MARTIAL ARTS CHAMPION TO DORA MILAJE
BY: ERIC SIGMON | APRIL 20, 2021
The extraordinary Martial Artist, Model, Stunt Performer, and Actress is a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry. Not even 30 years old, she is a skilled veteran with almost 40 official credits (stunts & actress) with 10 years under her belt. But you better believe she’s only just getting started. Black Action Stars had the pleasure of chatting with Ms. Mouroum. Here’s what she had to say…
Black Action Stars: Good Afternoon. Thank you for talking with us.
Marie Mouroum: Hello. And no problem at all.
BAS: Cool. Let’s start a bit early in your life; You were born in East Berlin, Germany. Did you grow up bilingual or learn one language after the other?
MM: I came up in a trilingual household. My father is from Cameroon and spoke French to me most of the time. I learned English in school and from TV and music. And of course, growing up in Germany learning the primary language was only natural.
BAS: Would you say knowing multiple languages has been an advantage for you in the entertainment industry?
MM: Not really. I’ve only ever needed to know English on the sets and projects that I’ve been on. Most productions are either American or British. So, yeah. English was it.
BAS: Speaking of being on sets, most stunt personnel know Martial Arts as do you. When did your M.A. journey start?
MM: I started with Martial Arts at 9 years old. Specifically, Kyokushin Kai Karate. With that style I fought in full contact tournaments, winning several German championships and Opens. I also fought internationally in places like France and Holland, doing that for a few years. After that, I started to practice Pencak Silat. Also fighting full-contact tournaments with that style. I won the Juinor World Championship in 2007.
BAS: Those styles do not traditionally contain acrobatic movements, which you are quite good at. How did those types of moves become integrated into your Martial Arts training?
MM: My Martial Arts skills caught the attention of a person who was involved in casting extras for movies. I was asked to be part of a group of Martial Arts kids as extras in the background of a scene for the movie 'Ninja Assassin' (2009). When I got to the audition I saw other kids performing these kicks and flips I’ve never seen before. At the same time, I was growing bored with my traditional training and wanted to try something fancy and flashy, so I jumped at the opportunity to train with them and learn something different.
BAS: How old were you at the time?
MM: I was 15.
BAS: So this was also your introduction to stunt work in movies, right?
MM: Yes. While I didn’t technically do any stunt work on that movie I stuck with the coordinators that I met, and continued to train with them for years. Telling them “I wanna learn this, I wanna learn that”. Taking in whatever I could, when I could.
BAS: What was your first official stunt work credit for a major studio movie?
MM: The people I was training with asked me if I wanted to audition for a role-playing a witch in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters’ (2013), which would be filming throughout Germany. So I went in and got the job playing a Voodoo Witch. And that was my first time working as a stunt person.
BAS: Nice. Were you nervous?
MM: Everything they wanted me to do in the audition was second nature to me by that point with my Martial Arts knowledge. So it wasn’t too bad at all.
BAS: So for the next couple of years after that you were working pretty steady in Germany on various productions. But you were still looking for that big break. When would you say it came?
MM: Even with that bit of success, I always thought I wasn’t good enough to go to America to work on big projects. Because of course, that is the big goal, to get to Hollywood for those opportunities. I would always be in contact with American stunt crews that would come to Germany to film, but I would always be too shy to reach out.
BAS: Turns out a friend of Black Action Stars who was in the business would give you some great advice when you decided to have a chat with the crew of a project you were on.
MM: Oh. Yeah. On the (2nd Unit Germany) set of 'Captain America: Civil War', I saw Gui DaSilva who was the stunt-double for Black Panther. I said to myself, “You have to talk to this guy!”. Super nervous, I went up to him and introduced myself. He was nice and asked me about my background, so I told him about my Martial Arts training and gigs I’d had up to that point. He immediately told me, “You have to go to Los Angeles!”. Without even seeing any of my work, he told me, “Nobody looks like you who’s good with Martial Arts”. So every time he would see me on set, Gui would remind me to make that trip. He would always say, “You would be like a Unicorn over there”. I thought he was only trying to be nice, but turns out he saw something in me and I was convinced.
BAS: So you made the trip to Los Angeles and almost immediately landed your breakthrough gig?
MM: Pretty much. I got there and got a call from Marvel Studios and the only thing they told me was I had to work for 6 months and would have to shave my head. I said, “Yes” without hesitation, even though I didn’t know what movie it was.
BAS: Of course we know now the role would be for one of the main Dora Milaje crew in ‘Black Panther’.
MM: Yes. That’s right.
BAS: I imagine the audition was interesting.
MM: Very! The audition was for 6 hours! We had to do acting, Martial Arts, talk about personal things and so on. The hardest part for me was to perform with the Bo Staff, which I had no experience with at the time. But I got through it. It’s funny because now it’s my favorite weapon. Training for the movie we would dedicate entire days to training with the Bo staff. And these were no less than 10 hour days. The experience was priceless though.
BAS: Priceless indeed. Your hard work has definitely paid off. So what are you working on now that you can tell us about?
MM: Right now, I am doubling Queen Latifah on the CBS TV series 'The Equalizer'. It’s a very fun experience. Queen Latifah is very nice. The show itself isn’t the most action-packed, but I get it. Because of that, it’s not a super high workload, and the stunt team has a lot of time to work on stuff like fight rehearsals and concepts which is not that common for a TV series. I like working on that show a lot.
BAS: Before you go, there’s a fun little thing we like to do with our interviewees to get to know them better. We ask you about 3 random things in your life, and which 1 you would keep but have to do without the other 2 forever.
MM: Okay. Let’s do it.
BAS: Here we go. The choices are: Martial Arts, Speaking English, or Going back to Germany (Marie is currently based on the East Coast).
MM: Whoa! These are all so different. But the one I would have to choose to keep is going back to Germany. It’s where my family is and all of my long-time friends.
BAS: Well, we don’t want to hold you up any longer. Thank you again for the interview and good luck with all of your future projects. Stay safe and stay healthy.
MM: Thank you for having me. Stay safe. Bye-bye.
Photo courtesy of Albini Gold
Marie Mouroum’s story of success is an inspiring one. Sometimes we are hesitant to approach what can bring us closer to our dreams, even if it is as simple as talking to someone for advice. But when we fight through those fears great things tend to happen, and they certainly have for Marie. From being a background extra to being part of the marvelous Dora Milaje (a role Marie has played 3 times) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And with upcoming projects like The Matrix 4, No Time to Die (the new James Bond flick), and Uncharted (based on the hit video game series), she is staying busy and booked in one of the most competitive industries in the world. Marie told us that her Martial Arts hero is Jackie Chan, who she met at 12 years old while she was performing in a Karate show for a premiere of one of his movies. We will leave you with one of our favorite Jackie Chan quotes, one that reminds us at Black Action Stars of the energy of Marie Mouroum.
“Do not let circumstances CONTROL you.
You CHANGE your circumstances.”
- Jackie Chan