We are likely all aware that a great deal of work goes into bringing fictional movie characters to life. We don’t always know just how much, but the cast of the upcoming action drama The Woman King just filled us in. In the recently released vignette, “Train Like a Warrior,” the cast, which includes Viola Davis, Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim and Adrienne Warren, talked about the transformation required to fulfill their roles.
“My body went through hell,” Davis said in the video. The other cast members added that it was intense and they weren’t sure they could survive the process. The ladies did three hours of martial arts a day, and weapons training such as sword play, spears, and utilizing machetes. It didn’t end there. They also engaged in physical activities like “a lot of punching,” an hour and a half of weights, and sprinting.
Gabriela Mclain was the cast trainer and nutritionist behind the magic, helping them get in shape and learn the skills required for their roles. She spoke with PEOPLE about the workout plan she drew up.
“My goal was to pretty much make it natural, just as the woman would look if they were to go and fight because it’s based on true stories. I’m trying to stay authentic, even with the body,” she said. “There’s all kinds of enhancers you can take to get lean and ripped and all that, but I did not want them to look like Miss Olympia, I tried to stay authentic so they look like warriors.”
Mclain took a personalized approach to the training and nutrition plans she delivered to ensure optimum results.
“Before we started I actually did DNA testing on the main five that were signed under me, which was Viola, Thuso, Lashana, Sheila, and Adrienne. I did the DNA testing on all of them, which helped me pretty much figure out the best way to train, the best way to protect their muscles and protect their body because they’re all different,” she said. “There’s no one plan fits all. Everybody needs to train in a different way.”
The women can attest to how effective this approach was and are happy with the ways it stretched them mentally and physically, grateful to director Gina Prince-Bythewood for the opportunity.
“She’s transformed our bodies, she’s transformed our minds as well,” said Atim in the vignette.
“I mean, I feel like a badass,” added Davis.
The Woman King is based on the story of the Agojie, an all female group of warriors who protected the African kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s. The movie will be in theaters on Sept 16. Check out the ladies in action!