Having support can be such a powerful thing. If I have an “off day” or feel uninspired, I now have a community to help me back on my feet. It’s an incredible feeling. As cliché as it sounds, you can achieve so much more if you do it together.
As a part of my interview series with popular culture stars, I had the pleasure of interviewing Taylor Krasne. Taylor is a stuntwoman, circus artist and actor who has extensive experience performing for various companies around the country, from David Schwimmer’s Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago, doing 80ft-high wire stunts for PHISH at Madison Square Garden, to performing in Tim Robbins’ theater company, The Actors’ Gang in Culver City. After recently receiving her bachelor’s from the National Institute of Circus Arts in Australia, she’s back in the US pursuing stunts and motion capture in Los Angeles.
I guess it started when I was a kid! My parents were high level gymnasts and martial artists and owned a gymnastics academy, so I’ve been flipping around since I can remember. I gravitated towards circus arts when I was introduced to it as a kid because it was both fun AND a cool form of personal expression.
I just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in circus after training full time at the National Institute of Circus Arts in Australia, which was a really amazing three years. I was recently accepted into the Cirque du Soleil database with an apparatus called Cyr wheel, which is basically a huge circle that you spin around on the ground like a coin. It was such a dream come true to be considered for the solo Cyr wheel act in their new show Luzia, but waiting to get that call from Cirque is something that can happen in two months or two years, so I’ve been introduced to stunts in the meantime and have completely fallen in love with the industry and community in the process.
About about a month ago I did my first “stunt hustle,” which is when you make your way onto a set and kindly introduce yourself to the stunt coordinator when the moment is most respectful and appropriate. I found some information on a show that was shooting at the time and decided to drive over and give it a try, and the stunt coordinator and I ended up chatting in his trailer for almost three hours! He was intrigued by the Cyr wheel apparatus and wants to write me into an episode of the show to incorporate my wheel and I into it. I can’t share the show or coordinator’s name out of
respect for their privacy, but it’s a huge honor just to be taken into consideration in this way by such a highly respected person in the industry.
Last year I was invited to my first ever stunt training session at XMA World Headquarters by my new friend Nick, who I’d met the night before at a party. I arrived at XMA the next morning and asked one of the instructors where the group training was that was led by a man named Nick. When the instructor asked for his last name, I quickly realized that I didn’t know it. He said, “You don’t know the last name of your own stunt coordinator? How do you not know this? YOU SHOULD ALWAYS KNOW THIS.”
Instantly intimidated and at a total loss, I started vaguely describing his features until he realized, “OH! Nick Benseman? He’s one of my former students. He’s right over there. Make sure to know his last name next time.” I had no idea that Nick was a highly respected stunt coordinator in the industry, and that instructor was the founder of XMA HQ, Mike Chaturantabut, who has mentored and trained countless industry professionals like Taylor Lautner, David Leitch (director of Atomic Blonde), and Chad Stahelski, the director of all John Wick films.
Mr. Chat is now my coach and mentor, and (as you can imagine) has taught me so much more about the industry since, quite literally, day one. It was probably the funniest way to learn, in real time, by my future mentor BEFORE he was my mentor, to always do your homework. I quickly learned to be prepared and do some research in order to have better conversations and be more knowledgeable when stepping into a newer, tight- knit community.
I’m currently working with Terry Notary on ape movement and quadruped creature work for motion capture. Terry played the ape named Rocket in the Planet of the Apes films, as well as Cull Obsidian and Groot in Avengers: Endgame and Infinity War, so it’s amazing to learn from someone with so much knowledge and experience in character creation and creature movement. He was also a circus artist in Cirque du Soleil and a former gymnast, so it’s even more inspiring to see someone with a similar movement background be so successful at what they do.
Since apes live 100% in the moment, the most important and hardest part of this training is being able to constantly be in that state, and without judgement. You REALLY have to face yourself and dig deep to clear out all of your emotional blockages in order to do this. It’s scary, but the biggest part of this training. For Terry to help rewire my brain and quite literally teach me to sit, stand and walk in this new state of non- judgement is the biggest gift I could receive not only for my work as an actor, but for my life and overall well being. After experiencing that state for the first time, you realize how much energy goes into putting up those invisible walls. It’s such a euphoric feeling when they disappear even for a moment, you’re able to listen and receive from others so much more. I’m always practicing staying in that state now, whether I’m on my own, on a date, walking around with friends — all the time. Without having so many barriers in front of you, reading someone’s body language and energy is so different and can tell an entirely separate story than what’s being verbalizing. I don’t say “life changing” often, but that’s what this work with Terry has been.
I’ve also got my own pair of customized carbon fiber arm extensions now! It’s so cool to own the same ones they used in the Planet of the Apes films. I’m going on a “quad hike” this weekend to work on the movement and get a bit of a workout. It’s hilarious seeing the looks on people’s faces when they see a group of people come bounding around the corner on all fours with these things. They’re always so confused.
