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Mother of Deceased ‘The Walking Dead’ Stuntman Says Hollywood Covers Up Safety Issues Just Like Sex Abuse

"People are afraid to speak out because they’re afraid they’ll never work again," said John Bernecker's mother, who is starting a foundation in his name.

Kerry Cahill as Dianne, Joshua Mikel as Jared - The Walking Dead _ Season 8, Episode 6 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

“The Walking Dead”

Gene Page/AMC

Susan Bernecker, mother of stuntman John Bernecker, who died last July during a high-fall accident on the set of “The Walking Dead,” is calling out the unsafe set conditions in Hollywood that led to her son’s death. “People are afraid to speak out because they’re afraid they’ll never work again or that they’ll be looked down upon,” said Bernecker in an interview with Deadline. Comparing the culture of silence around safety issues to the “open secret” of sexual misconduct, she said: “If you take out the word ‘sex’ and put in ‘safety,’ it’s the same thing.”

Worse, she added, is that stunt women are doubly affected: “Stunt women have told me about being put in sexual harassment positions to get a job. I had two girls tell me about that in the last year.”

In honor of her son, Bernecker is creating a foundation in his name to advocate for better safety protocols on Hollywood sets. “The industry isn’t doing it,” she said. “Somebody’s got to get the ball rolling, so I guess I was picked.”

Bernecker was just 33 when he died. An accomplished stunt performer with nearly 100 film and TV credits, Bernecker worked on many high profile projects, including as a double for Caleb Landry-Jones in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “Get Out.” He also worked on “Black Panther,” out later this year. In his work as a stunt coordinator, Bernecker often walked away from jobs he deemed too dangerous, according to his mother. “He always had everybody’s back,” she said. “And that’s what kills me.”

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