Streaming networks have offered up a variety of shows for our enjoyment. There’s one about women living in a dystopian America where they’re bred for babies. Another has the guy from The Office playing a spy we’ve seen on the big screen a number of times. But none so much are different enough that they equally indulge in nostalgia while also providing a quality program while getting away with it. Yes, that is a shot at Stranger Things.
Netflix’s GLOW returned to the platform for its third season, bringing its trademark neon sheen and out of this world storylines in the show within the show. I recently had a chance to chat with one of the stars, Rebekka Johnson. Not only is she an actor but she also writes, having pulled double duty for a renowned short. Plus, she performs in a comedy trio and continues to write and sell projects. She’s truly earned the ability to enjoy any Hollywood party she wants.
How long have you guys been working on [season 3 of GLOW]?
Rebekka Johnson: Season 3, we were shooting from December to March. End of November, we started wrestling. We work on it for a month of wrestling and a little over three months of shooting.
The training for the wrestling – since you’re getting started so early – is it rigorous? I know you guys do a bunch of intense moves and you have to train for it. At this point, is it a new thing for you or is it old hat?
Johnson: We already knew the basics but the first year we started with like real basic moves like a running, how to roll, how to fall properly. Just wrestling etiquette, different simple wrestling techniques, and then they built on it and built on it. Each season as we come back, we go over those basics the first day and then we move onto building up to the bigger and harder and more complicated moves. By the end of the four weeks we're starting to get into the actual wrestling choreography for whatever is going to end up being at the episode.
That's when they start getting scripts. And the stunt coordinator Shauna Duggins is breaking it down with the wrestling coordinator [Chavo Guerrero Jr]. Then they’ll start pairing us up with whoever is wrestling with who. We start working on the choreography, sort of building on the match. And then on our days off from shooting, if we have a match coming up, we’ll work on that choreography on a days off as well.
So are you doing anything throughout the year to keep everything conditioned? Or is that for months just for that show and nothing else?
Johnson: For those four months I wrestle. And for 8 months I lay in bed with my body covered in [aspirin].
Johnson: Just kidding! The rest of the time I'm going to the gym. I've been taking these bounce classes where I'm doing choreographed moves on a trampoline which is actually so 80’s. It's updated for now. I do some cardio and light working out. I learned after season 1 that the more I condition in between, the easier it is to come back and not feel like a train hit me when I suddenly get back into wrestling.
That's how I kind of felt when I was seeing season 2 and how everything was opted by 10,15, 20% you seen. Has having your comedy partner Kimmy Gatewood next to you been more of an alleviation when it comes to acting on the show. Since you know each other off screen so well, it really comes off in the show that you’re good, best friends.
Johnson: Oh thanks. Yeah. We really are. It was amazing to be able to audition for something with your best friend. Then to book it and to go through all of these awesome experiences together. It's been really fun to have all of these experiences together. As the show has progressed, we've become really close with the other castmates too. I've been adding to my support system with having now 14 more women that I feel really comfortable with and enjoy hanging out with. It's been fun. Every time Kimmy and I do a red carpet or an award show... anytime something feels really Hollywood, we excited we look at each other and we’re like “Wow! Can you believe we’re here?!” It’s nice to have someone else to experience that with.
I was watching you guys on Grace Helbig’s podcast and you admit it that both of you are just so unashamed about celebrating going out and going to parties and having a good time. You even reference Leslie Jones. You're all like "I just love Hollywood.” I think that's something that people shouldn't be humble about. It's something not everybody gets to do -- even if they are on a Netflix show.
Johnson: There’s an interesting thing that happens with actors. I feel like, in the beginning, their really excited about all the success, about all this stuff you get asked to do and getting dressed up. Getting your makeup done. People getting calls for you. You get really excited. And then there's something I noticed where some actors spend the time complaining about the very things to be excited about.
“Be happy! It’s the easiest life on earth!” Literally, we get to play all day! As long as your coworkers are treating you right, as long as you’re being respected, it's an amazing job. It's an amazing, incredible experience. I think Kimmy and I are always keeping that in perspective. We're worked really hard and did a lot of free work and a lot of low-paid work. Developing shows, behind the scenes, teaching improv. Now that we're actually experiencing the more Hollywood side, we’re definitely taking it in -- enjoying it, trying to live in the moment -- and realize how lucky we are.
Did you and Kimmy have any input on how the friends on the show would come across wrestling? I love the characters of [Edna and Ethel Rosenblatt: The Beatdown Biddies]. I think that’s so funny to have two old women wrestling. And then for you two backpedal and go into these punk rock chicks [Ozone and Nuke,] I think that’s such a great turn for you.
