James Galea is TV's last man stunting
JAMES Galea puts his life on the line for his job but he's not a policeman or an army officer. Nor is he a fireman or stuntman.
He's a magician.
While filming Best Trick Ever for ABC2, a show in which the LA-based Aussie performer is on a mission to find the best trick in the world, he tried to pull off a stunt involving a drone, an ocean and someone's phone.
"They wanted to beat the s--t out of me," Galea says of the first attempt.
"I think he was Columbian or Italian and he was abusing me in his native tongue and when I was trying to find out, did he think that was an amazing trick and they're like, 'No, he was swearing at you,' so we kinda thought it was best not to use that.
"I've once made a guy's watch vanish and appear somewhere and I thought his watch was waterproof and it wasn't and I broke it and he wanted to kill me.
"It seems that I do a lot of tricks that basically end with people wanting to kill me because they think everything's gone wrong."
But Galea believes the unpredictability of people and their reactions to his tricks are what make the job fun and his show entertaining to watch.
"The stakes are real," he tells The Guide.
"People seem to think when they watch a lot of magic that it's got to be fake but you can tell by these people's reactions they're not fake, they're just very regular people."
He was introduced to magic at the age of 14 and was a fast learner. At age 18, Galea performed at James Packer's first wedding. In that same year he opened his own stage show in Japan.
On Best Trick Ever, Galea showcases his own tricks as well as those of magicians in all their forms - from those who put their bodies to the limit for their performances, such as the man who eats lightbulbs, to those who perform cutting-edge tricks for crowds on stage and others who use their skills of deception to con people professionally, namely a card shark called Doc in New York.
Galea got into magic after a conman took him under his wing when he was a teenager - not that he knew he was a con artist at the time - and showed him tricks such as how to deal aces from the bottom of a deck and how to change cards in people's hands.
It started an obsession with magic tricks for Galea, who says it was fascinating to be able to delve into the world of a professional conman on the show.
The crew met Doc late one night on the streets of Harlem and while that was off-putting in itself, Galea says he also feared for the fate of the trickster, who allowed his face to be shown on film while showing off his card skills for the first time.
"I think it was at that point we all got scared, thinking, 'Oh my God, what happens to this guy if he gets caught now,'<TH>" he says.
"And I don't know the answer to that but what I do know is he kinda makes his living by going unnoticed and it seems like that was his greatest skill.
"He is not there to be a flashy magician and show how good he is. The people who were conned by this guy would never know. They would have lost at poker one night and wouldn't have thought twice."
Galea says showing TV audiences tricks they would not normally see was the goal behind Best Trick Ever and after it airs he hopes to head back to Australia to perform.
Best Trick Ever continues tonight at 9.05pm on ABC2. Catch up on the first episode on ABC iView.