Think back to your favorite movies and we guarantee that there are some action sequences. Although there are some actors that do their own stunts, most enlist a stunt person to make the scene truly look and feel as next level as possible. This month's cover girl is celebrity stuntwoman and athletic personality, Jessie Graff.
Jessie has been in a number of movies and TV shows. In addition, if you're a fan of NBC's American Ninja Warrior, then you have seen her crushing courses on this TV show as well while donning a Wonder Woman costume. We spent an afternoon with her shooting her for our
cover and this energetic woman showcased her athletic ability while also sharing anecdotes how she got into the business, where we have seen her as well as how she has honed her craft over the years.
ATHLEISURE MAG: What was your journey to becoming a stunt woman from childhood to actually selecting this career?
JESSIE GRAFF: I wanted to be a super hero, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena Warrior Princess. I loved the physical part most, but didn't know that stunts were a separate job, so I always thought I'd be an actress. After majoring in theatre in college, I learned that the actors don't usually get to do their own stunts, so I immediately researched everything I could about stunt people. I read every article I could find, studied the stunt player’s directory, and found
out where stunt people trained. Then I got photos, made a demo reel, moved to LA, and signed up at every gym in where I could find stunt people. Then I copied everything they did, learned everything I could, and eventually, earned my place in the community.
AM: What type of training does one engage in order to become a stunt woman?
JG: Fights, falls/wipeouts, weapons, parkour, gymnastics, rock climbing, every style of martial arts, wire work, rigging, trampolines, bicycles, air rams, Russian swing, high falls, scuba, sky diving, cars, motorcycles, fire burns... There's so much to learn!
AM: Obviously, you're in great shape, what workouts do you suggest for great abs, glutes and arms?
JG: I organize all of my workouts into a 3 day cycle of push day, pull day, and leg day. It allows me to push each muscle group to the limit, and give it 2 days to recover, while I'm training the other 2 main muscle groups.
I suggest FORGETTING about how you want your body to look, and choosing workouts based on what you want to be able to do, and how you want to feel. If you want great arms, get hooked on rock climbing, gymnastics, or calisthenics. Set goals like climbing at a certain difficulty level or learning to do a kip on bars. Then do all the drills, progressions, and strength training to get those skills, and make a new goal 1 level higher. Want great glutes? Work on, bounding agility obstacles, improving your vertical jump, or learning parkour. When you get passionate about a hobby that requires those muscles, every workout is more inspiring, and there is no end. If you want an 8-pack, and you get there, how do you stay motivated to work out and eat healthy? How do you maintain it? But if you succeed in your goal of 10 pull ups, great! New goal: get 12, or 15 or 20.
AM: What are your go to foods between your travels, working out etc?
JG: I always carry B-up protein bars and roasted seaweed with me, because fruit/carbs are easy to find, but protein and vegetables are harder to grab on the go. Basic structure of any meal is 1-2 servings protein, colorful vegetables, 1 serving of carbs or fruit, all on top of a huge pile of dark leafy greens.
AM: What's on your playlist when you're in the gym?
JG: Jessie Graff's Wonder Woman Playlist on DC Comics and "Try Everything" from Zootopia.
AM: What movies have we seen your work in?
JG: Look for me with purple hair in Future Man on Hulu, and Bright on Netflix. Other projects are Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Transformers, The Dark Knight, Marvel's Agents of Shield, G.I. Joe, Die Hard...
AM: What is the process like in terms of casting when you are going into being a stunt person in a film?
JG: If there are lines, we go to auditions as actors. We send demo reels or they are submitted by the stunt coordinator, so that they know we are qualified to do the stunt required for the role. We are given lines anywhere from the day before to at the audition, read for camera,
maybe have a call back, and are booked for the acting role. The auditions to be the main stunt double on a big action movie are the most fun. It's often a whole group of us in a gym, learning
fight choreography, and showing off kicks, flips, weapons, and any other applicable skills for a couple of hours.
AM: How do you prepare for the roles that you participate in?
JG: I rarely get more than a week's notice for a job or big audition usually 1-2 days. I have to guess which skills are most likely to come up, and prepare for EVERYTHING, so that no matter what comes up, I can be prepared (hopefully). Training constantly in so many different disciplines, improves my ability to learn brand new movements faster, so that even if something totally new comes up, I can adapt.
