THE DEFENDERS: A Word With Chris Brewster On The Usung Heroes Behind The Heroes


So, as many of you know, The Defenders has premiered on Netflix and from what I can gather on social media, it has been well received. Of course people will find issues with the show as they do most shows, but I have to be honest, I truly enjoyed it. So much in fact I decided to do a follow up interview with Daredevil stunt double Chris Brewster.

This will make our second interview. If you would like to read the first one, feel free to check it out here.

Eric Shamm Watson: Chris, how have you been man? The last time we talked was shortly after DD: Season 1. Let’s get everyone caught up. I know one thing that has changed. Now you are a proud father of a beautiful baby girl with eyes that will put most people in a trance. 
Chris Brewster: Oh man! My wife and I have been given the most amazing gift in the world.  Our daughter, Cayden, is absolutely amazing. Talk about a life-changer!  She was born right in the middle of shooting The Defenders. She was actually due the week that we filmed the huge episode-three action sequence, but decided to wait until the first day of the Holiday break. I was able to spend the first 3 or 4 weeks with Isabelle and Cayden. It was perfect! I could literally write a book on how amazing parenthood has been for us. We are so happy.
ESW: That is so cool man. Congrats. And the fact you got to spend a good amount time with your family in the early stages is a blessing. A lot of stunt people are not so lucky. I have heard of guys having to miss the birth and the first few months of their child’s life because they are working. Now that you have a family does it make your job harder? Do you look at some stunts now and say "I don't know about this now because you're thinking about her"?
CB: Having a family definitely puts everything into perspective.  Especially in the light of all the accidents happening on set lately.  There are way too many things going wrong, because people rush and bad choices are made. This is a game of calculated risk. We all like to push it, and welcome the bumps and bruises along the way; but the goal is to leave work every day, and go home to our families.  Now, that I have a family, I try to surround myself with people that I like and trust. A good stunt team looks out for each other every step of the way.  
ESW: Well said. I honestly believe it comes down to your team and you have to trust each other. I imagine that’s one of many reason coordinators want to work with the people they already know. I also love the fact you said stunt performers take “calculated risk”. I truly believe many people looking from the outside in believe stunt performers are adrenaline junkies and though that might be true for a small amount of people, that is not the case overall. So how do you balance being a dad, husband and working 16hr days on set?  
CB: Working long hours, makes me appreciate every single minute that I get with my wife and our daughter. I've really grown to embrace the tiniest things, like watching TV and ordering takeout, or just hiking around the neighborhood. I try to never bring work home, so that I can be completely present when I'm with the people that matter the most!
ESW: From that statement I can honestly tell you are a true family man. That’s also a great thing about your job because you can leave work at work. It’s not like you’re crunching numbers or have TPS reports. [laughs]

You've talked about takeout. Before I ask you my question I would like to say when I order take out, I like to pretend that the delivery person is my butler. I also pretend that my Uber driver is my chauffer. That has nothing to do with my next question, but I just wanted to share that.
CB: [laughs] Glad you’re still using your imagination. I’m sure it helps when you’re on set also.
ESW: That it does! So obviously you have to keep yourself in a certain shape to do this job. Besides eating vegetables, protein and air... do you get a chance to eat things like cake? Does Chris Brewster know what pizza taste like? 
CB: Ha! I am a very healthy eater, but I believe that balance and treating yourself are parts of a healthy diet. I eat pizza, and sweets, but I try to fill myself up with a lot of good fuel. I think most people suffer from two big mistakes; lack of hydration and not consuming enough vegetables. I try to drink 1-2 gallons of water a day, and eat vegetables with every meal and every snack.  
ESW: You are totally right about that because I suffer from both those mistakes. I drink two glasses of water a day and as for veggies… let’s just say I could eat a lot more. Does eating Pumpkin Pie count as eating veggies because if it does—
CB: It doesn’t.
ESW: Okay then… note to self… eat more veggies. So, let’s get to the heart of the article. We are about to talk about a killer show. A show that was my focus point for two days straight. The Defenders!!!! For one I want to say that I loved it! I’m not just saying that. I truly loved the show.

