During a high-octane action scene in the film The Domestics (2018), bullets rain down on a car driven by actress Kate Bosworth as she skids out of frame. Anyone familiar with the secrets behind movie magic can guess that Bosworth isn’t actually driving the car in this particular stunt (or “gag,” as it’s known in the industry); rather, her stunt double is. What may surprise you is that the stunt double, in this case, is a man dressed in a blond wig and Bosworth’s clothes.
“Wigging” is a film industry term that describes the practice of male stunt performers standing in for women on gags. “Painting down” is its cousin, in which White stunt performers stand in for actors of color. Veteran stunt performer Deven MacNair has made it her mission to speak out against these insular practices and demand change, jeopardizing her own employability in the industry in the process.
MacNair looks like an athlete. The college softball player wanted to play professionally, but with few opportunities, she “figured stunt work was the way to go.” Though MacNair grew up in Ventura, not far outside Los Angeles, she knew nothing about the film industry going in. What’s more, “my parents were really not encouraging of it,” she says, laughing. Mom, a respiratory therapist, and dad, a pharmaceutical salesman, were from L.A. proper but certainly didn’t help MacNair make any Hollywood connections. “To this day, they are unimpressed,” she says.
One of the first gigs landed by MacNair was as a second-generation — not the Netflix version — Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW) girl. She traveled with GLOW and the United Service Organizations throughout the U.S., Mexico and Canada as her character, “Freedom,” before returning to L.A. and building up her film résumé, which now boasts more than 70 credits.
MacNair was on the set of The Domestics when Bosworth’s car gag was being filmed in November 2016. As the only female stunt performer on set that day, MacNair assumed she’d be doubling Bosworth in the scene. But stunt coordinator Nick Gillard deemed the stunt too dangerous for MacNair and opted to do it himself. When MacNair saw Gillard in the wig, she asked him to reconsider. When he declined, citing safety concerns, she called in a complaint to the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) hotline, alleging that Gillard, in refusing to allow an on-set stuntwoman to perform the scene, violated the Civil Rights Act and the 2014 Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers Agreement. The latter states that when a stunt performer is filling in for someone identifiable as female or an ethnic minority, the “producer shall endeavor to cast qualified persons of the same sex and/or race involved.”
By Michelle Bruton