‘Black Panther’ stuntwoman Keisha Tucker spoke as 2018 homecoming speaker

Tucker graduated from UMass in 2006


(Elizabeth Polvere/Daily Collegian)

By Abigail Charpentier, News Editor

“Black Panther” stuntwoman and University of Massachusetts alum Keisha Tucker spoke as the annual homecoming speaker on Thursday evening in the Campus Center Auditorium. The event, which was hosted by the University Programming Council and African Student Association, also featured a meet and greet following Tucker’s presentation.

The 2006 theater graduate from Randolph, Massachusetts started off by explaining she knew she wanted to be an actor since she was eight years old, but didn’t know she wanted to go into the stunt industry. In high school, she did gymnastics and track and enjoyed being fit.

“I feel like I just naturally evolved into wanting to do physical things in the film industry,” she said.

While at UMass, she auditioned for the Six Flags New England shows department and was accepted. There, Tucker did a lot of character work, but then started training for stunts.

“They were riding motorcycles and doing high falls and all of this stuff and I thought, “this is cool. This is up my alley. I wanna do that, I’m athletic,” Tucker said, noting that she even learned how to breath fire at Six Flags.

After graduation, she moved to Los Angeles and did primarily background work. She worked on television shows, including “All American Teenagers,” “Gilmore Girls” and “Jonas,” but also did work on the 2008 film “Prom Night.” Most recently, she has done stunt work for “Black Panther,” “Ant-Man and the Wasp” and “Captain Marvel.”

Tucker also worked at Six Flags Magic Mountain for a summer before working at Universal Studios for two years.

“I never jumped into the restaurant jobs or retail or any of that,” Tucker said. “I didn’t want to do any of that stuff, I wanted to work in entertainment, so I always found a way.”

Tucker then explained how some people have to “hustle” to get their jobs, they don’t always audition.

“A lot of the time, they are really asking for somebody who fits the right height, the right skin color, the right hair length even, and a lot of times that’s how they pick their stunt people. But they also pick their stunt people knowing who’s who and asking their friends,” she said.

A friend recommended Tucker for “Black Panther.” For the film, Tucker did stunt work for Okoye, played by Danai Gurira, for the car chase scenes when she was on top of the Lexus going 40 to 50 kilometers per hour. For that five-minute scene, she spent three weeks in South Korea. She also spent an “intense” three weeks training for fight scenes, focusing on five fight sequences.

“It’s basically ‘how bad do you want it?’ I wanted it bad enough to shave my head. I wanted it bad enough to fly from Boston to California and just uproot myself from all of my friends and family. I wanted it enough to learn how to do fights and spin a spear around for days,” she said.

Tucker ended by sharing what she believes is the key to her success: strive for what you want, work hard and get along with other people.

“It’s hard for other people to see your dream, but it’s your dream, you see it. So, avoid people trying to talk you out of it because it happens a lot,” Tucker explained.

Audience members then asked Tucker questions about the “Black Panther” costumes, what is next for her, how she takes care of her health and why representation in the film industry is important.

Solanny Martinez Gonzalez, a kinesiology sophomore, enjoyed being able to meet Tucker and hearing how a UMass alum was able to work on a big movie.

“I’m kind of sad not that many people showed up because it was great to hear her story,” Martinez Gonzalez said. “She was very easy going and I could connect with her. Her stories were so similar to us that it was it easy to be like, ‘she’s like one of us.’”

Desire Crosby, a journalism senior, attended because she enjoyed “Black Panther” and liked Tucker’s personality.

“She was very personable and relaxed, not like a celebrity type. Just like a regular person.”

Abigail Charpentier can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @abigailcharp.