We are less than one week away from the premiere of Loki, the next mind-bending Marvel show headed to Disney+! And as we get prepared and excited for Loki, many of us are reminiscing about the last Marvel project, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. To help celebrate the return of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and look back on the awesome first season of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, I reached out to stuntwoman Jenel Stevens to ask about her work on the series. Keep reading for my EXCLUSIVE interview with Jenel Stevens!
CORBAN: Hi Jenel, thanks for reaching out to chat with me! Let’s take things back to the beginning – how did you get involved in stunt performing, and what was your first experience working with Marvel?
JENEL STEVENS: Stunts seemed to have found me lol. I was a personal trainer and martial artist, so I worked at my school (Anderson’s Martial Arts Academy) all day, every day. I would see the New York stunt community come in and train and put together fight scenes. One day a good friend of mine, and talented stunt performer (Heidi Schnappauff), came into the school to do some stunt training. I told her that this was something of interest to me, and she said, “Are you serious? Because I think you would be good at it”.
She told me to give her a resume and headshot, and at first, I didn’t even know where to begin with a stunt resume. But when another friend and fellow stunt performer told me to just write down anything that I do for fun, I realized that I had been training for this career my entire life without knowing about it. Everything I did for fun, including basketball, martial arts, scuba diving, horse riding, skydiving, driving, skiing, and so many other sports and activities counted toward stunt experience. She passed my name around, and within months I had my first job on Mysteries of Laura.
A month or two later I had my first Marvel job working as a stunt double for Simone Missick, who I am honored to call a dear friend ever since. I got to do several fight scenes, wear a superhero arm, and even play basketball during a couple scenes. I was in heaven.
CORBAN: That’s an amazing story, and it is great to see you display your personal passions onscreen! What does your day-to-day schedule look like on a show like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and exactly how much physicality does your job require each day?
JENEL STEVENS: Each job is different and requires different levels of physicality. That being said, my schedule is all over the place with every job. But for a show like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, we have rehearsals and training every day Monday thru Friday (sometimes working on the weekends), 8 hours a day, putting together fight scenes and practicing gags (wire work, falls, etc.) for weeks at a time before we go to camera.
CORBAN: That sounds like quite a workout! How long does it take to choreograph an intense fight sequence like those in Falcon and Winter Soldier, and how do you prevent injuries in the training stage?
JENEL STEVENS: Fight scenes take days to weeks to sometimes months to formulate and put together depending on the complexity of the scene. You have to take into consideration the wire work, special effects, camera angles, CGI needed and so on. Also, after fights are put together and dialed in by the performers, a lot of times the directors and producers have notes and want changes, so that takes more time as well.
We prevent injuries by using mats and body pads in the training stage, or what we call the previs (pre-visualization). We start with the biggest pads we have and practice and practice until we feel safe to go to smaller mats and pads or no mats at all. We also practice on soft floors and the riggers keep us safe if there is any wire work.
CORBAN: One of the best aspects of an MCU film/show is that the stunts are perfectly choreographed and realistic, and that is largely due to your team’s intense training and synchronization. I have been loving every moment of watching the MCU unfold, but what has been your favorite part of working in the Marvel Universe?
JENEL STEVENS: My favorite part of working in the MCU is the lasting friendships and bonds I’ve developed with each team I’m on. Being on the full run of shows, you are with your fellow stunt performers day in and day out, through blood, sweat and tears sometimes. It brings you close, and you normally hang out with them in the off hours as well. A lot of times you are away from family, maybe in another country, so they become your family, and those relationships last. I’ve been very fortunate to work with and learn from not only the most talented people on the planet, but also amazing human beings.
CORBAN: Because your schedule is so intense, it is awesome that you have some great people by your side! Alongside Falcon and Winter Soldier, you have also been involved in many other superhero stories, from Marvel shows like Luke Cage and Daredevil to other projects like Joker and Jupiter’s Legacy. What aspects of your job differ between each of these superhero shows? Also, I have always wondered this – how does it feel to have been a Dora Milaje for Black Panther and the Avengers films?
JENEL STEVENS: Not much differs from job to job. Obviously, the people and the energy are different, but one of the biggest differences is how much you learn from the different people and coordinators you work with. So, in that sense I love the change from time to time, but it doesn’t take away from mourning the end of a run with great people.
Being a Dora was one of the biggest honors I’ve had as a stunt performer. And talk about lasting friendships, me and my fellow Dora have a group chat and have established a friendship that will never die. We meet up with each other as much as we can. On top of that, I felt a strong sense of pride in representing one of the strongest elite black female forces, someone little girls and all children of color could look up to and realize that they could aspire to greatness in real life.
CORBAN: Marvel stories, especially Black Panther, are inspiring on so many levels, and I am excited to see the Dora Milaje in future films and shows! Over the past few years, you have been the stunt double for a variety of big-name celebrities, including Issa Rae, Gabrielle Union, and Jodie Turner-Smith. How do you “get into character” to play each of these powerful women, and what was it like to work with these acclaimed actresses?
JENEL STEVENS: Working with these women and so many others has been such a pleasure. Some of them, like I said before with Simone Missick, have become friends. Getting into character for me is different than how the actresses get into character. They have to memorize lines and find the emotion to portray in the scene, where most of the time I’m just focused on doing my stunt well and making sure I’m as safe as possible.
Going into a job, I would have already prepared for it if it is a complicated gag. So to prepare on the day, I remember what I worked on and just visualize everything involved with the stunt and see it going well in my mind. I make sure I warmup my neck and body and I go over all the steps of the stunt with everyone involved, and we do rehearsals on the day before cameras go up.
CORBAN: It sounds like the key to your work is preparation and practice, and the result is always flawless. As we look forward to the future of the MCU, do you have any future projects in the works, and where can our readers find you?
JENEL STEVENS: I have other projects coming up. I just wrapped on another Disney+ show and will be going onto another one within the week. I want to continue working with Marvel so I can’t give those projects’ names at the moment lol. Readers can find me on Instagram @jenel_stunts!
CORBAN: That’s some exciting news, and thank you again for sharing your story with us! I am looking forward to where your career will take you next!
And, to the reader, you can stream all episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier now on Disney Plus.