You really must get comfortable with “throwing mud at the wall” as my husband says. Meaning you can’t lean on every job or audition like it’s going to be the “one”. I am the worst at this. I used to fantasize and stress over every audition or job opportunity and be crushed when it didn’t happen. It will drive you crazy if you stress over every shot you take. It’s all about putting your best foot forward and throwing every audition, opportunity, or “mud” at the wall until eventually something is going to *stick* for you.
As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Julia Maggio.
Emmy-nominated Stunt Performer, Producer and Content Creator, Julia Maggio, has been making a name for herself by performing some of the most challenging stunts across television and film. This year, Maggio was nominated for an Emmy Award in the inaugural category — Outstanding Stunt Performance, for Netflix’s hit series, “Cobra Kai,” a continuation of the 1980s blockbuster film franchise, “The Karate Kid” (Columbia Pictures). Starring Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, the series pick-ups over thirty years after the films end with Daniel LaRusso (Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (Zabka) once again becoming karate rivals in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley. Throughout the series, Maggio stunt doubles as Samantha LaRusso (Mary Mouser), Daniel’s daughter who practices karate with her father as her instructor. All three seasons of “Cobra Kai” are now streaming on Netflix, and production was recently completed on the fourth season.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Thank you for having me!
Well, I was a strange, weird kid who was overly imaginative, had ADD, and anxiety…so not quite the start to being a stunt performer in Hollywood just yet! I had some learning disabilities, and my 1st-grade teacher recognized this and decided to use it to her advantage. She would publicly humiliate me in front of my class and convince everyone how stupid I was in a twisted way to motivate them to not end up like me. It worked, everyone got good grades, at the expense of my self-esteem, and popularity.
My silver lining is I have the most supportive parents ever, the kind of parents only believed to be in the movies, but I’m here to tell you that they do exist. They got that teacher fired and proceeded to put me in every sport and hobby imaginable in the hopes of finding like-minded friends and discovering what I would be passionate about. That saved me and sprouted seed in me to prove that teacher wrong the rest of my life. It showed me I had worth and things to offer.
Through this, I started accepting myself for who I am, the weirdo who loves movies, video games, anime, and cosplay. Only then did I truly find my real friends. I wish I could have told that bullied 6-year-old kid that from the beginning because now I am loved by so many friends and family with a huge social media following just for being myself. I wish I could have just been myself from the very beginning, but this has been my journey to finding myself. I like to believe I proved that teacher wrong, especially now that I am an Emmy nominated stunt performer for my work on Netflix’s “Cobra Kai”!
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve been a cheerleader my entire life, to the point that for college, I based my school attendance on who could bring me to cheerleading collegiate nationals, which I attended twice. I was always on at least two teams at the same time, until my junior year of college. It was a huge physical undertaking and eventually, my ankle couldn’t take it anymore. I inevitably had to have surgery and was forced to quit all my teams. With my new unwanted free time, I got a corporate internship where I would crutch on over to my cubicle, wearing my business suit, answering to a boss that could’ve been in Mad Men. Without being able to perform and getting my first look at a future in corporate America, I became very depressed, and I knew quickly this was not what I wanted. I wanted to perform but didn’t know how, until one day a friend told me about an audition in NYC for The Power Rangers, doing their live and televised performances. I had no experience in martial arts but that didn’t stop me from training while my ankle was still in recovery. That was my first audition, and I was not good, but they saw something in me enough to give me the job as the Pink Power Ranger! I went on to perform at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, Good Morning America, and countless other performances while continuing to train martial arts and stunts. It was through that job that I met other Rangers who happened to also be stunt performers, and for the first in a long time, I felt inspired and determined. That is where my road to stunts began!
