Kung fu granny: Retired British midwife, 79, makes Hollywood debut as formidable martial arts assassin

Kay D'Arcy moved to Los Angeles a decade ago aged 70 to pursue acting - ending up more Jackie Nan than Jackie Chan

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The Independent Culture

Hollywood is notoriously difficult to crack for the older woman, what with Maggie Smith and Judi Dench claiming all the best roles. But after years of playing doddery old ladies, a British former nurse has got her big break aged 79 as an octogenarian assassin.

Retired midwife and nurse Kay D’Arcy moved to Los Angeles against the wishes of her family to pursue a career in acting. A decade on she was cast as an 88-year-old kung fu master who hides weapons in her grannyish bun in Agent 88.

D’Arcy said she welcomed the departure from playing a “decrepit, haggard, dying old woman” in an interview with Los Angeles Times.

She jumped at the chance to play what her agent described as a “fit” part for an older woman “as I’m not dying in bed or having a stroke or being dressed for the mortuary”.

D’Arcy has practised tai chi for many years and her martial arts prowess (she appears to do her own stunts) is demonstrated when she dispatches a group of thugs with a series of epic twirls of her Filipino kali fighting sticks.

"I had to demolish four boys [in one scene] and it was lovely just looking down and seeing all these beautiful young men lying at my feet," she said.

D'Arcy describes her character as “this dippy, absent-minded woman who's really quite a child inside”, adding that “this little inoffensive woman, who's slightly lala, ends up becoming a formidable assassin."

Agent 88 is billed as “a comic book-style cinematic romp full of martial arts action, amazing special effects and unforgettable characters”. The series will be available to view online and has already amassed a cult following, with over a million views of the first episode, after it was showcased on crowdfunding platform KickStarter.com.

Creator and director Digger T. Mesch described D’Arcy as being unable to hurt a fly, but says “somehow…she got on that set and she looked like a killer”.

Mesch got the idea for Agent 88 after watching YouTube footage of Northampton pensioner, Ann Timson, 71, foiling a jewellery heist by beating a gang of robbers with her handbag last year.

The Agent 88 project had raised “the most funds ever for a live-action web series pilot” via Kickstarter, reaching $104,000 through crowd funding.

Mesch said: "The Agent 88 Kickstarter mirrored the character herself, a little old lady that no one notices until she explodes into action.  In the end the A88 campaign couldn't be ignored."

D'Arcy said: "This project is very inspirational because it’s given me the opportunity to show a senior making the most of the last years of her life. She's not just a doddery old woman in a nursing home, she's not just being passed over and used by her family.

"She's empowered herself and I suppose I did that when I decided to leave England and start all over again."