by Billie Doux
[Originally published on N:Zone in 2003]
April Weeden-Washington has been doing stunt work since 1995 and has a long, impressive resume with over a hundred appearances in movies and television during her relatively short career. She has doubled for dozens of actresses, most notably Halle Berry, Jennifer Lopez, Pam Grier, and Vanessa Williams, and has worked in television and a number of movies, including The Scorpion King, Minority Report, Swordfish, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Lethal Weapon 4, Blade, The Replacement Killers, Starship Troopers, and The Others.
Two years ago, she was in a Buffy episode entitled "Fool for Love", the one that gave us Spike's long-awaited back story. Weeden-Washington played the slayer that Spike fought on a subway train in a flashback to 1977. "Fool for Love" is a huge favorite with Buffy fans and consistently ranks very near the top in every list of best Buffy episodes. Even though it was only one episode, the character April Weeden-Washington played is well known in the Buffy universe.
I talked with Weeden-Washington by phone on February 7, 2003.
I read your online resume and was very impressed. How did you get started in this business?
I've always had an interest in doing stunts, but it's hard to start; it's a very close-knit community. My husband is a stunt coordinator. When I met him and we started dating, I was a casting director, but he wanted me to do stunts. He started training me and before I knew it, I was working all the time. My first job was A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, Martin Lawrence's film.
Have you ever been seriously injured on the job?
On Eraser, I was doubling Vanessa Williams. There was a scene with Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Caan with this cargo container in San Pedro, and I fractured the second and third metacarpal on my left hand.
I'd like to ask you some questions about "Fool for Love", which I must tell you is my favorite Buffy episode. Did they give you backstory on your character and Spike's when you were cast?
No, they didn't. I just went into the audition, gave them my picture and resume, and the next thing I knew, I had it. Then we started rehearsals. They're very close-mouthed about what's going on with the show, and they didn't tell me a lot. You can't talk about it. They probably like to keep things quiet that so it won't spill out to the press.
What did you think about working with James Marsters, who plays Spike?
He handled it like he was another stunt person. We spent hours fighting. He is the most fantastic person in the world to work with, absolutely the best. He is so professional; he puts his whole heart into it. And his personality is so upbeat and generous; he loves his work and loves what he's doing.
How long did it take to shoot the scene?
I showed up at 1:00 pm, took a half an hour break for lunch, and we worked until three in the morning. When I work on Buffy and Angel, we tend to have late calls and it goes until late.
Do you think that's because there are vampires in the cast?
I remember Joss and the writers were talking on the set about having all of the slayers that have ever appeared on Buffy meet up. I don't think anything ever came of that.
That was an intense fight scene. How much training and rehearsal did you have to do?
We had a lot of rehearsal; I think we rehearsed for two days. I'm not a martial artist, but I know some, and I was a professional dancer for so many years so I know the moves. I had worked with John Medlen on Mortal Kombat before, so it was easier because I had worked with him before. And then there I was; I had my little Afro and my little pants and my leather coat.
You know that Spike wore that coat for a long time?
The scene was basically all fighting with James Marsters intercut with a parallel scene of him telling Buffy about his fight with you. Was there initially supposed to be any dialogue that was later cut?
No, there were no lines for me.
Did you do all of the stunts? Was it all you?
That was all me. And I am an actress. That's what I'm trying to do right now. I have a new manager and I'm trying to get as many roles as possible.
What reaction did you get from doing this particular role? When did you know that it was more than just an ordinary episode?
When a writer from a British magazine called and wanted to interview me -- that's when I knew it was a big deal. The writer, Pat Jacowitz, told me the stats on "Fool for Love" and how it had caught on. I was really taken aback; it was so cool.
Had you seen Buffy before?
Oh, yes, I'd seen the first season. Later, I couldn't catch it every time because I was working so much. I'm a big fan of Joss Whedon. He's a genius. How can someone so young have come up with such a great concept? I don't know him personally or anything, but I'm an observant person -- he's so calm and cool and reserved. He's got it together.