I went to my first class at Lesly Kahn’s acting school last week and became friends with a quiet guy who was sitting next to me. Throughout class he’d gently chime in with the kindest, most loving words of encouragement and sincerity to the point where we all stopped class for a second to point out how nice this guy was. Everyone was absolutely intrigued by his insanely positive energy. He was so pure. I realized that this borderline living embodiment of Christ was Chester Rushing, who plays the freckle-faced bully in Stranger Things. It’s hilarious to me that the nicest guy I’ve met in YEARS is known around the world for his role as a savage bully.
Encouraging people to find their community and surround themselves with friends and coaches that can lift them up when they feel like they can’t. There’s only so much you can do on your own. Also, making sure to remember that the work/life balance is important too! It’s never a good feeling to work yourself into the ground.
Learning how to manage stress is another important tool. I’ve taken up meditation and yin yoga which physically helps calm my body down after a tough training day. It’s different for everyone, so figuring out what works for you is vital, whether it’s yoga or just catching a movie. I prefer both!
I’d really love to further the movement of recognizing stunt professionals at the Oscars. Stuntmen and women, and especially stunt coordinators, are unsung heroes in a lot of movies and it would be almost impossible to create so many genres of film without them. At this point they should be recognized and honored along with the rest of the creatives in the filmmaking industry that are acknowledged. The talent they bring to any film is more than deserving of the most significant awards in the business.
1) Do your homework! Be prepared when you step into a new space. Or else you might end up embarrassing yourself in front of the blue Power Ranger from Lightspeed Rescue like I did.
2) Have your media organized way ahead of time before you think you need it. You never know when you’ll be approached for a role, so having your media categorized on your phone can save you a lot of time. Getting a role can sometimes come down to who responds the fastest, so being prepared in this way can be a stress reliever since you know you’ll be ready if that situation arises.
3) Stretch your neck. I repeat: Stretch. Your. Neck. I know it’s obvious, but tight muscles are awful to deal with when you’re reacting to a punch or kick. If you don’t stretch your neck, you’re gonna have a bad time.
4) Being in the right mindset is above almost anything else. If you have all the right equipment but the wrong mindset, there’s not a whole lot you can accomplish. Mentality is what can make or break a lot of people.
5) Building, or becoming part of, a community. Having support can be such a powerful thing. If I have an “off day” or feel uninspired, I now have a community to help me back on my feet. It’s an incredible feeling. As cliché as it sounds, you can achieve so much more if you do it together.
A quote that my mentor said to me recently by T. Harv Eker really stuck with me: “How you do anything is how you do everything.” It makes me think about the quality and effort I put into the little things, like folding laundry or replying to a text in time. If I do small things half-assed, it’s likely that those habits can unintentionally transfer to bigger and more important things.
On a more personal level, a quote I connect with is from an unknown author: “Be so completely yourself that others feel safe to be themselves too.” So many of us are afraid to fully show ourselves to others or be vulnerable in fear that we’ll be rejected or judged. I was too familiar with that feeling when I was younger and it can be toxic, build walls and prevent a lot of awesome things from happening to you, whether in your personal or professional life. I’ve learned that taking up space in a room and being seen doesn’t have to be a selfish act, and living life on your own terms instead of being defined by someone else’s is so important. Doing this can take a lot of courage for some, so I never want anyone to ever feel hesitant, unsafe, or like they can’t be themselves around me.
I’m immensely grateful to Mike Chat and the XMA community for their support from the beginning, as well as Terry Notary and my other motion capture coach, Richard Dorton. (If you’ve played any video game ever, you’ve probably killed him.) Their endless encouragement has really motivated me to want to dive as deep as I can into the stunt and motion capture world and I’m so thankful for their guidance.
I’d love to meet Heidi Moneymaker and train with her! She’s done a lot of great stunt work that I deeply respect, so it’d be amazing to pick her brain and learn from her. We’ve both got a background in gymnastics, so she’s someone I look up to and strive to be as good as one of these days! Also Christopher Nolan, because Interstellar. Anything that man touches turns to gold. Working on a film of his is definitely a new dream of mine.
Also, Keanu Reeves because of how talented, kind and quirky he is. I feel like it’d be a very fun lunch. I saw a recent interview with him and loved how much of a goofball he is while being so considerate and thoughtful and unapologetically himself. It’s hard for me to not have a crush on a man like that!
Feel free to check out my stuff on Instagram at @taylorkrasne. My stunt and circus posts are public on Facebook, so if you want to head over there, you can search my full name, Taylor Krasne. I’d give you my Twitter, but I barely use it and all that’s on there are cat videos and Game of Thrones memes.
Thanks so much for having me!