Filming sessions for the TV crime series Animal Kingdom became tense this week off Southern California when great white sharks approached as if aiming for cameo appearances.
“There were so many sharks out there, it was unbelievable,” James Pribram, a surfing stunt double and ocean safety monitor, told the Orange County Register. “We’d be in the water, we had our water safety team and lifeguards and all of a sudden they’d yell, ‘Incoming!’ and a shark would be swimming around us and under us.” (See Pribram’s video.)
The film site was San Onofre State Beach in northern San Diego County, on a stretch of coast famous for great white shark sightings during late spring and summer.
The area is utilized largely by juvenile white sharks – those measuring 10 feet or less – that prey on rays and other bottom fishes. But area waters also represent a pupping ground for adult great whites.
Attacks on humans are rare, but late last August a woman suffered serious injuries after she was bitten by an estimated 10-foot white shark as she swam at a San Onofre State Beach surf spot.
Actors and stunt doubles for Animal Kingdom spent time in the water Monday and Tuesday despite the presence of sharks, according to the Register.
Pribram, a former pro surfer, explained that lifeguards surveyed the area each morning and issued advisories, but did not close the waters to filming because the sharks did not appear to be aggressive.
Pribram said he and others were scared at first, but it soon became apparent that the sharks were not interested in the human activity.
“In a way, I actually feel like I have a better understanding of great whites, after spending two days, anywhere from 8 to 10 hours in the water with sharks,” he said. “I felt like they were just swimming. We were in their natural habitat.”
The third season of TNT’s Animal Kingdom, about a Southern California crime family, begins May 29.