As a child and teenager, Angelica excelled at every sport imaginable. Her mother fought to keep her in dance and modeling, but all Angelica wanted to do was beat boys at sports and get dirty. She moved away from her small town of Trenton, Ontario when she was scouted by a track and field coach to move to Toronto and train for the Olympic’s. When in the big city, she was immediately drawn to the arts. After booking a few commercials, dancing in videos and small acting roles, as well as singing in the popular group Simply Majestic, Angelica was introduced to the world of stunts in 1997 by top Canadian Stunt coordinator Branko Racki while playing a Hench woman in the movie Half Baked. (from IMDB Bio)
1. WHAT WAS YOUR JOURNEY TO BECOMING A STUNT PERFORMER/COORDINATOR?
I was an athlete my entire life. Trained for the Olympics in Track and Field, was a model then got into acting through modelling. Then I was acting as a hench woman on a movie called Half Baked with Dave Chappel and met stunt coordinator Branko Racki, he quickly introduced me to stunts. I then worked for 15 years as a stunt performer before starting to coordinate. I was given the chance to cover for a good friend and stunt coordinator/director Matt Birman on Warehouse 13 and after that I just started to coordinate more and more. I never had a ‘dream’ or interest in becoming a stunt performer or a coordinator, I just wanted to act. It’s funny how our industry TELLS you what it wants from you, you don’t have as much control over it as you may think.
2. WHAT PROJECT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF? AND WHY?
The Book of Negroes was an amazing project to be a part of and shooting in Nova Scotia was an incredible experience. Getting to tell the story of Aminata from Laurence Hills award winning book was a dream come true. Having the opportunity to work for director Clement Virgo was also wonderful. I was so happy that this story was able to be told on screen after having read the book.
Now I am back in Nova Scotia 5 years later working on Diggstown, created by Floyd Kane telling another great story, this time about a black female Lawyer named Marcie Diggs played by the amazingly talented Vinessa Antoine. Vinessa is the first black Canadian lead of a Canadian show so there is a lot of life imitating art happening all around me. It is surreal sometimes. I was her stunt double more than 15 years ago on Being Erica, so getting to work with her again in this capacity is pretty full circle. My first episode I got to work with Cory Bowles directing, what a great human and fantastic director.
3. WHAT TYPE OF TRAINING DOES ONE REQUIRE TO BE A PROFESSIONAL STUNT PERFORMER? ARE THERE STUNT SCHOOLS?
Most stunt performers come from some kind of sports or specialty background. Boxing, gymnastics, martial arts, race car drivers, professional divers.. The odd time you will find a unicorn which is a person that just has the physicality and temperament to do stunts. Then they train with their peers to work on reactions and other skills to get them to the next level. There are “stunt schools’ but I would be leery of them, usually a cash grab with no real promise that you will work. The best thing to do is to train with your peers at various training facilities that established stunt performers train at.
4. IN ADDITION TO PROFESSIONAL TRAINING … WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO IS CONSIDERING A CAREER IN STUNTS?
If you don’t have a high threshold for pain or discomfort, if you hate to wait around, if you can’t be quiet for long periods of time (I had trouble with that lol), or your attitude is one of “I can do anything because I am crazy”…this business is not for you. If you have a team player mentality you should be ok. Also keep training, the more skills you can offer a production the more you will work. If you can only fight, or only drive or only do gymnastics, you will be limited. Try to do a few things well.
5. HOW COMMON ARE STUNT-RELATED INJURIES?
I tend to steer clear about talking about injuries. I will just say that every time you are on set and involved in a stunt there is a risk of injury.
6. WHAT WAS THE MOST DANGEROUS STUNT THAT YOU’VE BEEN ASKED TO DO? WHAT STEPS DID YOU TAKE TO ENSURE THE STUNT WAS EXECUTED SAFELY?
I would say running under a helicopter that was very close to the ground. We just had to be aware of the proximity and be ready to bail out either one way or the other if something went wrong.
7. WHAT STEPS DOES ONE TAKE TO GO FROM BEING A STUNT PERFORMER TO A STUNT COORDINATOR?
Not everyone does this. Not everyone wants to make the transition but also not everyone has the right mind set for the job. It is not something that just anyone can do. It takes years of being a performer to be a good stunt coordinator, but even then sometimes it just doesn’t click. The role of a stunt coordinator has changed so much over the years. Now stunt coordinators are also film makers , we also need to know how to create budgets, prepare breakdowns for insurance, we are involved in casting, creative decisions, engineering action, creating pre vis, and much more.
8. WHAT IS YOUR ON-SET PROCESS LIKE? DO YOU FIRST GO THROUGH THE SCRIPTS WITH THE DIRECTOR AND DECIDE IF THINGS WILL BE GREEN SCREEN OR LIVE ACTION BEFORE SHOOTING STARTS?
Yes stunt coordinator’s have quite a few meetings with the director, producers and other departments that interact with the stunt department such as SPFX, VIS FX, Wardrobe, Props, and so on. In these meetings is where we determine how the action will be executed.
9. HOW PATIENT DO DIRECTORS TEND TO BE ON SET?
They are all different. Some are patient, some are not, but you have to be patient yourself as well to be able to “play well with the others”.
10. FOR ANY GIVEN STUNT, HOW MANY TAKES MIGHT YOU BE ASKED TO DO ON AVERAGE?
Every scene is different so the number of takes will always vary. Lots to consider such as camera catching the action, lighting, props, effects each take can have many moving parts.
11. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE (CANADIAN FILM OR STUNT WORLD INDUSTRY) DO DIFFERENTLY IN ORDER TO GROW?
I think we are on the right track in so many ways. The Film & television Industry is the 2nd highest grossing business the Country and we have some of the best crews, post production, and performers in the world. I would like to see more female stunt coordinators, more diverse performers be given opportunities and down south of the boarder, A STUNT CATEGORY AT THE OSCARS.
I was a part of the lobby team to have stunts recognized at the CSA’s, the Canadian Screen Academy’s -Canadian Screen Awards and am happy to say that we now have a Best Stunt Coordinating award that will start in 2020. So what I would really like to see would be the Oscars finally give our stunt brothers and sisters the respect they deserve by honouring them with an Oscar for stunts. Jack Gill who is an American 2nd unit director and stunt coordinator has been lobbying the Academy (OSCARS) for almost 30 years to include stunts and has been shunned ever year thus far. He and some other very high profile coordinators and performers started the #standupforstunts movement and have a petition you can sign as well as a face book page and other social media platforms set up to spread the word. If you love action and want our action artists to be a part of the Oscars please do sign the petition and get active in spreading the word.
12. WE ALL HAVE MENTORS. THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO GIVE US THE HOPE, INSPIRATION, AND THE DRIVE TO KEEP GOING. WHO ARE THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN YOUR MENTORS AND WHY?
• RUSTY MCCLENNON – First black stunt Coordinator I had ever met, he tried to talk me into doing stunts, he was amazing I just wasn’t ready as I was acting and having too much fun being in my 20”s.
• BRANKO RACKI – For “finding me” and pushing me to get into stunts in the 1990’s.
• MATT BIRMAN – For allowing me to cover for him on Warehouse 13 and giving me the confidence to actually Coordinate
• CHRIS HANN – My husband. The support is amazing and has been there for 21 years. He just gets me and I love him dearly…
ANGELICA IS REPRESENTED BY: Phil Flagler of AMI
FOLLOW ANGELICA ON SOCIAL MEDIA:
#STANDUPFORSTUNTS – SIGN THE PETITION AND FOLLOW ON SOCIAL MEDIA