Winston Duke talks ‘The Fall Guy,’ overcoming fear

“Fear, I look at as a good thing. I always look at fear as something that tells me that I'm taking this seriously,” Duke tells theGrio exclusively.

Winston Duke at the premiere of "The Fall Guy" as part of SXSW 2024 Conference and Festivals held at the Paramount Theatre on March 12, 2024 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Gilbert Flores/SXSW Conference & Festivals via Getty Images)

Winston Duke’s newest character is all about the thrill. 

In “The Fall Guy,” Duke plays Dan Tucker, a talented stunt coordinator who knows how to make the most challenging movie stunts seem fun and easy. When his best friend, stuntman Colt Seavers (Ryan Gosling), gets involved with a few shady characters — on and off the set — Tucker is tasked with helping his buddy get answers and complete their sci-fi movie. 

Duke tells theGrio in an exclusive interview that he sought out “The Fall Guy” because he was ready to work on a project that brought him joy. The action comedy film is funny, heartwarming, and fun, with a deeper level of seriousness underneath, according to Duke. 

“I was in a place in my life where I said I wanted to do something fun,” Duke explains. “I didn’t want to do something super heavy. From the onset, the really great thing about movies is that they can be really layered. So even though the top layer may be very funny and palatable, sometimes the depth and the seriousness can be three layers beneath. I wanted something that at the outset, we can have a lot of fun and then find the meaning.”

While Duke’s character may be fearless in his new film, it’s a characteristic he had to develop in real life. The Tobagonian-Rwandan actor says that he is typically a “very fearful person,” but often challenges himself to look fear in the eye and overcome it. 

Winston Duke is Dan Tucker in “The Fall Guy,” directed by David Leitch. (Credit: Eric Laciste/Universal Pictures)

“Fear, I look at as a good thing. I always look at fear as something that tells me that I’m taking this seriously,” Duke shares. “Anytime I don’t have fear, I then wonder why I’m so casual. I think I’m a very fearful person. That’s what, to me, builds a lot of my integrity because I’m like — I recognize that this is important.”

“I recognize that there are consequences. I recognize all these things, and I’m gonna do it anyway. Right? I’m gonna do it anyway and I’m gonna come out better on the other end. I’m fearful of every project I take. I’m fearful of every stunt that I do. I’m fearful of every new relationship I make, all these things, but you know, you still do it.”

In “The Fall Guy,” Duke chose to perform many of his own stunts regardless of the fear. The actor hopes the film will expose audiences to the often underappreciated work of stunt performers, including his own stuntman, JoJo, who worked with Duke on “The Fall Guy” and “Black Panther.” 

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“I always end up doing a good amount of my stunts,” Duke says. “But I’m always chaperoned and partnered with a really great team. JoJo was on this stunt team. He had a really great relationship with me. He knew my body and knew how I worked. When he was putting things together for me, before I even showed up, he had an idea of how to tell the story with certain moves that I’m very familiar with.”

“My relationship with the entire [stunt] team was one that was super helpful,” Duke adds. “I also played the stunt coordinator in this movie. So I got to shadow the stunt coordinator, Chris O’Hara, and the rest of the stunt team, just for my own study.”

“The Fall Guy” is available to watch now in theaters nationwide.