Meet Jeanette “JJ” Branch, Hollywood Stunt Woman For Niecy Nash And Mindy Kaling
Running through fires. Getting into fights. Jumping out of windows. This could be the resume for Jeanette “JJ” Branch, a professional stunt woman and all around boss who was born and raised in Queens, NY. Branch isn’t the only one in her family of nine brothers and four sisters who walks on the dangerous side for a living–she comes from a family of professional motorcycle drag racers. Branch, who at one point owned a wardrobe company, also writes screenplays and has worked as an assistant director for films.
For the last eight years though, Branch has worked as a stuntwoman. Recently, she wrapped work on the upcoming films Captain America: Civil War, Ride Along 2, and Busted. She also just completed stunts for the TV series “Being Mary Jane” and “2 Broke Girls.” Other films and TV shows she has performed stunts in include Furious 7; Take It Back; Puttin’ on the Ritz; The Vessel; Eyes of the Beholder; “The Mindy Project”; Wedding Crushers; Sk8er Man; The Hunger Games: Catching Fire; Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain. So what’s life like as a professional Black stunt woman? Let Branch explain.
MadameNoire (MN): How did you get into stunts?
Jeanette “JJ” Branch (JB): The stunt business kinda found me. (laughs) I’m also a writer/actor, so I wrote a short film with two close friends who were already stunt women. They would always encourage me to start doing stunts. At first I resisted but the short film that we did required a fight scene between my character and her husband. The second stunt friend choreographed the fight and we executed it. It was amazing! My adrenaline was going crazy and I was hooked!
MN: What attracted you to stunts?
JB: Organically. I was a tomboy growing up with nine brothers and I have a dance background which helps. Most stunt professionals have some type of athletic background. Training at stunt gyms are a must to work on enhancing your specialties.
MN: It seems like a dangerous profession.
JB: It can be very dangerous and hard on your body. Many break bones, [suffer] lacerations that require medical attention, and many have been hospitalized with injuries that they will suffer with the rest of their lives.
MN: Are there many African-American women in the stunt industry?
JB: There’s not a lot of African-American stunt women but still competition can be tight. More African-American women are becoming stunt women so [our representation] is growing.
MN: Was it difficult to break into Hollywood as a stunt woman?
JB: First job I was hired for was an episode of “My Name is Earl.” I was already training so I was prepared when I got the call. It was a fight scene in a strip club. Hilarious.
MN: How can someone break into the field?
JB: The goal is to network, train, and perform well. That’s how you lock in clients in hopes to double them exclusively. I currently double Mindy Kaling and Niecy Nash. My advice to anyone wanting to get into stunts is to train! Figure out what you’re good at and work to enhance those skills. It’s okay not be able to do everything.
MN: What do you love about what you do?
JB: I’m a filmmaker. I also act and write so I love being on set. There’s always something new to learn.
For more on Jeanette Branch, check out her website, jeanettebranch.com.