From his appearances on televised spectacles like American Ninja Warrior and Ultimate Beastmaster, to his high falls, fight scenes, and acrobatics as a Los Angeles-based stunt man, Kyle Soderman is something of real-world super hero. We caught up with the Minnesota native to talk all things obstacle course, extreme sports, and the realities of quarantine fitness.
BLNCD: How are you!? Any unique ways you’ve been passing the time during quarantine?
KS: Great! I’ve been impacted pretty dang hard because of COVID so I haven’t been able to work nearly as much since the end of the world. I’ve been using this extra time to try some new activities and basically just keep training. I’m really big into mountain biking now. I grew up riding BMX so it’s cool to jump back onto a bike and get my adrenaline fix.
BLNCD: Do you remember a particular moment in your journey where you felt like, ‘Yes, this is so me. This is my calling.’?
KS: Yes! I was casually training for about a year and a half then was accepted to go onto the Netflix original series Ultimate BeastMaster, which is basically Netflix’s version of American Ninja Warrior. I competed on that show, won my episode, which got me $10,000, and then went on to get third overall behind two internationally renowned, professional rock-climbers. At that moment I stepped back and thought, “Oh snap, I could actually do something with this!”
BLNCD: What other athletics or activities in your background bolster your skills at obstacle courses?
KS: I like to think of Ninja Warrior as a mix of parkour, rock climbing, and gymnastics. You can’t really have just one and be a good ninja, you have to be well rounded. Just about every single great ninja out there comes from one of these three backgrounds. So, outside of specifically training on obstacles, I go and train parkour… flips, vaults, and really just getting used to abnormal movements. This also is a much needed skill in stunts. Parkour is a huge creative release for me too. I also frequently go rock climbing to build up the much needed grip strength that’s required for Ninja Warrior.
BLNCD: Your abilities as an acrobat and athlete have also opened doors for you as a performer in commercials, music videos, films. What have been some of your favorite memories on set?
KS: I’ll bring up a few of my favorite stories. First being my favorite stunt I have ever done. Try and stay with me on this one… it was for a national chilean phone service commercial. They needed someone to be launched off a teeter-board while sitting on a chair and do a backflip, connected to the chair, and land back sitting in the chair and strike a pose. We did this on the rooftop of a building in downtown LA. This was definitely the most unique and cool stunt I’ve been able to do to date. My next one is being the lead in a Bon Jovi music video. I was able to work as a stunt actor for Bon Jovi’s “Limitless” music video. It involved running through the streets of downtown LA, a quick fight, and ended in a tandem 40′ highfall. Definitely a pretty cool experience to say the least.
BLNCD: How has your training and fitness routine been impacted by covid-19? Do you ever make homemade rigs or obstacle courses outside of the gym?
KS: It has been pretty hard. As all gyms have been shut down, there really aren’t very many places to train Ninja Warrior. I actually had to build a pullup rig in my backyard to get a decent workout in. I am able to get to the ninja gym at least once a week now but definitely not as much as I’m used to. Fow now, I’m stuck mainly training outside.
BLNCD: I’m sure for many of us watching American Ninja Warrior or Ultimate Beastmaster at home, there are things we don’t see. Can you tell us any common misconceptions about these competition shows? Or fun facts?
KS: The biggest thing is that it is a tv show first and a competition second. There is a ton that goes into interviews, b-roll, hero shots, and picture. This all happens before you ever run the course. The hardest thing is that you can’t control the weather. I’ve had to run the ANW course in 40 degree weather, at night, while it was sprinkling rain. Yeah, that wasn’t fun! The one thing that you do see on tv is the community aspect of Ninja Warrior. That is definitely real. We are a pretty tight knit community and we all cheer each other on!
BLNCD: Do your parents have an athletic background? Does your mom ever worry you’ll break your neck?
KS: My dad was part of the US skydive team and my mom was a state ranked track star. So I think I got some pretty good genes to work with! Every time I do anything dangerous my mom says she grows another gray hair on her head. So yes, she worries constantly about me, but I say it’s her own fault because she raised me this way.
BLNCD: For most of us growing up, professional-level obstacle courses are not a sporting option that’s at the front of our brain. When did you first become introduced to this world?
KS: Growing up I would do just about any action sport you can think of… BMX, snowboarding, skateboarding, competitive paintball, motocross. When I was in college I saw a buddy of mine posting on Facebook about this ninja warrior gym he was going to. I thought it looked pretty fun and tried it out. I was addicted right away. That was over five years ago and it has basically taken over my life ever since.
BLNCD: What advice would you have for other young athletes and performers who are thinking about getting into televised obstacle courses or stunt work?
KS: Only do it if you truly enjoy it. It all can be really exhausting. But if you love it, then it will be the best thing you’ll ever be a part of! My best advice is this… NEVER think you’re better than someone else just because you’re on TV. Always listen and know when it is the proper time to voice your opinion. The worst thing you can do is piss off someone on set and be blacklisted from ever working with them again. That being said, when it comes to safety, ALWAYS speak up if you feel uncomfortable about something. Other than that, have fun with it and make as many friends as possible along the way. That will be the best way to get into the industry.
BLNCD: What’s on the horizon? What are your hopes and dreams for 2021 and beyond?
KS: Well, to start, let’s all try and forget that 2020 ever happened. Beyond that I would like to get a role of 1x in a major film. 1x refers to the lead actors stunt double. I wouldn’t mind working with Ryan Reynolds, Ryan Gosling, Jake Gyllenhaal, etc. Just a couple small-time actors in which I fit their look and sizes… just putting it out there in case any stunt coordinators are listening.I also want to expand upon my other business ventures. That’s a whole other side of me that we haven’t touched on, and of course I want to keep competing and getting as many first places as I can. I would love for Ninja Warrior to get big enough where major brands come in and start sponsoring athletes. So, Red Bull, what’re you waiting for?
Story by John Mark