WONDER WOMAN 1984 Exclusive Interview With Jenny Pacey About Training Kristen Wiig And Playing An Amazon

We caught up with elite athlete Jenny Pacey to find out about her work training Kristen Wiig for her role as Cheetah in Wonder Woman 1984, getting the movie's Amazons into fighting shape, and much more!

Photo Credit: Clay Enos - Briony Scarlett (L), Jenny Pacey (R)

Ever since Wonder Woman 1984 was released, fans and critics alike have been raving about the incredible physical shape star Kristen Wiig was in for her first action blockbuster role as Cheetah, and the woman responsible for helping the actress transform into one of Diana Prince's greatest foes is elite athlete and celebrity trainer, Jenny Pacey. 

The Gladiator star (Enigma) represented Great Britain in the Olympics, and is considered one of the world’s leading fitness experts. As well as putting Wiig through her paces behind the scenes, Jenny also trained the movie's Amazon warriors and suited up herself for an on camera role after previously playing one of the badass female warriors in 2017's Wonder Woman

Last week, we were lucky enough to catch up with Jenny to talk about training Kristen Wiig and the sequel's Amazons, what it was like to play one of the competitors on Themyscira, and a whole lot more.

Jenny is clearly passionate about her work, and that came through both on screen and this interview. Needless to say, we want to extend a huge thank you to the trainer for taking the time to chat with us!
 

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Photo Credit: Clay Enos

Can you start by telling our readers how you first got involved with the Wonder Woman franchise? 

I was asked to audition for the first Wonder Woman film. My background was that I was an elite athlete. I represented Great Britain and was also a Gladiator on TV, and I got an email from my agent saying, ‘Would you like to audition for a blockbuster movie? They’re not saying what it is, but they’re looking for some strong, athletic females.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, this sounds right up my street,’ so I ended up in three boot camps, had four auditions, and became an Amazon warrior. You can actually see me start the war in the first film firing the arrow. We filmed for four weeks out in Italy, and there was an eight-month training camp. After the first movie, Patty Jenkins decided she wanted to look for a female trainer to train the Amazons for the second film, and also to train Cheetah, played by Kristen Wiig. I ended up being interviewed by Patty, I put together a programme to train the Amazon, a programme to train Kristen, and then I got the role of lead trainer and also got to be an Amazon in Wonder Woman 1984. 

What was it like shooting that opening scene set on Themyscira? 

I trained for four months in the run up to filming, and we really peaked in terms of our training like we were going into the Olympics. But, instead of competing in the games, we competed within the filming days. We shot some of it in London, and some of it in Fuerteventura. The opening scenes were just incredible to shoot. The ladies were amazing, from the stunt women to the actual Amazons. It was an absolute honour to be part of. 

It must feel pretty cool donning that Amazon armour and being transformed into one of those badass female warriors?

Yeah, the whole experience was incredible from being in the gym every day with the Amazons to seeing Kristen or Gal [Gadot] training alongside us, and to then going on set, and the costumes. We had armour in the first film, and then more like a leather scuba diving suit made for us in this one. Just to be a part of every moment of the Amazon experience from working with the stunt coordinators to understanding exactly what the warriors would do on set to working towards being aesthetically incredible in terms of being strength, power, long, lean, athletic muscles, and the way we moved and performed, and really embodying what it was to be an Amazon warrior. 
 


With a VFX heavy sequence like that, what’s it like for you filming in front of green screens and scenery that isn’t actually there?

I ran up the stadium on wires, and we actually had the set. We had the steps, we had the waterfall, so in terms of my scene, I actually physically did it. In terms of the green screen, I was there to warm the Amazons up, make sure that they knew exactly what they were doing and moving in the right way. I’ve worked on green screen before, so it wasn’t totally new to me, but it was a nice experience to take the Amazons through. 

Kristen Wiig clearly got into amazing physical shape for the film; can you talk us through what that training regime entailed?

I heard an interview with her the other day where she said, ‘I was basically sore for nine months!’ with the amount of training she did [Laughs]. She was incredible. She brought her A-Game to every training session, and to work with her was amazing because her character through the film transforms both physically and in terms of going from Barbara to the apex predator Cheetah. When I had my first meetings with Patty and the aesthetics we were going to create in terms of her being long and lean, not bulky, and making sure she moved in a certain way. Patty had this idea that she really wanted Kristen to transform physically on screen chronologically for the viewer. At the beginning, she’s skinny and funny, and a little bit goofy and not coordinated, and then as we filmed the movie, she became stronger, fitter, more aesthetically amazing, and she really transformed into the character of Cheetah

Cheetah was kept under wraps for a long time, so how early on did you learn about the character in order to get Kristen where she needed to be to play the villain? 

I read the script from the start, so I could understand exactly what scenes Kristen would be in and exactly what physical parts we needed to work on to really bring Cheetah to life and for her to be immersed within the character. We really worked on it from the start, and you asked me about the training for her, and we worked in four-week blocks like she was an elite athlete. We did a mixture of sprint training, weight training, and movement training for the Cheetah role in terms of the way she moved as well as kettle bells, weight lifting, Olympic lifting...we did so much sprint and running training as well because obviously within her character, she runs a lot. I wanted to create that aesthetic of an athlete as opposed to an actress who was trying to run. 

Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman, obviously, and she’s in fighting shape to play the character, so did you feel a sense of competition along with Kristen to get her as fit as possible so they could convincingly go toe to toe on screen?

It was amazing to have Gal around because she’s an incredible human, and she trained so hard. It only really spurred Kristen on. Kristen is so incredibly determined, and she had a great body awareness before we started. There’s an amazing video of her doing a Sia dance, and when I saw that, I was like, ‘Whoa, I’m in for a good run here’ because she could move so well already. She embraced the training, character, and everything I threw at her. That really translates on screen. 
 

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Photo Credit: Clay Enos

As you've mentioned, you also trained the movie’s Amazons, so can you talk us through what that entailed? 

There was so much work that went into the Amazons. We trained five days a week for a couple of hours physically, and then they would go into stunts for three or four hours. There was four months training for them again in four week blocks; Mondays were metabolic conditioning; Tuesdays were gymnastic and body weights; Wednesdays was Olympic lifting and track and field training to work on movement patterns and running skills; Thursday was a yoga and mobility day for active recovery, and then Friday was another Olympic lifting/weight training day with athletic drills and key javelin training because at the end of the scene they throw the javelin, and we worked a lot on the movement patterns for that. I have an interesting job with the Amazons because I had a Victoria’s Secret Model, an Olympic athlete, top Ninja Warrior, and then dancers who had never weight trained before or done any sprint training, and I needed to create an on screen aesthetic where they all looked like they were part of a united tribe and could all move in the same aesthetic pattern, look strong, powerful, and incredibly athletic. 

You’ve played an Amazon, but do you have any aspirations to take on a bigger superhero movie role, and if so, are there any characters, in particular, you would like to play? 

I’ve been in two Wonder Woman films which has been an incredible experience, and I’ve been in commercials and TV shows, but I think my passion really lies within being an elite super trainer. I have a background as an athlete and sports scientist; I’ve been a celebrity trainer for over 15 years, and there’s something incredible about transforming someone’s body and mindset, and then seeing that unfold on the big screen. I’d really love to work in more superhero films, training some more villains and superheroes! 

Wonder Woman 3 has been confirmed; are you hoping to return for that film both behind and in front of the camera? 

I would love to do both. I am crossing everything that they bring me back, and I get to work on a third Wonder Woman film. How amazing would that be? 

Wonder Woman 1984 is available to rent on Premium Video on Demand from 13th January.
 

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