Actress and Stuntwoman
There’s so much to be a fan of when it comes to our June teafluencer, Alex Marshall-Brown. Her body of creative work? Check. The fact that she’s a stunt woman? Check. Her healthy attitude toward growing and changing as a person? Check. Her ability to take a situation that could have taken a very negative turn and turn it into an opportunity to create community and awareness? Check. Her love of Harney tea? Double check!!
Harney: Tell us a little about you. Where are you from, educational background, where you live, family, etc.
Alex: I’m a kid who grew up all over. Due to my father’s career in the Foreign Service, I spent much of my childhood overseas, predominantly in the Caribbean and South Africa. It was strange ‘being the American’ while growing up abroad without ever truly understanding what it meant to live there. In this way, curiosity brought me to school in NC matriculating in a BFA Performance Arts degree before transitioning to New York in pursuit of my acting career.
Harney: On your website, you are described as an actress, stuntwoman and resident creative badass. Let’s start with stuntwoman -- how did you get interested in that line of work?
Alex: Stunt work is a profession that found me by accident; it’s not something I actively pursued. I happened to meet a stunt person while working on the set of New Girl. I took the opportunity to ask all my questions about what the stunt life would be like. He humored me and shared what he knew, but then I heard from him six months later, and he invited me to work on my first feature film.
Harney: How do you train to become a stuntwoman?
Alex: There are many different avenues into the stunt industry. People can specialize in a variety of skill sets; from fighters, drivers, trickers, gymnasts, high fallers, dirt bikers, scuba divers, pilots and more. Rather than risk the health of their onscreen talent, and to foster safety on the set, producers will hire a stunt department to handle any rough-and-tumble action. As a personal interest, I trained in Muay Thai which built many fundamentals as I carved the discipline and physique to really pursue this industry.
Harney: How many females work as stuntwomen?
Alex: Stuntwomen are understandably less prevalent than stuntmen. Gratefully, this is progressively changing as more incredibly talented stunt women join the industry.
Harney: What’s the scariest stunt you’ve done?
Alex: None of the stunts I’ve done have really earned my fear. Safety is paramount, especially when stunts are involved, so most ‘dangerous’ scenes are well-rehearsed and choreographed. Granted, there’s always some sort of risk involved, especially in fire burns, high falls and driving, but I’ve always felt like I was in good hands.
Harney: Have you ever been injured?
Alex: I’ve only been injured a few times in life, but none of them came from working on a stunt gig.
Harney: Moving on to actress -- you’ve had many roles, including playing “Pepper” on New Girl (we are fans!). How did you get into acting? What have some of your favorite roles been, and what are you doing next?
Alex: I’ve been performing in some way since I was a toddler; from entertaining my parents by dressing up as Michael Jackson to wearing a tutu for the school recitals. I didn’t really get into theatre until I got to high school when I was cast in a rather charming production of Gift of the Magi. In college, I was selected to join the BFA acting program, and I grew significantly in a production of For Colored Girls as Lady in Red. After a stint of outdoor drama, I took my gumption to the NY theatre scene where (among other things) I participated in a delightfully unusual production involving cannibalism called The Man Who Ate Michael Rockefeller. Once I made it to LA, I switched my interests to film, television and video games as I expanded my acting, began my foray into stunts and ventured into motion capture. Much of my upcoming work involves stunts and motion capture, but NDAs prevent me from being explicit about what they are.
Harney: One role we can tell you’ve really gotten into is your role as Vi Moradi in Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. Seems like you’re a bit of a Star Wars geek, true? How was that experience, and is there more Star Wars in your destiny?
Alex: According to the House of Mouse, I can say that I am very fond of a particular Resistance fighter. All my interactions with her have been charmed, and I’ve geeked about her immensely every step of the way. I inherited my Star Wars fascination from my Dad. We watched the films together, and once upon a time he took my mom on a date to see Return of the Jedi at the Egyptian Theatre. My entire experience getting to know Vi Moradi has been an honor and carbon frozen to my memory. The expansive interactive nature of Galaxy’s Edge is an incredible testament to the imagination, and being the person to help bring the land to life has been such an honor.
Harney: You also do behind-the-scenes acting as a voiceover artist, including in “The Bright Sessions” podcast. You’ve done some directing as well. Do you prefer working in front of the cameras or behind them?
