DVDanger: Gridlocked

It's all about timing for Trish Stratus

Most actors would worry about going headfirst into the floor. So when Trish Stratus face-planted onto concrete while filming a fight sequence in action thriller Gridlocked, the crew ran over to check her out. Of course, she bounced straight up and told them, “Yeah, I’m OK, that’s what I do for a living.”

“There’s no diva in us. We’re not used to having assistants. We do everything ourselves on the road.” Trish Stratus makes the leap from the squared circle to the silver screen for action thriller Gridlocked. (Image courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

In Gridlocked (which debuted last year at Fantastic Fest), Stratus plays Gina, part of an elite police unit headed up by David Hendrix (Dominic Purcell, Prison Break, The Flash). An ordinary shift turns into an Assault on Precinct 13-esque siege when a gang of mercenaries lead by Korver (Stephen Lang, Avatar) show up. It's bad timing for officers, but the film was perfect timing for Stratus. She said, “Acting is one of these things that, when I retired in 2006 – God, that feels a long time ago.”

When Stratus says retired, she means from professional wrestling. While the modern WWE has started pushing women wrestlers as top-level performers, Stratus was arguably the first modern female wrestling superstar. There had been top-level female grapplers in the Fifties, like the Fabulous Moolah, but the industry had negated their wrestling presence, sidelining women as valets and announcers. Stratus began her in-ring career as a tag team manager, but by the end of her six year run, she had revolutionized how women were seen in wrestling, even achieving something that was once thought impossible: headlining the WWE’s flagship show, Monday Night Raw.

She actually did her first film, Bail Enforcers, in 2011, but the timing wasn’t quite right. She said, “I enjoyed the process, but it was at a point in my life when I wanted to build my business, and build my brand.”

Acting came back into her life in 2013, when she and her husband were taking a babymoon (“that’s the last vacation you take with your spouse before you become a party of three”) in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “I get a text from Adam saying ‘Are you here?’ ‘Yes, are you here?’”

Adam was Adam Copeland, better known to wrestling fans as Edge. He and fellow Canadian Stratus were key components of the WWE’s roster in the early 2000s, both were multi-time champions, and both are now in the WWE's Hall of Fame. After he retired from the ring in 2011, he moved into acting. As luck would have it, while Stratus was on vacation, Copeland was on set in Halifax for the SyFy original series Haven.

He’d joined the cast of the Stephen King-inspired show in season 2 as Police Chief Dwight Hendrickson, so Stratus dropped by to see her old friend. She recalled, “He said how he really enjoyed his life on TV,” and offered to introduce her to his manager. With a baby due, she held off on accepting the offer for a while, but after Max was born that September, she finally flew out for a meeting. “I said, 'I’m really interested in this, but I’ve just had my child, and I don’t want to be jetting off to L.A.'”

Two weeks later, the agent called back with a part for Stratus. “He said, ‘I’ve got this role for a female person that can kick ass.’ Check.” Moreover, Gridlocked was shooting in Toronto, so “it was kind of perfect."

But it wasn’t just about the right manager calling her at the right time with the right script. Two years before she left the WWE, she was faced with two options: After the huge amount of punishment her body had taken from wrestling, she could either undergo reconstructive surgery, or take up yoga. She chose yoga, which not only gave her a second career when she opened up her own yoga studio, but also made her “a lot more agile, and I have better recovery time.” Without it, she added, “I wouldn’t be able to keep up the physicality in my life.”

That definitely helped when she met with Gridlocked stunt director Neil Davison to finesse the film’s multiple hand-to-hand combat scenes. “I love fight scenes, so I was excited to take fight school.” As for Davison, she said, “He didn’t know much about wrestling, but he did appreciate the athleticism.”

So she had the physical combat side down, but wrestlers don’t usually use guns, and Gridlocked is an old-fashioned slam-blam, firearms and handguns action film. That’s when another post-in-ring experience, the TV reality show Armed and Famous, paid off. She said, “It was a bunch of celebs who got shipped off to Muncie, Indiana, and trained to be police officers. So I didn’t need firearms training because I went through that.”

So add all that together and it explains a lot of why Stratus – who had been powerbombed and leg-swept in just about every arena in North America – was so eager to do as many of her own stunts as possible. She said, "There were a couple of sequences where my insurance wouldn’t let me, but it’s mostly all me."

It also explains how she just popped up for another shot when she took that face-plant onto the cold, unforgiving concrete. Because that’s what being a wrestler really taught her. “There’s no diva in us,” she said. “We’re not used to having assistants. We do everything ourselves on the road.”

Gridlocked (Magnolia) is available on DVD and Blu-ray now.

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