Monique Ganderton was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and inherited her passion for action and adventure from her father. She achieved high levels in almost every sport she conquered, track and field, equestrian show jumping, snowboarding, diving, gymnastics, softball, figure skating and mixed martial arts. In addition to be physically active, Monique is imaginatively active as well; writing, journalism and visual arts feature prominently on her resume too.
Monique was discovered by a modeling agency at a local mall, and she decided to give it a try. She moved to Toronto and began taking acting classes while working as a background performer to experience the ins and outs of filmmaking first hand. The first project she worked on was a television show called Mutant X, which called upon her to do some stunt work. Her natural athleticism had stunt coordinators encouraging her to train and become a stunt performer.
She went on to do stunts for movies such as “The Recruit,” “I, Robot” and “X-Men 3” as well as many others. She has been seen on TV in shows such as “Smallville,” “The 100,” “The Tomorrow People” and “Sleepy Hollow.” Monique has been the stunt double for many A-list actresses, such as Charlize Theron, Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Lawrence, Famke Jensen, Rebecca Romjin, and dozens of others.
Monique graciously took time out of her busy schedule to talk about her upcoming roles and the nature of stunt performance.
How does it feel to be an official part of the Marvel Universe?
I love Marvel movies! Kevin Feige – The Lord of the Marvel universe- has done such a great job at storytelling and connecting all the characters. Plus my partner Sam Hargrave has been Stunt Doubling Captain America and is the Stunt Coordinator for upcoming Cap 3! He’s an action genius and I love getting to work with him! I’m so excited about Cap 3 as I think it’s going to be a really special movie for Marvel!
What can you tell us about ‘Death’, from that other comic book universe, DC?
I’m not sure how much I can say but Death is one of the original 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse! There were long hours on set and some very cool make- up designed by Adrien Morot and his team. I loved watching Bryan Singer do his thing. He will literally act out the whole blocking of the scene and he is so passionate about the characters. It was an amazing experience for sure!
Were you a comic book fan growing up?
I didn’t read a lot of comic books. I was always connected to Wonder Woman of course. But most of my comic experience came later when I started to work in film. I read Watchmen before I worked on the film and it blew my mind. Now I keep my eye out for new graphic novels to get into. Most recently I read The Coldest City and worked on the movie adaptation for it. It’s going to be insane!
Do you feel that your love of sports (diving, gymnastics, softball, figure skating….) somehow made you a natural for stunt work?
I definitely feel this way for sure. I kind of felt like I failed at all the sports I was good at because I never went as far with them as maybe my coaches would have liked. I didn’t like competitions and I didn’t want to quit my other sports and focus on just one. Later, when I found film, I realized that delving into many different sports gave me a great base and the ability to adapt to many different action situations. It worked out perfectly.
You’ve done stunts for so many different people, like Stana Katic, Karen Gillian, Amanda Tapping and dozens more – what has been your favorite stunt performance thus far?
I just wrapped The Coldest City doubling Charlize Theron. That was one of the best stunt experiences to date in so many ways. Dave Leitch directed it and his wife Kelly McCormick produced it, and they are great friends of mine. Dave and I have done 7 shows together in the past. My partner Sam Hargrave was 2nd unit director and Stunt Coordinator; I was the assistant Stunt Coordinator and Charlize’s Stunt Double so I had a lot of creative say in the action which I love. Charlize is an amazing person and performer. We couldn’t have had a better actor performing the action we came up with, male or female. She knocked in out of the park and I am so proud of the action in this movie. It sucks that we have to wait a year to see it on the big screen!
Talk about the rescue work you do with animals?
I have always felt connected to adopt don’t shop. I have rescued 4 dogs, 2 cats and adopted a BLM Mustang from the US government. Sam and I have also found 3 stray pit bulls and worked with them and found loving homes for them with the help of Dirty Dog Squad (A small rescue organization in Marina Del Rey).
I am very passionate about the Mustangs because the BLM hasn’t quite figured the best way to manage the herds to keep them wild. There are about 50,000 Mustangs living in Government holding pens. They are argued to be “Pests” and are not protected as a “Wild” animal indigenous to North America. They are such a special animal because they are a result of natural selection. They are the truest form of survivor in horse form. All human civilization was built on the back of horses and burros and I feel like we owe them so much more than what they are getting at the moment.
My Mustang Joni is from a herd captured in Nevada that dates back to breeds used in the Civil war. I would encourage reading about the Wild Mustangs of North America and the role of BLM. So many people don’t even realize the US has wild horses. There are many charities to support that help them. Mustang Heritage Foundation, Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, Wild Horse Freedom Federation, Wild Horses In Need, Wild horses of Alberta Society.
What can you tell us about your upcoming role as Brandi in the series, “UnReal”? We know filming just began.
Brandi is ‘shy girl who managed to escape a traumatic past and is now a competitive MMA fighter looking for love on Everlasting’ according to Deadline! I don’t know a lot but she definitely gets thrown some drama! It’s so different showing up to work with this many girls around as I am usually with all boys! It’s a buzzing hen-house and I love it!
Did you watch season 1 of UnReal? Or are you a fan of The Bachelor?
I am not a fan of the Bachelor which is probably why I am such a huge fan of UnReal! It’s the reality part of the reality show world and I think it’s good for everyone to see how UnReal reality is! And it’s so much great drama!
You are also a writer and an artist – what projects do you currently have in progress (and how do you manage to have time to do all that you do)?!
I have been so busy working this past year that my writing has been on hold. I have some outlines of projects and Sam and I are always brainstorming. We are planning to shoot a short after I wrap on this. I’m hoping to get writing in the downtime on set! It’s perfect because where we are shooting there is no cell reception!!!
Is there any one particular stunt you won’t do, or would at least hesitate before doing?
I am very honest about my skill set when a coordinator calls offering a gag. I only do stunts that I know I can do 20 takes of, or something that I can get a bit of rehearsal if it’s something I have never done. I do think my background has made me very comfortable with adapting to new skills. So to answer your question I wouldn’t attempt to do 5 back handsprings in a row on concrete but I will happily drop from 600 ft in the air like I did on Hunger Games : Mockingjay: Part 1 or jump from a galloping chariot to a horse like I did on Conan The Barbarian. I do stunts I’m confident that I can do safely and successfully.
You’ve been behind the scenes on so many movies – any good things to dish?
I can tell you that Charlize Theron is the best actor/fighter I’ve seen – male or female. Hugh Jackman is a close second. Jennifer Lawrence is endless laughs and is exactly like you would expect. One day she was up on scaffolding just screaming for the taco truck or a hot dog. She’s hilarious. Nicolas Cage has a photographic memory and blew my mind with how gracious he is to other actors. He was always on set and involved even if it was a day player with one line. There are so many great people that work in film that it blocks out all the negative ones!
Our site is called Talk Nerdy With Us, so we like to ask: what nerdy things are you into?
I love science!!! I love watching Cosmos and I’m always watching debates and talks from Neil Degrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. And I could also watch Nature documentaries non-stop. Sloths, ants, tigers. The way animals adapt and have evolved blows my mind. I think Nature is so much more fascinating than anything us humans could think up. I mean proving gravity exists and black holes?? Our universe is so amazing!