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Queens native makes career out of performing Hollywood stunts

Photo courtesy of Derrick Simmons

Derrick Simmons has fallen from the sky, tumbled from a bridge and almost been run over by a car — and he’s done all of it on purpose.

The Queens native has spent the last two decades as a stuntman, standing in for many of the industry’s top actors.

He’s also acted through the years, getting his start in a national commercial while he was still a child.

Now, after writing, producing and acting in three of his own films, he’s hoping to move from taking the fall for Hollywood’s elite to becoming one of the rising stars himself.

“I love the action,“ Simmons said. “It doesn’t feel like a job because I love what I do.”

Simmons spent the first seven years of his life at the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City. He then moved to Woodside, where he remained for the next 14 years, until relocating to the Upper East Side, where he still lives today.

His love for acting began at 10 years old. At that age, he started taking acting classes, and during his first showcase, a talent scout saw him and sent him on his first audition. From that audition, he was cast in a national Burger King commercial, opposite Stacey Dash, who would go on to star in the movie “Clueless.”

“Every time [my family] would hear the commercial on the TV we would run into the room and celebrate,” he said.

The commercial earned him entry into the Screen Actors Guild, but the young Simmons thought the $635 fee was a little steep. But after he received his $1,800 paycheck for the commercial, he decided to join.

More commercials as well as TV work soon followed, and as time went on, he would be pulled aside while acting and be replaced with a stuntman. During those moments Simmons had a thought — why can’t I do the stunts?

He started training with stuntmen, and landed one of his first stunt jobs in 1994 on the TV series “New York Undercover,” where he was thrown off a bridge.

From then on, his “phone started lighting up.”

Simmons has done stunts for Chris Rock in the movie “Dogma,” where he fell out of the sky, Taye Diggs in “The Best Man,” Whoopi Goldberg in the latest “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” installment, the Precious character in the film of the same name, Tracy Morgan in “30 Rock” and the movie “Cop Out,” among others.

“We come to the set and we do the action and there is a lot of adrenaline,” Simmons said.

“It’s a great job as long as you don’t get hurt,” he added.

Simmons has only been sent to the hospital twice as a result of performing stunts.

Once he broke his collarbone during a commercial shoot. The second time, he injured his ankle while filming a scene for “NYPD Blue,” where he had to run from a car and almost get hit by the vehicle.

Though he enjoys his work as a stuntman, Simmons said acting is his “first passion.” But he’s found a new love for filmmaking in roles that put him behind the camera.

In an effort to evolve and grow within the industry, he’s written, produced and directed three movies.

In the first “Jump Offs” (2007), he played three roles, and in the second, “Women Do It Better” (2009), he takes on four parts. Both films examine the world of relationships and “players.” The first movie is from the man’s point of view, and the second from the woman’s.

His latest film, “Nobody’s Perfect,” is his first thriller. The film is about a woman who meets the man of her dreams who turns into a nightmare once they get married. The movie won best film at the Mt. Vernon Film Festival this September.

Simmons hopes to turn more of his scripts into films and get to them to a larger audience so he can become more than just the man who does stunts for the big stars.

“As soon as you hear the word Derrick you will think the word entertainment,” he said.

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