Recently, we had the chance to talk to Lisa Chandler, who is managing to balance a career of both stunt work and acting, taking on such shows as Supergirl and Netflix’s Altered Carbon.
I’ve got to ask you right off the top, how did you decide to start doing stunts?
Lisa: I started off acting in front of the camera, literally trying to do anything to get into film, and I was doing a gig in Toronto, working on a movie, and when the movie finished they asked me if I wanted to go to Toronto for another film, doing the same actress, going from Vancouver to Toronto, and it was on the second unit that I got offered a position to double the lead but I was literally asking every question I could, how to get involved in stunts, what do I do, can I help participate in this, can I do anything possible, so just kind of showed interest and they had a small opening, a little window, so I took advantage of it and when I came back from Toronto after that film I started a resume, got the ball rolling, put down everything I had, anything I did. I realized that people were starting to, not specialize but almost specialize, in a certain background so I had a strong water background so I really liked doing water stunts. I did free diving, scuba diving and started to build a little bit of a resume according to that and then I shifted into martial arts, then boxing, then driving so you kind of scatter your skills around but it all started with taking a great opportunity on a film and kind of snowballing that.
So did you start out doing stunts, which eventually led you to act, and are you going to continue to do both?
Lisa: No, the other way around. I started off acting then got into stunts and now I’m kind of merging the two together so yes, I’m going to continue to do both. The roles that I’ve been doing lately have been mostly stunt actor, I’d say in the past year, so I’m not closing any doors by any means, I’m keeping them wide open. I love acting, I love performing but then I also love the performance aspect of doing stunts, the action, adrenaline so to find a path where I can merge the two together is amazing.
You’ve done a lot of work in television. Was that by choice or did you go where the work took you?
Lisa: Vancouver has been a real sci-fi friendly industry the past couple of years so to say I’m only going to do TV or film, it’s really not going to benefit you, you really do have to take the work as it comes. I happen to love the shows that I work on, which are TV shows, but it’s a mix of the two. I’m not being picky by any means, you take it as it comes and accept it and I have no problem with that, I love doing TV and film. The experiences you have from both are very different but also the same as a lot of the cast and crew are going to be mostly the same, from Vancouver, so you get to see your friends and work with them over and over again, learning to understand each other’s skill sets and work as a team. I definitely don’t choose TV or film, when it comes to me I understand it’s a position, a job, figure out if I’m qualified and go from there.
This is a tough business you have chosen for a career. How hard was it starting out and did you ever think about doing something else?
Lisa: There is going to be rejection in any career and film there’s massive rejection, you’re told no pretty much ninety percent of the time so you’ve got to have a thick skin. If you have the passion then it’s going to override the no’s and you’re going to follow through. You’re going to hear no in this business continuously, especially in auditions, you’re rejected all the time, it’s a world of rejection. But if you push the rejection aside and keep doing your craft and finding that you can have fun in the audition, you can have fun in the process and let your passion guide you and no, I’ve never had a backup plan or a plan b so to speak.
I just finished watching Altered Carbon and I really enjoyed it. What was your experience like working on that show?
Lisa: It was amazing, absolutely amazing. It was an insane shoot, the sets, costumes and every time I would get on set and have to go from one side of the studio to the other I’d be walking through all the little mini sets, no really mini but the detail was insane, I was literally blown away. The experience was phenomenal and was really cool to see, you know you hear about how much money is spent on these shows and well, this looked like money well spent, it was so insane. It looked fantastic on screen and being behind the scenes it had a great vibe, it’s going to be really hard to top that one.
You mentioned the sets and the costumes. How much do things like that help you get into character?
Lisa: Well as you know, I didn’t have that much of a costume, so I can’t say that really helped me but to get into character you just really find that within. The set really helped because you’re feeling the world, the environment around you and you’re seeing all the different sets and trying to put it together like a puzzle, trying to figure out the end product. The sets are so cool, the part where I’m falling off at the very end, that was all green screen and it was so wonderful to build the world in your head, what the stakes were, with literally five sheets of green screen around you. You’re trying to picture, spoiler alert, you jumping to your death through these clouds so you definitely have to build a world for yourself to help you get there mentally and I like that process a lot, it was really cool.
I love the diversity of the characters in Altered Carbon, especially the powerful women moving in and out of the story. Do you think the creation of strong women characters is becoming more the norm now or do we still have a ways to go?
Lisa: I think it’s becoming more common to see women have a voice and we can carry a lead, we’re not just a supporting role and pushed to the side, we can carry a strong action film and television show. It’s an interesting conversation to have because there are so many opinions on how to do it, it really comes down to being more consistent, letting people know that as women we can carry your film or TV show, we can do it. We’ve been doing it for a long time, it’s just a matter of letting the top people know that it’s time to stop living in the past.
Going back to stunts for a moment, how do you prepare for a role when you’re doing a stunt?
Lisa: Well, there’s physical preparation, for sure. If there’s any sort of rigging or you’re on a line or there’s gas involved, there are actually physical checks that you’re doing. You’re checking your harness, your lines, you’re talking to your riggers, the stunt coordinator, making sure everything is in place. There is also the mental aspect, you build yourself up like you’re going to run the one hundred yard dash, making sure your feet are nicely placed on the pegs, so there’s that preparation. Then there is also the creative craft preparation, instead of just smashing into a wall you’re going to continue in and have a bit of an acting scene so yeah, you have to prep both physically and mentally to make sure you’re aware, you’re with your scene partner and that you’re present.
Have pay services like Netflix opened a lot of doors for actors or is it still a mad scramble to get work?
Lisa: You know what, I think it’s phenomenal, I love it. There used to be a pilot season but I don’t think that really exists anymore, TV has shifted so much, there’s Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, now Facebook Live, there’s so many different options now to view programs. It’s just opening up more doors for actors to be cast into those shows so I love them, I think they’re fantastic. They’re not going with the regular rules of what television is, I feel like there are shows on those programs, they’re so diverse, there are so many different options, for both stunts and acting, there’s a huge bucket here to take advantage of, to dive in.
What projects do you have coming up next?
Lisa: Well I’m still on Supergirl, I stunt double on that show, we’re on season three and I stunt double the character Alex, played by Chyler Leigh so that’s keeping me busy, that’s where I have to go this morning after this. I’m doing projects all the time to be honest, which I love that I can kind of squeeze in between shooting Supergirl. I just had an episode of Supernatural come out, a couple other episodes come out, I do get to play here and there on other shows but Supergirl does keep me pretty busy right now.
I want to thank Lisa for taking the time to talk with us.