Samantha Win stars as Chambers in Army of the Dead. It’s the type of surreal, wild ride of a movie that you would expect from action ace Zack Snyder, complete with epic sets and a zombie tiger for good measure.
Having worked with the writer and director many times, Win knew that this latest film (released May 21 on Netflix) would be an unmissable gig. In an exclusive interview with M&F, Win discusses her athletic roots and how this provided the perfect foundation for her career as an actor and stunt performer.
“Even in reading the synopsis on the film, you get over the moon and excited to be a part of it,” says Win, who originally hails from Barrie, ON. “There are so many out-there, crazy elements to the movie that made it a super fun experience. We were like children in a playground.”
BJJ Helped Develop Her ‘Win’-ing Mindset
Win has been a highly active person her entire life, and was introduced to martial arts at the age of 4, thanks to her mother, who was a black belt in jiujitsu. “Instead of a time out, we might have to hold the plank position for a few minutes, or instead of being sent to our room, she would have us stand on one foot with your knee above your waist,” says Win. “So, it was always these physical challenges instead of an emotional punishment. It was pretty creative and effective, I would say.”
The process of training and performing martial arts was something that Win took to her heart, and she quickly fell in love with the discipline that it required. “You get used to feeling a certain way about something,” says Win. “I hear runners start to enjoy the meditative feeling of running, and so it’s not even just the physical act, it’s more the feeling that it gives us. I think that’s what happened for me with jiujitsu from an early age. And so now, I very much crave that energetic outlet where my breath is going and my heart rate is up, I’m sweating, and I’m just having fun.”
Progressing with jiujitsu and bossing international wushu tournaments would require personal sacrifice, but that made the rewards feel all the more special. “Even though I missed out on some of the social aspects, I’m really pleased that I kept martial arts as my focus and my goal,” she says. “Now, diet and exercise are such a big part of my life that I don’t necessarily struggle with keeping in shape, it’s just about different levels of being in shape, or what you want from your body, specifically for each role.”
Around the time that she competed in the 2008 Beijing Wushu Tournament as part of Team Canada, Win would begin conversations with stunt coordinators that were on the lookout for athletes able to bring their skills to the movie set. Having already started acting lessons, and appearing in commercials by this time, stunt work seemed like a natural fit. Zack and Win first worked together when she was 17 on Sucker Punch.
“When it comes to being on wires, you need core strength in order to keep certain shapes” says Win. “Your muscle is your armor, so it was fun to have this be such an essential part of my job again, and it makes the upkeep of staying in shape an easier task when you know it’s part of your protection. You have to be at the top of your game to do your best work.”
Samantha Win played Kitana in the Mortal Kombat: Legacy web series, and after learning her trade on big Hollywood productions like Man of Steel and Wonder Woman, she is now set to entertain in arguably her biggest role yet. As Chambers, she will share a screen with stars such as Dave Bautista and Omari Hardwick, as they move through Las Vegas trying to avoid the wrath of its zombie population.
A Fitness ‘Army’
In preparation for the role, Win was aware that she would need to be in great shape. “I just try to listen to my body, and I’ll tailor my nutrition depending on the character that I am playing,” she says. “For Wonder Woman and Justice League, I really wanted to build more muscle, and a little more bulk, so I was really focused on my macros. Whereas for Army of the Dead, because I’m wearing a crop top and my stomach is visible throughout the entire shoot, I needed to figure out what was sustainable for me, because I couldn’t just bulk and then lean out for the few days before filming. I needed to be in a constant state, so it was more about consistent exercise and eating enough calories, but the right kind. I couldn’t have a lot of sugars, or super salty foods or anything that might make me retain water. I wanted to be lean without losing weight. There was a lot of trial and error, but at the end of the day, you just have to discover what works best for your body. A lot of people approach diets as a temporary thing, or something that’s a challenge, and that’s not as sustainable.”
Fortunately, there were no temptations at craft services. “I think that Zack Snyder’s crews are very lucky in that he is very health conscious,” says Win. “There was no soda, no chocolate bars, no buffets of cookies and things like that.” Instead, the cast and crew are provided with more sensible options like a sandwich and salad bar, and fresh pressed juices.
Despite having a significant on-camera role in the movie, Win still wanted to perform her own stunts, including a gripping scene where she jumps through a window. Thanks to her great working relationship with the stunt team, alongside Natalie Padilla who served as her stunt double, and stunt coordinator Damon Caro, it all went off without a hitch. “I was really grateful that they let me do it,” she says.
With her stardom undoubtedly on the rise, Win is grateful for the opportunity that Army of the Dead has brought her, and she’s making sure to take as much as possible from the experience as possible. “It just takes it to another level when you are working with Dave Bautista and Zack Snyder and Hiroyuki Sanada, and all of these amazing legends,” says Win. “It was such an opportunity to soak up as much knowledge and experience as I could. It was an elevating experience. As Chambers, I feel like I’ve grown the most.”