Meet Detroit Native Ivy Haralson, a Stunt Double for ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’

The 31-year-old has had a successful run as an actress and stunt performer. Her latest gig: the highly anticipated sequel to 2018’s Black Panther.
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Ivy at the Atlanta premiere of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. // Photograph courtesy of Ivy Haralson

By now, most of us have seen (or should have seen) Black Panther: Wakanda Forever — the highly anticipated sequel to the 2018 film Black Panther — which was released in November. The movie follows Princess Shuri, Queen Ramonda, and the people of Wakanda as they fight to protect their nation following the death of King T’Challa, the Black Panther. And in real life, the world continues to mourn the loss of the man who played the fictional character: Chadwick Boseman, who passed away in 2020 from colon cancer.

What you might not have known is that a Detroit native was a stunt double for the new film and played a (not so) minor role. Her name is Ivy Haralson, and she is an actress and stunt performer.


Haralson was born in southwest Detroit and later moved to Belleville with her parents and three sisters at the start of first grade. She has been performing ever since she was a young girl, from participating in her elementary school’s concerts to singing in her middle school’s choir.

It was during her senior year of high school when Haralson discovered theater. For the spring musical, You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, she played Sally Brown, Charlie Brown’s little sister. That experience would help shape the trajectory of Haralson’s career path; she decided to study theater at Wayne State University, where she graduated with her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance in 2013.

Haralson was just as involved in sports in her youth as she was in the performing arts. Throughout high school, she played volleyball and softball, ran track, and did pole vaulting and high jumping. Little did she know this athleticism would later come in handy for her other future career as a stunt performer.

Acting and stunt performing have taken Haralson around the world. She’s done live stunt shows in France, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Dubai, and China, just to name a few locales. Haralson was also a stunt performer for Cirque du Soleil in Montreal — during which she says she was lit on fire more than 100 times for the shows. Her first movie gigs were two projects filmed in India: 2022 sports action film Liger and 2021 thriller Sanak.

For her latest project, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Haralson played a member of the Dora Milaje, the all-female group of warriors that serves as both the special forces for Wakanda and the personal bodyguards for the Black Panther. She was also a stunt double for Angela Bassett, who played Queen Ramonda, and Danai Gurira, who played Okoye.

Haralson chatted with Hour Detroit from her home in Atlanta about filming the second Black Panther film, what it takes to be a stunt double, and more.

Warning: There are some spoilers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in this piece!

Ivy in character as a member of the Dora Milaje. // Photograph courtesy of Ivy Haralson.

Hour Detroit: How did your time at Wayne State University prepare you for your career?

Ivy Haralson: You are fully immersed in this theater program, whether you’re in a show performing after school, and that’s like your after-school activity, or you’re building the sets, or helping with the costumes — you’re getting a very well-rounded picture of what it could be to be in theater. Whether it’s lighting, costume design, set building, you’re getting a little bit of everything. We even took makeup classes to do stage makeup. And it’s so crazy, even going into my adult life as a stunt woman, all of those things have helped me so much.

As a small example, there’s so many stunt people whose backgrounds are in martial arts or gymnastics, and they don’t necessarily have the education to do their own makeup; I was in Cirque du Soleil for a little bit, and I had to do my own makeup every day. And it’s something my college experience unknowingly prepared me for. So, I’m super thankful for that, for sure.

Tell me about your first show as a stunt performer.

My first stunt show was with Marvel Universe Live! and that was their European tour. So not only was I doing my first-ever job in stunts, they were taking me over to Europe, which I had only been to one time before. It was amazing. I was really just thrown in there, I’d never done anything like this before. I made a huge group of friends, and now working in film, I work with so many of the same people that started on Marvel Universe Live!. I learned a lot there.

That was 2016; I was only there for six months because I actually got injured at the end of the six months, I broke my ankle. But that was kind of the beginning of my comeback story. After I healed up, I started going much harder. I learned acrobatics — that was the first time I’ve ever done acrobatics in my life. And I had a gymnastics coach that did private lessons with me.

