How do you feel about falling down a flight of stairs, jumping out of a burning building, rolling over an SUV – or being covered with blood or on fire?
It’s all in a day’s work for 1996 Burrillville High grad Rebecca (Guilbault) GT , whose stunt performances have been part of major TV series and movies over the years, including Ghostbusters, RIPD, 21 Bridges, The Blacklist, Orange is the New Black, Blindspot and the new Netflix hit, Russian Doll.
“I never knew being a stunt performer was even a career choice,” said GT.
Apparently, it wasn’t one she had planned on either. GT graduated from Johnson and Wales University Summa Cum Laude with an associate’s degree in advertising/public relations in 1997, then added a baccalaureate degree from Nichols College. After working for a year for a government relations firm in Providence, however, she decided office work wasn’t for her. She went back to training horses, utilizing a family-owned indoor arena, where she worked as a trainer and coach for several years. To help make ends meet, she worked part-time at a local restaurant where she met her future husband Matt Triplett, who was an auto stunt performer for the Joie Chitwood Chevy Thunder Show.
“I was intrigued about the notion of stunts being a new vocation,” she recalled. “Not having to maintain two or three jobs at a time was a dream come true, and it was not pushing papers around on a desk for someone else.”
GT, who changed her last name from Guilbault-Triplett to make life easier, passed the equestrian business on to an assistant trainer, joining Triplett to learn the trade. Before long, she adds, they were able to impress the right people and found themselves working full-time in the Boston area. Soon enough, coordinators from New York started calling, and within a couple years, the pair moved to the big time in the city.
“We get paid to run with scissors,” she jokes. “Seriously, the best part of being a stunt performer is the ability to constantly test one’s limits, learn new skills and work on perfecting existing ones. What you see in the movies and on TV is the result of serious training, safety precautions, teamwork, sacrifices, eating Advil for breakfast, missing birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, etc. Because you got a call for a couple days’ work, constantly questioning your place in the industry, tightening the belt for when the work isn’t calling, preparing your body for the toll it’ll take when the work does call… it is all at once challenging, empowering, maddening and enlightening. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had and the most frustrating sometimes.”
While some may think they are up to the task of risking their lives by doing crazy stunts – just check TikTok out for examples – the reality is far different from the dream.
“I’ve had plenty of folks explain to me how they’re a daredevil and therefore would make a great stunt performer,” GT explained. “Maybe for one take… but daredevils do not have a place in the industry because of insurance rules. Productions want to hire professionals who are trained to do the job they are hired to do with skill and precision, and sometimes that requires doing several takes – maybe in a different direction, maybe it changes completely on the day – and you must make adjustments.”
Money is another consideration. Depending on the call for demand, a stunt performer may be out of work for weeks or months, she explained. Add to that being furloughed because of an injury, which is common. Stunt performers’ careers, like those of a professional athlete, usually do not have much longevity, due to the extreme stress on the body.
Meanwhile, GT, a member of the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, continues to do her thing, which involves some pretty amazing feats. That includes being a 2019 nominee for Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Comedy or Drama Series for her work in Daredevil.
“I have some pretty gnarly gags on my resume,” she said. “From performing nine stair falls in one day, to getting hit by a car, to drowning in the ocean, to crashing a car at high speed and flipping onto the tarmac.”
“One stunt that stands out in my mind was a fall off a roof, 35 feet, into boxes, while fully engulfed in flames for a TV show called Royal Pains. It required a lot of preparation, and timing had to be perfect in order to do it safely,” she said. “The safety crew was great and took a lot of time with the fire prep to be sure everything was set up as safely as it could be. When it came time to leap, there was not time to second guess yourself at the edge. You are fully on fire, and the guy with the extinguisher to put you out is down there by the boxes.”
GT added that she is extremely lucky and fortunate to have worked with some of the best in the business.
“I am constantly learning and building my skills,” she said.
That also includes her auto racing skills, another pursuit she has recently taken up. She has done six sanctioned races, one rally sprint with NASCAR, another rally sprint with the Sports Car Club of America and four full stage rallies with the American Rally Association, thus far. Rally sprints are timed events with individual autos manned by a driver and co-driver over what is usually a very demanding course, sometimes tarmac, sometimes gravel.
“During COVID my husband and I took a rally driving class at Team O’Neill in New Hampshire, and I knew I’d found my thing,” recalls GT. “I became obsessed with trying to figure out how to get a stage ready car, and then how to get to my first race, as it is very logistically involved and not to mention, stupid expensive. I was looking for a way to keep my driving skills sharp, one of my specialties as a stunt performer is stunt driving. Everyone I knew was focusing on the asphalt and drifting. I enjoy drifting, but chose to work on working on a skill set that brought me into the woods, and was based on time, not style points.”
Her favorite race so far, she said, was the Super Regional in Bristol, Tenn., where she finished fourth, just missing the podium.
“The roads were so challenging and tight/twisty, very much to my liking as a driver,” she said. “Rallies with the American Rally Association are extremely hard to win. Just finishing is considered a major accomplishment as one third of the cars who start a race usually don’t finish due to mechanical issues, crashes, etc. We did manage to win both rally sprints, which was pretty cool.”
GT said she still returns to Burrillville on occasion since her parents, Richard and Lu Guilbault, still reside there. At BHS, GT was a member of the school newspaper, The Blueprint, the Dead Poets Society, the yearbook, the Corps of Discovery and the National Honor Society. Her favorite memory of BHS? Taking lunch in the quad, which was reserved for seniors.
“Even though I was a junior, I would usually manage to sneak out there to eat my lunch from the art room,” GT recalls. “I was on the fringes of many cliques, but didn’t really fit into any, so any chance I could manage to get away from the bunches and groups and do my own thing, I was all over it.”
Though she still has plenty of gas left in the tank, GT already is planning for the future.
“As I get older, I am shifting my sights towards stunt coordinating, which is where I am in charge of bringing in the talent who are hired to hit the ground, crash through the window, etc.” said GT. “It is a natural progression in the industry, although women make up a smaller percentage of the coordination departments.”
Next time you see someone flipping a car, falling from a burning building or other crazy stunts in a movie or TV series, check the credits at the end and look for “BeccaGT, stunt performer.”