Above Pic Credit: Marissa Labog
With sense of
controlled aggression Marissa Labog is prepared to take on the world,
no matter if the world includes stunt work, acting, or her first love
of dancing. Marissa is a what she terms: “A Punch you in the face
kind of sister.” Speaking of punch you in the face, Raze is set to
premiere at Tribeca Film Fest, and Marissa chats about her time on
Raze and other projects such as Columbiana and Act Of Valor. Sit
back, grab a coffee, or a sharp object, or both, and check out the
ruminations of Marissa.
You always loved
dancing as a child? Was there one influential person that you
looked up to in your early dancing career?
I think I came
out of the womb with jazz hands and a high kick. I danced all
the time. I forced my family to watch me dance for hours and
when they were too tired to watch I would prop my little cousin up in
his high chair and make him be my audience. So when I was four,
my parents decided to put me in dance class to maybe get it out of my
system. Wow… did that backfire! It fueled the fire and gave me
the tools I needed to do it professionally.
I don't know if
there was one influence because I was basically drawn to all movement
whether it was vaudeville, ballet, jazz, funk, or even Kung fu. But
I did spend a lot of time watching musicals with Gene Kelly, Cyd
Charisse, Fred Estaire, and Ginger Rogers. I wanted to dance on the
walls and ceilings like Fred Estaire or dance on roller skates like
Gene Kelly. It just seemed like anything was possible.
Were you always
flexible, or was it something you had to work at?
I was flexible
but somewhat in the opposite way I needed to be. Starting with
ballet, my teachers always joked that my legs were put on backwards
because I didn't have a lot of outward rotation needed for ballet
dancers but had extreme inward rotation. I was pigeon toed for the
most part. So I had to work really hard to rotate the opposite
direction. However when I started doing Modern Dance and
Martial Arts, my natural rotation proved to be a real asset.
Did your dance
background lead to get into the stunt world or are they two separate
background absolutely led me to stunt work. I really didn't
know much about the stunt world growing up. There are moments
I'm still surprised I'm in this incredible community. I went
from dancing with ballet companies, to dancing in modern dance
companies (which I'm still in), to breaking (a.k.a break dancing) in
the industry, which led me to flipping around, which led me to
parkour and martial arts, which fundamentally landed me in stunt
work. I never would have imagined that this was my journey, but
I'm happy it happened.
Who are some of
the stuntwomen you look up to?
The stuntwomen I
look up to are amazingly enough, my friends. Jade Quon is
amazing. We used to train together when she was also breaking back in
the day. She is incredibly fearless and insanely talented. I'm in awe
of how she has dominated the stunt world. Kara Petersen, Natalie
Padilla, Tara Macken, are powerful and are constantly sharpening
their skills. But who I think is most remarkable is Zoë Bell.
She has not only been one of the top stuntwomen in the industry
but has moved onto to being an incredible actor and producer. She
has been able to use this platform she has built to create content
that promotes, supports, and revels in strong women and the portrayal
of strong women. I am definitely inspired to create and be part
of more work like this.
audition process as a stuntwoman in general; is it the same as
acting, or do the producers just bring in specific people for
It depends on the
project and whether you are a stunt performer or doubling an actor or
actress. Usually if they are looking for a stunt performer the
audition process is like a dance and acting audition combined. In
the beginning you would be asked to show off your individual skills
or learn fight choreography. After that, depending on the role and
what they are looking for you may be asked to read copy just like an
acting audition. When you’re doubling, it is about your skills but
more importantly about how much you resemble the actor. This is when
your relationships and your reputation are vital.
Did you ever
watch a stunt on screen and say "Damn" that is insane?
(which one if you can remember?)
Man… there are
a lot of stunts I think are insane. In the ledge fight scene at
the end of the Thai film "Chocolate" when the stunt men are
falling off the concrete ledges and literally hitting each ledge and
sign on the way down before they hit the concrete ground below is....
mind-boggling. I still don' t know how any of them survived.
