Interviews

Stuntwoman Jessie Graff on Demolishing American Ninja Warrior, Punching Dudes in the Face, and Owning a Pet Pig

We get the inside scoop on this month's extremely fit Iron Maiden.

Jessie Graff
Myron Luzniak/NBC

M&F: You were the first woman to complete the Stage 1 and 2 courses of American Ninja Warrior during the 2016 and 2017 National Finals. What was that like?
JG: I proved that I can deal with high- pressure situations and that I can keep my head about me and make the smartest, most efficient decision in the moment. That’s a really cool mindset to have in life.

What’s the hardest part about the ANW course?
I would say 80 to 90% of the time people failed because they tripped or made a tiny mental error or foot misplacement. When I failed on Stage 2 of the Nationals last year, I was at the point where I couldn’t hold on one second longer. I climbed out of the water, and my hands were locked in this claw position. I couldn’t even take the towel off my shoulders.

How has ANW evolved?
It’s growing into a legitimate sport, outside of just being a reality show. There are Ninja Leagues all over the country—anyone can sign up and compete for cash prizes. One of the best I’ve been involved with so far is the Wolf Pack Ninja Tour, where they set up a course that looks very similar to the one on the show. You race people head-to-head in a double-elimination competition.

Hot dogs or cheeseburgers?
Cheeseburgers. But I normally take garnish—like kale, onions, tomatoes, and avocados—from the salad bar of the catering service and then put the burger on top of that. It’s a hamburger salad!

So, uh, you have a pet pig?
Pigs are super smart. You can teach them tricks, and they’re really cuddly and don’t shed. Sammo Hog was litter box trained at 4 weeks old, a week before we even brought her home. Now she uses a doggy door to go outside. Also, her poop doesn’t smell, which is weird—but awesome.

You’re known to compete in superhero costumes—once as Supergirl and once as Green Lantern—so what’s up next?
Spider-Woman. She best suits my skill set.

How do you think you’d do as a real-life vigilante?
Terrible [laughs]. I don’t like hurting people. I don’t think I’ve ever intentionally punched someone in the face with intent to hurt.

But you have punched someone in the face?
I do fight scenes all the time, and I’m sure I’ve clipped somebody. I’m working on a stick-fighting scene, and my knuckles are always bruised. Stunt people are always getting annihilated.

Fun Fact: Graff pole-vaulted at Georgia Tech, where she jumped 4.20 meters, a few centimeters short of Olympic qualification.

Follow stuntwoman Jessie Graff on Instagram: @jessiegraffpwr

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