Following True Lies Premiere, Stars Steve Howey And Ginger Gonzaga Break Down The Physical Demands Of The Stunts: 'Really, Really Hard Work'

Harry and Helen Tasker after a stunt in True Lies series premiere
(Image credit: CBS)

Warning: spoilers ahead for the series premiere of True Lies on CBS on March 1!

True Lies has finally debuted on CBS in the 2023 TV premiere schedule with a premiere that saw Harry Tasker (Steve Howey) accidentally bring wife Helen (Ginger Gonzaga) into the spy world, after a romantic dinner in Paris went very sideways. Even though Harry was the one handling the fisticuffs and gunfights, Helen proved that she could handle herself among spies, and the stage is set for the Taskers to team up as True Lies continues! It was an action-packed episode of fighting (some of which was in formalwear), and the stars opened up about how physically demanding the stunts were.

Steve Howey and Ginger Gonzaga spoke with CinemaBlend about their new show, and they broke down what went into the action, including what viewers might not realize about how it all went down. When asked about what kind of training they went through for True Lies, Gonzaga immediately started to sing the praises of her co-star, saying:

I think they liked to lean on the fact that Howey just knows how to do all this stuff. So they're like, 'We got the guy! He'll jump through all these things and fight people!' Truly, during the pilot – oh my goodness – we were on no sleep, and then I watched them in this dinner scene. We're running out of time. I'm like, 'Wow, this big action sequence is coming up.' And they did it once! They showed Howey the fight once and he just got it, and it was very intimidating because I was like, 'Ooh, I don't think I can do that!' [laughs] And he pulled it off! He does all of his stunts and that is really, really hard work.

True Lies was not using tricks of the camera to hide that Harry was being handled by a stunt man in the fight sequences, as Steve Howey handled the action himself. According to Gonzaga, her co-star didn’t even need to be walked through the stunts multiple times to get them right. It’s easy to believe that it was “really, really hard work,” as she said! She continued:

I don't think people realize. A scene will end and everyone's pleased with it, and I'm like, 'Steve just did cardio in addition to acting and we're already tired and he's already on four hours of sleep. He just did cardio for an hour straight!' Every reset is like a full thing. So it's amazing that he pulls it out. He has to do way more of that, and that's the curse of knowing how to do everything. It's like, 'Oh, we get this for free? Yeah, do that.' I feel like I'm a little bit that way with improv. They'll be like, 'Ah, she'll just improvise.' I get to and I'm proud of that.

How many of us could go about our daily jobs while also doing cardio well enough to be broadcast for millions on network TV? It’s no wonder that showrunner Matt Nix was convinced that Steve Howey was the right man to play Arnold Schwarzenegger’s role from the 1994 True Lies movie! Ginger Gonzaga shared that, like how the show can rely on her co-star for the stunt action, the True Lies team has faith in her improv skills. 

Plus, as viewers saw in the series premiere, Helen did contribute to battling the bad guys! She may not have the super spy training of her husband, but her punching exercises from her workout videos came in a lot handier in France than she could have possibly predicted. Ginger Gonzaga shared how Helen being new to the spy game actually works in her favor in Season 1, saying:

I just did my own kinds of things. I knew that I needed to stay strong and I've taken random classes and stuff to try to learn, but I'm lucky in that Helen is new for this first season. She's new, she's becoming a spy. I can always suck and I can always be like, 'Oops, Helen doesn't know! Isn't that funny?' So I get to have a lot of comedy in the imperfection of that, which I probably will have to be a lot better with next year, but it couldn't have been anyone else but [Steve]. Good luck finding anyone else for this role, truly.

If anything, it would be as hard to believe if Helen had spy-worthy fight skills from the jump as if Harry couldn’t throw a good punch or handle a firearm! In the series premiere, Harry had to break out his spy moves in some clothes that definitely were not designed for an intense cardio workout. 

Speaking with CinemaBlend alongside his co-star (both of whom also addressed their “insane level of chemistry” as Harry and Helen Tasker), Steve Howey shared that he doesn’t always get stretchy costumes to make his stunts easier, but he had good things to say about what starring on True Lies has allowed him to do as an actor. He said:

Fighting in a suit is not the most comfortable. But that's the fun of like, where's the camera? Learning the angles. How to throw a punch that makes it look good on camera. I always say 'Careful what you wish for because you just might get it.' I've always wanted to do this job. I've always wanted to do action comedy. I grew up with my action star heroes, and one of them was the lead of the movie True Lies. So physicality and action was always something that I wanted to do. The projects that I've done in the past didn't allow me to do that. And I wish I would because I'm 45 now and, ooh, it's different! It hurts.

Playing Harry Tasker might have been easier for Howey before the age of 45, but he is finally achieving his dream of getting to do action comedy. The stars certainly aligned that he was able to play the TV version of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character from the 1994 film, after the movie star one of his action heroes as a kid! And as it turns out, he came to True Lies with some very specific skills that fit for a spy:

I had trained in Muay Thai. I know it sounds weird, but I was a competition rifle pistol shooter, and I did that because I just knew one day I was going to play something, whether it was gonna be a soldier or a cop, FBI guy, and here it is a spy. So the discipline of having a gun and knowing how dangerous it is, finger discipline, knowing how to breach, knowing when and where to hold the gun and how to fire it. Those all really came in handy because I didn't have to be taught, and the fighting sequence – just like Ginger said – I just had to be shown it, and I had it.

Not everybody would be able to bring the Harry/Helen partnership to television after becoming iconic on film, but Ginger Gonzaga and Steve Howey already seem to be the right duo for the roles. Howey went on to praise the casting of the show, while also sharing just how hard it was to work on the pilot:

This has a lot to do with the casting. Anthony Hemingway directed the pilot, and he called me and he's like, 'There's this project. You have to do it. I can't think of anybody else. You're perfect for it.' And I was just like, 'Hey, you say jump, I say how high.' Then like halfway through, I was like, 'What the hell did you get me into? This is crazy, this is so hard!' But we had so much fun.

The stars clearly had fun filming the pilot and the episodes that will follow, so hopefully viewers will have a good time with the show. True Lies is up against NBC’s Chicago P.D. and ABC’s A Million Little Things in the 10 p.m. ET slot on Wednesdays on network TV, with P.D. dominating the time slot for years and A Million Little Things currently airing its final season

The earliest ratings numbers from SpoilerTV reveal that P.D. did indeed win the night with 0.57 rating and 5 million viewers, although True Lies beat A Million Little Things. The series premiere scored a 0.3 rating and audience of 3.2 million, against the ABC drama’s 0.2 and 1.68 million viewers. That ranking could change once delayed viewership can be accounted for, as these are simply the numbers for the live broadcast.

Keep tuning in to CBS on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET for new episodes of True Lies. If you missed the series premiere on March 1, you can find it streaming now with a Paramount+ subscription

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).