What kind of training is needed to be a stunt performer? What type of stunts have you done?

A lot of people have backgrounds in martial arts, that’s the best way to start. Gymnastics helps as well because then you have the air awareness and you know a little bit more about how your body works. But just being athletic and having the drive to train and have that cardio is very important because you’re moving so much, and you’re expected to do so many takes.

The only one I haven’t dabbled in much is driving; I’m trying to get that under my belt. With Cirque du Soleil, I was lit on fire over 100 times. I do high falls, I recently got to do a jump from a bridge into water. I’ve done a lot of rigging and I have been on wires and flying and that kind of stuff.

And then most recently in [Black Panther: Wakanda Forever], I got to do some underwater stuff, which is like a whole new world. The water is the real boss when you’re under there and you just have to learn how to move with it.

How did you land the opportunity to be in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever?

So, we all saw the first [Black Panther movie]; I was already doing stunts when the first one came out. When I heard that there was going to be a second one, I was very much trying to stay in tune with when they were starting to film.

I ended up messaging an Instagram friend, a stuntman named Aaron Toney, who is Anthony Mackie’s stunt double [when he plays Sam Wilson/Falcon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe]. And I was like, “Hey, Aaron, do you know who might be coordinating Black Panther? I just want to get my information to them, send my stunt reel, and make sure they know who I am.” He was like, “Well, actually, I’m fight coordinating Black Panther. You can send me your information.”

That’s probably the biggest thing I learned is you have to put yourself in the room. That’s the only way you’re going to be seen. No one’s going to come looking for you; you gotta put yourself out there.

What was it like being a stunt double and acting in the film?

So, I’m one of the warriors [in the Dora Milaje]; that’s my major part. When I got on the movie, they were like, “We’re going to have you double Angela [Bassett] for some parts.” There’s a scene where she [as Queen Ramonda] is in the throne room, and she actually gets projected back (we call it a ratchet), and it’s when this water explosion happens. And I got to double her for that.

We’re hooked on wires, and we’re pulled back out of the frame. And everything from that moment she falls through the water, everything underwater, is me minus the close-up of her face. When I’m swimming down, that’s me.

So, basically, you were a stunt double for the scene when Queen Ramonda dies?!

Yeah. They have a few close-ups of her looking around. But everything that’s a wide shot is me. And it’s crazy, because they put dots on your face, as the stunt double, and then they go in VFX afterwards and they make it her face.

The funny thing is, on set, her hairstylist and her makeup artists kept coming up to me because we’re identical; we’re wearing the same costume, same hair, everything. And they were like, “You are such a good double for her. We keep thinking you’re her, we keep losing her.” And that is like the biggest compliment anyone’s ever given me.

Are there any other unforgettable experiences you had while filming Black Panther: Wakanda Forever?

The funeral for the Black Panther. So, the funeral scene, when we are all in white and in the procession carrying the casket. I didn’t get to meet Chadwick [Boseman]; I didn’t work on the first movie, but he meant so much to so many people. And we needed that, for those as a cast who worked with him previously, for us as people of color, it was the closure that he deserved and that we needed.

And being on set was just so beautiful; it was a sunny day. Even though we had to portray being somber, everyone in that shot was celebrating, dancing, and the music was live. It was just so emotional and beautiful because it was like an actual celebration of [Boseman’s] life.

What do you hope 2023 has in store for your career?

I already know I’m going to be traveling abroad, come January, and I’m going to be working in Greece and Morocco on a project.

Every year, a goal of mine is to be gone for half the year and then come back. I’m really trying to get out there so that these European coordinators know who I am because I love to travel. And an end goal of mine is to have a house abroad and have a house here and be able to ping-pong back and forth. So. I’m working on making that dream come true.

Keep up with Haralson on her Instagram, @ivy_titanium, and be sure to read our Q&A with Douriean Fletcher, the jewelry designer for “Black Panther” at HourDetroit.com.


Check out even more photos of Ivy Haralson’s work on the set of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”

 

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