CB: Me too! I'm a little biased, but I've been looking forward to The Defenders since the first season of Daredevil. I get some amazing opportunities to work on these shows, but I am a big fan of each show and all of the actors. Defenders brought together some of the coolest heroes, and villains I've ever seen.
ESW: Did Charlie want to do more action or does he just leave that up to you? In other words is he sometimes like Tom Cruise and says "Brew" I got this? 
CB: You would not believe how much Charlie actually does. He's incredibly athletic, and gifted at picking up choreography. He has learned entire fight scenes a day or two before filming, then gone in and crushed it on camera. There were a few times, where out of nowhere, he threw a move that most of the stunt team couldn't throw.
ESW: That’s dope! And when the actor gets to get their hands dirty a little bit I also think that makes them appreciate what we do as stunt performers even more. It helps develop a mutual respect for each other’s craft. How game were the actors in general to do as much of their own fighting as possible?
CB: All the actors on The Defenders were game to do a lot of the action. They were all in the stunt warehouse with the rest of us, kicking and punching. They rode wires, and did some really good stunts. It was very impressive.
ESW: How much feedback did the actors have on the action? Sometimes you have actors that really want to be a part of the stunt and like giving ideas about what their character would do or how they would move.
CB: Our team has always been very adamant about bringing the actors into the action design. Choreography is just the skeleton of the fight scene. Each actor adds their own "body" to it. When we are able to join the two together, it creates something really amazing.  Since the first episode of Daredevil, Charlie has brought me into his world. He has taught me so much about Matt Murdock, Daredevil, every scene that we work on, and acting as a whole. That's why on Daredevil, a punch is never just a punch. Every move tells a story.  
ESW: Every move tells a story. Wow. That’s why the action should never just be action. It is an extension of the script. So how was it working with Sigourney Weaver?
CB: Are you kidding? Sigourney is a legend. It was such an honor just being on the same set as her. And she is such a sweet and wonderful person.
ESW: That’s so cool and yes she is a legend. It’s always great to hear that celebrities are down to earth human beings. So many people might not know this because they don’t look at the credits, Matt Mullins who also was the fight coordinator for Marvel’s Agents of Shield was the Stunt Coordinator on The Defenders. Did you find out through production or did Matt call you like "Yo, Cold Brew, guest what... I'm your boss, bro"? I know Matt doesn't talk like that. [laughs]
CB: Matt and I have been very good friends for over a decade. We grew up training martial arts together; we toured the world doing live shows and events. We are pretty much brothers.  I knew pretty early on, that Matt was our new coordinator; and I was stoked. I knew Matt would push the limits, create some amazing stuff, and keep all of us safe.
ESW: Well Matt did do all of that. He has a nice style of action. Matt himself is very clean and I have enjoyed watching him perform in front of camera as well as controlling the action behind the scenes...
[SPOILER ALERT: If you have not seen the show yet, which makes no sense to me, but if you haven’t watched it, take caution because we are going to talk about the show now.]
...So that scene where Jessica Jones follows Matt Murdock and "he" scales the building using his parkour skills. How did you guys figure out how to climb the building? Did the art department have to build anything additional to help you get to the roof or did you use what was already there? 
CB: One of my favorite things about my job, is I get paid to play around.  Some days, I feel like a kid at recess. Most parkour days are like that. We scout a location, and basically run around jumping and flipping from one object to another.  When we find something cool, we film it and show it to the director.  The art department always helps enhance a scene, by adding objects to propel off, or flip over. 

