How This Stuntwoman Is Fighting To End Gender And Racial Discrimination In Hollywood

"It may be the change that saves someone’s career, sanity, or life."

Deven MacNair is a stuntwoman and stunt coordinator who has appeared in such films as Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and Green Lantern.

#WhyIDidntReport

We are in a new time. We are in a time where we, as an American society, have just had a mirror put to our face — and we aren't as pretty as we thought we were. If you grew up like me, with The Smurfs (Ha, you didn't see that coming!), you, as a girl, knew you were Smurfette. As Smurfette says, and most of the commercials selling you stuff at the time would say, "Girls can do anything!"

Cut to 2018.

This was my bottom.

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A year and a half prior, I did the most despicable thing that one can do in my line of work, which is stunts. Did I get injured? No. Injure someone else on the crew? No. Sexually assault a co-worker? No. Take pictures of my conquests while they are sleeping and share with other stuntmen like they are baseball trading cards while hanging out on set? No. (Although, that is the next one I am going after stuntmen — get ready!)

I did something worse: I spoke up. I asked a simple question of my boss. And now I'm paying the price for that moment for the rest of for my career.

"Why is there no stuntwoman doubling as the actress?"

That was the question I asked that was career ending for me.

Stuntwoman Deven MacNair wearing jeans and a blue-and-white striped shirt.
Photo Credit: Bobby Quillard

Short version: As a stuntwoman, I have had a blessed and successful career. Working on different films, movies, and commercials, I've seen it all. I was on a movie set in 2016 when I witnessed the incident in question. Working as a stunt coordinator means that you hire the stunt people, and very little did I need to hire stuntwomen. It's mainly stuntmen doubling for male actors that I need to hire. However, I recognize the importance of being able to hire females as much as possible when I can.

So a brief history: Stuntwomen and people of color are still relatively new to our line of work. Back in the day, before cellphones and internet, you would simply hire the people already on set and make do, meaning if you needed a double for an actress, you found the closest stuntman of the height and weight of the woman, and put a dress and a wig on him, and bingo — problem solved. You need to double a Black actor? Get the nearest stuntman. Back in the day, this was only a White man's business, so you slapped some shoe polish on him and bingo — problem solved.

Except, was the problem solved? No, because women and people of color aren't getting the jobs, the great money when we work, and the on-set experience that is required to build one's stunt résumé.

Although this is stunts we're talking about, insert whatever job field you are in and it's the same issue all over America for women and people of color. And I saw this practice constantly repeated until it came to a head when I had seen this happen for the third time in one year.

The first time I was on set, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a stuntman in a dress walking by. I just did a double take and then had to get to my set and focus on my stunt. I wasn't even sure what I saw.

The second time I came across a man in a wig playing a grandma character, doubling as an actress. I was furious. I said nothing. At the end of the day, I said less than nothing — I thanked the stunt coordinator for hiring me and left. But I could not sleep that night. I still don't sleep well from that incident. And I promised myself if I ever saw it again, I would say something.

Stuntman wearing a wig to appear as a woman in a movie stunt.
Courtesy: Deven MacNair

And then, two months later, there it was. The car had to hustle out of a driveway and turn right while being shot at by a gang. That's it. As stunts go, this is on the basic side of our craft: there are squibs (electrical charges to represent the bullet hits) and they can be dangerous if things go wrong, so there is no need to put your main actress in that danger. Literally, you won't see her body, so anyone can double her. Per the stunt coordinator's direction for that film, that meant having a stuntman do it. I got there in time to witness a man putting on a wig and getting into the car. I went up to the stunt coordinator and asked, "Where is the stuntwoman for this stunt?" His first response was it was too dangerous for a stuntwoman. The brakes were bad.

"So what, men can handle bad brakes better?"

I asked again. The response? "No."

I asked for a third time, this time stating that I can do this stunt. Just let me do it, please. And this is where the smear campaign immediately started. The response was, "No, I have been told you are a horrible stunt driver, you cannot get into the car."

Whoa! That was news to me. And then it became a part of my life story. Because males run this business — when they talk, it's truth. No ifs, ands, or buts.

I finished the day and reported the incident to my guild, SAG-AFTRA. And other than two days of work as a performer, I have never had a work call again. That is all. No more. As a stunt performer, because I asked a question and dared to asked authority, "Where is the stuntwoman for this job?"

Cut to February 2018.

This was my bottom.

Deven MacNair wearing a black polo 
Photo Credit: Bobby Quillard

Savings gone, lawyer fees adding up, and stuntmen still calling me to remind me how horrible I am. At times I would believe it, with all my heart and sad breaking soul. I even had stuntwomen telling me they heard I am merely doing this for attention according to other stuntmen, that I wasn't even there. I made it all up for the attention and for the money.

At this moment, I was literally in a room in bed trying to get enough momentum to wash my face, as my eyes are so puffy from the constant crying that I must wash my face multiple times a day. I learned that clinical depression physically hurts. My bills are out of control, I Uber and Lyft up to 14 hours a day trying to get ahead of bills and lawyers' fees but to no avail. My federal lawsuit never once mentions money: it is about a violation of our civil rights.

Slowly, the changes began to happen. One of my idols in the news, Sally Ann Roberts, retired and on her last day in February, she sang a song she just wrote. It included the lyric, "When your life is a mess, look your best."

I took it as a sign to get up, get dressed, and start living again — or try to. A battle cry I needed, "Don't let them see you sweat." Then, a call from a director who read an article about all of this and said, "How can I help?" Wow, what a powerful sentence — and from an absolute stranger no less.

I can never thank her enough for that phone call on that very day. But I will try … thank you, Alethea.

We got Paramount Pictures to put on an event to educate directors and producers about stunts and the unequal balance of power, which Evangeline Lily lent her voice to. I get fake eyelashes so I can present to the world a stronger look then what my bloodshot eyes would tell you from the constant crying that I do in private. Alone. Very alone ... or so I thought.

Stuntwoman Deven MacNair wearing jeans and a blue-and-white striped shirt with a turtle.
Photo Credit: Bobby Quillard

The overwhelming response from so many women and men in all aspects of business, not just stunts, has been overwhelming. And yes, the #MeToo movement has helped shed light on this, so I am grateful. We are starting to be believed. This isn't going to happen overnight, but the more we report, the more we talk and have honest conversations about the imbalance of power, the closer we will get to be a part of the process. We are at a moment that people are listening, they want you to speak your truth. You will be believed, but it starts with you. Speak your truth whether it be in the workplace, in your neighborhood, or even family. If you notice something just ask, "How can I help?"

It may be the change that saves someone's career, sanity, or life.

Report your truth whether it be at work, at home, or at school. We are being heard better than ever than before, and I am here to help.

#WhyIDidntReport

You can follow Deven MacNair on Twitter and check out her career on IMDb.

A note from MacNair: If you want to make a change and don't know where to start, volunteering at a Girls on the Run event is a great place. This empowers girls and is a big part of my steps in getting out of my own depression, and helping and empowering others.

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