But, Emmys history was made last weekend when Netflix's Glow stunt coordinator Shauna Duggins took home the award for Outstanding Stunt Coordination For A Comedy at the 2018 Creative Arts Emmys, where all the technical statues are handed out. Duggins is the first woman to ever win a stunt award in its 16-year history (the general Stunt Coordination category debuted in 2002 before being split between drama and comedy in 2012).
The news was such a surprise that Duggins didn’t even realize her win was historic until she was offstage and a Netflix PR person told her as much, she admitted with a laugh to Refinery29.
While you would expect someone as talented as Duggins to rage against the Hollywood machine for failing to recognize television’s hard working stuntwomen until now, she doesn’t. Rather, the TV veteran, who has consistently worked as Jennifer Garner’s stunt double since her early-aughts Alias days, reveals a difficult industry for anyone, no matter their gender.
“Whether you’re a man or a woman, it’s a tough step up, only because the producers and the directors, if they already have somebody they trust — why would they try somebody new?” Duggin explained to Refinery29 of breaking into stunt coordination, two days after her Emmy win. “It’s not a man-woman thing, it’s a trust, safety, money thing.”
It’s no surprise producers are wary of new stunt coordinators — it’s a lot more work than stunt choreography or telling actors where to stand. It’s working with costuming to make sure fight scene wardrobe makes sense (“She’s going to fight, but those are 5-inch heels. Is there something we could do to help to make that a little more feasible?”). It’s working with special effects specialists and production designers and makeup artists to figure out how a superhero flying through a brick wall should look from every angle. It’s making sure no one dies in the middle of an on-set explosion.
Duggins was only able to get through the “trust, safety, money” red tape when Jennifer Garner began filming 2004’s 13 Going On 30. The comedy was missing a stunt coordinator, and Garner recommended her stunt double of three years, Duggins, for the coordinator job. It was the stuntwoman's first time in the position, and we have her to thank for the film's scene of Mark Ruffalo jumping in a bounce house. By 2005, she was tapped to become a coordinator on Alias for the ABC thriller's final season. At the 2006 Emmys the first woman was nominated for the Stunt Coordination Emmy: Duggins, receiving a nod for her Alias work. Yet, the former gymnast wouldn’t win the statue for another 12 years.
In that decade-plus gap, just two other women were nominated for stunt coordination: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s Jill Brown and Shameless’ Julie Michaels. Yet only the theatrics, gags, and piledrives of Glow were able to finally prove the girls can stunt just as hard as the boys, which seems to be the behind-the-scenes mantra of the beloved streaming series.
“This whole show just breaks the mold for women,” Duggins said of Glow. “Our showrunners and our creators are these women who make this environment of collaboration. It shows in all these positions, these strong women who are good at their job.”
That collaboration extended to the wrestling mat, where Duggins helped train all of the actresses bringing Netflix’s gorgeous ladies of wrestling to life. Duggins, her wrestling coordinator Chavo Guerrero Jr., and stunt expert Helena Barrett have a month to get the Glow cast ready to hop on random pulleys, as Alison Brie’s Ruth Wilder does in the season 2 finale, dive into the fantasy sequences of this year’s best episode, and, of course, wrestle their hearts out.
“[The women] come in everyday, and they bust their booties and train hard,” Duggins recalled. “[The writers] let us tailor the moves to what each woman’s strengths are. They train and train and train, and we rarely had to double them because they work so hard. So we can build [performances] to what they’re very good at.”
Yes, that means when you see Betty Gilpin jumping off the ropes of a wrestling ring as Debbie “Liberty Bell” Eagan, it’s almost always really Betty Gilpin doing the jumping.
This kind of Glow-wide support is what made Duggin’s Emmy win so very fulfilling — the entire cast was there, “hootin’ and hollerin,’” cheering her on. “[I] look out, and there’s this amazing amass of [Team] Glow,” she said in her acceptance speech. “To me it embodies the spirit and the camaraderie that is our show, because they’re all there with pride.”
Although a piece of Duggins’ heart is with Glow, she is also coordinating stunts for longtime pal Garner’s upcoming HBO series Camping and Lifetime’s American Princess, about a renaissance faire. While Duggins’ time on Princess was filled with preparing for axe throwing scenes and people shooting arrows or racing down zip lines, it’s the idea of working with Garner that seems truly heart-racing.
“What would surprise [you about] Jennifer Garner is that in a previous life, she was a stuntwoman,” Duggins said with a laugh. “She kicks butt. She does her stuff. She does her stunts. You train her, and she works harder than anyone you’ll ever meet.”
With Camping all wrapped, Duggins is now turning her sights back to Glow, which Netflix has already renewed for a third season. For the ladies’ third go-around, the Emmy-winner is hoping for more fantasy sequences to play around with and the opportunity to come up with stunts for inevitable set pieces in massive Las Vegas arenas. Remember, season 2 ends with the G.L.O.W. crew packing up and moving their show to Sin City.
As Duggins said, “We’re going to Vegas, baby. Let’s see what they can come up with.” After a tease like that, it sounds like a second Emmy isn't far from her grasp.
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