Viola Davis’ trainer on The Woman King explains the actress’ workout routine and weapons training. Set in 1823, Davis stars as General Nanisca, the strong capable leader of the Agojie, a real-life all-female legion of the West African Kingdom of Dahomey. Under the young King Ghezo (John Boyega), Nanisca leads her army against rival empires and invading European forces. Originally based on a story developed by A History of Violence star Maria Bello, the film will also star Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, and Adrienne Warren.
As The Woman King is a sword-and-sandal historical epic, there will be a high level of action and hand-to-hand combat scenes. The film’s director, Gina Prince-Bythewood, recently teased a massive Braveheart-sized battle that used thousands of extras. Such scale would require a significant amount of training from the actors to realistically recreate West African warfare from the early 19th century.
Per PeopleDavis and her co-stars’ workout routine and weapons training for The Woman King has been revealed. The main stars of the film were subjected to nine months of intense physical training for their roles as Dahomey warriors. This included high-intensity workouts with strength training and weightlifting that was personally catered to each actor following a DNA test. The film’s trainer and nutritionist, Gabriela Mclain, explained that, “There’s no one plan fits all. Everybody needs to train in a different way.” The stars also incorporated three hours of martial arts training and two hours of weapons training into their routine. In an associated video, Davis explained that she engaged in “everything from swordplay, spears, machetes. Lots of punching.“After going through all of her training, Davis admits that she “feels like a badass.”
To resemble the fierce women whose story inspired the film, the actors had to sculpt their bodies and build up their endurance. “My goal was to pretty much make it natural, just as the woman would look if they were to go and fight because it’s based on true stories,” Mclain said. The trainer wanted to stay as authentic as possible and transform the actors into warriors. Based on a recent trailer for The Woman King, the meticulous and strenuous training definitely paid off. Davis is far more muscular than she’s even been in any of her previous roles as she can now manipulate a variety of weapons with ease as the real-life warriors would have done hundreds of years ago. Her extensive training just spotlights how dedicated Davis is to the role, and to making The Woman King as accurate as possible.
It is not uncommon for films to require actors to undergo significant training for roles to faithfully realize their characters on the screen. To recreate the soldier experience, the stars of Saving Private Ryan had to go through a World War II boot camp to accurately portray a small rifle platoon in the US Army. More recently, Top Gun: Maverick actors had to go through physical and flight training to realistically interact with real fighter jets. The Woman King has proven to be no different in that regard. For its stars to properly represent and tell the true story of the Dahomey warriors, they needed to look as tough and fight as fierce as the Agojie had. Hopefully, the cast of The Woman King will earn some rave reviews after putting in all this hard work.