The wirework of the ninja cliff battle in GI JOE: Retaliation is also
incredible. The control and precision required for this scene is
sick. I' m so proud of my friends Aaron Toney, Travis Wong,
Kerry Pak Wong, and Ming Qiu.
I saw that you
doubled younger Cataleya in Columbiana, do you have to get in a
different mindset when you are doubling children?
Whenever I double
anyone, especially children I'm really mindful of how they naturally
move. I want to make sure I can embody their natural body
movement while executing the stunt. I want the audience to know
that these young girls have the power to accomplish anything.
Maybe share a
story about your filming Columbiana, and strange or funny things
happen on set?
Colombiana" was a trip. First off, we were filming in a
really dangerous area of Mexico City so we had security that was
armed with AK-47s. People in the area had never been around a
lot of film crews so there were people crowded around watching
everything we did, asking us for our autographs, warning us of what
houses to stay away from. It felt like a whole community came
out to support the film.
But one of the
most exciting parts of working on the film was working with David
Belle, the proclaimed creator of parkour. His mind set was just
so fascinating. He was so comfortable in the oddest situations.
For example, one of my first stunts was jumping out of a third
story window onto a ledge, to a drainpipe, and then onto the top of a
car. David was on the ground near the car and I couldn't hear
what he was saying. So he crawled up a drainpipe on the side of the
building, much like Spider-Man (which was a nickname), to talk to me
on the third story ledge. Bizarre but incredible. He just
kept saying it was normal and natural to do what he does. Yeah...
Ok... David... Normal, natural,....if you got bitten by a radioactive
Above Picture: Marissa in Act of Valor, supplied by Marissa L
watched Act Of Valor, fantastic film, full of action, how did you get that cool role?
Was the audition process lengthy?
Act Of Valor was
thrilling. My friend Sonny Sison, who was already working on
the project, submitted me for the role. I believe I was
replacing someone because it was a little grueling. So the next
breakdown of the role included that she had to be a good actress who
CAN FALL DOWN. Sonny submitted me and I went in, was handed an
AK-47, and ended up working on the film for two weeks instead of just
a couple of days.
Maybe share a
story on set with the boys in Act Of Valor, must have been fun to be
in a mainly male dominated film?
I learned so much
working on this film. Everyone took care of each other. No
matter what the shot was, everyone was there to lend a hand. I
really felt like there was no room for ego on the set because we were
pretending to live this life while the Navy Seals actually did. I
remember hanging out with our group of stuntmen and actors talking
about our lives working in Hollywood. Someone brought up the
topic of luck. As we were sharing our experiences, one of the Seals
starts talking about his experience in battle where the men on either
side of him were shot and killed and he walked out unharmed. Another
time, one of the higher rank officers was shot eleven times and not
only survived but completed his mission, while his best friend was
killed with one bullet. These were his stories of luck, which
of course made everything in our lives feel lucky. It kept us
in perspective, which was an incredible learning experience.
Do you have a new
appreciation for the military and all the hard training after working
on Act Of Valor?
I love my stunt
family and think they are all incredible but Navy Seals could kick
our ass! It isn't t that they are physically stronger than the
stunt men and women I know but that the Navy Seals are the most
determined group of people I have ever encountered. There is a
laser sharp focus when it comes to the task at hand. Nothing
seems to shake them except when they talk about their families. They
would be cracking jokes, telling stories, but the moment they got in
the zone, they were in the zone.
On to Raze, how
did you get the part of Marissa, I mean you are Marissa so not much
of a stretch right haha?
Haha… Yup! I
got the role because of my name. I should really thank my parents
for this one! No… all joking aside… I was first brought on to
work on the Previz fights for the film, so I got to play in a couple
of roles, which was a blast. After that, I guess they liked me
enough to keep me on for the actual movie, which was amazing. I’m
Yeah the film set looked like a blast. Share a story
from the set of Raze, any bumps, bruises, or falls?
