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Q&A: Fil-Am stuntman Marc Canonizado on working on 'Avengers,' 'Cobra Kai'

Yong Chavez, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Aug 07 2021 11:47 AM

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When Marc Canonizado’s big break as a Hollywood stunt performer came along eight years ago, he was prepared to prove his capabilities. It was in the hit HBO series “True Blood” and he was doing a key scene with its lead star Anna Paquin when something went very wrong, very fast. 

“I was doing a wire gag as a vampire and I was being flung out,” he shares. We were chatting via Zoom and he was making big hand-and-arm motions demonstrating the stunt as he recalled that day. “I had to go across into a big crane that was about 20 feet up in the air. When I was yanked, my arm kind of clipped the wire that I was pulling on and dislocated my shoulder mid-air.”

Determined not to ruin a good take, he swallowed the pain and finished the scene. Unfortunately it wasn’t the first time he had the injury. It happened first when he was in his teens, but that time there were no cameras and no big Hollywood stars within his vicinity. 

Once on the ground, his boss asked if he was okay -- and if they could do another take. The Fil-Am stuntman answered, “Yep. But my shoulder’s out. You're gonna have to pop it back in first.”

He did the same stunt eight more times that day.

Since then, Canonizado has racked up impressive film and TV credits including "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Endgame," "John Wick 3," "The Falcon and The Winter Soldier," and "Spider-Man Homecoming." 

At 35, he has made history together with other outstanding stunt performance Primetime Emmy nominees this year. It’s the first time that the Television Academy is honoring their work. Canonizado is nominated for performing stunts and being the double of original "Karate Kid" Ralph Macchio and co-lead actor Xolo Maridueña.

I spoke with Canonizado while he was in Atlanta, having just wrapped work in Dwayne Johnson’s next big movie "Black Adam." He’s also in the upcoming Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans movie "The Gray Man." 

Though the Internet connection was glitchy, he was excited to talk about his life and career. “Finally, ABS-CBN TFC! I grew up watching it. My parents are so excited.”

Q: Where were you when you found out that you were nominated?

Marc Canonizado: I had just got done with production in LA and I had just touched down in Atlanta. It was really cool to see that our hard work on ('Cobra Kai') gets to really be seen and we kind of get an amazing opportunity to have an award for the first time ever in the Emmys that our group of people is being recognized. 

The process to get there is never easy, and it seems like when it pays off, it really rains and pours, but before then there's droughts and struggles and lean pockets.

Q: Are your parents in healthcare?

(laughs) You know my struggle! Yeah, my entire family's in the healthcare industry and I am the only one that wanted to pursue an industry like film and TV where your next job is questionable.

Q: Where did you grow up?

My father and my mother are first generation to the States. They came over from the Philippines. I was born in New York. When my family couldn't take those winters anymore, they moved to Orlando. When I was growing up and living in Florida, I pursued a career in martial arts. I did a lot of competitive martial arts, and it's kind of what really led me into film work.

Q: I did interviews for 'John Wick 3' with Keanu Reeves and Mark Dacascos. I didn’t know you worked in the film.

Mark Dacascos! I've watched him as a kid. To me, that was our version of superheroes back then. Guys like him were inspirational. Like, ‘Wow, he's Filipino, too.’ It was an honor to double him. But quite honestly I didn't have to do much. He's such an amazing individual and so talented. He blew my mind. I didn't have to do much at all. I just took the big bangs for him but a lot of the other stuff, he was fully capable of doing them.

Q: What has been your most memorable stunt experience thus far?

I would say my most memorable would definitely have to be the 'Avengers' series. I love superheroes, trading cards were my thing. So for me it was like a full circle. As a kid, I wanted to be a superhero and now as an adult, I basically am or I get to at least fight with them. As a kid I would never thought that that was even possible. Most people probably thought the same, they probably thought I was crazy. One day I would be playing Spider-Man, doubling him, and then next day, I could be villain number seven who gets shot and falls gonna down that hill.

Q: There is inherent danger in your job.

'I hope you guys filmed that one because I can’t do it again!' (fake-groans then laughs) Sometimes things take 20 takes. Our body is definitely our temple. We beat it but we have to preserve it, which is tough. So obviously I try to do as best as I can. Thankfully my martial arts background, I think that's where that also come to play. It helps me mentally as well as physically. When you're not mentally there, those are the days where things can happen, the accidents can happen, unfortunately.

Q: Are you working on the next season of 'Cobra Kai'?

Unfortunately, my schedule since our last season has gotten busier, which is a good thing, so I've been pulled in different directions. I guess it's it's a form of leveling up, and yeah, there comes a point in everybody's career where, unfortunately, you have to let go of certain opportunities to pursue better and bigger opportunity. 

Q: For young Filipinos who may want to follow your very large footsteps, what’s your advice?

That's a very good question. The industry is is really difficult to get into but it's also not — because it's a lot of how you market yourself. And kids these days are very good at branding and creating a platform and networking. Longevity-wise, I would say that also a vital part is knowing where you fit in. It’s definitely important to know what their skill set is, what their niche is. There's so much talent in our community and I'm confident that a bunch of us could fit in extremely well in this industry.

Pictures all courtesy of Marc Canonizado. Video for embedding: Fil-Am stunt performer Marc Canonizado bags first Emmy nomination | TFC News California, USA