Today I talk to the rising action star Brahim Chab who recently played the role of Broto in the new Jackie Chan‘s movie Vanguard. I sure you have seen him in many other movies alongside Scott Adkins, Van Damme, Keanu Reeves and even in the famous Strike Back TV Series.
Budomate: You have phenomenal kicking skills, could you please tell what or who led you to martial arts and which arts have you been studying?
Brahim: Thank you for the nice words about my kicking skills. I started martial arts after watching a Jackie Chan movie called First Strike back when I was 14 years old.
At the time there wasn’t a lot of options around my house so I took up Aikido first at 14 years old and added Karate Wado Ryu cause I wanted striking more than joint locks.
Two years later I discovered tricking through a friend of mine who took me to watch a tricking competition. I fell in love with it and focused on that side for many years. My kicking and acrobatic background purely came from tricking. I never took gymnastic and my style for flipping is really trickster oriented.
When I started my film career I realized a lot of the tricking kicks and acrobatics needed to be adjusted for movies and camera angles so I adapted my style for film work. I also studied Boxing a bit of Muay Thai and nowadays I train BJJ at least 4 times a week if I am not working.
Budomate: I’ve heard you have been tricking with a stunt group called Cascade. Could you tell about these guys and what they do?
Brahim: You did your homework I am surprised you know I started tricking with this group. Team Cascade is a group of martial artists who at the time had classes for kids who wanted to learn to trick and compete in musical forms.
Every one of the teachers came from a Taekwondo or Vovinam background. The main coach was Maurice Chan who still runs the group but nowadays it is more oriented on big events and also stunt work for movies in Europe. I trained there for 3 years.
Budomate: I suppose you are in the movies since 2007, how did you get into the business?
Brahim: I was teaching tricking in Paris on the weekends in a group called X Swipe. After travelling to the US and competing in a few tournaments over there, I thought it was time to stop doing tricking for fun and start to make a living out of it.
In 2006 I stopped competing and focused on trying to get into stunt work first in France but I quickly realized the market in France was controlled by a few older performers who kept young and hungry guys like me out. I went to a few castings and many times could not even cast so I got very depressed for a year and stopped putting efforts into it.
The owner of the X swipe school asked us if we wanted to go on a holiday to Thailand and do a casting for Ong Bak 2 at the same time. So the trip was fully paid and I did not have a job in France so I just packed my bag and followed my friends.
We landed in Bangkok completely exhausted I remember sleeping and waking up around 2 am. Walked outside and it was a cultural shock. I hated it at first and just wanted to leave. My friend told me we will leave after the casting was done so we went to the casting and of course we didn’t get it.
We met Tony Jaa, took a few pictures and most of the guys took the plane back to France to go back to their usual routine. My instinct told me to stay so I told my friends “Guys I am gonna stick around here for a bit more”.
My gut told me to stay and something was gonna happen here. After running out of money after 2 months I had to leave back to France but I managed to meet a few people who did movies there.
Went back to Paris found a few small jobs to save up money and in 2007 I packed my bag once again but this time I made a promise to myself – If I did not have a stable film career in 3 years I would quit and change job.
With a lot of hard work, I managed to make my dreams come true and until today still work in the film business.
Budomate: I remember the first time I noticed you in the Man of Tai Chi alongside Keanu Reeves and Tiger Chen in 2013, was it different to work with Keanu?
Brahim: Working with Keanu Reeves was an amazing experience. I got cast on the film by a very good friend of mine and I consider him like a big brother, my good friend Mike Leeder. He asked me to send him a reel of me doing all kind of kicking. I did and a week later I was on a plane to work with Keanu and Yuen Woo Ping. Keanu Reeves is just a down to earth human being.
Budomate: You already played in a few movies with Jackie Chan, how did you meet him and his team?
Brahim: I met JC stunt team back in 2014 when I worked on the film Dragon Blade. They were looking for a lot of Roman looking action actors. They contacted me back in January 2014 and at first, I thought it was a joke so I didn’t really take it seriously but then again later around July of the same year they messaged me again asking me if I had a Chinese visa and to my luck I did.
Next day after 3 flights, I was in the Gobi desert getting to work with Jackie Chan. The whole process was quite crazy as out of nowhere I was finally working with Jackie Chan and his team.
Budomate: You worked with Van Damme on a few of his movies as well, what was the most memorable moment on sets?
Brahim: Jean Claude is one of the nicest actors I ever worked with. We always speak French on the set and when I first met him on The Eagle Path, he told me “I reminded him of this french Muay Thai fighter called Dida Diafat”.
