It was, essentially, a small thing. A pebble upon which Janeshia Adams-Ginyard stumbled as she reached a fork in the road. “Girl, my hair was eighteen inches long. When I was first told, I was trying toget out of it,” she tells the AFRO.
It was a small thing but had potentially huge repercussions for the veteran Hollywood stunt woman and budding actress. She remembers, “I was like ‘Can we get some bald caps?’” The coordinator for the film was understanding but firmly communicated that was a not going to be a possibility. “So I called one of my friends and I was crying to her and she was like ‘Girl why are we crying over some hair?’” Adams-Ginyard was somewhat reassured but hesitated once more.
“Then I called my pastor. He said ‘Jesus sacrificed it all on the cross, you can’t sacrifice some hair? He said, ‘your sacrifice will never outweigh your reward.’” Adams-Ginyard started moving forward again. “My pastor kept it real.” She explains, “So my head was shaved for this movie. I was like ‘Bring on those clippers!’”
Usually brimming with confidence, character, and optimism, stuntwoman and neophyte actress Janeshia Adams-Ginyard had already stepped out on faith and auditioned for a part as a Dora Milaje in Marvel’s “Black Panther” in addition to auditioning to do stunt work, her main profession. Prior to that, in addition to stunt work, she did athletic modeling, and commercials. Adams-Ginyard slayed both audition processes.
Overcoming the fear of flouting the usual Hollywood beauty standards however, was in some ways more daunting than auditioning for top director Ryan Coogler and film studio behemoth Disney. Yes, “Black Panther” was going to be a huge film but what about after that? The advice of her supporters and her own sense of honor and humility prevailed. “I was happy to be part of that chosen group,” she says, “Because they had looked all over the world for those girls.”
Adams-Ginyard does double duty in “Black Panther,” playing one of the elite Dora Milaje bodyguards (who all sport completely shaved heads) as well as working as the stunt double for Danai Gurira (“The Walking Dead,” “Avengers: Infinity War”) who plays Okoye, the leader of the Dora Milaje.
After earning a degree in Linguistics from University of California at Berkeley and being a member of the U.S. Bobsled Team, she had originally planned on becoming an interpreter for deaf athletes and a sports commentator. Adams-Ginyard has been an athlete all her life and has known sign language since the age of eight. Her family moved to an area with a high concentration of the hearing impaired and her mother mandated that the whole family learn sign language. Adams-Ginyard eventually changed her mind about her career path.
”I was watching this movie and there was this guy on there and he was just awful. I was like if this guy is doing stunts and he’s running like that then I can do stunts. I started putting it out there into the universe.” She started off doing background and extra work. She trained in tumbling. “It helps in knowing how your body moves when you’re in the air.” Martial arts training also helped. “I had a taekwondo background and I chose it because it’s eighty-percent kicks. In action films, nine time out of ten, somebody is getting kicked.”
Being a Dora in “Black Panther” is her biggest acting role thus far. “It was grueling but I was gonna be a part of history. It is just a huge blessing to be a part of it. It was not the first movie I worked on but it was the first movie where there was a costume that was gonna be specifically made for me and the first time I was going to be on a movie from beginning to end so it was really big.”
It wasn’t lost on Adams-Ginyard the impact that she and the other actresses might have on young dark-skinned girls who would be seeing the film. “It was like, ‘Hey, we are showing up and we are showing out.’ We are dark-skinned women and we are about to make this movie and this movie is about to be bomb and there are going to be little girls watching who are going to identify with us.“