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the Southerner Online

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Purdy transitions from stunts to athletic training

Courtesy of Katie Purdy
Athletic trainer Katie Purdy used to be a stunt woman. Purdy said doing gymnastics when she was younger helped her journey in becoming a stunt woman.

In addition to working as an athletic trainer at Midtown, Katie Purdy has performed as a stunt double in numerous popular films.

 Purdy was born and raised in Arizona, where she first gained interest in being a stunt woman.

“I did gymnastics from a very young age, and I thought about being a stunt woman or something like that,” Purdy said. “My dad would take us to kung fu movies, and my brother and I would always pretend we were fighting each other. From a young age, I knew I wanted to do something like be a stunt woman.”

Marci Kramer, Purdy’s mother, said since she was young, Purdy was always hard-working and had an interest in adrenaline activities.

“She always had really good balance,” Kramer said. “We had a swing set, and she and her brother would walk across the top of the swing set. They were climbers and heights never seemed to bother them. They were never uncomfortable; Katie was always confident in her abilities, and she always just went for it.”

After high school, Purdy attended San Diego State University for undergraduate school with a major in kinesiology.

“Injuries and stuff happened in high school,” Purdy said. “I kind of needed my body to cooperate if I did stunting, which it might not. That’s when I got into athletic training and decided on my major, so I could at least learn about the human body and be able to help myself.” 

Although Purdy began pursuing a career in athletic and personal training after graduating from college, she was unsure if it was a path she wanted to continue to take.

“If I don’t make it as X, Y and Z, then at least I’d always have this [athletic training] to fall back on,” Purdy said. “I was working as a personal trainer, and I looked at my life and was like, ‘What am I doing? This is not what I wanted to be doing.’ A friend of mine and I were talking, and she asked, ‘What did you used to want to be when you grew up?’ All of a sudden, I blinked and realized this is not what I want to be doing. I used to want to be a stunt woman.”

Purdy’s friend, Emily Kilgore, has known Purdy since her sophomore year of high school. Kilgore said she was very excited when Purdy introduced the idea of stunting to her.

“When Katie started doing stunt work, I thought it was such a perfect fit for her,” Kilgore said. “She’s so athletic and charismatic that a job that mixed the two just felt perfect for her. I bragged about how cool it was to everyone that would listen.”

Driven by encouragement from her friends, Purdy was resolved to pursue her dream of being a stunt woman. 

“I thought to myself, ‘I can still do some tumbling,’” Purdy said. “So, then I started putting it out into the universe. I wanted to be a stunt woman. I told my family, ‘I think I want to try and be a stunt woman,’ and I thought my dad was going to say ‘no.’ But he ended up saying, ‘Okay.’”

Purdy made the decision to leave her positions as a personal trainer and athletic trainer in California to pursue a career as a stunt woman. 

“I just started googling stunt people,” Purdy said. “I was doing personal training at the time, so I gave them my month’s notice, and they asked, ‘Where are you going? What are you going to do?’ So I started telling people what I was going to do, and one of the members said, ‘I actually had dinner at Shabbat with a stunt guy [Steve Bralver] down in LA. I’m going to get you his number.’ So, he did. Then I ended up talking to the stunt guy in LA, and he told me about the industry.”

Bralver then introduced her to his friend Andrew Neis, who assisted Purdy in putting together a stunt highlight reel in an attempt to land her roles.

“Andrew kind of took me under his wing,” Purdy said. “I went to a gymnastics gym, and I was training with the other stunt guy, [Bralver] and we were doing low-budget, indie film-type things.”

Kramer said she was proud of her daughter for creating her own path as the first person in their family to ever pursue stunting, so there were no easily accessible connections.

“She really forged this thing [career in stunting] into existence,” Kramer said. “Just to see how it happened was just really astonishing. She made this thing happen out of thin air. We have no family in any kind of film industry or even family that works at a studio or anything.”

Purdy, at the time, was living in Berkeley, California, with her best friend’s mother. In a stunting Facebook group Purdy joined, she was told that if she were serious about the profession, she should move to Atlanta. 

“Someone in the Facebook group posted something about a live-action stunt show at Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta, Georgia,” Purdy said. “I told myself that’s not movies, but I could get some experience, and plus they put you in a hotel, so that’s like free living. So, I decided to try it out.”

Purdy drove around 2,500 miles across the country to audition for the show in Stone Mountain; she ended up getting the role and gained lots of experience.

“It was the longest drive ever,” Purdy said. “I cried all the way through Texas. I realized how far away I was from anyone I knew. I came and started meeting up with people who I had met through the Facebook group.”

After the Stone Mountain Park show, Purdy got her big break: the role to stunt in “Neighbors 2,” a popular movie starring Zac Efron, among other notable actors. 

“Stunting in ‘Neighbors 2’ was great because each time I did a stunt, I got an increase in payment,” Purdy said. “I made a ton of money just from that one movie, and then I got residuals, on top of it.”

After “Neighbors 2,” Purdy stunted in multiple popular films, including “The Walking Dead” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” 

“I lived for moments like stunting,” Purdy said. “When I know I can shine, it’s when there’s so much pressure on me to do something so well … And then you do it, and it’s done, and then you have that feeling of just weightlessness or happiness, and people are cheering for you, and you have that high, and it’s like I felt like a low-key superhero.”

After performing multiple stunts, Purdy decided to take a break from stunting due to numerous injuries and a low sense of self-worth.

“It was a culmination of a lot of things,” Purdy said. “There were injuries. And as much as I loved chasing those highs, the reality of the daily grind gets to wear on you a lot because then you start feeling worthless. You start looking at yourself, and you’re like, ‘Is it my body? Is it me? Why aren’t I getting hired for these jobs that I can do? Why aren’t you picking me?’”

Purdy wanted to have a more consistent income, and all of these factors combined to make her step away from stunting.

“You get to a point where you’re kind of like, ‘I have other goals in life,’” Purdy said. “I do need to be making a consistent income, so that was a big thing, as my income was not consistent. If I’m spending time trying to do stunts, then I’m not spending time in a field where I know I can be making some money.”

Purdy tried her hand at joining the sales industry after giving up stunting, but she eventually returned to athletic training and took a position at Midtown. 

“I saw the job postings for athletic trainers for several Atlanta Public Schools,” Purdy said. “I wanted to interact with high schoolers, I love the area the school is in and heard it was a great school to be at. I’m also interested in the public school system because I have kids now and want to have a deeper understanding of our education system from an insider’s perspective.”

Purdy believes her stunting experience has helped her become a better athletic trainer.

“After being in stunts and just athletics, I have a whole spectrum of information around risk and safety, including my own experience,” Purdy said. “Because of athleticism and putting myself in high-risk situations, I can be very calm in any kind of emergency.”

Sophomore Devin Bockman suffered a knee injury during her basketball season and credits a speedy recovery to Purdy.

“I got a bad knee injury back in December,” Bockman said. “Coach Purdy was the best. She gave me tons of exercises and really helped me get back to playing as soon as I could, so I really appreciate her for that and all of the help she gave me.”

Kramer said she is extremely proud of all of her daughter’s accomplishments and hopes she can continue her success in the future. 

“My goal is that she’s happy — that she is enjoying whatever it is she’s doing, whether it is work at home or with her children, whatever course her life takes,” Kramer said. “The most important thing to me as her mom is for her to be happy and content doing whatever it is she is doing.”

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About the Contributor
Cate Barton
Cate Barton, Sports Managing Editor
Cate Barton is a junior and this is her third year writing for The Southerner. She enjoys soccer, basketball, running and hanging out with friends. She is excited to continue writing for The Southerner.

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