AM: What is the thinking behind wearing the Wonder Woman costume during your American Ninja Warrior run?
JG: My first year, I dressed as a chicken to advertise my short film 'Epic Chick Fight,' but a parent messaged me on Twitter about her 6-year-old daughter, who had never been very physically active. After watching me, she said 'I like her. I like her outfit' then promptly dressed her Barbie like me, and went outside to climb the jungle gym with her. It made me realize how much impact my clothing choices could have on kids. Now, I choose outfits that seem most likely to inspire kids to be healthy and strong.
AM: When you're not training, what is your personal style when you're out and about versus when you're in the gym?
JG: My personal style is pretty much Under Armour shorts and sports bras, or maybe a tennis skort to shake things up. The world is my gym, so I dress for workouts at all times.
When I'm at work, I wear whatever the costume department puts me in. For super fancy red carpet type events, I require that the mid-section be fitted, and stretchy, with a full circle skirt that allows for full range of motion. I always wear shorts under my skirt, so that I can flip and kick without wardrobe malfunctions. Other than that, I don't understand why I would ever wear anything other than workout clothes or swim suits.
AM: We love your videos on Instagram with your pup and your pig, it's a great way to show your physique and to get to know your personality, how long does it take to do them?
JG: It takes about 30 seconds to toss spinach around the floor, to keep @SammoHog occupied and in frame, and 20 seconds to 5 minutes to shoot the video...well... up to 1 min for Instagram,
but Facebook videos allow for longer workout clips. It rarely takes more than one take. Unless it's a compilation of multiple attempts. Those may take 30 min or so of trying and failing 20 times before I succeed, and another 5 minutes to edit.
AM: Are there any charities or philanthropy that you are a part of that you would like to share?
JG: I really want to do more to help educate people of all ages about healthy eating and exercise habits, and how to make them feel fun and effortless. I currently do that by sharing my own tips, tricks, and experience on social media, but would love suggestions on specific charities that deal with those topics.
AM: What advice would you give to a girl that is looking to get into the world of stunts?
JG: Don't pursue stunts unless you REALLY love it. You will get beaten up. You'll be cold and wet, falling down concrete stairs at 3am, or sweating in a full leather suit on an overheating motorcycle, on a 110 degree day in the desert. They will constantly throw crazy and unusual
challenges at you, and you'll have to think on your toes, to figure it out on the spot.
If working out 5-8 hours/day, and fighting to achieve seemingly impossible feats sounds like a dream job, do it. Work your butt off. Learn everything. Be smart. Be humble. Listen. Pay attention, and be helpful. If you are talented, work really hard, and have a great attitude, you will have an amazing career, a lifetime of adventure, and become friends with some of the most incredible people on the planet.
We get to be the unknown heroes of the film industry.
Our photoshoot with Jessie Graff took place at Henry Hall in NYC's Hudson Yards. We took a moment to find out more about the interesting concept of this residential property that also makes you feel like you live in a hotel as well.
ATHLEISURE MAG: What are the amenities offered at Henry Hall?
HENRY HALL: Henry Hall features a unique amenities package focused on the building’s club and lounge areas and elite food and beverage offerings. As part of its innovative programming,
Henry Hall will debut Delicious Hospitality’s new restaurant, dubbed Legacy Records. The restaurant, bar and lounges will be spread over the building's first and second floors.
In addition to the restaurant and second floor lounge, Henry Hall residents will have access to an array of sought-after amenities, including a “jam room,” resident’s club room, private dining rooms and wine room, roof-deck, state-of-the art training center as well as exclusive access to Henry Hall Concierge for 24-hour service.
Henry Hall will also provide residents with Echo Dots connected to Amazon Alexa. The posh rental has equipped each of the 225 residences with an Echo Dot and created an Alexa skill tailored specifically for Henry Hall residents. Building Link, the leading online residential
management system, has developed a custom skill that gives Alexa the ability to answer numerous requests that pertain specifically to residents. Voice commands that residents can make include the following: “Alexa, ask Henry Hall if I have any packages”; “Alexa, ask Henry
Hall if there are any events in the building today”; and “Alexa, ask Henry Hall when the gym will be open.”
AM: What is the concept behind the design of the building?