Johnson: When we auditioned, they had us do multiple wrestling characters. We came up with our own. We actually brought in five different wrestling pairs. [We did] a whole sketch show for the audition. They could see how versatile we were and how we really enjoyed playing different types of characters. But I think they already had in mind that we would be switching.
When they gave us the Beatdown Biddies… we were ready to make the characters our own and come up with fun jokes. And think about “What are these voices? How can we be the biggest, most annoying, most fun, most crotchety old ladies we can be?” The thing with Nuke and Ozone, when they were switching over those characters, they had those names in mind and those characters of mind. We got to add to those characters as well. Things like [saying] “Time for the ooze cruise!” would get put into the script. Figuring physically how they move and how their voices are. What the comedic engine of these two toxic idiots [is]. It’s been really fun.
Kimmy’s more towards directing. And you are more of an actor. How has that really shaped your career for you? Have you ever wanted to do more stuff behind the scenes? I know you've done some stuff on seems but have you ever wanted to get more behind the scenes?
Johnson: Really, I'm an actor and a writer equally. For a long time, I was producing and directing and also writing and also acting. I was doing for different things. It was a long period of time where I might be producing Speakeasy with Paul F. Tompkins the next I’m directing a music video for my friends and then the next day I’m writing an Apple Sisters thing and then I’m auditioning for commercials. Every day was new and different. It was a lot to focus on all four different things in the career.
I decided to hone in on the two things I love the most. Once I got Glow, that really gave me that freedom. I was acting four months a year. When I wasn’t shooting Glow, [I was] auditioning for other things – acting in other projects -- but really, I spent most of my days writing. Kimmy and I sold a pilot so we had to work on that. I’m currently writing an episode of Trolls for Netflix. Writing a feature. I wrote a short film. I spent a lot of time writing when I’m not acting. I like directing as well but I decided to focus on [writing and acting] and it’s been great. The fun thing about Kimmy being a director and her focusing on directing -- she still acts and writes as well -- the project that I'm writing she will direct and I will act in and she will act in. We can collaborate in that way and in different ways than just acting on screen.
You name dropped the Apple sisters and I watched a couple of videos on the YouTube channel -- Ring Ring Ring and Manhattan Mixup. It's very funny. I watched you perform Ring Ring Ring live at Largo. The three of you are very funny. It's a great decade based comedy. It seems like you all really do thrive in a live environment. I think that's an admirable quality that not many comedians have today.
Johnson: We started as a live act, a musical comedy act from the 1940’s and we do political satire and slapstick comedy. We really work with energy from the crowd. We write all the shows but then there's so many mishaps and improvised moments and ad libs. We get to milk whatever people are laughing at and double down those bits. We got our chops on the stage in New York City and eventually out in LA we performed at Second City and Largo -- different theaters all over the place. The Apple Sisters is really a stage act. We also make the videos so that would give a broader audience.
The last thing I want to mention here is Consent. I watched the trailer for it. It’s a much needed short film that I hope will be seen by the masses after it does the festival circuit. It’s very funny (the trailer at least). The premise is very modern. I think it’s something that every comedy fan and comedy performer should really see. A lot of us have been there -- when I say “us” I mean men have been in that position where they’re trying to force this interaction that really shouldn’t be forced at all (it should be consensual). It’s a very beautiful thing to have come out in a time it’s much needed in. It’s something that I think I needed to see most of all.
Johnson: Thank you. I really was feeling like I wanted to write something about this subject. I wrote a personal essay about my experiences with two situations. I was looking for a way to put the feelings I had into a comedy and conversations I had with a lot of men who had not experienced their consent being ignored. I felt like they couldn't quite understand or empathize with that feel. They would often be like “Why don’t you just leave?” or “Why don’t you just say ‘no?’” or “Why don’t you just tell your boss that person is harassing you?” Whatever it is. It’s having a lack of understanding about the uncomfortable place you’re put in when you just want someone to respect your feelings.
I decided to make the film an allegory, flip the gender roles. Then I had fun with it. I mapped out the journey of what some call a bad date, what I may call sexual coercion. I mapped out the journey and replaced sex with music. I play the lead singer. She’s a singer-songwriter. A fan is in the audience, flirting after the performance. She thinks that, because he likes the music, he might want to hear her sing all the time. That’s not the case. He doesn’t quite know how to say no to her. Even when he does, she ignores it. I wrote music for it. I cast my friends who are amazing actors. I had Kimmy come on and direct it. We won Just for Laughs at Montreal. We’re playing Hollyshorts. We’re doing festivals all over the country. All over the world actually. Eventually, it’ll be online. Hopefully, a lot of people will watch it. I do think it makes people think. It’s not aggressive. It’s not triggering. It’s more about the emotional journey people go through. I’m just trying to get someone empathize and think maybe next time when they notice someone’s not into something, just fucking stop.