The following is an excerpt of the "Dare to be Different" feature in the June issue of ESSENCE.
Don't be fooled by Angela Meryl's sweet face and shy demeanor. The woman can tussle. And boy, does she love a good girl fight, especially one that sends her and her opponent crashing into walls and furniture. Now before you go shaking your head in disapproval, you should know Meryl isn't involved in any weave-pulling, oh-no-you-didn't antics from your worst reality show nightmare. As a professional stuntwoman in Hollywood, Meryl actually gets paid to scuffle. She even sounds a little giddy as she gives the blow-by-blow account: "I chased her out into the hallway, then she slammed me up against the wall and I threw her over the banister. Then she elbowed me in the face, and I was hanging off the banister and we went tumbling down the stairs.…" The banister incident? Why that's just the climactic fight scene from the 2009 movie Obsessed. With Meryl as her stunt double, Beyoncé Knowles pushed, hurled and yanked the living daylights out of Ali Larter for infringing on her family and her man.
As much as the thirtysomething loves a good fight, she wishes the stunt business wasn't such an uphill battle for women. "You're constantly proving yourself and your ability," she says. Even with gender-neutral stunts, such as highspeed chases where the camera doesn't reveal who's driving, "women still aren't given some of the jobs that men get." Meryl wrote Stunts: The How-to Handbook (Leximeryl), in part, to help other women get into the stunt game. Despite the adversity, Meryl has more than 70 films and television credits on her résumé.
She got her start in the industry nearly 20 years ago, and since then she has crashed headlong into glass (in the Quentin Tarantino classic Kill Bill Vol. 1), nearly plunged 75 feet while turning a corner in a speeding car (in the 2000 remake of Shaft), survived an explosion (in last year's James Bond flick, Skyfall) and T-boned an ambulance (on ABC's Grey's Anatomy). Not to mention that other daring stunt that Meryl performs day in and day out: being a mom. Although her job description literally puts her in harm's way, Meryl still cringes whenever she sees her 7-year-old daughter roughhousing on the playground. The only difference is that Meryl isn't your average overprotective mother yelling "Be careful!" from the sidelines: "I'm like, 'If you're going to jump off [the swings], at least let me show you how to do it so you don't twist your ankle or break your kneecap!"
For more stories of women who dare to be different, pick up the June issue of ESSENCE now.