I think we all
walked out of this experience with battle wounds and a huge smile on
our faces. I mean we looked insane. The ground was wet
dirt so we were all filthy with crap in our hair, dirt down our
pants, with fake and real blood oozing out. I got a head butt
to the face and had a huge black eye. I was hoping we would use
the take with the head butt because if you are going to get a black
eye it should at least be worth it. But what's super crazy is
that the real head butt looks fake. There isn't as big of a reaction
when it actually happens so it' s hard to tell that anything occurred
except for the really disturbing sound of two heads colliding.
Must have been
fun to work with Z Bell, did you pick up some new techniques from
hilarious. She could be beating you up, breaking your arm, and you
would still be laughing uncontrollably. It is a remarkable
thing to work with someone who really knows what it is like to fight
and do stunts on camera as a woman. She has incredible power
and strength but never once loses her femininity. She
incorporates her strengths as a female along with her kick ass
mostly male cast in Act of Valor and a mostly female cast in Raze,
does it matter, or is it more enjoyable if the majority of the cast
Honestly, I think
it varies from project to project. I loved working with both
the male cast of Act of Valor and the female cast of Raze but I think
for different reasons. In Act of Valor we all came together
because of the shared experience of navigating the life the Seals
lived through. It was like we found ourselves in Oz and were learning
about the Wicked Witch of the West. In Raze Zoë really
brought us together. She had a special dinner for only the
women of the film so we could bond and really get to know each other.
We trained together and then fought together. So we really
bonded as a collective of strong females to really revel in our
on film, as a writer and a person who enjoys balance on screen, I
think Raze will break ground in this realm. What are your
thoughts on Raze, do you think it could lead to more films like it?
I hope Raze opens
the door to more films like it. I think it proves that women
can really carry an action film. We have the ability to fight our own
fight without the male hero coming to the rescue. We are
powerful survivors and warriors with crazy skills to back it up.
Raze shows that we can be shaken and bruised, but are determined
I hope this is the case with Raze opening doors, shifting gears to your
influences, what actors and actresses do you enjoy watching and would
like to work with in the future?
There are so many
great actors out there and I find myself mesmerized by different ones
depending on the roles. I love Viola Davis. She is amazing, raw
yet composed. James McAvoy has an incredible way of being all the
best parts of a human being. He is strong, focused, confident and
then can switch to the nerdy, bumbling, insecure guy in a way that
encompasses who we are as human beings. He is also hilarious with it.
Jennifer Lawrence is very much the same way. But I think my all
time favorite right now is James Badge Dale. He played the Gaunt Guy
is Flight. He only had that one scene but it was powerful. He saw
the humor and the nonsense of what we do with life in a way that was
informative, sad, but joyful at the same time. I feel like anyone
else would have focused on the sorrow and self-pity.
What is your focus now, more acting or stunts? Do you have a preference?
I would love to
do both acting and stunts. The combination of the two would be my
dream. I would love to be a like the character Wesley in "
Wanted" or to do films like X-Men and Avengers. I always
joke around that I'm a super hero in training but I do believe that
is true. The beauty of such a life is to be a strong,
independent, highly skilled woman, but who is still dripping with
flawed humanity. I feel that this is what gives life and story
the humor, determination, respect, and honesty it deserves.
Above Pic Credit: Marissa Labog Official Website
Marissa you are a superhero, closing this interview out, discuss
some of your upcoming projects?
Right now I’m
one of the leads on a great series called “Dead Man,” written and
directed by Brian Maris. I don’t know if I can talk too much about
it right now, but I’m exactly what I want to be. I’m a bad-ass
with an intense past. So I get to live in both worlds of acting and
kick ass action. In addition, I’m writing some of my own content,
continuing to break ground on the possibilities of female strength
You are a bad-ass and that is no damn lie haha, thanks so much for the fantastic detailed interview Marissa!
Watch for more interviews from the ladies of Raze! More from Marissa later in 2013 on Dan's Movie Report! Click the links below to learn more about Marissa and her projects and follow her on twitter while watching her kicking ass!