Gui DaSilva-Greene: Action Star in Training
Updated: Sep 5, 2020
‘Captain America: Civil War’ is one of the best movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In one of its best scenes, Captain America is in pursuit of the Winter Soldier, Bucky in Bucharest, trying to protect him from the authorities. As Bucky runs, a figure in all black flips over his head swiping at him. The figure in black stands up into a Bruce Lee like fighting stance, revealing himself to be Black Panther. Awesome introduction, to say the least. And speaking of introductions, let me do so to the man who was actually wearing the Black Panther costume throughout most of that movie: No, It’s not Chadwick Boseman. But it was actually martial artist, stunt performer extraordinaire and actor Gui DaSilva-Greene.
Stunt performers/doubles are the backbone of any good action or fight scene, but they very rarely get the attention that they deserve. Gui Dasilva-Greene has worked side by side with some of Hollywood's finest, like Dwayne Johnson, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Brown, Conan O'Brien, and Wesley Snipes (funny story about him later) just to name a few. We all know those names. But now Gui himself is on a mission to make his name just as familiar as those. We had the pleasure of talking with him about his career, future endeavors and other related topics. Let’s get right to it.
Hey, man. We definitely appreciate you giving us this interview. How are things holding up for you during these crazy times?
Gui: No doubt. Just surviving, living, trying to stay as busy as possible with really no sight of this pandemic thing changing. I was lucky enough to just get a place right before the LA lockdown started, so I’m very grateful for that.
So before you were running around in the Black Panther costume and fighting Captain America in elevators, what was your big break in the entertainment industry?
Gui: My first big break was junior year in high school, when I met my mentor Doug Elkins who runs a contemporary dance company. He had a seasonal show named Fräulein Maria, which was ranked alongside shows like the American ballet for recommended shows to go see during the holiday season. That gave our little dance company a lot of notoriety, and gave me the juice to stay in the industry to pursue a career.
That's not bad for a guy who is still in high school.
Gui: Yeah. A lot of people at that age would be getting jobs in retail. And honestly I did try doing that, but it did not go well at all. (laughs)
I know what you mean. Retail is not for everyone.
Even this early into the interview, it is clear to see Gui is a very down to earth dude. The interview was flowing more like a casual conversation than a by the book Q&A session. We continued to talk about some of his off the stage jobs while still in New York, like being an assistant for the TV show 106 and Park. But soon, Gui’s dancing connections would get him a job as a background dancer for Chris Brown, which would move him to Los Angeles keeping him consistently working for about 3 years. As great as that gig was for Gui, his true passion was still lurking in the background.
Gui: So I'm dancing behind Chris Brown now, but I've been introduced to screen fighting by several of my peers and it's definitely something that I want, but it's on the back burner because of my dancing gig. So I'm still training at several gyms that are being run by and attended by stunt performers who are taking notice of my skills, my martial arts along with tricking talents. And I'm also doing YouTube videos showcasing those same skills.
And all of this is heading towards your first big movie gig in ‘ Captain America the Winter soldier?
Gui: Yep. James Young, who was part of the same action company as I was, Thousand Pounds, got his first job as a fight choreographer and was familiar with my work. He recommended me because he knew I could perform certain moves, basically paying it forward from the time I helped him with pre-viz videos. Basically that's how it started with me working with Marvel Studios.
Nice. You move very well, and I imagine it's not the easiest thing to do in the Black Panther suit. I'm sure having experience in dance helps a lot with choreography, but what are your specific martial arts disciplines?
Gui: My first discipline was Taekwondo, which I was introduced to very young at around two years old when someone showed me the Bruce Lee movie, "The Way of The Dragon." I was introduced to capoeira at six years old by my older brother, who has a group out of New York with my cousin. Other martial arts that I came across was in the room at after school programs, but Taekwondo has always been my main focus. At 16, I was actually training for the Olympics to compete, but unfortunately I injured my knee and had to take a step back from training.
