An Interview With Nancy Thurston

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Nancy Thurston has been a SAG stuntwoman since 1992. She has been a member of the Stuntwomen’s Association of Motion Pictures since 1994. She has also served as a Governor for the Stunts Peer Group in the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

She’s had the pleasure of performing stunts for 8 years on the long running T.V. show Charmed (1998-2006), doubling Hollie Marie Combs (Piper). This is when she worked closely with David Hugghins as she was the Key Stunt Rigger for the entire run. She is the secretary for Stage 1 Stunts, LLC and Stage 1 Stunts East Coast, LLC.

Tell us about growing up.
I’m from Peoria, Ill. I went to Illinois State on a diving scholarship and received a degree in Health Education. I was very athletic.
I’d watch stunts on TV and say, “Oh, that would be cool to do!” When I was ten I went to a Six Flags High Diving show. I told my Dad, “I could do that.” He used to challenge me. If I could learn a two-and-a-half pike, he’d take me to Six Flags. Then a one-and-a-half with a full twist, he’d take me again. Ten years later I was working there.

What was your first stunt?
It was “Knights” working for Bob Brown in ’92. I met him while I was diving, and a year later he called me to for work. My first stunt was a high fall with an arrow sticking out of my arm. I learned a lot from Bob.

What does your family think about your work?
My parents are supportive, but they worry. My Dad told me that high diving didn’t pay very much, but it was a good stepping stone. Sometimes it’s not the money but the opportunity. I do know that I can’t tell them what I’m going to do, I can only tell them after I’ve done it.

What are some of the obstacles that you’ve come across?
The longer I’m in the business the more competitive it gets. It’s hard to prove yourself as a girl. There’s a couple of girls that got in right before me, and we were similar in size and color. They were very talented and I had to work hard to get known.

How do you convince coordinators of your ability?
I’m constantly training to be versatile. I got into stunts doing high work, but there’s not a high fall in every movie. Bob Brown advised me to get a reel done. So if anyone has a question about my abilities, they can take a look at nancythurston.com .

What else are you involved in?
I was an original member of the Stunt Peer Group Executive Committee at the Television Academy. Spice Williams helped us knock that door down. I was voted in as Peer Group Governor last year. We represent the stunt industry at the Academy. It’s exciting to be part of an organization hands out an Emmy to stunt coordinators. I’ve been a member of the Stuntwomen’s Assoc. for ten years, serving on the Board and also as President. I put my heart and soul into things.

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Who are some of the people that you admire?
Maria Doest, she’s the one who took me by the hand. Ace Hatem and Jeannie Epper have been good friends and mentors. Bob Brown and Jon Epstein of course. I have a lot of respect for Debbie Evans. Ernie and Noon Orsatti. Al and Brett Jones. They’re great and continue to trust my work. You’re constantly looking for work. I knew that getting in. You either enjoy the ride or you get out.

Where do you see women in the industry?
There are women coordinating out there. That’s my goal, to coordinate more. There are more women involved in production today, and it seems that women are more likely to trust and hire women than men are. One thing that has changed is that there is more action being made and they’re slowly getting more girls in there. It’d be nice to see girls get more of the ND work.

What do you think about stunt awards?
I think they’re great. We’re the ones that put our lives on the line. The business may have grown because of the publicity, but there’s also the ‘Behind the Scenes’ and “The Making Of” on cable and DVDs. All successful businesses have growth. Awards can spark work, make connections or even reconnect you with somebody.

Give us a stunt story.
“George of the Jungle.” I had to go down a natural rock water slide with Tim Rigby. Phil Adams told us to put on everything we had in our stunt bag. When we got to the bottom we were shredded all the way down to our hard shells. Then we did a 40 ft. fall to the water and white water rafting through a tunnel in level five rapids. It was very challenging.

You double Holly Marie Combs on “Charmed.”
We’re ending our seventh season. I’ve had a ball working with Noon and David Huggins, his rigger. And working with the other regular doubles Dana Reed and Dorenda Moore, we’ve become better friends, kinda like sisters. It’s been a blessing and a dream come true.

What’s coming up for you?
Next week on “Six Feet Under” I’m doing a car hit on roller blades while I’m walking three dogs. The dogs won’t get hit…just me.

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Carl Ciarfalio
Carl Ciarfaliohttps://carlciarfalio.com/
Carl Ciarfalio is a 35-year veteran of the film and television industry. He enjoys a prolific career as an actor, stuntman, stunt coordinator and voice-over artist. Carl has worked with film and television heavyweights including 'Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Steven Soderbergh, Tom Cruise, Clint Eastwood, Kiefer Sutherland and Chuck Norris.

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