We recently had the opportunity to talk to the multi-talented Michelle Rose about life as a stunt actress. Michelle grew up in San Diego, ice skating competitively and reaching near-Olympic levels. In college, she studied pre-med. Her father and everybody on his side was a doctor, and she was expected to follow in their footsteps.
Studying abroad in Spain stopped her from taking medical courses. “All I did was take art classes, like Spanish cinema, Italian cinema. I remember calling my Dad at 2 in the morning from Spain saying ‘Um… I think I’m going to be a film major and when I graduate I’m going to Hollywood.’ He almost had a heart attack.”
Women Must Be Extra Tough
Whenever you watch someone on screen fall, fight, perform acrobatic maneuvers, or get lit on fire, you are seeing a stunt person at work. Even if you think it’s the star, it’s actually their stunt double. Acquaintances are usually surprised learn that thin, slight Michelle does stunts. “People have this idea or notion when they think of a stuntwoman. They think we look like football players. We don’t, at all, we have to look like the actors.”
One of Michelle’s earliest stunt jobs was as a stunt double in box-office-topping The Expendables. Besides maintaining the physique of the star, there’s another challenge for stunt doubles. “Oftentimes, a role calls for wearing heels or tight fitting clothes or dresses so there isn’t a lot of room to place pads if you are going to fall or take any impacts. I’m not taking away anything from our male counterparts, but I would venture to say stuntwomen have to be a little extra tough.”
Stuntwork Isn’t All Action
“In acting, when you’re performing a role, a big part is your physicality. You think about movement. If you’re playing a weak and mousey character, how would you walk down the street? You’d walk while embodying that persona. If you’re doing stunts, it’s kind of the same concept.”
Michelle’s stunt work took her to the sets of famous TV shows like CSI and Grimm. The world of fantasy needed unique movement. “We did a fight where my character was a gangbanger who morphed into a lizard person. She’s this lizard creature, so when she punches, she didn’t punch like a normal person. She had her hands open and she swipes like an animal.”
At The End of the Day
Now Michelle performs live shows, runs a one-woman comedy series, stars as a detective in the upcoming movie NOIR, paints art for the indie film Penumbra, and does whatever action needs doing in blockbusters. No matter what job she has, Michelle’s motivation stays the same.
“You watch it come together and then translate into this other world you see on screen that impacts people. It either makes them think, or it makes them laugh, or it makes them cry, or they lose themselves in it for a just an hour or two. Or they connect with it, or it tells a story that connects with them or it teaches them something about life. That is why I do what I do. At the end of the day, that’s the goal: to leave something important that people can take away.”