Alex: So much of my career has been in front of the camera, but recently my interest in creative possibilities behind the camera is mounting. Podcasting is a whole different creative outlet where the relationships between characters have a unique intrigue, especially because I don’t have to meet my ‘scene partner’ to create a final product that surprises the both of us. Also, I’ve welcomed other creative ventures besides the entertainment industry such as photography and most recently painting. Mixing colors and painting with oils has been a soothing pastime to help me get through the whole COVID pandemic. I’m continually changing, and so my interests do as well.
Harney: We read that you are training to become an intimacy coordinator, which sounds interesting. Tell us about that.
Alex: An intimacy coordinator advocates and oversees the safe and consensual interaction of performers while onscreen and onstage. They make sure that both the story within the script as well as the boundaries of the performer are honored and respected. They can also assist with choreography in order to achieve a particular effect without unwanted invasive stimulation. Intimacy coordinating is in its nascent stages yet growing considerably, especially in light of Weinstein & the #MeToo movement.
Harney: You have a phrase on your website: “aut inveniam viam aut faciam!” that translates to “Either I shall find a way or I shall make one!” How has having a strong attitude like that helped you in life?
Alex: I’ve never gotten anything by waiting for someone else to give it to me. SO much of my achievement and growth have originated in giving my curiosity purpose, but it started with me. You can’t welcome people to collaborate with you if you don’t know where you’re going.
Harney: Who have been your role models for being a strong female?
Alex: Eartha Kitt. Bell Hooks. Michelle Obama. Issa Rae. Ava Duvernay.
Harney: Finally, you had an incident that went viral in July 2020, which you reference on your website by saying “I am the Black Lady that went viral for sitting in the grass of Saint Paul’s First Lutheran Church.” Can you tell us what happened that day, and what has happened as a result of that day? What did you learn, and what do you hope others have learned from that?
Alex: On July 7, 2020, I was rudely requested to leave the premises of a church as I sat in their grass researching different grand canyon campsites. No one bothered to speak with me and ask me to vacate, instead a “No Trespassing” sign was hammered into a tree directly in front of me, and those church volunteers threatened to call the cops to forcibly have me removed. In the wake of the George Floyd fury, I knew to document the whole event, and that video footage went viral overnight. Friends did a sit-in at the church the next day. News stations came to interview me. I had a discussion with the church principal and pastor. The LA Times did a whole write up. I attended the church for their Sunday services. Following that, there was a BLM march prior to a speech I gave reflecting on the trauma of my experience.
Since it was an election year, Black Lives Matter became politicized which resulted in a contingent of churchgoers condemning my actions. I was lucky that there were other members of that church who were extremely offended for me and offered all the reassurance they could muster. A new book club and a welcoming committee was created to feed, greet and offer support to the unhoused members of the community. I made some new incredible friends from that experience, and I’ve learned a great deal about myself navigating the PTSD through the storm of that trauma. Small actions can enact significant change, whether intentional or otherwise. Having the conviction to work toward that change is a skill we must practice every day.
Harney: Let’s shift to one of our favorite topics (and we hope yours!) -- tea! What role does tea play in your life? Do you have any rituals that involve tea?
Alex: I’ve incorporated tea into the mindful practices in my life. I start the day with tea to find some peace in the morning, to read a little and to tackle the day with a clear mind. I use tea as a flavorful form of hydration throughout the day. And I end the day with a mug by my bedside offering additional comfort as I complete a meditative body scan before falling asleep. Tea is a grounding sensory experience for me, and the ritual of brewing it has always given me a moment of self-assessment and kind reflection.
Harney: Do you have any favorite flavors or types of Harney & Sons tea, or anything on your list you’ve been keen to try?
Alex: The Herbal Hot Cinnamon Spice is a tried and true favorite of mine. It has the right amount of holiday nostalgia while holding its own as a delightful iced tea in the summer. The Indigo Punch is beautiful once brewed and has a fruity tang that I’ve always enjoyed. Lull Away is the tea I turn to for my bedtime rituals. The lavender’s calming effects and the full-bodied nutmeg along with the refreshing spearmint combine just right to knock me out peacefully. The Hibiscus Ginger Tune Up tea is another favorite of mine. I’ve always gravitated toward ginger teas for their digestive antioxidant properties, and I love how crisp and bold the flavors of Harney & Sons tea are.
If you’re as intrigued as we are by Alex’s work, you can read and see a lot more of it on her website and on Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr. We thank Alex for taking the time to share a little bit about her very interesting life with us, and for taking Harney tea with her on her journey! All photography was provided by Alex.