Interview with Wonder Woman 1984 Trainer Jenny Pacey

With ‘Wonder Woman 1984’, available to watch in Ireland now on premium video on demand we caught up with WW84 trainer Jenny Pacey. Jenny who also played an Amazon in the first Wonder Woman movie, gives us a glimpse into the effort it took to take a group of already impressive women and turn them into Amazons.


In the opening scene, we see that the Amazons are superb athletes. Can you tell us about their training regime?
JP: That scene is so incredible. It is a fantastic way to open for a movie. I put together a four-month training program for them, and we worked with four-week blocks like we would if we were elite athletes. The idea was that we would peak in time for filming. We worked as though the Amazon Games were the Olympics, in terms of our speed, strength, power, bodies, and aesthetics, and the way that we moved. On Mondays, we would tend to do metabolic conditioning. On Tuesdays, we did weight and gymnastics. Wednesdays were lifting, weight training, track, and field training, and sprint drills. Thursday was a de-load day which means active recovery. We would do yoga, breath work, and meditation to relax the girls ready for a more hardcore Friday, which was back into weight training and athletics drills and specific technique work, like learning to throw the javelin, and working on sprint technique. Every four weeks, we would change focus, whether that was building muscle or focusing on strength. We were also tweaking their nutrition to look even more lean and athletic, and feminine and ready for filming.


It almost sounds like it was planned with military precision.
JP: Yeah, nothing was left to chance. It was very much down to specific programming and working out the goals for each of the women. I had the other challenge that I had a big spectrum of athletic ability. In the mix there was Ninja warrior, an Olympian, a Victoria’s Secret model, a dancer who had never weight trained, one of Nigeria’s top athletes, a free runner, so I had a big spectrum of people to work with. I wanted to create an aesthetic where the viewer would watch the Amazons and see that they were a united tribe, but they were still in competition with each other at the games.


I love how they move as one, yet there is individuality within the group. How did you create that?
JP: It was amazing to create that aesthetic on the screen. I spoke to Patty about how she wanted the girls to run. Do you want them all to be different? Or would you like them to have spread fingers or straight hands? She wanted their fingers together and their arms straight. That became a key signal. We would say “Patty hands”. Most of them run with a similar aesthetic to create that cohesion and that flow state on camera. At the same time, they are in the Amazon Olympics. They also compete against each other, which I think they also naturally did because they wanted to shine on camera and look individual, but as a group.

Photo Credit – Clay Enos

Gal Gadot learned most of her skills for the first movie, but for Kristen Wiig, this was her first time in a big action role. What was it like training a newbie?
JP: It was amazing to be part of Kristen’s journey. I spoke to Patty to find out what she wanted to create in her character. She wanted her to be feminine and have this great internal power that grows. We talked about how we would change Kristen’s aesthetic. Her training was chronological as we filmed the movie. When you see her initially, she’s an uncoordinated goofy Barbara. That was right at the beginning of Kristen’s training when she hadn’t transformed physically. And then as you go through the movie in time, she is actually becoming stronger, fitter, more athletic, her running skills develop, she has a movement pattern. What you see in the film translates into how we trained her in real life. We would have key scenes like the gym scene and worked on her deadlift technique, and then we worked on biceps curls and her own strength levels. The idea was it would all come together, and the audience would be with her on this transformation, to the apex predator.


I love how there is comedy mixed in, particularly in that scene in the gym.
JP: Kristen is so funny. We were either sweating or laughing in the gym.  I remember getting to set that day she was filming the gym scene. She was in her eighties leotard. We worked together for nine months for the movie, and when I saw her, I just burst into tears. I was like, you look incredible. I’m so proud of you. And then she just killed the scene in terms of athleticism and her comedy acting.


Lilly Aspel, who plays Young Diana, was 8 at the timing of filming. What was it like putting someone so young through the training regime?
JP: Lilly is the most incredible little superhero. She absolutely loves training. She threw herself into anything, and she was fearless. She is incredibly physically gifted. She was happy giving anything a try, and we had some fantastic training sessions, especially when she was practising the sprints for the Amazon games. I wish I was Lilly Aspell. If I could start all over again, she would be an epic person to be right now.

Photo Credits – Clay Enos

Being a trainer wasn’t your only role. You also play an Amazon. What was it like to don the costume?
JP: To be an Amazon in the first film and then to be asked to be one of them in the second film was just the most incredible thing. I went to the costume department, and I was like, Oh my God, this is like a dream come true. And then to watch yourself in both films, it’s just amazing.


I know a trainer works with the stunt department to prep the actors. Can you tell how that relationship works?
JP: I worked closely with the stunt department to train Kristen and all of the Amazons to be the best physically, to do the stunts and be injury-free. We did a lot to increase their ankle stability. When you see the Amazons leaping across the posts, which I think is an iconic scene, we spent months working on that and finding the best ways to do that bounding technique which would then translate beautifully on the screen. They were on wires, but the training meant that every second of it looked great and they were in peak condition to do it. For Kristen’s scenes, I would read the script, find out what was required within each scene, and then talk to the stunt guys and make her bulletproof for the different stunts. We worked on her running technique, her leaping technique and her shoulders stability, especially for the work she does in that final fight scene. We worked on stabilizing the muscle groups that were going to take the most of the strain, and we worked on creating gorgeous movement patterns, so she would look as authentic as possible.


Do you think it is important for a trainer and stunt team to work together as you did on this?
JP: The more stunts the actors can do, the more authentic it feels to the audience. They had the most amazing stuntwomen. They did some crazy stuff. The combination of actors doing their own stunts and having really great stunt professionals is what makes Wonder Woman so special and unique.


Words – Cara O’Doherty

Wonder Woman 1984 is available to rent now in Ireland on Premium Video on Demand now