Stunt performer, Jay Bell, seen on many stunt-intensive TV shows and top-grossing feature films, recently took time out of his active schedule to chat with THE TV ADDICT.
A former active duty soldier, Afghanistan veteran, musician, composer and father, answered our burning questions about stunt work, broken bones and some of our favorite shows. You can see him on many television shows including ARROW, THE FLASH, SUPERNATURAL, LEGENDS OF TOMORROW and feature films such as STAR TREK BEYOND, X-MEN: APOCALYPSE, X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST and DEADPOOL!
THE TV ADDICT: How often do you have to wear special wigs, makeup, get special haircuts or dye your hair to double an actor? (seen above doubling Milo Ventimiglia)
JAY BELL: It always depends on the show. The only time you wear a wig is if it’s for something specific or when you’re doubling an actor and they need to match your hair to the actor. Otherwise, you’re getting a nice new haircut!
We get makeup done almost every time on set unless your face is covered by a mask/helmet or some kind of wardrobe.
When I was doubling Hawkman on LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, whenever I wore the Hawkman helmet, they had to color the bottom half of my hair at the back to make it lighter and match Falk Hentschel’s, the actor who plays Hawkman.
Most memorable makeup for me was for being a zombie on FEAR THE WALKING DEAD. It was pretty wild!
TVA: What is your background?
I started off my journey with gymnastics and Shotokan Karate in high school. After college, I did 7 years in the Army with a tour to Afghanistan.
These days you’ll find me hitting pads at my long time Muay Thai gym, working on flips and tumbling at the local indoor Parkour gym or training with my master at my Taekwondo Dojang.
I like to keep things varied, so that I don’t get stuck in one groove at one time. Stunts can require a lot or a little, so if you’re prepared for a broader spectrum, you’ll set yourself up for success.
TVA: What is the most difficult type of actor/role to double?
I’d say matching the actor’s particular movement with a certain character. A lot of times, you’ll double an actor and they move completely differently from how you would portray that same character.
For me, personally, I try and study the actor’s movement and copy their articulations as best as possible, even if it goes against feeling “right” for you. That for me can be a tough, but also a welcomed, challenge.
TVA: If you could work with your dream director, who would it be?
Hands down, it would be Steven Spielberg. I grew up watching almost every one of his films as a kid. I think I might be temporarily starstruck if I saw him on set. I have such respect for him and to be on the same set would be pretty amazing.
TVA: Do you act, sing, dance or do stage work in addition to stunts?
The only acting I get to do is on the jobs I book as a stunt/actor. I have yet to have any experience on stage or singing/dancing gigs. Somehow, I don’t know if that would be my niche, but never say “never.”
TVA: How many hours do you train for a complex gag?
A Ratchet (“wire work”) can be a tricky one because you have to setup the machines with your particular weight, your velocity, arcs, how high you’re going and, most specifically, what’s your action before, during and after you land or hit the ground.
I’ve done some days of 12+ hours practicing one single gag. Complex fight scenes with a lot of different moving parts can also take a long time. We did one big sequence where the main heroes are fighting a lot of bad guys while there are complex driving sequences going on at the same time. That was a full 2 12-hour days of rehearsing.
TVA: Legendary stunt person, Dar Robinson, never broke a bone in his career. Is that really unusual, and have you?
It’s not unusual at all. I know a lot of veteran stunt guys who have done some totally insane gags without a scratch. One friend, however, broke his neck on a feature film 5 years ago and has now fully recovered.
Luckily for me I’ve just broken a nose along with some torn ligaments in my ankles and a separated shoulder. I don’t know…maybe I’m crazy…but that is getting off pretty easy to me (knocking on wood).
TVA: What is the most unusual request you ever got for a stunt?
I haven’t had too many “unusual requests” but on X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, the Hair Department pretty much told me that I’m shaving my head and beard off…except the mustache. I was walking around Montreal for a month with a shaved head and a big dark bushy ‘stache…. not exactly the look I like to have for prolonged periods of time.
TVA: What hobbies do you have?
Completely unrelated to film, I’m an avid guitarist. Whenever I have any time to myself and I’m not training, working or changing my daughter’s diapers, I’m playing and recording my own music on my MacBook. It’s the only time I get to be alone in my own musical creative world.
That being said, I look at my career as a stunt performer as a hobby. I think the moment I look at it as a job, I might start feeling different about it, and I don’t want that. For me, it’s the most fun paid hobby you can have.