The fight scenes on the hit Netflix show may be scripted, but Lesley-Ann Brandt's stunt moves, and the muscles that make them happen, could not be more real.

By Faith Brar
June 04, 2021
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Credit: Getty Images / Paolo Mascitti

"When I do something, I give it my all," says Lesley-Ann Brandt, who stars in the hit Netflix show Lucifer, which just released the second set of episodes from season 5 on the streaming platform last week.

The South African actress has played the demon Mazikeen (aka Maze), Hell's former head torturer and the devil's BFF (naturally), on the show since 2016. While Brandt doesn't have actual superhuman strength and speed like her character, get one look at her training schedule and insane stunt work on set, and you'd be surprised to learn she didn't make some deal with the devil to become this badass IRL.

"I do about ninety percent of all the stunts you see on screen," Brandt tells Shape. "I've always been an athlete. Being physically active is a huge part of my personal life — and I think a big part of Maze as a character is her physicality and the way she moves."

Brandt admits it's one of her biggest pet peeves when it's clear an actor is using a stunt double during fight scenes. "I just hate seeing that," she laughs. "I'm such a huge action fan. So, from the very beginning, I've worked on giving as many usable takes of me doing a variety of stunts so that the fighting scenes look and feel real. I want people to believe that Maze can do some damage — and it's easier to bring that to life when you can see real sweat on my face."

In preparation for the show, Brandt clocks five days a week in the gym, working closely with Paolo Mascitti, an L.A.-based celeb trainer who also counts Lana Condor, Hilary Duff, Alex Russell, and Nicole Scherzinger as clients. From day one, Brandt's vibed with Mascitti's belief that fitness is a lifestyle. "The reason why Paolo and I work so well together is that fitness is just a part of our lives — almost like another limb," she says. "He also understands what every woman's body is different. I'm turning 40 this year, and he understands where I'm at with my metabolism and what my body needs to maintain muscle mass and strength so I can continue doing what I love."

The duo's sessions are typically an hour long and focus on overall strength, flexibility, agility, and endurance, explains Mascitti. "We do a lot of plyometric exercises combined with strength training to accommodate her need to move quickly and for long periods of time while she's shooting."

For the upper body, Mascitti says Brandt focuses on movements such as pull-ups, lateral arm raises, chest presses, and overhead presses. But the bread and butter of her training is core and lower body strength work (i.e. squats, deadlifts, and side lunges) paired with a lot of heart rate-boosting cardio exercises (i.e. jump squats, burpees, sprints, and thrusters), explains Mascitti.

"To mix things up, we usually focus two or three sessions on resistance training, and two to three sessions of high-intensity interval training," he says, adding that Brandt's workout program is switched up every four to six weeks to stay engaged and motivated.

Meanwhile, Brandt fuels her fitness with a plant-based diet. "I always have a fridge full of vegetables," she says. Quinoa, lentils, and beans also make up a larger portion of what she eats, and she says she tries to steer clear of meat substitute products — at least most of the time. "I'll be honest, I do love an Impossible Burger, but I honestly just fell in love with trying different cuisines, new recipes, and finding new ways to fuel my body and keep me energized."

Mascetti says that in the four years he's worked with Brandt, he's gotten to admire her hustle both in and out of the gym. "She's someone who is extremely committed and has an excellent work ethic," he says. "I don't think being healthy is an option for her. [It's a given], which means it's not a struggle at all."

As Brandt puts it, "I've never viewed fitness as a job. In fact, I feel bad when I'm not moving because I know what the benefits are, not just physically, but mentally. Sometimes, when I've had a really busy, stressful day and have worked 15-17 hours, I still make time to work out because I want the endorphins and want to sleep better at night, too."

Aside from her personal appreciation for fitness, Brandt says getting into character is a huge motivation as well. "As an actor, you have to look the part," she shares. "Maze's physique is such a huge part of her character that for the past six years, that's also been a huge motivation for me to pour myself into my training."

What Mascetti and Brandt do in the gym translates perfectly into her stunt work. "A part of my training is simply maintenance," she says. "But whenever I'm coming up on a fight, about a week prior, I rev up my cardio and lower body strength, since I'm almost always fighting in heels. You want to make sure your center of gravity is on point and that your legs are strong enough to handle seven hours of punching, kicking, and constant movement."

Stunt work is a lot like learning choreography, says the actress. In fact, Brandt and other members of the show work hand-in-hand with stunt doubles to learn and execute the moves that go into a specific combat scene. "I will look at certain moves and ask if they can be more elaborate and dynamic, or if they need to be toned down because I'm dealing with an injury, or they're simply out of my skill set," explains Brandt. "It's a very close and collaborative relationship, which I really appreciate — and they trust and challenge me."

Brandt says she'll usually spend hours learning stunts — sometimes asking for extra rehearsals so that come filming time, she's on her A-game. "My goal is to give the editors as much as I can to work with, in the shortest amount of time, and the only way I can do that is by coming into filming as prepared as possible," she says.

Doing stunt work on top of acting is no easy feat, but Brandt somehow makes it look easy — plus, she wouldn't have it any other way. "I love it," she says point-blank. "If I don't come back with some bruises, I don't feel like I fully threw myself in there. I think seeing strong women actually kick ass, and who look the part, too, is so empowering. I always loved Terminator because Linda Hamilton looked so strong. Even Demi Moore in GI Jane looked like she could take anyone. I really love to see that representation for young girls. It's so important to show that strength comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes — and I appreciate that that's a huge part of my job."