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
My first job ever working as a stunt performer was on Netflix/Marvel’s “Jessica Jones”, stunt doubling the young Jessica Jones. Fast forward to six years later — I wrapped on Netflix’s upcoming film, “Day Shift”, while celebrating the premiere of my work on the “Fear Street Trilogy” …for Netflix…only to get a phone call finding out that I have been nominated for an Emmy for my stunt work on “Cobra Kai”…FOR NETFLIX! It’s interesting and fascinating to look back and watch my career grow and evolve under the same roof!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One day on “Cobra Kai” we were setting up a training scene for Team Miyagi-do where I was stunt doubling Samantha LaRusso (Mary Mouser). As we were rushed to set I took a sip of my coffee, and the lid was not on correctly. I got coffee all over my wardrobe! Mary sees me, starts to give me a hug, sees the stain on my shirt and was like, “What is that!?” I said, “it’s coffee!” She then asked if her shirt was supposed to have it on there too since we wear the same outfits for the scene. I told her what happened, and we both died laughing! The wardrobe department didn’t have a spare shirt and I profusely apologized throughout the rest of the day. The moral of the story here is…secure your coffee lids! Or at least wear something over your wardrobe when eating and drinking!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My parents, Wayne and Maria Maggio, and my husband, Lloyd Pitts. I didn’t always have the confidence or believe in myself. Sometimes it takes a loved one to look you in the eyes and remind you of how far you have come, how deserving you are, and that you got this. My parents work in wholesale produce so it’s no surprise that they knew nothing about the industry when I decided to become a stuntwoman. Not only have they supported me from day one, but now they too have learned enough to work alongside me on our own first production!
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
Embrace the failure! It’s simply just part of the game and if you learn to accept it, then it’s less scary and doesn’t hold any power over you. I promise you; I have failed more times than succeeded, but I took control over failure — I merely saw it as a guide to succeed. Some jobs I didn’t get because I was the wrong size, height, look, etc., but I can’t control those things, and there will be jobs that I am the right sizes for! So, I let the things I cannot control, go. Some jobs I didn’t get because I was unprepared. I didn’t have a reel, the skill set, or the experience, etc. These were things I could control, and my failure became a guide to succeed.
Make a footage reel of my skills check. Train the abilities I needed for the job, check. Hustle to get more jobs to improve my resume, check!
I started booking more work once I allowed myself to see my failures as my “to do” list for how to succeed.
What drives you to get up every day and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?
I’m driven by the exciting scenarios that you’d never experience in any other job! On one day, I could be dressed like a panda being thrown from an explosion and the next day doing motion capture attacking the Avengers in a Marvel movie (both scenarios have happened)! It’s never the same thing twice and it’s always exciting!
You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?
I recently wrapped on Season 3 of CW’s “Legacies” where I stunt double the lead actress, Hope Mikaelson (Danielle Rose Russell). This has been one of the most rewarding jobs. That crew is my work family, and that job has pushed my abilities and given me many opportunities. The sad and daunting truth about stunts though, is that our bodies cannot handle this much physicality up to the average person’s retirement age. I’m only 29, and I have been training as a professional athlete since I was 10 years old, yet I am expected to do stunts into my 60s? The reality is my body won’t make it until then. I am either going to have too many injuries to keep working or have one big one that takes me out of stunts altogether. Having already had countless injuries and a concussion, I don’t want to get to that career-ending point. Some stunt performers go on to become stunt coordinators, where they get to create the action and fight scenes, but new windows of opportunity are opening for the stunt community to direct and create movies! “John Wick” was directed by a stunt performer, and now more are starting to get as well as prove they are worth the opportunity. Through stunts, I have learned camera angles, editing, shot lists, budgeting, scriptwriting, and many other aspects of filmmaking — enough to believe in myself to begin producing my own content. So, I am proud to announce that I have started producing this year on two projects! One is a pilot, “Project H” which has already been shot, is in post-production, and we hope it gets picked up for a full series. The other is “Gravedigger” a short film my husband wrote and will be directing with myself producing, that we’ll be bringing to film festivals in hopes of turning it into a full feature film! I got into the film industry to create, and I always will until the wheels fall off.
We are very interested in looking at diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture and our youth growing up today?
Everyone deserves representation in film and television — period. Doesn’t matter what ethnicity, age, or gender you are, we all should have characters we can relate and connect to. America is such a massive hub for content creation, yet our films and tv shows rarely represent the people who make up our actual population. It took characters like the Pink Power Ranger and Uma Thurman in “Kill Bill” to inspire me to become a stuntwoman. Without those strong female representations, there is no telling what my career path would have been. Imagine if those strong female characters were written, directed, and/or produced, by women. How much more inspirational that would be!
