This week, I had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Jason Bell of Star Trek Beyond. A combat veteran who served in Afghanistan, he has had roles in shows like Arrow, The Flash, Smallville, and Once Upon A Time. He’s been an unsung double in many of your favorite movies as well, such as Man of Steel, Godzilla, X-Men Days of Future Past, and Deadpool. In addition to excelling at stunt work, he’s also a certified PADI diver, and he plays delta blues guitar in his spare time. You can currently see him as Captain Kirk’s right-hand man in Star Trek Beyond, out July 22. Check out the hilariously entertaining interview after the jump!
Congratulations on Star Trek Beyond! I can’t wait to see it. Can you tell us a little about your character? Did you ever watch any of the Star Trek TV shows growing up? What excites you the most about this project?
Jason Bell: Thank you! I play Captain Kirk’s No. 1 security guard. I’m with him at all times covering his back as his personal detail. More of a character of action than words. Honestly, I never really watched the TV show growing up, but started to pay attention when they rebooted the series back in 2009. I love the series and think they did an amazing job bringing Star Trek to a world of new viewers. I have to say the most exciting thing about this project was just being a part of it. Putting on the iconic red suit and playing a role I never thought I would get a chance to was surreal. Stepping foot on the Enterprise set is a big kid’s dream. I can’t wait to see the film!
You’re on record that you were inspired to do stunt work by Star Wars. Which is your favorite movie, and who’s your favorite character? Why?
As a kid, Star Wars sparked my interest in the film and fantasy world. I was fascinated with the visual effects and how the light sabers came to life. My favorite movie is Empire Strikes Back and my favorite character is definitely Han Solo. He is this futuristic lone wolf cowboy type and does whatever he wants to do as long as it fills his pockets. Solo is kind of a jerk but also cool and funny, which makes him much more likable.
What’s the most dangerous stunt you’ve ever accomplished?
In my opinion, the most dangerous stunts are ratchets and complex wire work. I’ve done a bunch of ratchets in my time working on the CW’s Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow. To date, the ratchet I did during season one of the CW’s The Flash doubling the character Firestorm was the most dangerous. There’s a scene where Firestorm pulls a lever and gets blown back about 15 to 20 feet. We rehearsed this stunt the day before for about eight hours using a padded wall, but on the day of filming, the only thing stopping my momentum was a solid wall. At this point my heart was racing when I heard the director call the countdown. The stunt went off without a hitch.
What are your favorite activities to do to keep in shape? Do you need good reflexes to do stunt work and is that something you hone at all?
This job requires you to keep in shape. If you’re not constantly moving, you’re not progressing. These days I try to keep up a regime of weight lifting, tae kwon do, and hitting up the parkour gym. I try to keep my training varied and constant. You absolutely need good reflexes for stunts. Whether it’s fight, reactionary, or wire work timing, having good reflexes is your best friend. I believe the more you train and the more experience you have working on set, you can 100-percent improve reflexes and other skill sets that can be used for stunts and even acting.
I see you’re an Army vet; thank you for your service. What was the most interesting/exciting place you ever saw while traveling with the Army?
Thank you, I appreciate it. I definitely got to see some places I wouldn’t usually go to. I was in Afghanistan in 2009 for eight months and I have to admit there are some places I saw that were utterly breathtaking. The locals are very hospitable and welcoming and the mountain views are amazing. I also visited Dubai and the island of Cyprus. Thanks to the Army, I had the chance to visit places I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
So you like hot sauce, do you? Have you ever tried the Flashbang? They say it’s 5 million Scoville units…
I consider myself a hot sauce connoisseur and seek out local hot sauce wherever I travel. I have yet to try this Flashbang but it sounds pretty intense! Five million Scoville units sounds awful for the mouth and stomach. I used to have hot sauce drinking contests with my buddies in high school. It never ended well for either party involved. Haha.
If you could play a duet on guitar with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Now you’re talking my No. 1 passion… music. This is a really hard one for me to answer because I grew up listening to and playing blues guitar and I have all these influences including B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Buddy Guy. If I had to choose one today though, I would have to go with John Lee Hooker. There’s something about his style that always resonated with me. His early delta blues style is so raw and organic and I always wanted to mimic that style on my guitar. I wish I had the chance to see him live, let alone have a duet with him.
Is there anywhere you’d love to go diving that you haven’t experienced yet? Where’s somewhere you’ve already been that inspired you?
Gansbaai, South Africa. If you haven’t heard of this place, it’s known for great white shark cage diving because it’s one of the most densely populated areas for white sharks. I consider myself a pretty fearless guy (most of the time) and have conducted many dives, but I have yet to be in the same water as a great white. This is on the top of my bucket list. I first tried diving in Thailand while I was on leave from Afghanistan. I did a quick beginner discovery class for a day but loved it so much, I signed up the next day to do an open water course. I have Thailand to thank for introducing me to diving.
What’s your dream project to work on (either in movies or TV)? Is there anyone you would love to work with someday?
Since I’m a big Star Wars fan, I would LOVE to work on one of those movies. I’ve had the opportunity to work on some pretty massive feature films but if I had the chance to work on a Star Wars film, I would be a pig in mud.
Can I choose two people!? First, I would love to work with Harrison Ford. I got to meet him briefly when he was working on Firewall. My sister was the AD [assistant director] and let me come visit set one day. He is so soft-spoken and friendly, plus I’ve always loved his work. Second would be Brad Pitt. I know he’s seen [as] a heartthrob, but for me he seems so real and down to earth. Most of the roles he’s chosen over the years seem specifically written for him. I respect him because he could do any movie he wants and always seems to choose the right script.
Thank you for your time. Anything exciting coming up in the pipeline we can know about?
Thanks so much for chatting with me! Some of the features you’ll see me in coming out next year will be War for the Planet of the Apes, Power Rangers, and Netflix’s Death Note. I also started working back on the CW’s Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow, so keep your eyes peeled for those.
Thanks again to Jason Bell for his time, and to the team at MPR for making the interview happen! You can catch Jason in Star Trek Beyond, which is in theaters now.