How one of the only female stunt coordinators in the biz went from freezing her tail off in the North Atlantic to an Emmy nod for her work on ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.’
Jill Brown has been behind the scenes of most of your favorite movies, from Titanic to The Wedding Planner to Armageddon. She’s the one jumping off buildings, steering cars precariously down the highway, and doubling for Jennifer Lopez. Today, Brown is the stunt coordinator for several TV shows, including Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, for which she was nominated for an Emmy this year. Brown, who also coordinates Grace and Frankie and Blunt Talk, got her start in comedy stunt work on 30 Rock, where she began as Tina Fey’s double. She is also one of the only female stunt coordinators currently working (and one of the only to ever be nominated for an Emmy), and she is helping to pave the way for more women in the field. Here, we chat with Brown about her career, working on Titanic, and why Tina Fey is the best boss ever.
How did you get into this line of work?
I was selling medical equipment in Baltimore. I was definitely a tomboy and I competed in all these sports. My physical therapist was tired of curing me from all these sports injuries and he basically brainwashed and told me these stories about stunt people and what they did. He persuaded me to call this local stuntman, who he recently treated. So I stalked this guy, whose name is George Aguilar, and he finally agreed to meet with me. We hit it off right away and he told me his stunt team would train me and give me a shot if I knew how to handle myself on set and I wasn’t a jerk. And I asked him what set was. At the time he was coordinating a show called Rescue 911 and I trained with them on that show.
What was your first big movie?
The first big movie was Die Hard 3. I did ND work. There’s two different factions of stunt work: You can be a stunt double or you can do ND work, which is ‘nondescript work.’ Those are the people who jump out of the way or are the drivers in the scenes. But my first real big stunt was on Inspector Gadget for Disney. We did a helicopter stunt with a 250-foot drop. We basically put a descender device inside a helicopter and I was the moron dangling under the helicopter as we flew around Pittsburgh and landed on our feet.
By Emily Zemler