Nancy Drew stunt coordinator Zandara Kennedy talks action, safety, and more

Photo: Zanadra Kennedy.. Image Courtesy Rorelee Tio
Photo: Zanadra Kennedy.. Image Courtesy Rorelee Tio /

You’ve seen the stunts play out on your screen. The Nancy Drew stunt coordinator, Zandara Kennedy, talked to Precinct TV about putting those stunts together and always putting safety first.

Nancy Drew is a great murder mystery series geared towards younger audiences. We’re starting them young, getting them into procedural and serialized TV crime dramas, and it’s working. Already renewed for a second season, this is a show that offers something for all, whether you want crime, supernatural, or character-driven stories.

But what about the stunts? While not on the level of action that NCIS or SWAT would see, Nancy Drew has plenty of action sequences and stunts that need to be planned out and performed. Zandara Kennedy is the woman behind that, and she spoke to Precinct TV about what it takes to plan the stunts, putting safety first, and much more.

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Precinct TV: Firstly, some people won’t know all the work that goes into being a stunt coordinator. What do you do on Nancy Drew?

Zandara Kennedy: We plan, a lot! We start in conjunction with the director when we get the script, breaking it down and figuring out the best way to get the vision that the writers have created. Sometimes, it’s as vague as “they attack the city,” but other writers will get pretty specific in terms of how they want the character to act and look.

And in Nancy Drew, we have the ghost world and visions, so we have to make the supernatural things happen. There’s a lot to figure out about how they walk and getting that line between the supernatural world and reality.

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PTV: And then everyone has their own personalities, which will come across in their style of action. How do you keep everyone straight?

Kennedy: To be honest I’m so involved in the process and reading the scripts that I feel I know the characters pretty well. And in conjunction with the characters, the cast members. They bring certain elements of themselves to the roles, so we need to do action that they feel comfortable performing.

PTV: Nancy Drew as a whole is a very female-oriented show and involves more women behind the scenes, but the role of a stunt coordinator is still a predominantly male role. What’s it like for you to carve this path for more women to be stunt coordinators?

Kennedy: I’m really honored to be one of sort of a new wave of stunt coordinators. I’m not part of the first wave. There were definitely some people I looked up to that really paved the way for women in terms of pushing the boundaries of what jobs we could do.

Melissa Stubbs is a key person in that department, who was Vancouver-based originally but now works all over the U.S. She was the first female member of Stunts Unlimited, which is a historic stunt coordinators group.

I feel like now, women are actually being sought out specifically for what they bring to the table that maybe a male counterpart can’t. And when you have a heavily female staff, it’s really in the best interest of the production to have someone who can anticipate issues that might be female-specific or create a realistic type of action for the female characters that are supposed to be more than just secondary.

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PTV: What advice would you give to women and young girls that know they want to come into this role.

Kennedy: I think it’s important for anyone who wants to get into something to really build their skill set and be diverse. AS a stunt performer, you can specialize. But as a coordinator, you really have to know at least a little about everything. You might have waterworks in one episode and fighting in another, something on fire in the next one. So, even if you’re not specialized, knowing how each thing works in every element is going to make you the most valuable asset.

PTV: I know as well as being the stunt coordinator on Nancy Drew that you’re also into motorsports, right?

Kennedy: I am. I compete in drifting on the side.

PTV: What got you into that passion?

Kennedy: I wanted to be a more diverse stunt performer. I really loved driving and took more stunt driving courses. I was good at it and it was something that I worked hard to develop a reputation for myself as a driver. So part of that was cross training.

When I started training in drifting, I loved it. I was like, ‘How do I get a car that does this?’

What’s convenient about that for me is that it’s made me much better at my job. It’s nice to keep calling it work training but it’s way past that.

Photo: Zandara Kennedy.. Image Courtesy Rorelee Tio
Photo: Zandara Kennedy.. Image Courtesy Rorelee Tio /

PTV: Is there anything else that you’re so passionate about?

Kennedy: Riding motorcycles. I’ve been riding motorcycles since I got my license. I think motor sports on four wheels is amazing, it’s incredibly fun. But two wheels is freedom in a way that you can’t experience in any other way.

PTV: I want to turn this over to you. Is there anything that I haven’t touched on and that others don’t tend to touch on that you’d love to talk about? Something that’s important to you?

Kennedy: Something that I try to always touch on is the element of safety. Stunts has a reputation for people being reckless, and we’re doing our best to dispel that because it really does attract the wrong kind of people. A lot of people can say they’ll do anything, but a big part of my job is repeatable and safe action.

As a stunt double, your job is to portray that character for a certain period of time. So, it’s really about rehearsal and training. It’s about expressing concerns about something because we are pushing the limits.

PTV: I know there are stories of when things go wrong, but they don’t get mentioned as much anymore. Whenever I heard of something that’s gone wrong on a set now, I’m always surprised because of how much practice and planning goes into these things.

Kennedy: When you consider the number of stunts performed annually, the ratio of accidents is actually quite low. Other departments have more frequent injuries than our department does.

PTV: Finally, what would be your dream project be if you could do absolutely anything in the world?

Kennedy: My dream project would be something like a James Bond movie or Fast and the Furious project with a female driver doing awesome stunts.

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What are you excited to see in Nancy Drew moving forward? What type of stunts would you like to see? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Nancy Drew airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on The CW