We had the good fortune of connecting with Nailah Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nailah, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
When it comes to risks, I believe they are involved in our lives a lot. When deciding what college to go to, what job to take and if you should move during a pandemic. They are all risks. How big they are, are dependent on your life. When I think about risks, I think about change. These risks don’t always have to be negative but they do cause a shift in my life. I have taken many risks and without them I don’t think I would be the person I am today. From quitting my job right out of college to work in the industry to dropping everything and joining a stunt show to diving full force and pursuing a career in stunts, all of these risks were scary and caused a lot of changes and weren’t easy but they made me who I am today. I am not someone who is okay with comfortability, I love to challenge myself whether it’s with work, life or my hobbies. It allows my life to continue to be exciting and enjoyable.
Risks have played a huge part in my life and career. Without taking them I wouldn’t be able to call myself a stunt performer. Everyone who works in the industry knows it could be shaky and inconsistent let alone pursuing it full force during a world wide pandemic, talk about risky. Every time I step on stage or on set it’s a risk with the work I do as well. Being a stunt performer everything is unexpected and you always have to be prepared for the worse. I think that being a risk taker throughout my life has helped me with preparing for big stunts whether its on the job or during training. I know what I am comfortable with doing and I know what I need to practice in order to get the job done. It’s still risky but I mentally prepare myself for these things. A stunt coordinator, Buddy Love, gave me some great advice on my first stunt job and he said “Always have a plan A, B, and C in case things go wrong. No matter how big or little the stunt is.” So every time I am working or even training I always think of the possible scenarios that could happen and what I would do if they were to happen. One, to keep myself safe and two, to not cause a big scene if something were to go wrong!
If it weren’t for taking risks and trusting the process I wouldn’t be able to do what I love!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have been doing martial arts since I was 10 years old but never thought about a career in stunts. To be honest, I didn’t even know it was a career path you could take. I started working as a production assistant and met the stunt coordinator, Buddy Love on a show I was working on and he introduced me to the stunt world and ever since then I was hooked. It felt so natural to jump into this profession and have only continued to fall in love with it more and more each day. I am still very green and have only been in it for two years but continue to train, hustle and educate myself on the business in order to continue living this dream of a career! It is not an easy path nor is it for everyone. It takes a lot of heart because you’re going to receive a lot of no’s and a lot of of your skillset and training is up to you. You need to prepare yourself prior to these jobs on your own time and own dime. In order to overcome these challenges I tend to continue to train and practice. I love these process because it allows me to work on new things like scuba diving, tumbling, and stunt driving! Skills that go beyond my martial arts training. As for the process of getting jobs, I just continue hustling and I never take anything too seriously like if I am not chosen for a job. I know it’s a journey and I still have so much to learn or I don’t fit a look or I am just not capable of doing a certain stunt.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would start off with a hike and my favorite spot is called Paradise Falls in Thousand Oaks. It’s a short hike but it takes you to a beautiful waterfall. Then I would take them to the beach, there are some hidden gems in Malibu so if it is directly after the hike then I’d go there but on another day would go down to Laguna Beach. My favorite beach in Laguna is 1000 steps beach. For food spots I love sushi so would have to take them to Sugar Fish but most likely get the to-go box and take that to the beach. For dessert definitely have to take them to Salt and Straw, my all time favorite ice cream spot.
I love exploring hidden gems. So I am more than willing to make the drive out to avoid the tourist spots. I have noticed I spend a lot of my time training so am either at the park, beach or an open gym space learning new skills but with other performers and friends. I enjoy my time doing these things.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would love to give a huge shoutout to the stunt women who paved the way for me. Since being a part of this community I’ve gotten nothing but love and support from fellow stunt women from referring me to jobs to taking the time out to talk to me. It’s been nothing but love! I still get a bit starstruck talking to these stunt women about their journey because they are doing what I want to do and killing it! I have had the honor to work for La Faye Baker and April Weeden who are two stunt women I look up to. Angela Meryl is a stuntwoman who wrote a book called “Stunts: the how to Handbook: Secrets from an Award Winning Hollywood Stunt Woman.” That book helped me with so much during the start of my journey into stunts. I was able to prepare my entire stunt bag thanks to it. One of my favorite fights is the one in Kill Bill with Vivica Fox and Uma Thurman, which Angela Meryl doubled Vivica Fox and to speak with her and even have her refer me for a job, I am so thankful! To Hannah Betts, Keisha Tucker, Shauna Duggins, Mitra Suri, Colby Lemmo and many many others, THANK YOU!
Other: TikTik: @nailahmj
Motorcycle picture is thanks to SoCal Super Moto.