Thanks to my association with the Artemis Film Festival, I am consistently encountering dynamic stunt people (and the vast majority that I know are women). In the case of Dayna Grant, I happened upon her as a result of the Artemis, and recently she agreed to answer a few questions about her career, including how she got started, her current and future works, and even a few words of wisdom to the next generation fo kick ass stunt people!
RH: Why did you decide to get involved in the entertainment industry and specifically stunts? What kind of training have you received?
DG: Twenty plus years ago, I had a couple of friends that were stunt performers, and these guys convinced me one day to go for an audition as they thought I would be good at stunts. The job was to double Lucy Lawless and also to double Gina Torres. I had no training background, but I was a horse rider and a gymnast as well as a dancer. I went for the audition and due to my wire work, I ended up getting the job over many others who auditioned. And that job was on Xena: Warrior Princess.
As there was a sizable group of stunt performers in this series, did you make any special connections that you still keep up with today?
All the performers that I started with on Xena, I still work with today. I am very close to them all; they are my family. These performers have saved my life many times over and I love them all more than I could ever express. We have been on many journeys together.
From there, you have moved onto some major features in Hollywood as well as some well-known TV series. What are some of your most memorable/favorite roles?
Being Charlize Theron’s double as Furiosa on Mad Max Fury Road would be my most memorable:
Nine months shooting in the desert of Namibia doing fantastic stunts with incredible people.
But Ash vs Evil Dead would be my favorite show to work on, I love this New Zealand crew so much; these guys are my film family. If I could take them on every job with me, I would. Rob Tapert is always such a pleasure to work for.
As I am unfamiliar with Ash vs. Evil Dead, could you please tell me a little about it and your involvement with it?
For Ash vs Evil Dead, I was the Assistant Stunt Coordinator and also did the stunts for Lucy Lawless as Ruby. I spent the past three seasons on this show and loved every minute; it was so amazing getting to work with Lucy again twenty years later.
Could you explain the difference between stunt coordinator and stunt performer?
Stunt performer: you are in costume performing the stunts and rehearsing daily, working for the stunt coordinator.
Stunt coordinator: you are overlooking the stunts making sure they can be as amazing as possible, but keeping everyone safe. You get to be a lot more creatively involved, coming up with new and exciting ideas and designing fights and stunts.
What are your favorite kinds of stunts to do?
My favorite would be high falls on fire. I also really enjoy wire work or harness work as well as ratchets and air rams.
As a female stunt performer, have you experienced gender bias? How has this changed over the years?
Yes, rather heavily in the stunt industry. It is a lot better than it used to be and as a female, we have so much more support now.
Do you have any other upcoming works you can mention?
I am producing a TV show about the WWI mounted rifles in the Middle East that we will hopefully get funding for. I just finished the proof of concept for it, which is a short film called Be Faithful that you can find on my IMDB page.
I wrote my short called Be Faithful, and I am hoping to do a lot more producing, but not giving up on my performing and coordinating.
As I believe you teach stunts, could you tell us about where you teach and a little about the program in which you teach?
I own New Zealand Stunt School, where I teach and mentor my students in every aspect of stunts. I teach everything from high falls, wire work, ratchets, rams, and fire burn to fights and horse stunts. The list of what we teach is huge and ongoing, with the most important thing I teach being safety. I am extremely proud of all my students working and training hard; they call me “stunt mum”.
If someone is considering pursuing a career as a stunt person, what advice would you give them?
My advice would be:
-It is a hard industry to get into, but if you want it badly enough, then don’t give up.
-Train hard and keep learning; you will never have learned enough. Also, teach others what you know and you will get that in return.
-Stay humble and love and support your fellow stunt brothers and sisters.
-Give respect and honor to your stunt parents and grandparents and remember them as the ones that carved the way for you today. They are and always will be legends!!!!
It is trailblazers like Dayna who have paved the way for the degree of equality we are now experiencing within the stunt community and Hollywood as a whole. While it is evident that tinsel town still has a long ways to go in the matter of gender egalitarianism, by Dayna’s own admission, she has begun to witness the change. However, my readers probably notice the fact that she is careful to deflect any praise and recognition away from herself; she is proud of her accomplishments, but she is humble and pragmatic. For her, it is about being an integral piece of the whole, and she never seeks acclaim, a true hallmark of the vast majority of stunt people I know. She is grounded and cognizant of the fact that even though she is responsible for much of the action we witness in projects to which she is attached, it is not about her. I learned long ago that the job of a stunt person is not to attain fame nor the worship of the masses. In fact, if you never notice them in a film or show, then they are doing their job correctly. It is their job to highlight the actor for whom they are doubling, and if they are experts, the transition should be seamless.
In spite of Dayna’s humility, she is proud of her achievments (as she should be), and I would venture to say that she takes great delight in training the next generation of stunt people. Because I am a teacher too, I readily detect beneath her highly toned physique the genuine heart of a teacher and mentor who is honored to instill within these aspiring professionals the love and history of the stunt profession.
As Dayna strives to persevere in making waves in the entertainment community, there is no doubt in my mind that her career is far from over. She is a woman who refuses to let society tell her what is expected, and she will continue to fight for her ideals and work alongside some of the brightest stars in the business. I would invite everyone to check out her links below and follow Dayna where applicable. While her name may never be a household name, her indomitable spirit and dedication to her craft are enough to keep her inner light shining when the energy of those around her begins to languish. She is an inspiration to many, and I look forward to witnessing what the future holds for this talented, beautiful, and “frickin’ awesome” woman!
Interested in subscribing to all my site's updates? Subscribe below!