The way I became a stuntman is a long story. The short version of it is still pretty long, but I’ll share it with you anyway.
I’ve always been the type of guy that would try anything that interested me. I found lots of things I wasn’t any good at, but the one thing I found I was great at was not being afraid to fail. The fear of failure keeps most people from trying things they want to do. That never was a problem for me. As a result of not being afraid to fail at something and not worrying that people would laugh at me if I did fail, I’ve been able to do a lot of really cool things. Just a few examples are: skydiving, kayaking, and backpacking in the mountains out West for weeks at a time, zip lining through the jungles of Honduras and… trying my hand at being a professional wrestler. That’s right; I was a “rassler"! I did pretty well at it, too. I was on my way to wrestling for the WWF (now called the WWE) before a broken leg ended that part of my adventure.
The character I was going to play in this particular show gets shot while standing at the top of a flight of stairs.
During the first rehearsal for this scene, the director was trying to explain to me how to “safely” fall down the stairs after I got shot. I hadn’t told him I’d been a professional wrestler and already knew how to fall down so he was trying his best to tell me how to do it without actually doing it himself. Actually, I hadn’t told anyone involved with the play I’d been a wrestler because there hadn’t ever been a reason to, as far as I was concerned. What I didn't know was there was a guy that was also in the play with me that had seen me wrestle and knew who I was.
Halfway through the director’s explanation of how to fall, the guy interrupted him and told him of my background as a wrestler. He went on to tell the director he’d actually seen me wrestle and get thrown over the top rope of the ring and fall to the concrete so he was sure I could fall down a few stairs without any problem. The director looked at me for a few seconds and asked if that was true. When I told him it was, he asked me if I knew how to choreograph fight scenes, too. (SPOILER ALERT: rasslin’ ain’t real. We usually choreograph some of the things we do. I’m sorry to disappoint you.) I told him I did know how to choreograph fights and he asked me if I would choreograph the fights in the play we were doing. I agreed to, and THAT was the beginning of my stunt career.
Word spreads about the new actor in town and his ability to fall down and make fight scenes look real. Other directors started contacting me about choreographing fights for their plays and showing their actors how to safely fall down without hurting themselves.
I realized that if I was ever going to become successful as an actor and stuntman I needed to learn how to do it right. What worked in the ring and on stage just didn’t work on film so I began taking acting classes and workshops everywhere I could. I spent more time and money over the next few years learning how to be an actor than I made actually being an actor. With each commercial or TV show I booked, I got more real experience and used the money I earned from it to pay for more lessons.
I’ve worked as an actor in movies like FLIGHT, starring Denzel Washington and on TV shows like THE FOLLOWING, starring Kevin Bacon. I’ve worked as a stuntman on TV shows like REVOLUTION and THE RED ROAD, starring Jason Mamoa. I’ve also worked as the stunt coordinator (that’s the person in charge of planning all the stunts for a show, hiring all the stunt actors and making sure no one gets hurt doing them) all across the country. I’ve worked in Hollywood and Wilmington, NC and everywhere in between.
I’ve worked with Oscar-winning actors and worked for Oscar-winning directors and producers. Along the way I’ve learned a lot about show business and how to make movies.
A few months ago, I sent an email to Paul Mashburn telling him I wanted to help the theater raise some money by teaching a workshop there for actors that want to learn how to do a fight scene for films and TV shows the correct way.
He put me in touch with the right people and I was amazed to hear that they had been planning for a long time to make the Princess Theatre a place where kids could come to learn about all aspects of visual and performing arts. I had no idea they were working to make that happen.
I met with Gary Baker and Vera Scarborough and was immediately excited by their enthusiasm. When they told me their plans and talked about the Princess Theatre becoming more than just a restored building and how it would be a cultural center where kids from all over the area would be able to learn from working professionals and trained artists, I knew I wanted to help.
In my original email to Paul, I told him I used to watch movies at the Princess Theatre as a kid and daydream about being on the screen with the actors and I’ve done that and continue to do that still. Never in a million years would I have ever thought that I’d be back in that same place teaching other kids how to fulfill that same dream. These truly are exciting times for me and the men and women that have given their time and money to make this a reality.
My challenge to anyone that reads this is a simple one: if you know (or can remember) what it’s like to have a dream, but you never got (or took) the chance to fulfill it, then do whatever you can to give yourself, or your children, the opportunity to make that dream come true. Let one of the lucky ones like me, that got to live that dream, pass on what they’ve learned, and, just maybe, your dream, or their dream, will come true!
I now have a new dream. I dream that I’ll live long enough to see one of the kids we help now come back someday to teach the next generation of dreamers how to be a success!