Scroll To Top

How This Queer Woman Became One of the Best Stunt Drivers in the Industry

How This Queer Woman Became One of the Best Stunt Drivers in the Industry
Photo by Tommy Flanagan

Photos by Tommy Flanagan

Zandara Kennedy is one of the few women and queer stunt performers in Hollywood. Now she’s helping to open doors for other marginalized people in the industry.

Zandara Kennedy was born was a thirst for adventure. The Los Angeles-based professional stunt performer, stunt coordinator, and precision driver has been breaking boundaries and kicking butt in a straight male-dominated field for many years now.

“I was always that kind of adventurous kid that wanted to have experiences,” Kennedy says. “My parents put me in gymnastics when I was very young. I did trampoline and circus [training] for a long time.”

But then, she explains, “we moved from Ottawa, which is the capital of Canada, to a small town outside of Vancouver — which I don’t recommend, as a 13-year-old gay child, moving to the town with the most churches per capita of North America. That was challenging for sure. So I just worked to get out of there as quickly as possible.”

To add to her woes, a broken arm thwarted the path to Kennedy’s dreams of becoming a Cirque de Soleil performer, so she had to think outside of the box in order to put her skillset to use.

After graduating high school early, Kennedy relocated to Vancouver, where she got her motorcycle license and became a motorcycle courier. It was there that she discovered “that the film industry was a thing that existed. It’s so weird how you can watch movies your whole life [and] never consider that it’s a job for people to make them.”

Photo by Tommy Flanagan

Kennedy says that a chance meeting with a man already working in the stunt industry opened her eyes to a whole new world, though she admits it wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences. Sexual harassment and sexist attitudes were baked into the industry and both have continued to be an issue throughout her career.

“I was introduced to my first stunt man, I think I was about 18. He saw that as a great opportunity to try to hit on a very young woman — a really great welcome to an industry that is known for some of those problematic elements,” she says. “But in spite of that, I was like, Oh, I can do all of the things that I love.

From there, Kennedy says she was hooked and spent most of her time and resources building her skills and improving her craft. She attended the Motion Picture Driving Clinic founded by legendary stuntman Rick Seaman, known for his work on early-aughts blockbusters like Charlie’s Angels, Chain Reaction, and Paycheck.

“I’ve always loved being behind the wheel… I went back home and bought a 1987 Ford Crown Victoria and I would drive it late at night, early in the morning, in the rain, practice sliding into parking spots and doing other stuff, making little videos with other newer stunt people that I had met. And that dedication to the driving so early actually ended up being the thing that set me apart from the other performers, and it really became my niche.”

“And that led me to a drift school,” Kennedy says. Drifting is a dangerous driving maneuver featured in many movies and TV shows. “And I got in a drift car and was like… I have to do this all the time. This is the thing that I was put here to do.

Photo by Tommy Flanagan

With her extensive experience and training in things like drifting, rally racing, motorcycle riding, acting, hand-to-hand combat (Ju Jitsu, Muay Thai), weapons and sword fighting, grappling, freediving, fire stunt work, and more, Kennedy has quickly become a respected and formidable force in the stunt industry. She is currently one of Canada’s top precision drivers and the only Canadian woman to earn a Formula Drift Prospec license. She’s also one of the youngest stunt coordinators in the field, regardless of gender.

Some of her notable TV and film credits include X-Men, Deadpool, Riverdale, Supernatural, Fear the Walking Dead, The Bold Type, Lucifer, Nancy Drew, as well as doing professional driving work for brands like Audi, BMW, and Mercedes. Kennedy has also stunt-doubled for Katee Sackhoff and the late Anne Heche, to name a few.

And, because of a lack of diversity in stunt work, Kennedy wants to open up the field to others from marginalized communities.

“One of my mentors is a Black man, and he’s also a stunt driver. And there was a point where we would both get a phone call for the same job because [the character was a] Black woman,” says Kennedy. “So Gaston [Morrison] and I got together and we did a workshop, a stunt driving workshop for women of color.”

Kennedy also works with Racing Pride, an organization that promotes LGBTQ+ inclusivity within the motorsport industry. In addition to being an advocate for women and people of color in stunt work, she’s also and ally for stunt people with disabilities. She’s also currently working toward her next goal of competing as one of only a few women in the 2023 Formula Drift Pro2 competition.

“There’s a lot of women in the community that I’m a part of that I’ve told, ‘It’s an open door. Call me, let me know how I can help you. Let me tell you what training is going to be best because I’ve done it all.’ And I don’t want the jobs that aren’t for me. I want to be surrounded by more competent women that show that we deserve the job.”

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Desiree Guerrero