FILMME FATALE EXCLUSIVE: ANGELA MERYL
She has crashed and flipped over ambulance trucks, smashed through glass tables, tumbled down flights of stairs, hung from helicopters and jumped from buildings. She is beautiful, extremely talented, and she’s worked very hard to become a celebrated and respected stuntwoman over the span of her twenty-four-year-old career.
You have seen Angela even if you don’t know you have. Her work is woven into the very fabric of so many beloved films. Most notably, the Vivica A. Fox and Uma Thurman fight scene in Kill Bill—a standout memorable cinematic favorite of ours. And while these women are fantastic actresses, much of what we love about this scene was executed by extraordinary stunt performers, Zoe Bell and Angela Meryl.
Angela has graced the screens of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, doubling as Naomie Harris’ Calypso. She’s performed outstanding stunts in Obsessed & Austin Powers doubling for Beyoncé. She sizzled in Out of Time as Sanaa Lathan, Cradle to the Grave as Gabrielle Union, Battleship as Rihanna, as well as Skyfall, The Wire, Furious 7, Love Don’t Cost A Thing, and the film that catapulted her career, Shaft—in which she performed as Vanessa Williams’ stunt double.
This month, we were given the wonderful opportunity to interview Angela Q&A style. We’re so excited to share her answers with you!
FN: You have had a beautiful career spanning 24 years as a professional stuntwoman. What is the most important thing you have learned since 1996?
AM: One of the most important things I’ve learned is that this business is all about relationships. You should network, network, network! Another is to stay true to yourself. Don’t let anyone talk you into doing something you’re not comfortable with.
FN: How did you get into this business and what advice do you have for someone that would like to get started as a stuntman or stuntwoman?
AM: I started off in this business as a model, then I started acting. A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to do stunts. Once it was explained to me what stunts were, I immediately said yes. My advice would be to train in as many areas as possible. You never know what you’re going to need in your skill bag. Be really good at a couple of things. Take gymnastics. It helps for so many things! Stay focused and save your money. You could be unemployed more than you are employed.
FN: You have provided stunts for Beyoncé, Sanaa Lathan, Naomie Harris, Vanessa Williams and Vivica A. Fox. Which of these actresses did you enjoy working with most and why?
AM: I have enjoyed working with all of them. They are all inspiring ladies. I started off doubling Vanessa in Shaft and I have doubled her the longest. I enjoy talking with all of them.
FN: What kind of stunts did you perform in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill and how did your work in this film impact your career?
AM: The biggest stunt for me on this film is the crash through the glass table. This, I feel was a career launcher as far as fights are concerned. I did a lot of fights after this movie.
FN: What is the process once you take on a job?
AM: I make sure that I am prepared for the stunt. Do I have all my pads, tire gauge, undergarments to hold my pads in and keep them looking smooth? Do I have my fire gear, etc.? Do I have time to go do a practice session of the stunt? I also visualize me doing the stunt and it going well. All things matter when prepping for a stunt.
FN: What does a normal workday look like for you once you’re on set?
AM: I get to work early most days so I can have breakfast and visualize the stunt. It depends what you’re doing for the day. If it’s car work, I go and find the car along with the Stunt Coordinator and talk over what we’re doing. Can I get in and test it, set my seats, test the brakes, etc.? If it’s something else, I still find the Stunt Coordinator and talk over what we’re doing. Will there be a rehearsal with actors or just with stunts? After that, I go to hair and makeup, get dressed, then sit and wait.
FN: What kind of conditioning and or practicing do you do to stay sharp for new roles, and what kind of exercises are you doing to stay in shape between movies?
AM: I’m currently focusing on acting. I attend classes, casting workshops, and work on my self-tapes. I have so much more to offer! I am still doing stunts, and that requires all kinds of workouts like boxing, martial arts, firearms, stunt driving etc. I like to work out with weights, without weights, jump rope, trampoline & Pilates. I also work out with a trainer.
FN: What is the most difficult/dangerous stunt you have ever performed? Would you do it again?
AM: Any stunt can be dangerous if you don’t land right, have the timing down for a car stunt, or if something is improperly rigged. The most challenging was a car hit for When the Bough Breaks. I had never done one before and we rehearsed it as best we could from the car. But nothing in my opinion prepares you for getting hit by a car. Like actually getting hit by car. I would not do this stunt again. Some people love car hits. My favorite stunts are fighting and car stunts.
FN: Has being a woman of color in the movie industry been difficult for you? If so, how have you overcome those difficulties?
AM: For the most part it’s been about proving yourself and showing that you are capable of doing the job that you have trained for. Having to fight for that chance. I continue to train and try to remain positive. I let people know what I am capable of as far as my skills go. Networking also plays a part in that as well as posting what you have done. Now you have footage for people to see that you can do the job.
FN: Is there any type of stunt you would like to do that you haven’t done yet?
AM: There are a few. One of them is a car commercial where all the cars are lined up driving side-by-side in the dessert. I think that looks so cool! It takes some real skill for every driver to hold the same exact speed in different types of cars and terrain.
FN: If people would like to support you or keep up with your career, what’s the best way for them to do so?
AM: The best way would be via my Twitter.
We extend our sincere gratitude to Angela for sharing her experiences with us. To see her in action, check out the video below.