'Queen of Lightsabers' Michelle C. Smith on Her Love of Star Wars and the Importance of Stunts
If you've seen Michelle C. Smith in action for even five seconds, you'll know why she's been crowned the "Queen of the Lightsabers."
The Canadian stunt performer and actress actually got her start as a world-champion baton twirler before the time she turned 10, before moving on to the film world as an adult. Her impressive screen credits include Deadpool, Supergirl and so many more, but she's even better known as a viral social media creator with more than 2.6 million followers across her channels. Her love of Star Wars and her epic lightsaber tricks have made her content a sight to behold, and lucky for all of us, Michelle is also a natural-born teacher, whose tutorials and online classes can teach us all to work a bit of our own lightsaber magic. We jumped at the opportunity to speak with Michelle all about her incredible career and the passions that brought her where she is today, and she shared it all with us in the interview below.
Sweety High: Can you tell us a little bit about your history with baton twirling? How did you wind up taking that passion into adulthood, and how did it eventually lead you to the world of stunts?
Sweety High: Absolutely! I started baton when I was 5 years old in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. I had no idea what a baton was or all the magic it would lead to at the time. Baton became a very serious sport for me right away. By the age of 9, I was competing at a national level and by 11, I was competing at the World Championships. I went on to win multiple national and world titles.
Through all that heavy pressure and competition, I was not only training every day in baton, I was also competing full time in dance (jazz, ballet, lyrical, tap, musical theatre, etc.) as well as training in gymnastics. It was really intense. However, the volume and quality of my athletic background is 100% what led me into the successful career I have today.
Upon retiring from the sport when I was 19, I moved immediately into my professional career, starting off as a professional dancer. I then eventually moved into circus arts where I performed with a professional circus company called the Underground Circus, whom I worked with for 10 years before eventually finding my way into stunts. And the rest is history!
(Photo credit: Ror Tio)
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SH: Have you always been a Star Wars fan? At what point did you realize that baton-twirling might make you an amazing lightsaber twirler, and make that a skill you can really show off?
MCS: Yes! I loved Star Wars from the start. My first memories were from my early, early childhood watching Empire Strikes Back with my dad. I remember loving Darth Vader—I called him Dark Vapour for a long time. I was in middle school when the special edition VHS set came out, and we watched it in my language arts class. I was hooked ever since then. I watched those first three movies many, many times.
I don't think there was an exact point that I thought about my skills translating into lightsabers. The baton skills and technique run so deep within me now that they're just a part of who I am. I just knew that I could use a lightsaber or a sword or any weapon with ease and grace.
(Photo credit: Ror Tio)
SH: Have you been surprised by the big following you've found on social media demonstrating your stunt and twirling skills? What do you think it is about your craft that people love?
MCS: I have been completely surprised! Especially because I grew up in a sport that the world doesn't really know much about. I've always felt like I needed to defend myself and fight off the accusations of being a "majorette" because my baton experience didn't reflect that whatsoever.
When I started posting videos of cool tricks and skills, I wasn't doing it for views or followers—I was doing it because I wanted to acknowledge and celebrate a really unique part of me. The fact that people caught on and started following has been such a beautiful gift.
What it shows is that people love the energy these spinning skills can bring. There's just something so magical about it. It's intricate, skillful, exciting and a little dangerous! My mission has been to find a way to make the ability to learn these skills more accessible and cool.
The reason I have been able to pursue a career in stunts, circus, film, etc. is because of the attributes that I gained from training with my batons. There's a grace and confidence that lives inside of me because of the success I've found with them, and I really want to share that with other people. I want people to feel as confident and as empowered as I do. If my social media can help infuse that inspiration into others, then it's worth it.
(Photo credit: Ror Tio)
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SH: The stunt community are truly unsung heroes in the cinematic world. Can you tell us a little bit about the importance of highlighting this community, and why it matters to you?
MCS: The stunt department is crucial to the success of a project. We're the invisible performers on set. Our job is to step up to the plate when necessary and fade into the background when we're done. But we're always there!
Our faces aren't on camera, but we're present in scenes, and we are there working with the actors and crew to bring each story to light in the best possible way. Many of my peers, including myself, have been training for decades at the highest levels possible. We do our job at the risk of our own health and safety. We, of course, take all the precautions necessary, but still—there's always a risk. That's why we're there!
It can be a bit disheartening knowing that the work we do (and most of us have been doing for our entire lives) is not deemed worthy of an Academy Award or sometimes even putting our names in the credits. Personally, I think that the best we can do as stunt professionals is continue doing great work and sharing our stories. There are so many really cool stunt performers out there with amazing stories that I believe the world needs to hear.
SH: What have been some of your most notable stunt roles? Is there one performance you're proudest of?
MCS: I've worked on a lot of shows, and I always forget which ones when I get asked this question. Deadpool, Supergirl, Arrow, The 100, Motherland, See—there are way more.
I've always been really proud of my work on Deadpool. The entire gig came out of nowhere when I wasn't expecting it, and I am proud of how I was able to rise to the occasion. I was doubling an actor who was quite competent in her ability to fight, so I spent a lot of time crashing into things. I crashed into all the things, didn't get hurt and proved to myself (and the stunt community) that I am very capable of working at the highest levels. Also, I got to practice and rehearse the "superhero landing" before the rest of the world got to see it.
SH: Any tips for Star Wars fans who want to get better at twirling their own lightsabers?
MCS: Less is more! Slow is smooth—smooth is fast. Lightsabers are very aesthetically pleasing fantasy weapon. There is so much room for creative exploration. The light of the blade creates such beautiful shapes that other weapons aren't able to achieve, so you can use that to your advantage when creating cool combos. Also, make sure you practice with a staff or practice sword first before you go outside and start dropping your fancy lightsaber.
(Photo credit: Ror Tio)
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SH: Tell us about your special project for Star Wars Day on May 4th this year.
MCS: My team and I just dropped an epic Star Wars fan film featuring Asajj Ventress! I'm so excited and proud of how it turned out. All of the million little pieces that needed to come together to make this project a success did, and it's so exciting to see the amazing fan reactions from it. We had such an amazing team of people come out and work on our show. They donated their time, expertise and energy to help create something epic.
You can find Michelle all over the internet, from her Instagram page to her TikTok, YouTube and her official website. You can also click HERE to explore her Freestyle Staff Academy and click HERE to access a free course.
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