She May be Small But She Is Fierce

by | May 18, 2018 | Closeup

Putting the action in “lights, camera, action,” SAG-AFTRA stuntwoman and kid double Kara Petersen makes her living by falling, fighting, and flipping. Trained in gymnastics and cheerleading, her skills also include fire burns, wire work, fight choreography, and precision driving. “It’s all about using your body as a tool,” she says. “Every job provides new challenges and opportunities to grow as a stunt performer. There’s no better feeling than leaving the set knowing you’ve done a great job.”
At age thirteen, having recently left her gymnastics team, Kara heard about a stunt training course for kids offered by local stunt coordinator Mike Cassidy. Under Mike’s guidance and expert coaching, Kara learned high falls, rappelling, wire work, and the fundamentals of pursuing a stunt career. Working in this industry involves persistence, and this held true for Kara. It wasn’t until six years later at the age of 19 that Kara was hired for her first stunt job on Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place. At 4’11”, Kara is often called upon to double kids, that is, until they grow taller than she is. She has doubled both boys and girls on many Nickelodeon and Disney Channel shows including Game Shakers and Jessie. She has appeared in more than 130 television shows and commercials including NCIS: LA, Scorpion, American Horror Story, The Goldbergs, and Sons of Anarchy. Her films include The Hunger Games, Super 8, and Jurassic World in which she jumped 40 feet off a cliff into a lagoon. “It’s a tough industry to break into,” she said, “but if you can crack it, it can be so rewarding.”
One of Kara’s recent jobs was doubling Drew Barrymore in this season of Netflix series Santa Clarita Diet. This was a dream come true for the homegrown Santa Claritan who attended Saugus High School and currently lives in Valencia. She enjoyed filming locally and was honored to work with such a warm and talented actress whom she admires.
Kara is constantly perfecting her skills to prepare for the next job. She trains daily to maintain strength and agility through kickboxing, gymnastics, CrossFit, and running with the Santa Clarita Runners’ Club. As her own harshest critic, Kara has persevered through many challenges in this business. “It’s hard to stay grounded and not take rejection personally,” Kara said. “There’s pressure to maintain a petite size and to meet the expectations of the director and stunt coordinator.” Kara says being receptive to constructive criticism and maintaining confidence in her abilities is crucial. Thankfully, she has a strong support system of family, friends, and a boyfriend who all inspire her to be the best she can be. Her parents instilled in her the traits of respect and compassion for others. They encouraged her to take risks and be resilient when she falls short of reaching her goal.
Kara hopes to one day open up a gym to support others who are training to be their personal best. Although the future is unpredictable, Kara believes if you give positive, you get positive.