The up-and-coming actress trained like a police officer, tennis player, and stunt diver for three upcoming movies—and kicks ass all along the way.
You're about to hear Jessica McNamee's name a lot more in the coming months—the Australian actress is hitting the big screen in a big way in 2017 and 2018 with three major movies: the action-comedy reboot CHiPs, out this Friday, March 24 (catch her as badass California Highway Patrol officer Lindsey Taylor, taking names and running some thrilling high-speed chases alongside Michael Peña and Dax Shepard); tennis biopic Battle of the Sexes, in theaters later in 2017; and shark thriller Meg, out early 2018. We chatted with her to catch up on all the fierce training she's done to prep for these flicks and all those stunts.
How She Trained to Be a Super-Fit Cop
"Training for CHiPs was interesting, because outside of stunt dive training, I just had to be in shape—cops are really physically fit. So that was just my usual training routine. I was just doing a lot of Pilates, yoga, hiking, and running, mixing up my activities. Even though I prefer working out in the afternoon because it's when I have the most energy, I learned I needed to train in the morning, otherwise my day gets off to a slow start. Ideally, I'll do yoga or go for a big hike in the morning, and then do more of a heavy-loaded workout in the afternoon—but I rarely have the time to do that! No matter what, yoga is a constant in my life. I find that if I'm not practicing yoga frequently, I certainly feel less stable. It's certainly something that I need to continue doing to feel good about myself."
How She Fuels Up In the Kitchen
"I love cooking for myself—I pride myself on the fact that I can make a meal out of anything that's in the fridge in 10 minutes. My girlfriends started this thing where we kind of throw whatever's in the fridge together in the most creative way possible...I find whatever I can and just mix it up in a salad, and throw in poached eggs or chicken, or fish—that's kind of my go-to meal. (Here's how to do healthy dinner bowls Jessica-style tonight.) I've also started experimenting with some more vegan and gluten-free options, so the latest thing that I started making is cauliflower-based pizza. I love pasta but feel really sluggish and heavy if I eat too much wheat, so I started eating vegetable-based and bean-based pastas. I find them to be great substitutes."
How She Trained to Play a Real Tennis Star with More Titles Than Serena
"Training with [former pro-tennis player] Vince Spadea for Battle of the Sexes was very intense! I play against Emma Stone and Steve Carrell in the movie and we all had to be good enough to get on the court with each other and look like we were playing another professionally! So I spent two months learning and perfecting my technique, which was amazing. I play a pro named Margaret Court, who still actually holds the most titles for Grand Slams—she still beats Serena Williams for most held—so it was really important for me that the style was correct. I've played a little bit—my family is really into tennis; in Australia it's quite a popular sport, but it was interesting because I had to play with a wooden racket, so it was like going back in time with the style. I have a more modern style, a double backhand in my natural game; and she had a very strong backhand, so I had to re-train and going back to the start really was tough.
"Court was also called 'The Arm,' so on top of training every day with a coach, I had to work on getting some arm muscles. I was doing some specific shoulder and arm and leg weightlifting, to kind of get the definition and also the strength that I needed between my shoulders and arms, and just to make sure I was building up the right muscles, so I didn't hurt myself playing so much tennis."
How She Learned to Escape Shark-Infested Waters
"For Meg, we worked out with weights, but the main focus of training was swimming. We were in the pool every morning during pre-production and then two more weeks after that during filming. It started with basics of blowing bubbles, relearning breathing techniques, swimming laps, and perfecting our technique. Then we went into the harder stuff of endurance, long-distance swimming, and deep sea diving, so we were doing obstacle courses, and learning to hold our breath to build up our lung capacity. And then because we were having to jump off obstacles on set into the ocean we also worked on our high diving skills, which was pretty cool too!
"I was always athletic growing up and played a bunch of different sports. But swimming was one of the ones I never thought I had the endurance for—I've never thought of myself as a swimmer. I've always been a runner, and that was my strength since high school and what I competed in. But after relearning the basic elements of swimming I've continued with it. Long-distance swimming is awesome—it's really therapeutic, and kind of meditative. I really enjoy being in the water now."
The One Beach-Friendly Beauty Product She Wears By
"I'm really into Egyptian Magic at the moment. After shooting Meg in New Zealand in chlorinated water for like four months, and I found that to be really hydrating but also a really good barrier to the elements—the chlorine—and just being in the water all the time; it just like deactivates a barrier. I found that I put it in my hair and it takes off the chlorine a bit."