Joi “SJ” Harris was killed on the set of Deadpool 2 in Vancouver on Monday morning while performing a motorcycle stunt.
Harris’ bike crashed through the glass of a ground-floor studio inside Shaw Tower near Jack Poole Plaza. Her identity was confirmed by a spokesperson for ACTRA (The Alliance of Canadian Cinema). Production on the film was shut down immediately following the incident, and it is unclear when it will continue.
News of Harris’ death comes just weeks after veteran stuntman John Bernecker died as the result of head injuries suffered on the set of The Walking Dead. Bernecker was 33, and his death marked the first stunt-related death to occur in the US for nearly 20 years.
Read on to learn more about Joi “SJ” Harris.
1. She Has Been Identified as the First African-American Female Professional Road Racer
Harris, who also went by the nickname “sj sidewayz”, was the first licensed African American woman in US history to actively compete in AMA sanctioned racing events.
In 2015, she was the focus of an article in Black Girls Ride Magazine. The article states that Harris became the first professional African American Road Racer when she hit the track for her first season in 2014– she’d learned how to ride a motorcycle just four years prior.
In an interview with Eat Sleep Pride in April, Harris was asked how it felt to ride as a female in a male dominated sport. She said:
It feels like we have so far to go, simply because we can’t change who we are. We women can be amazing at this sport and we might go further if we just stop thinking so much. To me, this sport is about knowing and executing; there is no time to think. It may sound funny, but that may be the very reason why guys tend to be so much better at it in some aspects. Men just go and do it, but us women think about things and analyse everything. After several crashes on my short time racing the one thing that remains the same is the response from the men…they won’t say it but it’s simply harder to see a girl crash as hard as a man did in a race.
2. This Was Her First Film as a Stunt Performer
Deadline reports that Deadpool 2 marked Harris’ first film as a stuntwoman. Production on Deadpool began in late June and was shut down immediately after the accident Monday morning.
According to her profile on Hookit, Harris started riding motorcycles at age 25. She learned how to ride in the streets of NYC before taking her training to a New Jersey racetrack. She recently placed 11th in the Combined ThunderBike 300 at the New Jersey Motorsports Park on July 8.
3. She Was Playing the Stuntwoman for Actress Zazie Beetz
Harris was playing the Domino character in Deadpool 2, who is being portrayed by actress Zazie Beetz. Beetz is best known for playing Vanessa on Atlanta. She also appeared in Netflix’s series Easy.
Harris was posting pictures to her Facebook from Vancouver on Saturday, documenting her travels.
Monday afternoon, Ryan Reynolds took to Twitter to express his condolences.
4. She Was Reportedly Not Wearing a Helmet During the Scene
According to Deadline, Harris was not wearing a helmet during the scene because the Domino character did not wear one.
A source tells the outlet that Harris was in rehearsals for the stunt all day Saturday.
Another source from production said there were “two full days of rehearsals over the weekend, and on Monday, they ran the stunt five-plus times before filming.”
5. She Grew up in Brooklyn
According to her feature in Black Girls Ride Magazine, Harris grew up in in Brooklyn, New York. In 2015, she told the outlet, “I never dreamt of racing, but this was my reality. I didn’t know much about bikes back then.” She honed her skills at the New Jersey Motorsports Park, three hours away from her home in Brooklyn.
Harris is quoted as telling the outlet, “Road racing is very different from motorcross and drag racing. When you go to the track, they don’t teach you how to ride that particular track only. We learn as we go.”
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