He stars on Battlestar Galactica (Fridays at 10 pm/ET, Sci Fi Channel) as Ensign Sam Anders, a secret member of the indestructible Cylon race. And it turns out Michael Trucco is pretty indestructible in real life, too.
Last December 2, the 37-year-old actor and a buddy were taking an easy Sunday-morning drive on Malibu's Pacific Coast Highway when their Ferrari 360 skidded on a curve, rolled up an embankment, flipped into the air and slammed to the pavement upside down. Trucco, who was in the passenger seat, suffered a broken neck but managed to pull himself out of the car, stand upright and get away from the wreckage.
He was airlifted to UCLA Medical Center, where — after six hours of spinal surgery — doctors pronounced him a freak of nature. "They just shook their heads and said, 'This doesn't make sense,'" recalls Trucco, whose vertebrae damage was likened to Christopher Reeve's. "I was told only one in hundred people can walk away from an accident like that. I easily could have died or ended up a paraplegic. I'm the luckiest guy alive."
Well, maybe the second luckiest. Trucco's friend, whom he declines to name, escaped without a scratch — probably because the car hit the ground on Trucco's side. "The impact felt like someone had taken a 500-pound mallet and hit me square on top of the head, like in the cartoons," says the actor. "Then I realized I couldn't move my arms or legs.
Weirdly, there was a kind of serenity in that moment. I remember thinking, 'No way. This is not how it's gonna go down!' I refused to accept what was happening." Trucco remained paralyzed in the car — and trapped upside down in his shoulder harness — for several moments. "It was as if my body had shut down like a computer, then did a little check on itself and rebooted. Once I could move my limbs again, I got the hell out of there." His next few days were excruciating. "Even blinking hurt," Trucco says. "I never knew such pain was possible."
Trucco's fiancée, actress Sandra Hess, whom he met when they were regulars on Pensacola: Wings of Gold in 1998, was at his side throughout the ordeal. "Michael was unbelievable," Hess says. "He never complained — not even once — nor did he ever ask, 'Why me?' He was never angry or resentful at his friend who was driving. I really believe it's his attitude that got him through this thing. He willed his survival." Truth be told, the heartthrob did worry about his career — but even so, he lucked out.
The crash happened fairly early in the writers' strike, so he was able to recuperate before BSG resumed production this month. (He also just shot a comedy pilot for NBC called The Man of Your Dreams). "I didn't want BSG to have to rewrite Anders as a sniveling, whining ball of despair who's hiding out in the corner," says Trucco, who now proudly sports a ghastly 7-inch scar on the back of his neck. "Guys like scars! They're like war wounds. I've been told they want to incorporate mine into BSG — but that's all I'm allowed to say." His TV wife, Katee Sackhoff (Kara "Starbuck" Thrace), isn't surprised by his miraculous recovery. "Michael's such a strong son of a bitch," Sackhoff says. "Anyone else would have been hurt even more, but he bounced back. Really soon."
And how. Trucco was out of the hospital in five days, though he lost 15 pounds and remained in a neck brace for several weeks. In a spooky bit of precognitive casting, Trucco shot an episode of Eli Stone last August in which he played a guy in a wheelchair who was involved in a similar car accident. "It was just too weird," Hess says. "The episode is still on our TiVo, but to this day, I can't bear to look at it." She'd love her man to ease up on the macho stuff, but it's not likely he will. "I love cars, I love motorcycles — which is an especially big issue with Sandra," Trucco says. "But I don't want this accident to make me a victim. I jumped out of an airplane on my 34th birthday because I promised myself I would. I have an interest in confronting my fears."
So what's the lesson here? "It's human nature to try to find the message in something like this," observes Trucco. "Maybe I needed a bit of adversity, a dose of emotional hardship. But it's not like I was a real a--hole who needed an attitude adjustment. I didn't have the George Bailey moment where I run around town yelling, 'It's a wonderful life!' Call it Tony Robbins. Call it 'The Secret.' I really believe that we have the power to manifest our own fates."
Or was it just good fortune? Says Trucco with a laugh: "My friends all tell me I was born with a horseshoe up my butt."
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