So later on Pound of Flesh when Mike brought me to work, Jean Claude cast me as well in the movie. I remember him taking me to his trailer and showing me footage from the Eagle Path last time I saw him in China and we talked about his old films and how to stay in shape over the years.
Budomate: I’m a big fan of Strike Back TV Series, how did you get there for the role of Russian Soldier?
Brahim: I got to work on Strike Back through a casting director from Malaysia. They did shoot in Thailand before but for some reason, I did not get to work on it until season 7.
Budomate: I suppose you spend a lot of time in Thailand now, where many movies are filming, what made you move over there like many other stunt guys?
Brahim: As I said earlier moving to Thailand was not what I was planning at first. I came for a holiday which turned into a whole different plan. After Ong Bak, Thailand was the new Hong Kong for martial arts action movies and a lot of westerners moved there to pursue their dreams to be in that kind of films.
I met people here who became my best friends like Tim Man. It was an amazing cause in a gym we had at least 20 westerners training and we all went to the same castings or jobs. It was almost like the foreign legion and every job we had guys with big egos or guys who came for a few months then discovered how hard this business was then to go home.
Budomate: Do you remember your first day on sets when you have to act not fight?
Brahim: That day was when I did Streetfighter the Legend of Chun Li. I was cast in the film with 2 lines and a little fight with Kristin Kreuk. I was never really worried about acting I just never really thought of myself of an actor even today, I am just a guy who enjoys doing action movies and if there are lines well I will just say them as naturally as possible without thinking too much. I think that is where people get it all wrong about acting and fighting. Doing stunts for me is acting.
You don’t say lines but you perform your body movement and facial expressions. So I have been acting since my first stunt job in my eyes but lines to me are just words so when I had to do lines I try to be as natural as possible just like when I do a stunt.
I always laugh when I read other action actors who do minor roles like me say they had to go method acting for this role or that role, I think it’s just plain bigotry. We ain’t doing Shakespeare at least not yet so let’s not make it more difficult than it is.
Budomate: I suppose most of the fans know you by the role of Igor Kazmir in Boyka movie, who invited you for the role and why nobody invited you in previous movies?
Brahim: I met Tim Man in 2007 in Thailand. He was already a stuntman in Sweden and was also doing a lot of work in Thailand. I remember emailing him when I was in France asking him questions and how to get into the film business? He was very nice to take me on some films he did as a fight coordinator like Kill Em All and Ninja Shadow of a tear.
We met Isaac on Ninja Shadow of a Tear and Scott of course. Later on, when they were doing Boyka Undisputed they were having a hard time to find someone to play Igor Kazmir and Tim suggested they use me. I think they were, of course, a bit septical at first since it was such a big part in what is considered by many to be the best western martial art franchise.
Tim convinced Isaac, Isaac convinced Scott and this is how I got to be in the film. I would have never been able to work on the previous ones as I was a very slim guy back then so I needed time to put on muscle. The luck I had was I am always working out so I am always in ready shape so I did not need to pump up that hard to get how you saw me in the film.
Budomate: You used you to double Scott Adkins for some of his trademark aerial kicks when he injured his back. Was it hard to repeat what Scott does?
Brahim: The hardest part was to make my hair look like his hahaha. Scott can do all the moves I do, to be honest, it was not hard since we have a very similar style and also the same body structure and height. Scott is an amazing martial artist and also a great person. I am glad to call him my friend today and he has been very supportive of me over the years.
Budomate: Please tell about your Broto character and why it is so good at Vanguard? Any plans for a spin-off?
Brahim: I am very happy that people liked the character I played in the film. Broto is a special force that is doing a lot of dirty work in the middle east. He gets hired by Omar who wants to kidnap an accountant who used to work for his dad. Broto goes on the mission but then gets stopped by the Vanguard group lead by Jackie Chan. Then the story takes us from England to Dubai.
I don’t know if there will be a spin-off but if Stanley Tong wants me to come back in Vanguard 2 I will be happy to join again.
Budomate: What is your favourite role so far?
Brahim: Broto was by far my favourite role
Budomate: What is your dream role and who do you want to work with on the future?
Brahim: I would like to come back in the Undisputed series and showcase more of Igor cause I think there is something more to do with this character in a similar fashion of what they did with Boyka in part 3. Why not one more episode of Undisputed and bring back Igor again that would be something I will be glad to do.
Budomate: Could you name your three favourite martial arts movies?
Brahim: Drunken Master 2, Drive and Kickboxer.
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