Three athletes who played Amazons in the superhero film reveal what they hope people can learn from Wonder Woman's story.
Posted in , Jun 16, 2017
Wonder Woman continues to make box-office history, becoming the first female superhero blockbuster film, but the titular character Diana Prince isn’t the only role-model worthy character worth watching.
The Amazon warriors who trained Wonder Woman on the island of Themyscira also provide to young people everywhere an image of powerful women supporting each other on screen. Guideposts.org caught up with three of the real-life athletes who brought the Amazons to life: martial arts fighter Samantha Jo (who plays Euboea), boxing champ Ann Wolfe (Artemis), and Swedish Thaiboxer Madeleine Vall Beijner. (Egeria) They share their experience on set, how sports have impacted their lives, and how they hope the film can inspire girls (and boys) everywhere.
Samantha Jo already has an impressive resume as a stuntwoman. The martial arts fighter has been in some epic battles, like 300: Rise of an Empire and Man of Steel, but Jo says filming Wonder Woman was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“Everybody knew that we were a part of something really special and we knew it was groundbreaking,” Jo tells Guideposts.org.
The actress grew up adoring the character: “When my brothers were playing with Batman and Spiderman, I had to beg my mom to get a Wonder Woman doll,” she says. She also grew up in a family that valued discipline and a good work ethic.
Jo’s mom had a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu and taught classes in the sport. Too young to fight, Jo watched her brothers train while teaching herself some moves.
“I was like the little Diana in the movie,” Jo says. “I was punching and kicking on the side and my mom had to keep telling me to get off of the mat because I was going to get hurt.” Eventually she was allowed to train and discovering her love for the sport has changed her life – professionally and personally.
“That hard work and that sweat equity is such a big part of my life, and I'm excited for it,” Jo says. “I'm so thankful that my mom put me into that and I understood from a very young age that hard work pays off. Not only that, but it feels good, and you can feel proud of yourself and feel like you earned the opportunities that come.”
Opportunities like Wonder Woman, a film Jo hopes teaches girls the importance of strength, commitment, and sisterhood – values she learned from her mother and from the women she fought with in the film.
“I think it's the fact that they're represented as not only these strong women but a strong united community,” Jo says when asked how the Amazons inspire her. “There are so many different types of women from different walks of life. I think that was the most interesting part and the most inspiring to other people. Everybody has somebody they can relate to.”
Boxing phenom Ann Wolfe never acted until director Patty Jenkins personally requested she play Artemis in the film, but she’s definitely fought enough battles in her own life to be worthy of the role.
Wolfe grew up in poverty, lost her mother, father, and brother in just a short span, and found herself homeless with two children depending on her. She’d often take her kids to the emergency room on cold nights so they’d have somewhere warm to sleep while waiting in the lobby. That’s where she saw a professional boxing match on TV between two women, sparking her interest in the sport.
She trained for a year, putting on her first pair of gloves at age 25 and going on to hold three world titles simultaneously.
She wants Wonder Woman, and her role in the film, to set an example for young people to follow.
“Girls get told they're beautiful, pretty, and whatever. When can someone say to a little girl, "You're strong and you're worth something; you can do it,” Wolfe tells Guideposts .org. “I don't want my son to look at girls as objects. I want him to know they're just as smart, just as strong...they're your equals.”
She thinks having someone like Diana Prince on screen, a superhero not afraid to show emotion, goes a long way in proving strength can take many different forms.
“What I liked about the Amazons, they didn't go out to look for a battle,” Wolfe explains. “They didn't go out to look for a fight. They were not bullies. You saw Diana cry because she was hurt. You saw Diana be strong. You saw her be angry. You saw her be sad. You could see every single emotion that makes a woman strong and it lets you know you can be strong when you need to be strong. You can cry. Then you have people like your Amazon sisters or your family to depend on.”
Madeleine Vall Beijner
Madeleine Vall Beijner was once ranked as the third best Thaiboxer in the world in her weight class. She competed in the sport for years before switching her focus to film and stunt acting. Her role as Egeria in Wonder Woman marks her first big action gig and the experience has been one she won’t forget.
“It's hard to know what will happen with a movie, but we had a universe-changing feeling on set,” Beijner tells Guideposts.org.
The boxer spent months training with her fellow Amazons, giving A-list actors like Robin Wright fighting tips and spending days filming exhausting fight sequences on the beaches of Italy. All that hard work and bonding helped the women get into character.
“To us, it was real,” Beijner says. “We became those Amazons.”
The athlete never read the Wonder Woman comics growing up, preferring to have real-life role models from the sports she enjoyed, but she hopes young girls might discover something worth admiring in the superhero.
“It has been both a really cool and emotional journey to befriend Wonder Woman as a grown woman,” Beijner says. “I think Diana stands for everything women are in general: smart, powerful, funny, loving, compassionate and curious. She just happens to have a greater [reach]. One of my favorite quotes from the film is when Antiope [Robin Wright] tells Diana: ‘You are stronger than you believe. You have greater powers than you know.’ I think that's an important message to young girls.”