WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Solomon Harvey has spent a lot of time in front of television cameras. In some instances you saw his face. But in other times, you may not have even known it was him. That's the life of a stuntman, the career Solomon is pursuing on a full-time basis.
"For me being relatively new to the world, I have to hustle," Solomon says. "I have to run down to Atlanta to meet stunt coordinators, to go to auditions, just to put myself in front of them. A lot of stunt coordinators don't like to hire someone they don't know. I have a very athletic background and I've done a lot of amazing things in my life. However, they don't know that."
A lot of people know Solomon Harvey from his amazing athletic abilities showcased several times on national television. He reached the finals on the NBC competition show American Ninja Warrior in 2015, and competed again the following year. Solomon teamed up with four other athletes from Wilmington in 2016, advancing to the finals of another NBC show, Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge.
Solomon grew up on the west coast, born and raised in the Compton area of Los Angeles. He moved with his mother to Hampstead when he was about ten years old. By that time, mom noticed her son was a huge fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and enrolled Solomon into martial arts.
"My mom saw that as a good outlet for me," he remembers. "So I started doing martial arts and working out, really training my body and mind. Thanks to the pizza-loving ninja turtles, I became the athlete I am today."
Even at a young age, Solomon says he had dreams of an athletic future. In a fifth-grade assignment on careers, Solomon remembers telling his teacher he wanted to be a stuntman.
"She said that it wasn't practical, and I should probably pick something that's more realistic," he says with a smile. 'I said, 'okay, that makes sense'. I picked a chef. I actually worked as a chef for about ten years before I fell into the whole Ninja Warrior thing."
The Ninja Warrior show craze actually began in Japan, and Solomon says he watched the original show thinking he would never get the chance to go to Japan to compete. But when it arrived in the United States, he had the chance. He talks about it around 11:00 into the podcast.
In 2014, Solomon put together a video to apply for American Ninja Warrior. The call came about two weeks later, telling him to pack his bags and head to Miami, where he would compete with more than one hundred others. When he arrived, Solomon remembers getting his first look at the obstacle course and what lied ahead.
"For me, we never had a gym around Wilmington to practice all this stuff," he said. "I talked to people about it, looked at it and studied it. 'What can I do? How am I going to get around this?' Once I got up there, it's 'okay, let's go! Just run and figure it out on your way'."
The television audience gets about an hour's worth of action when it airs on NBC. Behind-the-scenes, it's a much longer process for the athletes to endure. He talks about the pressure that builds before the competition at 18:15 of the podcast.
"I want to say I was proud to make it to the finals, that's a big accomplishment," Solomon says. "I absolutely loved it. Personally, I wanted to win. I was disappointed in myself for not winning. However, coming back and the reception from the community and everyone around, it was very warm. They were proud of me for making it as far as I did. I wish I could have done better, but I have to accept that it didn't happen. Maybe it will happen in the future."
He competed again in 2015, but it was 2016 when Solomon again reached a championship round on NBC. Solomon teamed up with Luke Reynolds, Tee Jackson, Aimee Flynt, Amber Johnson to compete in Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge. That comes up at 26:00 of the podcast.
"We had to lean on each other and trust each other," he remembers about the team competition compared to the individual trials of America Ninja Warrior. "We worked together to find out our weaknesses and our strengths so that we could use Luke's strengths to help with Tee's weaknesses, use Tee's strengths to help with my weaknesses. The way everything came about it was just very natural, nothing was forced and it really worked in our favor."
The "BounceSquad" won their first-round match to advance to the finals, where they lost to Team Comeback Kids. Solomon says, though, that one of the tougher elements of the appearance happened off the obstacle course. The athletes must sign agreements not to reveal the end results of the competition, which are shot weeks before they actually air on television. For the "BounceSquad" members, that meant coming home and not sharing any details with family and friends.
"I try to avoid people when I come back from one of those things because win or lose, you can't really say anything," Solomon says with a laugh. "People ask 'Hey, how was ninja warrior?' 'Oh, it was so much fun, you should have been there, it was great'. 'How'd you do?' 'I've gotta go, I'm late for something, I'll talk to you later though!' It's just really hard because my family, my closest friends are like 'how'd you do? How did it go?' "I can't tell you! I can't do it, I'm sorry!'
The appearances on the two network shows has helped Solomon's career as a stuntman. He worked on Allegiant, one of the films in the Divergent series, along with the History Channel show Six, and Black Lightning.
"Without ninja warrior, I don't think I would be doing stunts and things where I am now," he says. "It definitely opened that door. People knew my name that probably wouldn't have known my name before. People are more likely to hire me because 'Oh, American Ninja Warrior, I love that show!'. One of the stunt coordinators I work with in Atlanta, his wife loves the show, so he was chatting with me about it. That in itself opens tons of doors."
Though the doors are open, Solomon is working to bolster his stuntman resume and expand his abilities. He's currently taking courses in stunt driving and stunt fighting. Solomon hasn't ruled out another attempt at America Ninja Warrior in the future, but stunt work is the priority now.
Solomon is also active in Sole FreeRunning, encouraging children to be active and involved rather than just sitting around playing video games. He teaches classes and also does demonstrations at local schools. You can tell the kids enjoy his performances. I hope you enjoy this interview just as much.
You can hear the entire conversation with Solomon Harvey by clicking on one of the links listed below.
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