The Wolfpacker

January 2021

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021 ■ 41 She was auditioning for the famed traveling circus Cirque du Soleil and was a finalist when former NC State gymnastics assistant coach Todd Henry became aware of a job opening at Sea World in San Diego with its acrobatic show. With that tip, Hancock pursued and landed the job, and she moved to California right after her graduation from NC State. For six months she worked on the Sea World show, an experience she described as "amazing." "That just told me right away that per- forming was what I was good at, what I wanted to keep doing," Hancock said. While in San Diego, Hancock learned about an ABC Family show in production called "Make It Or Break It." The plot of the series: a group of four teenagers pursing their Olympic dreams in gymnastics. The actresses were not old enough to meet the age limit of 18 years old to do their own stunts, and nearby NCAA gymnasts could not take money to perform on the set for them because it would have meant giv- ing up their eligibility. "There were only a handful that had grad- uated who could still do gymnastics and were local to L.A.," Hancock added. "They asked me to move up there from San Diego, and I stayed on with them." After that, in 2012, Hancock was hired to do stunts on the blockbuster movie "The Hunger Games," which led to an invitation for her and her husband to walk on the red carpet in Hollywood. That has led to a lengthy list of credits in stunt work for Hancock, including in 2018 on "A Quiet Place," a popular, action- packed, sci-fi horror film that Hancock at- tributed to really boosting her career. "I was working a lot," Hancock noted. "I probably only had a few weeks off from June 2019 until about February 2020." Her work included traveling to Thailand; Buffalo, N.Y.; and Asheville, N.C., the latter for Hunger Games. What she has found is that the same fearless mentality that carried her so well on the beam may not apply to stunts. "I love it, but there's a lot more that can go wrong, and there's a lot more that unfor- tunately people have died from," Hancock said. "I have to trust a lot of the people that I am working with. Before I didn't have to do that. It was just about me and the event. "One of the stunts I did last summer was I was sitting in the passenger seat in a car, and the driver had to drive on a two-lane bridge with another car coming straight on, head on, and the car had to veer off but into the passenger side — which is me. So if that car that is coming at 45-50 miles per hour turns at the wrong time, the person that is going to get hurt is me, not the driver." Once the COVID-19 pandemic lifts, Hancock hopes to get back to her busy schedule. In the mean- time, she continues to train, re- cently completing a driving class to learn how to do tricks behind the wheel. She is also focused on being a parent to her three chil- dren, including a daughter who does gymnastics that Hancock helps coach at the gym that she herself used to attend when she was younger. "That was always a good, happy place," Hancock remembered. As was NC State, a place she tries to make sure she gets back to for a meet every year, usually around February. "I am so glad I went down there and experienced so many different things, so many dif- ferent people and experiences," Hancock summarized. ■ " Mark used to always say to me, 'Be careful, Leigha, one day you are going to surprise yourself.' … All those coaches noticed. That was a big deal. Hancock on the confidence former NC State head coach Mark Stevenson and his staff instilled in her Hancock has appeared in blockbuster movies such as "The Hunger Games" and "A Quiet Place," television shows and commercials, and is a mother of three. PHOTOS COURTESY LEIGHA HANCOCK

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