Damita Howard‘s career has really been on fire in recent years –no, really, she’s actually been on fire.
Howard is a professional stunt person who has worked on “The Hunger Games” films, “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” “The Walking Dead” and much more. And thanks to the migration of the film industry, she’s been able to do this while being based here in Atlanta.
Her career began in 2009 when, after years skating for the Atlanta Rollergirls under the name “Sk8 Outta Compton,” and competing at the national level, she was called upon to bring her skills to the set of “Whip It,” the Ellen Page-led movie about roller derby, directed by Drew Barrymore. There, she was doubling for actor and rapper Eve. And being brand new to the industry, she didn’t know what she didn’t know quite yet.
“The stunt coordinator told me that there weren’t a ton of black stunt women,” she says. “I later found out that that really wasn’t the case. I had also heard that there was a lack of talent among the black stunt women in the industry, so there was room for me to come in with some amazing skillsets that they didn’t see among the black stunt women. That also wasn’t quite true.”
“There were enough stunt women to do all the jobs that needed to be done, and I’m just glad that they welcomed me in,” Howard says.
When she entered the field, Howard became what’s known as a “ground-pounder.”
“Like anytime they need to throw somebody into a wall or off a building or out of a moving car, that person needs to get up and be able to do it again,” she says. “So because I always have been very fit, I was really good at being able to take those beatings repeatedly.”
But when Howard decided to expand her skill set, she chose fire, which she is surprisingly non-nonchalant about.
“I don’t know, I just thought fire looked interesting,” she says. “It pays really well when you do it because it is so dangerous.
“Don’t try this at home. That’s not a hobby, that’s very serious stunt work.”
The continued growth of film in Georgia has brought more work and opportunities Howard’s way, and the trend toward more diverse casting and storytelling has also had an effect on her corner of the industry.
“The stunt player of color pool has certainly grown tremendously in the last couple of years” she says. “We’re competitive, but I’m glad to see so many of us. Because there’s a thing in this industry where we paint people down to be colors that they’re not. And that’s old, and we’re over it.
“The days of people telling us ‘I couldn’t find anybody for this job so I had to paint this white woman black,’ we’re just not having it anymore. So I’m super grateful that we have a large stunt player of color pool in this city now. There are no excuses for those sorts of things anymore.”
Damita Howard worked on the upcoming film “Avengers: Endgame,” in theaters April 26.