Stunt Performer Spotlight: Frederic Jean

Featured Interview With Stunt Performer, Frederic Jean.

Tell about yourself how you got into stunts, Frederic?

My name is Frederic Jean I was born in Rwanda but raised in France.  My mom died when I was 3 and my dad had to raise 2 children by himself - a smart and sweet daughter and a little... how do I put it gently - ha!

I was a little demon, I had way too much energy and zero discipline.  I remember watching one of Jackie Chan's movies for the first time and that was IT!  He is the one!  It's his fault - ha!  I can’t tell you guys how many times I hurt my back trying to jump in between the steps of a ladder or climbing to the top of a tree to jump to another tree.

I started doing tricks on my bike when I was 13 and got my first big injury.  I broke my 3 front teeth and got stitches everywhere on my lips.  Then I quit my bike for a little bit and started parkour first by jumping above fences then adding some flips to it.

And then I had the beautiful idea of climbing balconies of 4 or 5 story buildings... Thank God I never got injured from that (knock on wood).  But something very important was missing in all of that, in order to be like Mr. Chan - of course I needed to know how to fight.

So I started Taekwondo but after one year, when I was in high school my P.E. teacher, who was a great gymnastics coach, told me that I had a rare talent for acrobatics.

And if wanted to succeed in life I needed discipline and gymnastics would bring me that.  So I listened to him and after 3 years of training, starting at 15 years old, I got recruited in the national gymnastic center to train for the 2004 Olympics.

Well I guess I was a good acrobat, but not the best gymnast, so I missed my chance to compete in the Olympics and went back on doing my stunts.  For the next 2 years I was doing rock climbing, rock diving (25 meters) and learned the basics of kung fu.

I worked as fireman in Paris for a year when I realized that I wasn’t really done with my gymnastic career.  But because being a fireman in France is part of the army, it taught me very well what discipline was!  

So I went for my last year in gymnastics and ended up winning multiple medals at the France National Competition and a little reminder from the olympic coach that the door to go back to train at the national center for the next Olympics was not closed (but for me it was - ha!)

Then, I received another offer from the Cirque du Soleil, to work in Hollywood in a show about Cinema and I took it.  It took me 3 plus years working with the Cirque du Soleil and as a background for movies and tv shows to realize that throughout my life I never really thought about being a stuntman (in movies) but I was already doing stunts all around just without cameras filming me or being paid - ha.

So I went to train for it, starting in NY La Rochelle with the stunt coordinator Chazz Menendez where I learned so much and was even better than what I thought, but more technical as well and much SAFER!  Then I went to JAM []  to learn tricking, the mix between Martial arts and acrobatics, that was awesome.

I received my first legit stunt work from my friend, stunt coordinator John Ross, for a film called ZOMBIE NIGHT where I fell down the stairs backward and then I was in love!  And to be paid for what I had been doing most of my life was icing on the cake.

What is your greatest skill as a stunt performer, is there a story behind it?

My greatest skill as a stuntman wasn’t actually in a movie.  With my gymnastic coach, I went to a river in the south of France to rock dive.  There was this jump that my coach wanted me to do, it wasn’t high at all (25 feet) but it was a very precise jump between two rocks at the bottom into a 6 ft diameter area.

I remember asking my coach to show it to me and he did it again and again and again, always explaining to me to not push the rock just make a step forward and stay tight.  I was scared as hell, my legs were shaking, and the little voice inside my head was telling me not to do it.  That was the day that taught me to always listen to this little voice because it never lies.  

My fear made me push the rock instead of just stepping forward and I didn’t end up completely in the water.  That was my hardest and greatest learning experience. Precision jumps, diving and parkour are my best skills.  I recently did a gig where I ran full speed and dove horizontally into a tiny little window.

What is the best part about being a stunt performer?

For me the best part about being a stunt performer is to try new, crazy things, always being safe and surrounded by professionals.

What advice would you give other stunt people?

My best advice would be to listen to that inner voice of yours, it never lies, and always stay focused and listen to your stunt coordinator.  SAFETY FIRST!

Anything else you would like to tell the community about?

I'd like to say thank you to the stunt community for making others dream and for being so humble about it!