ESW: What is a typically day of training for you and the actors for the action per week? Did you guys just work on the choreography or did you have full on training sessions?
CB: We start every day with full on training. We warm up, run some basic techniques, hit the heavy bag, do some crossfit style high intensity interval training... then we get into the choreography, and rehearsals. As stunt performers, we challenge our bodies and put them to the test quite often. We all believe that part of our job is staying as strong, sharp, and resilient as possible.  
ESW: So you’re working out, training, and doing stunt practice all in the same day. That’s a lot for a body to take. I imagine you’re getting very little rest because the days you’re not training you’re probably on set. With that being said I imagine every stunt person  has dealt with injuries and pain. How do you deal with injuries when you have to work for the next month? I'm not talking about a broken bone or anything like that but maybe sprained ankles, inflamed knee, dislocated finger and things like that. 
CB: When there isn't time to rest in bed, you learn to work through most injuries. I don't believe that rest is even good for most injuries. Mobility and range of motion are so important. We try to be smart, by bracing any area that is weakened, and avoiding things that could agitate an injury. The key is preventative maintenance. Stretching, mobility, and staying fit will help avoid a lot of injuries.  
ESW: That’s great advice. Thank you for sharing that. Any injuries on The Defenders that you can talk about? 
CB: Honestly, there were no injuries all season! That is incredible, considering the amounts of fights and stunts that we did.  Matt Mullins and James Hutchison deserve some serious credit, because they kept us all safe.  
ESW: Big James Hutchison. I love that guy. Great stuntman, great guy and a person I would never want to fight if he has a sword in his hands.
CB: Tell me about it. He’s a great guy.
ESW: I know you will always be a stuntman, but what about following in the footsteps of Matt Mullins and James Lew in regards to becoming a Coordinator? I know you've done it before but I mean taking on your own show. Is it something you want to do?
CB: Absolutely. I love coordinating, but I still love performing. I take some coordinating gigs, but my focus is still on the fun stuff. I am trying to learn as much as I can along the way, so that when I decide to pull the trigger and become a full time coordinator, I will be ready. I have had some incredible stunt coordinators who took me under their wings and guided me along the way.  I want to follow in all of their footsteps and make them all proud.
ESW: What was your favorite fight? Was it between you and The Immortal Iron Fist the Sworn Protector of K'un Lun as he likes to be referred to? I personally think it's easier to call him Danny but hey... who am I to tell the man he should shorten his name? I saw what he did to Luke Cage. Come to think about it, for a man who studied his whole life under peaceful monks, he sure does have quick temper. [laughs]
CB: It's hard to pick a favorite fight, but I really enjoyed the DD/Iron Fist fight. It was a nice change of pace, because there was no good guy and bad guy. This was more like two brothers arguing through punches. I loved the energy and character that Charlie and Finn brought into it.
ESW: James Lew just won an Emmy over the weekend the category was Outstanding Stunt Coordination For A Drama Series, Limited Series Or Movie, I believe. He came out swinging hard on Luke Cage. He came out swinging and knocked it out of the park, and Jessica Jones showed us she could hold her own under the watchful eye of Chris Place, I believe. Of course DD season 1 and 2 murdered the game with you and Philip Silvera leading the way and so on. With all of that being said, which was a mouth full, was there pressure to make The Defenders stand out even more or was it just another day at the office?
CB: There was no pressure on The Defenders, because we didn't have to compete against ourselves. We had the best parts of all of the shows, all together. That being said, we always want to go bigger and bigger. Every show is a new chance to raise the bar and do something better.
ESW: Important question here. After watching the show, are you now a bigger fan of The Wu-Tang Clan? That was the perfect song for that final fight and now I find myself listening to the albums again!
CB: [laughs] I absolutely agree.  That song was perfect.
ESW: So how does one become a double for an actor? Does the Coordinator submit a few options and the actor and director pick one, does the actor meet all the options and then tells the coordinator who he vibes with? Is there an audition? Was it a fight to the death between all the choices?
CB: This is different on any show.  Sometimes doubles are picked because they look very similar to an actor, or they have the same sizes.  Sometimes, the actor needs to do a very specific stunt, so they need a double that is an expert in that category. Each coordinator has their own style. Some coordinators pick the person they think is the closest match for what they need.  Others will make a list of all the potential doubles, and let the director chose. There are even stunt auditions for some shows, so that the coordinator can line everybody up next to the actor and see who works.  
ESW: Wow so there is really no clear path. It’s just random depending on the production. That’s good to know because I think a lot of people wonder how these decisions are made. So since we were talking about the doubles might as well give a shout out to them now.

From Left to Right - Stick: Justin Eaton, Jessica Jones: Dejay Roestenberg, Matt “Daredevil” Murdock: Chris Brewster, Luke “Power Man” Cage: Guy Fernandez, Elektra Natchios: Lauren Mary Kim, Danny “The Immortal Iron Fist Sworn Protector of K’un Lun” Rand:  David Armstrong, Stunt Coordinator: Matthew Mullins

Supporting Stunt Doubles not pictured: Alicia Vela-Bailey: Sigourney Weaver/Alexandra Reid, Alvin Hsing & Jason Ng: Ramon Rodriguez/Bakuto, Cheryl Lewis: Simone Missick/Misty Knight, Stefanie Flores: Rosario Dawson/Claire Temple, Stephanie Vovou: Jessica Henwick/Collen Wing, Assistant Coordinators: James Hutchison III & Alicia Vela-Bailey

ESW: Well, I know you’re super busy. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to interview with me again.
CB: Thanks for having me again.
ESW: Thank you guys for reading the article. I am not a “journalist” but I do enjoy talking about stunts and think what we do as stunt performers is pretty cool. This is my way of bridging the gap and letting the public know what we do. I mean at the end of the day who doesn’t like to know some of the behind the scenes stuff? If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share.

On another note, if you guys want to see what Chris has been up to and if you just want to be nosy, feel free to drop by and follow him on instagram: @ninjabrewski. Also feel free to follow Film Combat Syndicate on instagram as well for your news on everything or at least most things action related at @fcsyndicate. In fact, feel free to follow EVERYBODY in the article. Most of the stunt doubles if not all of them have pretty cool behind the scene photos from the show as well as the standalone episodes.

On that note… I’m out!

Lead photo: Terence Patrick (Variety)

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