The featured gentleman that I have the privilege of writing about today is Nathan Barris. Nathan is a stunt performer, fight coordinator, and actor. However, before all of that, he was a young lad from Basingstoke, England, flipping and tricking around the city with his friends. Nathan and his friends formed the parkour and free running group, 3Run, back in the early 2000s, and gained notoriety through a series of amazing videos on Youtube. I was just getting into parkour at the time and found tons of inspiration through their free-flowing movement and complicated aerial tricks, and have continued to follow Nathan and the 3Run boys for well over a decade now.
Nowadays Nathan, having just hit 30 and still at peak physical fitness, has moved into the film industry to add his unique skill set to various action movies and television shows you’ve probably seen. Nathan was a stunt performer in 18 episodes of the Starz hit show Black Sails, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and Resident Evil: Final Chapter. He’s coordinated fight scenes in The Dark Tower, acted and performed stunts in Maze Runner: The Death Cure, and even doubled Hugh Jackman in Chappie.
Stunt work is a disciplined field to be in. It’s not just about having the skill set, but about constantly keeping your body prepared to participate in physically demanding performances over and over again. There is little room for error in the world of stunts. Essentially when he’s not working, Nathan is training to keep his skill sets fresh. That can involve working on screen fighting techniques, free running, tricking, and even motocross. Fortunately, I was able to chat with Nathan and get his input on how he stays in tip-top shape for his stunt roles, as well as get an idea of the awesome experiences he’s had through his involvement in the film industry. Let’s check out what he had to say.
I first followed you years ago when you were putting out YouTube Videos with 3Run. How did that group start?
Nathan: It all started around 2002/2003. Chase Armitage had been doing flips into a school long jump sand pit with his younger brother (Cole Armitage) and other friend (Shaun Andrews). We all used to play roller hockey together on the street, and lived a stones throw from each other in our estate. I found myself shortly afterwards meeting up with them after I finished school to practice flips and jump off of stuff. We were all fans of Jackie Chan and heavily influenced by The Matrix movies. Not just the physical abilities and the characters portrayed, but also the mental state they were reaching in the movie. We truly believe in being able to “free your mind” and being able to do things most people couldn’t. I think that was also a huge part of the team success; our mentality towards the art form.
Parkour is often described as more than just a physical discipline. What does parkour mean to you?
I’m sure it means lots of different things for different people. Parkour to me is pretty much all I’ve know since I was 13\14. Back then, no one was really doing it. We didn’t even know the “name” given to what we were doing. At the time it was just like a movie with Jackie Chan or Neo haha! But to look back at it now I feel the meaning has changed over time. Now I don’t do it as much, really because the body has taken its toll, plus working in the movies you sometimes don’t have the time to train for 9 months when you’re on a job that doesn’t require that skill set. So its hard to maintain any sort of level if you’re not actually doing it. But for me it’s been the foundation; the base layer on how I understand movement, how I learnt to film myself and friends, how I learnt to edit, etc. It created doorways into other careers that have shaped and molded my life.
How did you transition into stunt work?
Once our team 3Run started to gain recognition, we began to get work from it. Small shows lead to bigger shows, that lead to promotional videos, and then finally to music videos, TV shows and movies. We all soon found ourselves working alongside stunt performers and working for stunt coordinators early into our free running careers. Some of the guys found other skills, like filming fight scenes, as very appealing and transitioned into it that way. Myself, Chase and Adam Brashaw were also creating small action scenes and learning how to film and edit them ourselves.
What are a couple of the most dangerous stunts you’ve done?
I’ve been very fortunate enough to have been doubling lead actors and also having nice gags (stunts) given to me. Each stunt has its own risk. If its a high fall, a fire burn, underwater stunt, car hit, or a big ratchet on a wire. The goal is always the same: rehearse and find the safest formula that takes out as much of the danger as possible. So yes, on screen it looks super dangerous, but its actually very calculated and thought out. That’s where the coordinators and your team come in. We all are there to take that danger away either with safety mats, your own stunt pads, wires, or even pre-fabricated and softened ground or props.
