Lisa Chandler on Her Altered Carbon Role and Life as a Stunt Actress

ATTENTION: Spoilers abound. Be sure you watch Altered Carbon before you read this interview!
How did you come to be a part of Altered Carbon? What’s that process like? Was it something you requested or were you approached? Did you audition? What was that like?
I received a phone call from Larry Lam, the Canadian stunt coordinator, asking if I was available to head down to Skydance Studios for a quick audition that day. I was quickly given a small script of a scene, walked in with the Larnell Stovall, the American stunt coordinator, director Nick Hurran and a few assistants sitting in a small office. I did my scene and left the studio. I got a phone call the next day from Larry saying I booked the gig. I really had no idea how much Mary Lou was a huge part of the story until that day. I was so excited to be a part of that team.
lisa chandler 1 - Lisa Chandler on Her Altered Carbon Role and Life as a Stunt Actress
What was the energy like on set? Was it a fun production to work on? How would you categorize the working environment?
The studio itself is HUGE! There were so many stages filled with different ‘worlds’ ( Head in the Clouds, Bancrofts’ home, etc.) that filled so many square feet of that place. Everyone was so kind, focused yet so creative! From the creator, Laeta Kalogridis, to the costume designer, Ann Foley, to the stunt coordinators, Larry Lam and Larnell Stovall, everyone had such passion and drive to make something ‘amazing’ which was so inspiring to be around.
How long did it take for you to shoot your scenes?
I was actually scattered throughout the filming of the season from fall 2016 to the end of summer 2017.
lisa chandler 6 - Lisa Chandler on Her Altered Carbon Role and Life as a Stunt Actress
Tell us about what we saw with your scenes: On screen, we saw that Mary Lou was on ‘Head in the Clouds’ and then she took a dive backwards to her sleeve death. We saw her in the water and in the morgue. How much was you versus special effects? Digital or practical? Obviously you didn’t fall from a floating pleasure palace 😉 so what did you fall from? I’m imagining green screening was a factor, yes? Do you have any behind the scenes stills you can share to show us what you saw while shooting?
Ha! Great question! I actually had a body mold made from my actual body so some of the scenes was not actually me. They were my ‘dummy mold’ I call it. The reason why they made it was because I was suppose to be filming the scene of being washed up on the shoreline and the little boy poking at my body in a real river. With temperatures being the way they are here in Vancouver, Canada, my body would have started to actual shiver after a certain amount of time being in the water with no wet suit on and the shot would have been compromised.
So, production felt the appropriate decision was to place my ‘dummy mold’ in the water and shoot with it. As for my ‘Head in the Clouds’ fall, that was all me baby. I dropped wire-free on a rig that was stationed over mats falling from around 25 feet. It was green screen so we were able to perform multiple drops while the camera operator worked the Phantom camera. As for the morgue, sorry lads, that was my ‘dummy mold’.
lisa chandler 3 - Lisa Chandler on Her Altered Carbon Role and Life as a Stunt Actress
What, if anything, did you find challenging about the role? What excited or interested you about working on Altered Carbon?
To be honest, I didn’t really have any ‘challenges’ really. I was a tad shocked at first with my wardrobe but then loved it! It flowed so beautifully in the wind and wearing it in the water tank scenes, I feel the underwater cinematographer, Braden Haggerty, did an amazing job capturing Mary Lou’s true innocence with just a simple ‘flow’ or ‘drift’ of the white chiffon.
How hard was it to get into Mary Lou’s headspace? What did you do to get into character, if anything?
As Mary Lou is talked about so much here and there throughout the show, we only see glimpses of her to show her innocence and that she truly was ‘forgotten’ and ‘used’. So when it came time to actually show who Mary Lou was (her death), I wanted Reileen to know that yes, I was scared sh*#$less and yes, you or him (Bancroft) don’t own me. I’m taking control. There’s so much actually going in my (Lisa’s) head when filming that small scene. It’s small but actually very powerful and has a huge meaning behind it in the sense of boundaries and trying to take control.
lisa chandler 4 - Lisa Chandler on Her Altered Carbon Role and Life as a Stunt Actress
Is there a particular moment or scene you particularly enjoyed playing? What made it stand out?
I love being in water. Anything where I can be in a tank or filming on location is my heaven. However, I love to perform and try and have an audience feel what I’m going thru and I truly loved working with Dichen (Reileen) for our ‘final minutes together’. It felt raw, dirty, and powerful.
Have you read the books? I just purchased them myself. If so do you know if your character was changed from the original storyline at all or is it as it was written in the books?
I’m half way thru it! I really wanted to read the book before filming but a friend in film gave me a good suggestion to just film it first, and read it afterwards so I’m not comparing the book while filming; let the creators create their world of what they took from Morgan and feel the surrounding of the textures, tones and visuals from what Laeta created. I really liked that suggestion and went with it. So, I picked it up after the Premiere and absolutely love it! I’m not really comparing the two, but I’m glad I’m reading the book afterwards. So far I don’t see a difference in character for Mary Lou.
lisa chandler 5 - Lisa Chandler on Her Altered Carbon Role and Life as a Stunt Actress
We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Mary Lou Henchy was falsely Neo-C coded by Reileen. What do you see happening for Mary Lou now? There’s no reason she can’t be re-sleeved, right?
