The twist in Thursday's episode of CNBC's "Jay Leno's Garage " involves Debbie Evans, a professional stuntwoman of nearly 40 years who is the unfamiliar face behind some of film's most familiar action scenes.
In "The Matrix Reloaded," she grinds against a highway wall and dodges airborne cars as a double for Carrie-Anne Moss's character, Trinity. In the "Fast and Furious" series, she drives underneath a semi-truck and flips her car into an embankment beside the road. She stands on motorcycle seats, jumps through glass and rides through fire.
Nearly every stunt that Evans does is dangerous, including the one she performs for Leno.
In the episode, Leno sits behind the wheel of his Ford Explorer, a box of donuts on the passenger seat beside him. "When I get in a regular car, I like to feel safe, like this," he says, before going on to explain the importance of keeping your blood sugar levels balanced.
He grabs a donut and prepares to take a bite. Then, in dramatic fashion, he drops it underneath the passenger seat. Fumbling around for it, he begins to swerve and pick up speed and suddenly smacks the curb and goes airborne. The car soars, flips and crashes into a fruit stand, the rooftop screeching against the cement until the vehicle comes to a halt.
After a moment, Leno emerges from the vehicle unscathed, though a little sweaty. "The donut's okay," he says. "The donut is okay." He takes a bite.
That's when the host breaks the fourth wall, exposing his set and crew, to introduce the expert who was actually sitting behind the wheel during the crash: Evans, dressed to match Leno with his trademark denim and a shaggy wig that the host says better resembles a Pomeranian.
"I love your outfit," Leno tells her.
"Dropping the donut was not a stunt," he later confirms for viewers. "That was actually me dropping the donut."
Evans began doing stunts in the '70s, drawing on a background in motorcycling and her biking skills. "When I get in the car," she explains, "I just totally understand things like traction, momentum, suspension, RPMs [a motor's rotations per minute], weighting, unweighting, reading terrain."
With that awareness, after just a year as a stuntwoman, she won a car race in a CBS stunt competition, beating out nine of the top guys in Hollywood. "It kind of put me on the map," she says.
In her successful career, according to IMDB, she has been featured in over 200 projects and has won seven Taurus World Stunt Awards, one of the highest acknowledgements in the stunt industry. She has also been inducted to the American Motorcyclist Hall of Fame.
"She's probably one of the greatest stunt performers in the history of the business," says Leno. "You see, these guys are the real stars. I just eat donuts."
CNBC's "Jay Leno's Garage " airs Thursdays at 10 pm ET.
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