Bruised Interview: Sheila Atim Talks MMA, Ann Wolfe’s Influence

Now streaming on Netflix, Bruised is a gripping sports drama that stars Halle Berry as a retired mixed martial arts fighter looking to make a comeback. Berry’s character is trained by female trainer Bobbi Buddhakan, who is portrayed by Sheila Atim in the film.

“Jackie Justice (Halle Berry) is a mixed martial arts fighter who leaves the sport in disgrace,” says the official synopsis. “Down on her luck and simmering with rage and regret years after the fight, she’s coaxed into a brutal underground fight by her manager and boyfriend Desi (Adan Canto) and grabs the attention of a fight league promoter (Shamier Anderson) who promises Jackie a life back in the octagon. But the road to redemption becomes unexpectedly personal when Manny (Danny Boyd, Jr.) — the son she gave up as an infant — shows up at her doorstep.”

RELATED: Interview: Halle Berry Talks Bruised, Her Love for Mixed Martial Arts

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with Bruised star Sheila Atim about the film, her relationship with MMA, and the inspiration she drew from real-life coaches.

Tyler Treese: I was really curious about your interest in mixed martial arts. Were you very familiar with it before the role and if not, did this kind of get the bug in you, and have you been paying more attention since this role?

Sheila Atim: Yeah, I knew of mixed martial arts and I probably watched the odd YouTube compilation of somebody getting their arm broken or something, but I didn’t know a lot about the world really at all. I’d done some beginner classes in Chinese kickboxing and some Tai Chi and stuff. So I had an awareness of different fighting styles and things, but yeah, this was by far the most involved that I’d ever got in terms of trying to understand it. I did fall in love with it actually.

I still find it kind of hard to watch because I’m a little bit squeamish in that way, but I have so much admiration for the athleticism of these people, particularly with mixed martial arts, it feels like you just have to know how to use every single part of your body to maximum impact. I think that’s, that’s so cool to be able to be that well-rounded and agile. So yeah, it was new for me. It was a cool journey.

There are some incredible women that have served as trainers in combat sports such as Ann Wolfe. Did they serve as an inspiration or what kind of prep went into that role of Bobbi?

Yeah, so I had a bit of a mix of watching videos about people such as Ann Wolfe and trying to understand women in MMA specifically. Trying to understand what that’s like, because to be honest, a lot of the MMA that I’d watched previously had been men fighting. So to understand that world a little bit more, and then when I was in London, I did have a few classes with some people that I know who are MMA fighters and trainers to see how they trained me. Some of them are friends, so they would also give me tips or they would talk about how their trainers train them, and the things that they say, phrases that they use, and techniques that they use.

Then once I got to New Jersey, I did also have some stunt training there as well. So it was a bit of a mixed bag. I’m trying to put it all together to understand the sport, understand how people train, and then understand what my version of that would be as Bobbi, who is a British woman living in New Jersey, and it’s not clear how she kind of washed up there, but there she is trying to put all those elements together.

RELATED: Interview: UFC Champion Valentina Shevchenko on Filming Bruised

This was such a personal film for Halle, and I’m always interested when there’s a director-actor. Does that change how stuff is communicated any? How is it being so close with the director in so many scenes?

I think it’s two things. I’ve worked with a few directors who have been actors before and generally they understand our thought processes and what’s needed in order to understand things. Therefore, in order to be able to actually action the notes that you give someone, so there’s definitely that part of it. Her wealth of experience in that way made it so easy for her to direct others.

But also I think it’s just about her as a person. She’s very open. She’s very honest. She’s got a very gentle nature as well as being a very kind of strong and assertive figure. So, I felt very supported and held when I was working with her. I felt like I knew if I ever needed anything, I could immediately ask her, but equally, I had the freedom and the trust from her to be able to sit in the character the way I needed to sit in it. So I think it’s both. It’s definitely a testament to her as well as to her experience as an actor.

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