But if I had to pick one it would be a VW car commercial where I jumped out of the car at 45 kilometers per hour. Unfortunately the camera tracking vehicle did not take into consideration my line of rolling on the ground, and their back wheel just missed my head by about half a foot! I only realized what happened after watching the play back. That just goes to show why everything needs to be meticulously planned out to take as much risk out of the Stunt.
You’ve been in some great films/shows (Maze Runner, Resident Evil, Black Sails, etc). What film or show was the most fun to work on?
I’m currently working on a great show by AMC called Into the Badlands. This show is ridiculous. The fight scenes are incredible, lots of Hong Kong style wire work and action. I’ve been really blessed to have been working on Season 2 and 3 full time. Being able to work with your idols and people who you admire has been a really nice experience. I honestly have been very luck that 99.9% of the projects I’ve worked on its always been a blessing.
Were any actors particularly enjoyable to work with/double?
Every actor I’ve had the pleasure to double has been really nice. I always try to create a good bond with them as they must be able to approach you with confidence if they are unsure of some action, body position, how to hold the weapon, etc. I feel if you don’t establish a good connection, you’ll just be overlooked and risk the action not being as clean as it could have been. It was a real pleasure to double the main man Hugh Jackman for the movie Chappie. He’s a real nice guy. He treats everyone with the same amount of respect, from the catering staff to the director. Everyone only has nice things to say about him.
Stunt work involves some physically demanding activity. How do you take care of your body to prepare for stunt roles?
I try to see my body like a race car. OK, a race car the runs on sweets sometime but hey I’m only human haha! But how I see it is like this: if you want to get the best out of your race car, your fuel needs to be clean, you must service that vehicle regularly, change the oil, air filter and break fluid. Not just once a year but after every race. So at least once a month i’ll try to have a sports massage then the following day go and see the chiropractor to be aligned. I honestly feel that has helped me maintain the demands that this industry can deliver. I try to train every morning before work. 5-6 days a week. Mix it up. Try and do cardio as your rest period from lifting weights. Its far more function than just sitting around waiting until you hit the bench press again. That keeps your fitness up and helps simulate running a long fight scene, resetting, and being ready to do it all again in a minute. Training like that really helps keep your fitness levels up.
I always like to end with asking some advice. What would you say to those that want to go into stunt work?
Research to see if there are any stunt schools in your area. Its always good to learn the different skill sets from trained professionals and in a safe environment. Gymnastic clubs offer a great place to learn falls, acrobatics and aerial awareness.
Keep track of this guy
Like I said, I’ve been watching parkour and stunt videos of Nathan for years. He’s an absolute inspiration in terms of staying in top physical condition while training the body to, like he said, do things that others can’t. There was a quote he mentioned while we went over some background information that resonated with me in reference to training:
“Be ready so you never have to get ready.”
With physical fitness this is vital, whether your a stunt performer, an athlete, or even simply have an active lifestyle. Nathan understands that you want to prepare your body for success by training and equipping yourself with the skills and knowledge to go into any activity with the expectation that you can perform safely and at optimum levels. I believe this is more profound than just physical preparedness, and I know Nathan would agree. This type of idea translates to all aspects of our lives. Our jobs, our relationships, our mentality, etc. It’s about putting in the work so that when life throws something at us, we are equipped to face it.
Nathan is an incredible athlete, but he is an Influential Gentleman because he is more than just his stunts and career endeavors. I’m all about recognizing those that have found their passion and use it to touch the lives of others, and Nathan has done just that. He pursued what he loves and gets to do that every day, and help others to improve as well and get the most out of their performances. I don’t think people realize what stunt performers and coordinators do for movies, and the immense impact they have. Like Nathan said, he is constantly reaching out and being approached by those who he doubles to make sure they are performing in a way that is realistic and effective in the actions scenes that we know and love.
I encourage you to keep tabs on Nathan. Just writing this I’ve taken a few breaks to go look at old parkour footage and stunt reels and am inspired to get back to some parkour training this spring and summer. Above I’ve included his 2017 Stunt Reel so you can check out some of his work, but I definitely encourage you to follow him on his Instagram for some cool behind the scenes posts that show what the life of a stuntman is like. Also, Into the Badlands is on Netflix so if you’re looking for a new show to binge and want to see the work of an Influential Gentleman at the same time, I recommend it.
You can check out our post of Nathan Barris on Influential Gentleman’s Instagram as well.