Your resume mentions that you also doubled for Bianca Lawson, who played Kendra in Buffy's season two. Bianca Lawson was in three episodes; did you work on all of them? Can you tell me about them?
I only doubled for her once, when she was in the library fighting. ("Becoming, Part I".) That was a very tough gig. I had to teach her to fight, I had to do her fight, and then I had to do six different fights in one day with all these different vampires. I was losing my mind that day, remembering all those different fights.
You also doubled for Michele Kelly, who played Gunn's sister in the season one Angel episode, "War Zone". Did you find working on Angel to be a lot different than working on Buffy? Were you working with the same people?
It wasn't much different. There are different stunt coordinators, though. On Angel, I worked with Spiro Rizatos, and he's actually a friend, so that was quite nice. My husband has worked on Angel; it's always a pleasure to work on that show.
They called me to work on Angel when I was pregnant, and I had to say no. [April's daughter Kiera Washington is now ten months old.]
I understand that the "Subway Slayer" is returning this season, and that you auditioned for the part in September, is that right?
Yes. I received a call from the casting director at Buffy saying that they were bringing the character back. I was told to come in and audition on September 13. I thought I was a shoo-in because I had already established the character. There weren't many lines. Then I got a phone call from casting stating that there was "a certain maturity" about me now, and that I didn't get the part.
But you played that same part just two years ago.
Yes, I know. It was a blow for me not to get called back. I do kind of understand, seeing that the slayers are teenagers, but the character in "Fool for Love" was older than that. I cried for weeks; I was very disappointed, because I'm trying to get my acting career off the ground and this might have put me on the map. They did say that they would try to find me something else on the show.
I know that I'm disappointed that you won't be reprising your role as the Subway Slayer and I'm certain other Buffy fans are going to feel the same way. What would you like to tell the fans about this?
Well, it would be great if everyone wrote to the casting people and told them that they should have brought April back! (laughs)
[The "Subway Slayer," played by K.D. Aubert, was in the Buffy episode that aired February 12.]
Did you see a script? Can you tell us what you would have been doing?
Not a script -- just sides, the lines that just that person is going to be saying. But I'm not allowed to talk about it, you know.
You doubled for Halle Berry in two movies: Swordfish, and Why Do Fools Fall in Love. Can you tell me what it was like to double for her?
She is amazing. Absolutely beautiful, even with no makeup. The sweetest, kindest person you'd ever want to meet. She always has the best things to say about everyone; just a joy to be around.
In Swordfish, I tested a harness ahead of time and put her into it. I also did some driving in the second unit. For the most part, though, she likes to do her own stunts.
You've worked on so many movies and television shows. Which ones did you enjoy working on the most, and why?
Blade. My word, that's when I knew I was a bona fide stunt woman. I had done so much by then, but to work with Jeff Ward, the stunt coordinator, and to work with Wesley Snipes and to be on the set like that and do the number of stunts I did? It turned out to be three months work.
And doubling Brandy in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer was really nice, the whole experience.
What projects are you working on now?
I'm trying to get my acting career going. I have new management: I'm now with Lisa Hearton at TLC Management, trying to get auditions and get me out there as an actress.
I'm about to produce a play featuring Irene Stokes; she's going to do a one-woman show. And I'm producing a vampire movie called Ice. It's about vampires, which is all I can say right now. And I have two other scripts I'm currently pitching.
I recently did four national network commercials. I was on a billboard that came to life right on Sunset Boulevard for the DVD release of The Scorpion King. I coordinated two music videos for Brian McKnight, and I'm working on the new television show, Miracles. And I just finished four feature films -- Looney Tunes, Biker Boyz, Bruce Almighty, and Guns and Roses. Plus I barrel race professionally and run my ranch, and just try to keep going.
April, you're just amazing. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to talk with you.
(Thanks to Jana!)