. "I enjoy my job."


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