HH: Developed by Imperial Companies, on behalf of the joint venture partnership with Shorenstein, and with interior design by the renowned Ken Fulk, Henry Hall is Hudson Yard’s newest destination rental. In contrast to the glass towers dominating the Hudson Yards neighborhood, Henry Hall gives a thoughtful nod to ‘Old New York’ with its brick and steel
façade. The 33-story building includes 225 studio to two-bedroom units with prices starting at $3,350.
Henry Hall is a new wave residential experience inspired by boutique hotel culture. Eric Birnbaum, Co-founder of Imperial Companies, and the vision behind Henry Hall, says his imagination was sparked by stays at The Bowery Hotel and The Battery SF, among other properties. “At Henry Hall, we take design and programming cues from boutique hotels. I fell in love with the idiosyncratic charm of their lobbies - the design elements, the way people move through them,” Birnbaum says.
Henry Hall creates social programming for like minded people, communal spaces to relax and recharge, exquisite meals & beverage, all with grand décor and a rooftop view.
AM: There is a distinct boutique hotel vibe to this residence - why is that and what offerings does the property provide to those who are not residents?
HH: Henry Hall will offer a residential option that merges New York’s nightlife and boutique hotel experience with luxury residential living. The residences were outfitted as a modern take on traditional grand hotels and in keeping with that theme the private lounges, jam room, rooftop deck, gym—were all created to extend the holistic experience of a boutique hotel. Launch programming features a summer music series, “Tuesdays at Henry Hall,” which
welcomes residents and friends to enjoy a rotating cast of notable and socially influential DJs.
AM: Within the space that was included within our photoshoot, who decorated it?
HH: Ken Fulk, who has been dubbed “Silicon Valley’s creative disruptor,” and whose credits include The Battery SF among other high-profile residential and hospitality projects, worked with Eric Birnbaum to design the resident experience throughout all aspects of Henry Hall, from the eclectic lobby to the elegant lounges to the custom finishes in each residence.
Design elements in Henry Hall's grand lobby include a floor made of three different types of marble set in a herringbone pattern; a 10-foot-diameter custom brass chandelier retrofitted
with 24 cut-crystal globes from the 1930s; hand-scraped teak wall paneling with brass accents; a salon-style installation of vintage oil paintings and frame photography; tribal rugs; and antique furnishings.
AM: What are other selling points in this building?
HH: Henry Hall is truly a first of its kind: a destination and a community similar to a boutique luxury hotel or a members’ only club.
The residences include finishes such as ash hardwood flooring throughout and oversized windows that flood the residences with natural sunlight and provide sweeping city views. Gourmet kitchens are equipped with stark white quartz countertops and backsplashes,
premium brass fixtures by Waterworks and stainless steel appliances by Bosch and KitchenAid. Custom hexagonal tiles line the bathroom floor and are accompanied by a medicine cabinet with integrated vanity lighting and polished nickel fittings. Each unit is equipped with a Bosch washer/dryer.
"Every space, however unique, public or private, is considered an essential part of the Henry Hall story. They become a defining element of the residential experience,” said Eric Birnbaum,
Co-Founder and Partner at Imperial Companies. "So many people would love to live in their favorite hotel or have the City’s newest restaurant be just downstairs - Henry Hall makes that a reality.”
For more information about Henry Hall, please visit www.henryhallnyc.com.
AM: For those that are residents, what are the neighborhood selling points?
HH: Located at 515 West 38th Street, the site of the former Legacy Recording Studio, Henry Hall is at the epicenter of Hudson Yards and is redefining luxury for a new generation of New
Yorkers. Hudson Yard’s close proximity to the major transportation hubs of the recently completed 7 train extension, Penn Station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal provide an array of convenient transportation options. Henry Hall is in close proximity to the city’s finest shopping, dining, entertainment and cultural venues and is surrounded by Chelsea and The Meatpacking District to the south and the Hudson River to the west.
AM: Is there anything that we should know about the Hudson Yard area?
HH: Hudson Yards is just north of the Meatpacking District and Chelsea, adjacent to Hell’s Kitchen, stretching along the High Line and the river, and close to Midtown; an electric atmosphere in which you can work, play and live. A convergence of parks, public space, haute
cuisine, shopping, easy access to transportation and stunning views of the river and cityscape make it easy to see why the neighborhood is booming.