A Hollywood stunt woman who has appeared in movies like “Ghostbusters” and “Para-normal Activity 2” along with television shows such as “Orange is the New Black” and “Gotham” got her start in acting here in the Wyoming Valley.
Currently stunt performing on NBC’s “Blindspot,” Kingston, Luzerne County, native Heidi Germaine Schnappauf has been building her career since the age of 14 when she began acting with the Music Box Theater.
“I just loved the idea of entering a different world for awhile and becoming someone else,” Schnappauf said.
A professionally trained actress who studied at New York University, Schnappauf always knew her place was going to be on a stage somewhere. In 2000, Schnappauf started an acting company called the Misfit Players which was run by teenagers. Teens produced, directed and acted in the plays which were staged in local theaters which donated their spaces to the young theater troupe.
“There was just no other option. (Acting) was what I was good at,” Schnappauf said.
While attending NYU, Schnappauf kept busy learning every facet of the theater as well as film making. Schnappauf said that while she loves acting, she wanted to learn everything she could. Citing her interest in behind-the-scenes work on stage shows and movies, Schnappauf began learning about camera work as well as staging falls and fights during productions. Her background as a fitness trainer helped in coordinating on-stage fights, too.
After graduating from NYU, Schnappauf continued to act in short films and web series. Following a health scare in the mid 2000s, her mind shifted to long-term career goals. She said the scare made her reevaluate what she found important and forced her to hone in on what path her career should take her on.
“I love acting but I just didn’t want to be in the spotlight all the time,” Schnappauf said.
Schnappauf said she was watching a behind the scenes documentary about the movie “Tomb Raider” when all of the sudden everything she had work toward clicked. Watching Angelina Jolie’s stunt double perform seemingly death defying acts, Schnappauf said, “It all made sense. The acting, learning all the behind-the-scenes stuff, my fitness training … I was like ‘this is what I want to do.’ ”
Getting to work right away, she found Kahana Stunt School in Groveland, Florida. It was during her time at this school where Schnappauf learned to focus her efforts on being a stunt performer.
“One of the most valuable lessons I learned came from an instructor at the stunt school. He said if I wanted to excel at something I needed to choose. Choose one thing I wanted to do and focus on that. It made a lot of sense and it helped me realize I was spreading my efforts over too many different areas,” Schnappauf said.
After her training, Schnappauf began auditioning for stunt roles. She acknowledged that she is lucky but she also said hard work played a huge part in her success.
“I mean, you have actors who are super talented but hardly work, then you have actors who are somewhat talented and work a lot. The difference is how hard someone chooses to work. You work hard and when opportunities present themselves, you can take them,” she said.
In 2015, Schnappauf auditioned for a role in “Blindspot,” a drama series on NBC. At first she played a one-off character, but later ended up as the stunt woman for starring actress Jaimie Alexander. The two often train together and Schnappauf said she works hard to emulate Alexander’s body movements and gestures.
When asked if she ever gets hurt during stunt scenes, Schnappauf said there is a difference between being hurt and being injured.
“Every stunt person gets hurt. That’s the nature of the job. Being injured is different. That’s something that can put you out of commission,” Schnappauf said.
So far she’s been lucky and only suffered one moderate injury to her neck that required some time off from her work. She brings her own equipment to work (as do most other stunt people) and she is in charge of keeping Alexander safe.
Recently, Schnappauf has become a coordinator who is in charge of safety and stunts, one of only three female coordinators in the industry.
Schnappauf said she also has a passion for helping others. Since creating the Misfit Players as a sophomore in high school, Schnappauf has donated time and money to veterans groups and other charitable organizations. She hopes to inspire young actors and actresses to use their talents to do good for others as well finding their own community.
“The great thing about theater is you find other people like you. Its an outlet to be OK. You can say, ‘I’m weird and so are these other people,’ ” Schnappauf said.
She encourages people who are pursuing their passions — no matter what it is — to keep moving forward and don’t get discouraged. Schnappauf believes that hard work leads to opportunities and you should never be discouraged from what it is you are pursuing.
“What you choose to put your energy into is where you blossom,” Schnappauf said.