Being involved in the stunt industry, it had to be asked about the lack of attention the AMPAS (The Oscars) is giving them for category consideration for stunts. While he does admit there are some fine details that need to be ironed out (Who would get the actual statuette), Gui believes they are closer than ever to receiving a category from the Academy. Another very important issue I just had to ask about, maybe even more so than the award consideration thing to black performers like Gui, was actually brought up by one of his ‘Winter Soldier’ and ‘Civil War’ coworkers:
Anthony Mackie had a lot to say about the lack of off-screen diversity in the Marvel Studios movies. What's your take on this issue?
Gui: So it’s like this, using Captain America Civil War as an example: On the core team which consists of the doubles, it was me and two other black guys on the scene. Me doubling for Black Panther, Marvin Ross has a Spiderman double, and Aaron Toney as the Falcon double. And as far as the actors there who are black, you have Chadwick Boseman, Anthony Mackie, and Don Cheadle. Behind the camera you had the head of her department Camille Friend, and two other PAs (production assistant) or grips. So in the grand spectrum of how many people are actually on set at any given time, there are barely less than two handfuls of black people. So there's definitely a problem. Also when it comes to casting for say a European country, Hollywood movie studios have a very inaccurate idea of how racially diverse those countries really are.
It truly is a glaring issue in the industry. And I'm glad people are speaking up about it. Like the Russo Brothers who you've worked with numerous acknowledge that it is a problem.
Gui: Yeah. That does help. And I love how the Russo Brothers work, because they respect the power of collaboration and put their egos in the back seat to make the best final product it can be.
Speaking of collaboration, we have to speak on the UA:LA project. How did this come about?
Gui: All of us who worked on the project are huge Anime nerds. Chris Cowan the head director (Who is an Hollywood action director) and I would go back-and-forth for years about ideas. We tried to do something with clandestine, a crowd funded project that fell through because of rights issues. But UA:LA was just supposed to be a practice fight going back to our roots of being independent. And we talked about what the project would be and decided to have it be inspired by My Hero Academia. We just pulled up to a park and filmed for a couple hours a day with a crew of four.
Wow. It looks better than most things with a crew of 400. Obviously you guys respect the source material and the culture of anime.
Gui: Definitely. And the opposite is the problem with Hollywood adaptations of anime. They are trying to sell it to a culture that doesn't understand it. And they are getting people to adapt it, who also don't understand it. But hopefully that gives people like us the opportunity to make it the right way when these companies see us do it.
We definitely hope they do recognize y'all. It’s exactly what live action Anime should look like.
As mentioned earlier, Gui is very down to earth. Now is a good time as any to give you a taste of his awesome sense of humor, which he gave an example of with the last question that I asked.
So who is your favorite rich black martial artist?
Gui: Oh! You already know! Wesley snipes is the GOAT! He definitely is the real deal. I actually met him once on a project, a TV show for CBS. Just so happens he and my mother actually dated before he got his big break in Hollywood. After a fitting, I went to Wesley’s dressing room. I started telling him about my mom and all these familiar stories and he remembered who she was. Then I said, “So... It's nice to meet your dad”, he froze so hard. Of course I told him I was kidding. And he’s remembered me ever since.
Well, that was mean and hilarious. We definitely want to thank you for giving us this opportunity to talk to you. You are a huge inspiration to young black martial artists and aspiring stunt performers. And you’re definitely helping open more doors for us.
Gui: That's definitely what I'm pushing for, to be that beacon of inspiration. When I came into the industry, there were only a handful of black stuntmen. Then Black Panther (character and movie) created so many more opportunities for a lot of us. It’s funny, because going back to the early days, 4 other roommates and I were staying in a 2 bedroom place. Then 3 of us would go on to do stunt work in the Black Panther costume.
That’s what it's all about. That support system. Once again we thank you for the interview.
Gui: I’m honored you guys reached out to me. It was a pleasure meeting you. Be safe.
And you as well. Stay safe.
Gui has achieved tremendous milestones throughout his career, even before reaching at the age of 30. His next goal is to be a successful actor, the "action star" as he puts it.
He says he is putting plenty of work into honing his acting skills, taking it very seriously. To stay motivated Gui goes back to something he was told during his street dance days, "It doesn't matter how many moves you have, it's how you use the ones that you do have". Great words to live by.