What happens when you mix my extreme love of Dark Phoenix, with a great photographer and lots of REAL FIRE. Outside of a few 2nd and 3rd degree burns. One of the most exciting and fulfilling photoshoots I have ever had the pleasure to be a part of!
When Darrell Ardita of BGZ Studios first asked me if I wanted to be a part of a practical fire shoot as Dark Phoenix. The only thing I could say was, “So you want to set me on FIRE?! Eff ya! Lets DO this!” I mean, it’s not every day someone wants to *safely* set you on fire as one of you favorite characters of all time for a photo-shoot.
We began the month long process of planning, training and working out our ideas for the shoot. I have done some stunt work in the past, but nothing more than fight training, high falls and a bit of parkour. Never any burn work. So we started with a day long burn training class with the pro stunt team that would be handling my fire education, safety and all my burns. These guys are all amazing at what they do, I was very lucky to have such a seasoned and professional team in charge of my safety.
The first thing I learned is.. NEVER WEAR A REALLY SEXY BRA to a burn class, it will get ruined! I didn’t expect to have to strip down to my undies in front of everyone and be submerged in freezing cold, viscus flame retardant goo in 40 degree weather. But all those things happened. My stunt coordinator kept saying, “If you are cold and wet, you are safe.” I must have been the safest person on fire ever.. Just look at my face in the first picture.. I’m pretty sure I said every cuss word I know and even made a few up as this cold sludge-covered shirt came into contact with my torso.
With flame school out of the way, Darrell went to work building his team & I started breaking down my costume. There was no way I could get all the wet safety layers under my unitard without looking like a sweaty, red Stay-Puff marsh-mellow woman. And with Spandex reacting to flame like plastic, I had to design a way to not ACTUALLY go up in flames. Not sure I can resurrect as easily as Jean can in the comics.
Our compromise to keep me relatively safe but still retain the look of the character was to cut the arms off my old suit and replace them with kidskin leather gloves. I found some 40in black leather gloves online, purchased 3 pair, stripped them, cut them to the correct shape and length, then dyed them metallic gold to match the rest of the suit. So on the day, I would have a Nomex sleeve, 2 pair of cotton gloves (both SATURATED in flame retardant goo), then cover with the long gold leather gloves. Stay-Puff design problem solved, and I would still have a few layers of safety between me and the fire.
Here’s the link to a little behind the scenes video from the actual shoot with commentary from Darrell, the stunt team and myself.
If ever given the opportunity to do it again, I would do it in a second! I can not express how much I loved working with so many talented people for this shoot. I never felt unsafe, the experience was simply amazing and Darrell’s photo’s came out better than I could have ever imagined. In the end, I think we all did Dark Phoenix justice. And that, in itself is a cosmic achievement.
But don’t take my word for it…