By Mollee Harper, Senior Editor
Georgia Entertainment News caught up with Jennifer Badger between shoots on AMC’s TV series The Walking Dead and Halt and Catch Fire, currently being filmed in Atlanta. No stranger to the industry or danger, Badger is a 25-year-veteran stunt coordinator, fight choreographer, and stunt performer with an impressive resume that includes jumping out of helicopters, filming with sharks, and even sword fighting unruly pirates in the Caribbean.
During our one-on-one, Badger offers readers a special behind-the-scenes view of the arduous, yet rewarding work of stunt men and women working in Georgia’s entertainment industry. She also shares highlights some of her favorite and most memorable experiences coordinating on feature films and stunt doubling for Hollywood’s leading ladies, as well as shares advice for the next generation.
Jennifer Badger and her company, Stunts 119, are based out of Atlanta, Georgia. Badger works on location as a Stunt Coordinator, Stunt Double, Fight Choreographer, Stunt Actor, Stunt Driver and Water Specialist on feature film and television productions primarily throughout the Metro Atlanta area though she films on locations throughout the US and occasionally works Internationally as well. She has been a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG, now SAG-AFTRA) for the past 25 years.
Badger began her entertainment career as an actress in 1990 and quickly found her athletic background put to use in the stunt department. She moved to Los Angeles in 1996 where she doubled for some of Hollywood’s biggest stars including Angelina Jolie, Megan Fox, Rose McGowan, Diane Lane, Courteney Cox, Drew Barrymore and Eliza Dushku.
Badger shared, “I grew up in Florida and started acting at age 13. I began my stunt career in Atlanta in 1993 as a teenager, doing the stunts for the Batman show. I had very supportive parents and teachers. My first film was stunt doubling for Angelina Jolie in 1994’s Hackers for which I rode motorcycles and roller bladed. I’ve been working full time in stunts ever since.”
“In 1996, I moved to LA as a result of several job offers to double for Courteney Cox and perform stunts in the feature film Anaconda. I had a busy career doubling on shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Charmed, and others. ”
“I moved back East after I married to raise a family. My husband is from Atlanta too. We had both lived and worked here and our son and rescue animals love it as well.”
“While I worked all over the region, in 2009 I was hired to stunt double for Nina Dobrev on The Vampire Diaries. This led to several years in which we’d film in Atlanta for nine months and then I was often being traveled here for other projects as well so in 2013 we decided to make the move.”
“While I still very much enjoy stunt doubling, about 12 years ago I began stunt coordinating as well. It is an enjoyable transition as it allows me to utilize my experience to create exciting action in the safest possible way for my performers.”
Badger continued, “There are a ton of women stunt coordinators in Canada now, but there are really only a few of us here in the U.S. I am very grateful to God for the opportunities I have had and for the women that paved the way so that I could pursue these goals. I hope to do the same for the next generation of stunt women”
“One of the many things I love about stunt coordinating is the ability to create extremely violent stunts, yet make them really safe and repeatable for my performers (something that the productions and insurance companies appreciate as well). I remember times when I came home when my son was young, I wanted to play with him but would be so bruised and banged up that it was hard to even pick him up. One of my goals as a stunt coordinator is to send my performers home safely so that they can play with their family.”
She added, “I am very conscious about safety issues and hope that Atlanta continues to raise the bar on safety for our entire industry. The loss of Sarah Jones was devastating to all who knew her and should well have drastically altered the way every person on set looks at safety however I fear that as time passes, individuals become complacent and I pray that we never see another situation like that arise”
Regarding recent work, Badger states, “I finished coordinating Pitch Perfect 3 in April. We had just under 400 stunt man days; that is huge. This was an unlikely action film and a great project. I also wrapped as stunt coordinator on season 2 of Greenleaf for OWN. This year was exciting with fights, car crashes, and more.”
“I also did underwater coordinating for Ozark not too long ago. That was one of the ways I got into the business. My dad was a surfer and I grew up in the water. I was scuba certified when I was 16 and filmed in Mexico as part of Jean Michael Cousteau’s dive team. I’ve filmed out in the open waters with boat crashes and dolphins. I did a lot of water specialty stunts over the years and still do. I was known as being very calm and focused which is important in that environment and helped me book jobs internationally.”
“My favorite actress that I’ve doubled is Drew Barrymore. You couldn’t find a nicer human being. I worked as her stunt double on the first Charlie’s Angels film. She is such a genuinely nice person.”
“Pirates of Caribbean 4 was my favorite work experiences. Doubling Penelope Cruz meant 10 months of filming in LA, Hawaii, and London, and while I loved all of the sword fighting, my favorite was the Jack vs. Jack fight with Johnny Depp. Geoffrey Rush is also an amazing professional to work with and the core stunt team included a bunch of Christian peers who were like big brothers to me.”
Regarding Georgia’s current market, Badger states, “We really owe a lot to Paul Lombardi, Scott Tigchelaar and the Georgia legislators who proposed the incentives early on, with others joining the movement in 2008. Since then, both the infrastructure that has been built and with Pinewood and other studios staging here, the momentum has just continued.”
“The tax incentives have helped so many people, but they have also created a lot of competition in our market. Just 4-5 years ago, there were roughly 70 stunt people here. Out of those 70, only 20 or so worked full time. The market has since exploded and now we have well over 400 stunt people here. I encourage performers not to be complacent however, a lot of my peers move to Louisiana, Michigan, and North Carolina due to their tax credits early on but then had a hard time finding work when their state’s tax credits ended. Personally, I believe that the competitive market makes us all better as it creates an environment where serious professionals have to be constantly training and striving to become better at their skill sets. This benefits both the performers and the coordinators and productions that are hiring them.”
“I would advise other women coming up in the industry to be aware of the very real risks with our line of work. Teeth get knocked out, faces become scarred, tailbones get broken and danger is part of the job. If that is unacceptable, this isn’t the line of work you should be pursuing.”
“It’s a hard market right now for men and women trying to break into the industry in Atlanta, because it is a saturated market. Atlanta really is LA now. The good part of that is the opportunity, but there is heavier competition as well.”
“We are trying to build our community both professionally and personally with the influx. On the good side, a lot of my friends have now moved here from LA. We have a lot more choices now with stunt doubles that require harder and more complex gags. The bad side, is the oversaturated market. A lot my local friends who were working steadily in previous years are now having a hard time finding work. I tell those seeking a stunt career to call around and find places where other stunt people train in an open gym environment. This is great way to meet folks in the industry, get acclimated and get a good feel for what it takes to succeed here.”
Badger is credited with over 200 feature films, television series and commercials. She is the winner of the 2012 Action Icon Award, and a four time nominee for the World Stunt Award in the categories of: Best Overall Stunt By A Woman; Best Car Action Sequence; Best Fire Stunt; and Best Specialty Stunt.
A few highlights of Badger’s work includes: Pirates of the Caribbean 4, Iron Man 3, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant Man, Banshee Seasons 2-4, Ride Along 2, The Originals, Goosebumps, Complications, Killing Reagan, The Founder, Greenleaf Seasons 1 and 2, In Dubious Battle, Sleepy Hollow Seasons 3 and 4, The Walking Dead (all seasons), Scream 2 and 3, Charlie’s Angels, DeJaVu, One Tree Hill, and NCIS…to name a few.
For more information on Jennifer Badger visit: http://jenniferbadger.com/