We need to have that representation behind the camera just as much as we do in front of it. It doesn’t matter what gender, race, age, disability, etc — we can all be a part of this industry because we all have a story to tell. There are movies and shows about inequality, immigration, educational indifferences, disabilities, and double standards, yet there are people who have no experience in these stories telling it in film and profiting from it. I believe it’s crucial that we put the power back in the hands of the people who are the best fit to tell these stories. I hope one day any youth can look at a screen and be inspired because they see themselves represented in front of and behind the camera.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. To be yourself or stay true to yourself. Don’t try to create who you are by what you think the film industry wants from you. I know so many people in the industry who create these personas, or what they think people want them to act and be like. Not only does it come off false, but eventually the “lie” shines through and wears you out. Just be yourself, and people will like you and hire you for that!
2. You really must get comfortable with “throwing mud at the wall” as my husband says. Meaning you can’t lean on every job or audition like it’s going to be the “one”. I am the worst at this. I used to fantasize and stress over every audition or job opportunity and be crushed when it didn’t happen. It will drive you crazy if you stress over every shot you take. It’s all about putting your best foot forward and throwing every audition, opportunity, or “mud” at the wall until eventually something is going to *stick* for you.
3. Don’t be a jack of all trades. There is a lot of debate over this one but I’m going to tell you what I’ve learned from experience: there are an infinite amount of directions you can take in life and each one has its own sub-classes and side skills, but if you want to continuously push forward, then you need to pick one or at least a few things you are genuinely passionate about and become a master at them. The principle holds that 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” are needed to become world-class in any field such as acting, directing, stunting, editing, etc. Relating it to martial arts, I believe it’s better to have a single black belt than a dozen white belts. Bruce Lee once said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
4. Taking rejections. It comes with the job. In fact, It comes with every job. You have to get and stay ahead of this because no one escapes it. The most successful people in the world have pushed through even more rejection with blood, sweat, and tears to get where they are. If you want to achieve your dreams you will need to face rejection with a smile and keep moving forward through it with the thickest of skin.
5. Don’t wait -CREATE. No one will pick you out of the crowd and hand you everything you’ve ever wanted. You must work on your craft with every spare moment you can muster and create opportunities for yourself. If someone won’t cast you in a tv show, go film scenes on your own. Wish you could read a top-secret script but don’t have the connections to? Go write one! There is no avenue of film and television you can’t do on your own for free. Sure, you don’t have the money to create flying aliens or superheroes, but nothing is stopping you from putting your favorite monologue on tape in your garage. I know this because I’ve done it! I am finally at a place in stunts where I get hired often, but I want to produce. No one is going to just hand over that job to me, I have to prove it! So, I am taking action by producing my own short film.
Can you share with our readers any selfcare routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.
It doesn’t matter if you are a stunt performer, or sit at a desk every day, please stretch. Did you know at Studio Ghibli in Japan, that a few times a day a blissful music alarm plays, and everyone gets up from their desks to do a quick stretch and some movements? I know so many people who have back, neck, or knee issues, and you would be surprised by how just a little bit of movement each day would get rid of it as well as help prevent an injury.
Occasionally, put in your schedule to take time to actually relax, not just scroll through social media on your phone. Go to the movies, walk the park, read a book, play a video game, etc. Most of us don’t realize we are in burnout, and we don’t take time for ourselves. We always put our jobs and others first, but it’s okay to take some mandated time for your well-being.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
It would have to be a Jim Lovell quote: “from now on we live in a world where man has walked on the moon. It wasn’t a miracle, we just decided to go.” I love this statement because it implies that nothing is impossible. Some things are as simple as just deciding to do it — that’s farther than others can get! The next step is to keep taking action towards that decision. We can literally figure out the solution to any problem so long as we want it bad enough.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Black lives matter and the LGBTQ+ community matters. In both, I am an ally, but it is not my voice that needs to be heard the most, it’s theirs, and I will always have their back.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
I am inspired by those who really love to create in multiple capacities. Whether it be voice artistry or acting for one project, writing for the next, while also directing or producing your own work. With that in mind, I would love to have lunch with Tina Fey and Elizabeth Banks! Both have worn so many hats in filmmaking, and I would be very intrigued to hear their advice to someone like me who wishes to also create their own projects while also helping others create theirs!
Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?
I am on social media @JuliaStunts — I use Instagram to post about what I’ve worked on within film and television, and I use TikTok to create content on video games, cosplay and anime, as well as comedic skits!
This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!