When Kovacs made the suggestion of ‘interviewing Mary Lou’ at the end of Bancrofts hearing, I knew that she had a larger story to tell. I think there’s more to the ‘re-sleeving’ process and women like Mary Lou will most likely come forward and speak their truth. As for specifics, I’m not too sure if Mary Lou will be back or not.
I’m re-watching Altered Carbon (I’m on my second rewatch now), it strikes me as fascinating how every story line is tied together so intricately. We don’t see a lot of Mary Lou and yet her character was critical to unraveling the lies and corruption of two Meths so I have to believe she’s very clever. If you had to guess or if you have an opinion, what do you think she’ll do with her life or what would you like to see her do with herself once re-sleeved (other than reunite with her mother and testify against Bancroft)?
Mary Lou was huge to the ties of keeping Ortega on her toes. I personally feel that if we get the opportunity to see Mary Lou and hear her testify, she will be a catalyst opening up something hidden and large that manifests within the walls of the city.
lisa chandler 7 - Lisa Chandler on Her Altered Carbon Role and Life as a Stunt Actress
In checking out your IMDB, I noted you have a lot of stunt work under your belt (Yay Supergirl! I’m a big fan of Chyler Leigh). Do you consider yourself an actress who is also a stunt artist or a stunt artist who likes to act? Meaning, which craft is closest to your heart or do you enjoy both equally? Or do you do stunts so that you can take on more challenging roles?
Hahah! So glad you’re a fan of Supergirl! Chyler’s great!
I first started out acting then saw the world of stunts and became engulfed as I was hooked! I love performing my own stunts as that’s literally a perfect picture for me. As for ‘closest to my heart’, I just love to perform. I truly love acting and that’s where I feel very comfortable being able to express myself and have a connection with people on screen. It is an amazing opportunity to be able to call that my job. At the same time, I love being hooked on a wire and being dropped over 70 feet and being thrown thru a window. I know it sounds odd, but for people like me, that thrill is intense and I love the rush! I love the focus it takes, and I love the people I get to work with. There are so many talented stunt performers out there, it truly blows me away! I try and navigate my acting career parallel with my stunt career. People who know me in my community knows I wear both hats so that has it’s perks. I try and be honest with what I do and take a gig/audition for a role listening to my heart, not my ego.
What’s been the best set to work on? What makes for a good set? As in what do you look for in a working environment?
Every set is a ‘best set’ as they are learning opportunities. An ease and a flow with a positive attitude surrounding you make such a good vibe on set and that can be a make or break kind of day.
lisa chandler 2 - Lisa Chandler on Her Altered Carbon Role and Life as a Stunt Actress
What’s been the most challenging stunt of your career so far? What made it challenging? Have you ever been injured during a shoot? If so, what happened?
Water stunts are an absolute favorite but can be challenging at times. If you are filming in a water tank or on location (on location can be harder) you are dealing with gases, darkness, costumes, sometimes props and then add on acting. It can be difficult as your listening (in a tank) to a underwater speaker to the director and the stunt coordinator on specific directions and you need to execute A and B to make C happen all within a certain time. It can be intense, yet calm all at the same time. If you can handle yourself under intense pressure, have a strong breath hold and love being wet for a long period of time, then you’re golden.
As for injuries, if you leave with bumps and bruises and no blood, then that’s a good day. No major injuries for me, only a few minor ones which is part of the job at the end of the day. I did sign up for this job, and it’s no walk in the park. Unless a ninja is hiding behind a tree ready to kick my ass, then I’ll be ready.
lisa chandler 8 - Lisa Chandler on Her Altered Carbon Role and Life as a Stunt Actress
What would you like to share about yourself and your career? You can be as serious or as funny as you want here.
Hahah! It’s funny you mentioned ‘serious/funny’. I love comedy! I went to Second City in Toronto and took a few workshops/impov classes in LA at Groundlings and I would love to be casted in a comedy. I have a few ideas about a pilot of a buddy comedy cop show that I really want to tackle. I love writing as well. I’m tying to shoot this short I’ve been working on for over 2 months that has a ton of water scenes. I’ll keep you posted!
What projects are you working on currently? Is there something in the pipeline you’re excited about?
Well I’m still working on Season 3 of Supergirl so that keeps me busy but I still have the chance to play on other shows, which is nice. I have a few episodes that just aired; Supernatural, The Detour and I just finish shooting Noelle with Anna Kendrick before the X- Mas holidays. I have another show that I can’t quite talk about but I’ll fill you in later down the road when I get the go-ahead to do so 😉
I also noticed in your IMDB that you and I share the same birthday … June 19…except I’m a few years older than you. Just for fun, what would be your dream way to celebrate your birthday?
Oh no way! Gemini babies! Are you a crazy twin??
Dream birthday?….Hhhmmmm….being given a ticket to Nairobi and doing a Safari in the Wildlife Reserve would be pretty dope. To roll in the grass with a baby gorilla would blow my mind!