When the Disney Channel’s K.C. Undercover begins production for its second season on Monday, a white stuntwoman who’s the wife of the show’s stunt coordinator will once again be the main stunt double for the show’s African American star. And that’s okay with SAG-AFTRA, which says it’s satisfied that the show’s producers made the good faith effort that’s required by its contract to “endeavor” to hire stunt performers who are the same race as the actors they’re doubling.
The show’s biracial star, 19-year-old Zendaya – whose real-life father is black and whose mother is white – plays K.C. Cooper, the daughter of African American spies. “Series producers plan to continue working with the most recently hired stunt-person based on her skill, her job performance, her availability and – vital for this specific job – her body type, which matches very well with Zendaya,” said Disney Channel spokesperson Patti McTeague. “There is no other job opening for a Zendaya stunt double at this time.” She noted, however, that “if and when” that stuntwoman “is not available, recruiting and auditions would then commence based on qualifications I outlined.”
SAG-AFTRA began looking into matter earlier this year after several African American stuntwomen complained that the show’s producers hadn’t reached out to the black stunt community before hiring a white stuntwoman to double for Zendaya. They felt that the fact that the stunt coordinator’s white wife was hired for the job was proof that the producers hadn’t lived up to the mandates of the union’s non-discrimination clause, which states that the stunt coordinator must “endeavor to cast qualified persons of the same sex and/or race involved.”
The Disney Channel has maintained all along that it was “in compliance with the SAG-AFTRA agreement,” and after completing its investigation, the union agrees. Asked how much the producers “endeavored” to find a stuntwoman who’s the same race as Zendaya, Adam Moore, the guild’s national director of EEO and Diversity, said: “In a way that we found to be in compliance with the contract language.” The show is produced by It’s A Laugh Productions, which is signatory to the union’s contract.
“It’s fair to say that I have had very productive conversations with both the producers and with some members who had brought their concern to us,” Moore told Deadline. “I was able to talk with the producers about how they can, in the future, do a better job of identifying and bringing in underrepresented stunt performers, particularly women of color.” Disney said that two other stuntwomen – one white and one Hispanic – also doubled for the show’s star last season.
“The goal is to inform the producers and those involved in the production of K.C. Undercover on how they can go about expanding the groups of performers they look at to compete for the jobs they have that perhaps they didn’t take advantage of last time,” Moore said. “My takeaway from the conversations is that they are appreciative of any resources and advice we can give them about how they can continue to employ diverse people on their production in expanded ways that they might not have done before.”
“It may be,” he said, “that we as a union need to do a better job of explaining to stunt coordinators what the people who hire them must do to fulfill this ‘shall endeavor’ language in the contract. We need to talk with our stunt coordinators about the language in the contract, the pool of talent that is out there, and the performers who are out there who are competing for these jobs. We are currently developing these educational programs and material. There is a lot we’ve done, but this issue of increasing opportunities for stunt performers of color is something we can and must address proactively.”