A Stuntwoman’s Tale of Success

April Weeden-Washington has the way for black stuntwomen in Hollywood./Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman
April Weeden-Washington has the way for black stuntwomen in Hollywood./Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman

Stuntwoman April Weeden-Washington is what you call a thrill-seeker. She barrel races horses. She hops on and climbs aboard heart-stopping rollercoaster rides without skipping a beat. She slays vampires on film sets. She’s jumped off buildings. She’s ridden and crashed high-octane motorcycles into the ground.

She doesn’t mind mixing it up a bit in a little swordfight, either. This is how Weeden-Washington gets her kicks.

Nevermind the occasional concussions, scrapes and bruises and broken bones she’s endured during her lengthy career as a professional stuntwoman, Weeden-Washington loves doing the wild and crazy thing when it comes to working on her craft. Performing stunts since 1995, Weeden-Washington loves the edginess her profession brings.

The combined elements of excitement and of living for the moment gets Weeden-Washington’s heart pumping a lot faster than it normally beats. For sure, performing dangerous stuntwork is not the least boring for the 5-foot-5, 120-pound actress and dancer. It’s been more than she’d ever imagined, said Weeden-Washington.

“God has really blessed me. I’ve have had a wonderful career,” Weeden-Washington said in an interview with News4usonline.com. “I wanted to do stunts many years ago when I did extra work. The number one thing with me was that I was trying to find my way in the industry.

“What sparked my interest (performing stunts) was when I met my now husband, William Washington, and we saw a need for African American stuntwomen who were talented, hard-bodied and could do a variety of things. I fit that bill and one thing just led to another. And it just kept building and kept building.”

Building that career into a lucrative one came rather easily for Weeden-Washington. But that should be no surprise to anyone who know her. The pathway to success for Weeden-Washington is woven in her DNA. Her late father, Paul Weeden Sr. a renowned jazz musician, helped put his daughter on that path. Weeden-Washington took it from there.

She took to the performing arts stage at age 3. She danced and toured with the Black Ballet Jazz Company. Extending her talents, Weeden-Washington made a name for herself as a backup singer for several well-known recording artists like Barry White. After finding levels of success as a casting call director, Weeden-Washington found her true life calling in performing stunts.

“I’ll always do stunts,” Weeden Washington said. “I’ll probably do stunts until the day I die.”

Weeden-Washington is a rarity in Hollywood. She is one of the few black stuntwomen who have made a lasting imprint on the entertainment industry.

Following in the footsteps of black stuntwomen such as LaFaye Baker (Green Lantern), Louise Johnson (Hooper, Earthquake) and the late Sonja Davis (Vampire in Brooklyn), who helped lay down the foundation for her success, Weeden-Washington’s career is full accomplishments in high-mark films and television shows.

Weeden-Washington has a highlight-reel portfolio that includes performing stunts and doubling for Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry, and notable thespians Vanessa L. Williams, Jennifer Lopez, Brandy and Pam Grier.

She has performed dangerous stunts in film such as Minority Report, Eraser, Blade, Biker Boyz, Swordfish, Crash, Gang of Roses and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. Currently working on film and music projects, Weeden-Washington credits her faith in God, hard work and strong dedication as the primary forces behind her success.

“The first thing is that I put God first,” Weeden-Washington said. “My walk with God is very important. I put him first in my life. When it comes to my career, I took it very seriously. Not only that, I felt led to be in the industry to make a few changes…not only to make a few changes, but to assist and help.”

Weeden-Washington has picked up that mantle from her predecessors and hoisted it up on her shoulders to help and welcome other women of color into the stunt-making business. Weeden-Washington now sees it as her call to action to open up doors for more black women performing stunts for a living.

She’s won several stunt trailblazing awards for her effort s to break down barriers for stunt workers of color. Sitting on a Screen Actor’s Guild committee, Weeden-Washington helped implement language into contracts that would benefit stuntmen and stuntwomen. Reaching back to help others is simply part of her makeup, she said.

“I give because I have. I have because I give. That’s how I live,” Weeden-Washington said. “Because of this, I am never without. That’s what it’s all about. We’re supposed to give back to other people.”

 

 

 

 

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1258 Articles
Dennis is a news and sports photojournalist. Dennis has covered and written on issues such as civil rights, education, politics, and social justice. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Daily Breeze, Daily Press, Los Angeles Wave, Los Angeles Sentinel, and other media outlets. Dennis is currently the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, and NCAA. Dennis is an alum and graduate of Howard University.