Working in stunts can be a dangerous choice of occupation, especially for women. Like many other positions behind the scenes, a majority of stunt coordinators and stunt performers are men. Things are slowly changing and safety measures are being introduced to make the job much safer for all involved, says veteran stunt performer Leslie McMichael. Along with her husband Steve, McMichael works out of Alberta and has coordinated stunts for and performed on series such as Wynonna Earp, Damnation, Tin Star and Dark Angel. She’s also done stunts on movies like X Men: The Last Stand and Fantastic Four.
McMichael recently discussed this in a conversation she had with The TV Junkies as part of our Women Behind Canadian TV series. She recalled how, despite planning a career in psychology, she found herself working as a stunt performer. McMichael also discussed the differences of working on stunts for shows like Wynonna Earp versus the big blockbuster films she’s been a part of. We also discussed with her the challenges involved in coordinating stunts for a pregnant lead, as Leslie and Steve had to do for Melanie Scrofano during Season 2 of Wynonna.
The TV Junkies: A career in stunts can be exciting but also dangerous. Can you share a little about your background and how you got involved in stunts?
Leslie McMichael: Well, I didn’t plan on getting into stunts. That’s the funny thing, and it’s usually disappointing to people who are like ‘I’ve always wanted to be a stunt person my whole life.’ I just fell into it. I was a martial artist first, was very competitive and always going to tournaments. I had a lot of fun doing it, and I loved the camaraderie because even though you’re competing against each other, there was still the honor, respect, talking after and I loved that. I had people approach me saying I should think about getting into the film industry, but I was getting my masters in psychology and I was going to be a psychologist. If you had told me I was going to start falling on my head for a living I would’ve told you that you were crazy.
I eventually sat down with a colleague’s agent who said I could still go to school and just do this on the side. She sent me on several auditions and I started getting commercials as an actor. That was fun, different and the money was good while not being a big time commitment. I then did extra work on Viper where they needed people to fill up a bar and ended up meeting the stunt people. The stunt coordinator ended up being the coordinator of the Ninja Turtles series in Vancouver. After auditioning, it went really well and I ended up being the double for the girl turtle Venus. She was only on that series, but that was the most fun job ever because you were jumping around in a Halloween costume kicking, punching and having the best time in the world.