Interview with Rebekka Johnson and Kimmy Gatewood 'GLOW' Season Two
The Beatdown Biddies dish on season 2 of the Netflix series, 'GLOW'.
Kimmy Gatewood & Rebekka Johnson Discuss Season Two of GLOW
With all the original programming Netflix has created, it's exciting when something resonates with so many people. The Netflix original series, GLOW is just that. Funny, smart, and excellently feminist, Alison Brie leads a gaggle of women into the world of Glow: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Actresses, Kimmy Gatewood and Rebekka Johnson, play Stacey and Dawn, who, in the world of female wrestling, take on personas known as Edna and Ethel Rosenblatt: The Beatdown Biddies.
Gatewood and Johnson are regular collaborators and friends, which is apparent by my conversation with them. Their love for one another is palpable, and lucky for the audience, bleeds into their performances on the SAG nominated show. Ahead of the season two premiere which aires June 29th, the actresses talk about working together again, what to expect from season two, and how to maintain yourself in this crazy industry called Hollywood.
Women.com: How did you two meet and how did creating The Apple Sisters come about?
Kimmy Gatewood: We met in New York City and we were both teaching, we were the only female teachers at the Peoples Improv Theater. People would always tell us they we should work together, and we would be really defensive about it like, "what just because we're the only two women we should work together!?!". Then we started to work together... and it's the best relationship I've ever had both professionally and personally.
Rebekka Johnson: We got along and had a lot of fun doing comedy in that show and we started talking about different types of shows we wanted to do and work on. We wanted to make a variety show with Sarah Lowe a comedian who I was trying to write a show with. And, instead of writing two different shows we thought "why don't we all work together." We decided to make a 1940s musical variety show which combines all the things that we love; singing and dancing, and comedy and LIPSTICK!
KG: The Apple Sisters first show was Valentine's Day 2007, so we'll be celebrating our 12th year together next February, which is amazing. And we have a catalog of 50-100 songs, we did a podcast, we do comedy festivals, which take us all around the country. The Apple Sisters have taken us all on a lot of amazing adventures.
WDC: How did you both get cast as counterparts on GLOW?
RJ: The casting director of Glow saw The Apple Sisters in New York years ago. They were looking for comedy duos, so we got the audition together. They asked us to prepare a tag team characters, so we took a whole day, got babysitters, and made up five tag team character duos. And we came in and did a twenty-minute show with 80s hair. They talked to us for a little while, but I think we gave them so much material they couldn't refuse so then we got cast together.
KG: The original Glow had two sisters and so we were inspired by them. I think it's funny that we are both sisters on stage and best friends in real life, it worked out.
RJ: Our trailers are next to each other, we can poop side by side.
WDC: There's an episode where you have to dress up as KKK members. How did you come to terms with having to wear such a problematic costume?
KG: When we read the script, are hearts were palpitating. It was right around the election when we got the script and it was just a bizarre time in the political climate and also, we were like, "are Dawn and Stacey just terrible people?". But we talked to the showrunners, talked to our wrestling coach, and they were telling us that this kind of stuff happens for real, in wrestling, constantly. And that was a weird reassurance, that this match was actually based on something real.
RJ: It actually happened in the 90s. What's so crazy to me, is they had a white man playing the KKK member against a black man. And the KKK member won and it was horrifying when I actually watched it. The racial tension that was happening in the 90s was being mirrored in the ring.
But of course, in wrestling you work together, and this match was built by them together, so what we came to was that Dawn & Stacey have reservations about it. But when you're wrestling there are ‘heels' and ‘faces' (bad guys vs. good) and there's nothing worse than a KKK member so they are the ultimate heel. So ultimately, we're just playing the worst bad guy.
We all discussed our feelings on it and felt that it was being portrayed correctly and that no one was rooting for the KKK in the episode. What was awesome is that Dawn & Stacey get to have that scene before they go out, where they discuss their nerves and reservations, so you can really see they are sort of being forced into it, they sort of don't like it but they are making it the best match they can. And I think Kimmy and I went through the same thing.
KG: That is the very meta thing about being on a show within a show, is that you often experience the same feelings that's happening to your character.
WDC: What kind of physical training did you have to go through to prepare for the role?
KG: We did four weeks of wrestling training before the season started. In season one we started with forward rolls and worked our way up to back bumps and body slams. In season two we were all worried we had forgotten everything but by the end of week one in season two we were already right back to where we were and asked, "what's next?", "can we get off the top rope yet?".
RJ: We did another four weeks before season two and the moves just got bigger and bigger. Even if you don't see all of us do all the moves on screen in season two, we actually learned everything. It's like learning a language, and whenever a match gets written in a script you practice for that match. Our wrestling coach and our stunt coordinator, ask us what we want to do but they ultimately have the ideas for the match. But we got to participate and had a lot of fun learning the bigger moves this season.
WDC: Is there anything you're excited for the audience to see regarding Dawn & Stacey?
KG: Season two, there's a lot more competition because we're already on television and there's a newfound fame but now everyone is competing for airtime. They are also competing to be more popular with their fans. So, Dawn & Stacey get very competitive with one cast member and end up stealing something from her. So, get ready for a very ‘hilariously mean' act from them. There's one episode this season, it's the most insane thing you've seen on television. I can't wait.
RJ: The other thing that I think is fun and I'm excited for people to see is, you get to see this empowering thing where the girls come together. They were all put in a box before, but now they get to figure out who they want to be and that happens on multiple levels. I think it's going to have even more female empowerment, and really being who you want to be and working towards that. I think it'll be inspirational... and we all can use that these days.
WDC: Speaking of being who you are and working towards that, you found success through digital content, The Apple Sisters landed you jobs with Glow, in an industry where controlling your fate is difficult. What advice do you have for other people trying to create their own content?
RJ: I came from an improv background and I feel like that helped so much in all aspects because when you're doing improv you're actually writing, directing, acting, and editing all at once. And you produce your own shows, because no one else is paying you to do that, so you get this awesome experience in so many different ways. I'm really happy I started in improv comedy because I was able to transition into being a producer and being a director and a writer and an actor and make my living by combining all those things. I really think the times that I was held back, "Oh I want to write something" but I'd think of all the obstacles, "oh it's going to cost money to shoot it" or "how am I going to get that location" they would hold me back from making my own work. Eventually, I just figured out all those problems are solvable, and you can do things on the cheap, especially with the technology we have on our phones, and it's just important to create. It doesn't have to be perfect when you write the first draft. Just get started and make your own work, then you're not just waiting by the phone, or an email from an agent to give you work but instead you're creating it while you're waiting.
KG: Coming from a comedy background and having to put on your own shows is definitely why I'm at where I am right now. I made a documentary film in 2008 and I had never made a movie before, and it ended up at SXSW. If you have the vision and if you want to do it you can figure it out. It seems a mystery in this business as to how anyone "makes it" but if someone has an idea they just need to keep following through with it. Don't let the obstacles and the rejection hold you back. Like Rebekka said, use the technology in front of us, our iPhones have amazing cameras and there are platforms where you can showcase your work. I think because we made videos that is eventually how we got this job on Glow. Because people could ask, "oh did they do stuff together?" and we did. No one can read your mind, you have to put out into the world what you want and eventually everyone gets a turn, I promise.