Action and Emotions in The Flash and Arrow – Interview to JJ Makaro

We present an exclusive interview to JJ Makaro, stunt coordinatr for The Flash and Arrow, and director of episode “Enter Zoom” in the second season of the Scarlet Speedster. 

You are the stunt coordinator of The Flash and Arrow. Are there big differences in the way the fight sequences are designed in each show? Maybe because of the way the characters, Barry Allen and Oliver Queen, act while fighting against crime?
Yes and no. We have always tried to stay grounded with the “Arrow” action. We believe that the more grounded we are when possible, the less jarring it is when the story needs to slip into the fantastical. While we try to remain true to that with “Flash” as well, his story by it’s very nature is extraordinary. Where Arrow’s story hinges more on an adventurer motif of parkourish moves and fast, hard hitting fights, if we did the same for Flash, it wouldn’t exactly fit. We still try to be true to the fans that followed us over from “Arrow”, but we have to be careful. Those fights would not be true to Barry’s back story and if he could do what Oliver does the poor villains would probably be destroyed (nobodies head would move fast enough to absorb those punches).

What problems do you incur while doing a job like yours?
Staying fresh is always a problem, made more so by doubling the workload with two shows. Neither show is shy about action either, so we come very close quite often, when trying to come up with something new, to copying each others action, locations and even performers. We are very particular in picking the people that work with us, they have to be the best of the best and that makes them hard to come by.
…and soon we will be showing you Legends of Tomorrow. However there are a lot of creative geniuses around me; Writers, Directors, Producers and Crew with incredible imaginations and a love for the action in each show. They are all always pitching great ideas that end up on different episodes.

What problems do you incur while doing a job like yours?
Staying fresh is always a problem, made more so by doubling the workload with two shows. Neither show is shy about action either, so we come very close quite often, when trying to come up with something new, to copying each others action, locations and even performers. We are very particular in picking the people that work with us, they have to be the best of the best and that makes them hard to come by.
…and soon we will be showing you Legends of Tomorrow. However there are a lot of creative geniuses around me; Writers, Directors, Producers and Crew with incredible imaginations and a love for the action in each show. They are all always pitching great ideas that end up on different episodes.

I know you worked a lot as an assistant director in the second unit. This year is the one of your debut as a director and with a very important episode of The Flash. What can you tell us about this experience?
Actually I was the second unit director on a few pieces of business on both shows. We learned that it was an effective way to get through the very heavy stunt days we are proud of completing. I will, on some occasions, direct portions of scenes that are strictly action so the Episode Director can concentrate on the portions that include the actors in a less rushed environment.
I could go on forever about how terrific my directing debut experience was. It has taken a lot of years to get to this point and I had actually walked away from it for a lot of years thinking I wasn’t ready yet. The whole thing was great, I got a terrific script, an incredible cast and a great crew…and they all gave me their best. No matter how long you train and study and practice, it would be impossible to not start your first show without a bad case of nerves. Nobody ever let me doubt myself or the quality of the episode, insisting it was gonna be good and giving me their best ideas and advice…and from the sounds of the reception you all gave it, they were right. I hope anybody who gets in the same position has the same experience I did.

Was it difficult to work in a different role that allowed you to push your usual limits, becoming sort of the ‘coordinator’ of the actors’ feelings?
Working with the actors was the part that scared me the most. Again, I do have years of doing that, but strictly in the “you stand here and look surprised when he swings at you” vein. That is not the way to get good performances from talented actors and that was my main goal. Leading up to the show I read everything I could about how to best help them (as well as how to not be annoying to them). However we have an excellent ensemble cast that know their characters inside out and left alone they can pretty much deliver anything the script requires. I was extremely fortunate that they accepted me almost immediately and I got to collaborate and help mould their performances. They taught me a lot during the run of the episode.

Was your experience as a stunt coordinator useful to direct the episode of The Flash?
Absolutely, my whole strategy was to treat the whole show the way I run my department: encourage and allow all the talented people around me to do their best. I thought my personal prep would be different, but in the end the method I’ve been using for years actually became my security blanket. Stunt Coordinating is a great way to learn how to direct.

During your carreer you worked on a lot of tv-shows and movies and some of them were inspired by comics (X-Men 2, Smallville, The Incredible Hulk). What is your opinion about this genre?
What Stunt Coordinator would ever have a bad thing to say about a film genre that lets him do the incredible things we are allowed, even demanded, to do? I have always loved comics and the shows that get made about them.

What are your next projects?
That’s probably more of a Greg Berlanti question…but I bet it will be good. (Did I mention Legends of Tomorrow?)

Thanks to Elisabetta Gatti for translation

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