Pop-Culturalist Chats with Kimmy Gatewood and Rebekka Johnson
Kimmy Gatewood and Rebekka Johnson have been comedy partners for years. So, naturally, they were cast and portray GLOW‘s dynamic hairdresser duo, Stacy (Gatewood) and Dawn (Johnson) aka The Beatdown Biddies. We were excited to chat with them both about their experience on GLOW, learning some sweet wrestling moves, and to hear more about the projects they’re currently working on.
P-C: You both have been doing comedy—separately and together—for years. What drew each of you to it?
Kimmy: I think for me movies like Singing in the Rain and that song “Make ’em Laugh” was just so comedic—with physical comedy and acting really silly—that it connected me to comedy. In high school, I was introduced to improv by the thespian festival and that kind of set me on track to do it for the rest of my life.
Rebekka: I always really liked making people laugh. In my family, nobody else is really in the business, but my dad was constantly making (and still constantly makes) corny jokes in that classic dad way. We call him Ned Flanders, like from The Simpsons. So, I really think there was value in making each other laugh. My great-aunt Norma was really hilarious, and we would watch Golden Girls when I was a kid. I would be allowed to stay up late and watch The Carol Burnett Show and Tracey Ullman. I remember Tracey Ullman saying that when she was little all the other girls wanted to be like pretty princesses for Halloween, and she wanted to be the ugliest person for Halloween. I was like, “Yeah! Me too!” I would always enjoy dressing up like an ugly fool. And I continue to do that in our comedy.
Kimmy: I would add that my dad was one of thirteen children so I have so many aunts and uncles, all varying degrees of hilarity, and that’s how you could get attention in that family. We used to put on shows for aunts and uncles—guaranteed audience—but that’s how you sold them on watching you perform—
Rebekka: If you were actually funny.
P-C: In preparation for GLOW, how much collaboration was there with you and the writers? Or was there?
Rebekka: Kimmy and I collaborated on our own for the audition and the call back. They had us do a lot of improv, and we came up with a bunch of tag team characters and did that. Once we were on the show, then, they wrote the script.
Kimmy: They scripted everything, our brilliant writers, and the times we were allowed to collaborate with them kind of came with the wrestling personas. That’s when they quite literally said to us, “This is why we hired you. You guys can do whatever you want.”
Rebekka: They made the actual Beatdown Biddies, but then we were really able to improvisethe dialogue and put our own spin on everything and come up with jokes that we enjoyed.
Kimmy: They were very receptive to joke pitches because, you know, it was a huge ensemble. Each character is so interesting and specific, and we ourselves were trying to figure out our characters. We would pitch them jokes and ideas, and they’d listen. It’s such a unique experience.
Rebekka: And then, once we got our costumes…because there were different versions of what we might be as Dawn and Stacey, once we got those heavy metal kind of crazy costumes and those side mullets, that really informed our characters as well.
P-C: Since you guys came up with a bunch of characters in the audition process, was there one duo in particular that you were like, “Oh this would be good to do some time?” Like performing those characters in the future sometime in one of your own comedic bits?
Kimmy: Lottie and the kid.
Rebekka: Oh yeah. we have this character where Kimmy plays this version of her fabulous Aunt Lottie and then I play her emo pissed off niece.
Kimmy: Like she wants to be a wrestler—I could definitely see them in the ring. And Lottie would be interuptting the show being like [in character], “My niece wants to be a wrestler!”
Rebekka [in character]: “God. Lemme just slam someone!”
Kimmy [in character]: “Oh so cute!”
Rebekka [in character]: “I’m not cute. You always say I’m cute. I won’t be so cute when I’m shoving my fist up your throat!”
Kimmy: You know, that’d be fun.
Rebekka: Yeah, that’d be fun.
P-C: What was the hardest wrestling move you had to learn for GLOW?
Kimmy: The head scissor in episode ten. It was not so much strength, but timing and coordination. You had to kick your whole leg over [my opponent’s] head to then be kicked in the head and just letting her use her own momentum to throw me out of the ring. It wasn’t just the head scissor. It was me being thrown out of the ring so trying to see which ropes to exit from every time. It’s not blind, but it is rather quick. You hope you can hit the right ropes, and then fall out without landing on your head.
Rebekka: I feel like for me, in episode 7, when we did the KKK match, I had to do this move that is kind of off-camera. You can see that I trip [my opponent], but basically what I had to do was get her against the ropes and then kind of bend down and stick my leg out to trip her. Then I had to climb over her, and I put her head under my robe. The tripping part was difficult because I had to get it right so I didn’t kick her ankles out, and also I just couldn’t see very well in the hood. So making sure I was timing it right: dropping down, kicking my leg out. But I had to time it right without kicking her so that she can trip over me. It’s just the coordinating of it all—in addition to having billowing fabric and my face covered. It was a little bit nerve-wracking because I didn’t want to kick her ankles, or for her to step on my leg and break it!
Kimmy: It was really weird. It was like wearing a ballgown…a really racist ballgown.
P-C: If you could face-off against any famous fictional or real duo, who would it be?
Rebekka: I’d say the New Jersey Housewives from GLOW.
Kimmy: Oh yeah.
Rebekka: I wanna get beat with a rolling pin and have a plunger in my face. I’s spank them and make them smell my mothballs.
Kimmy: It’d basically be a comedy-off.
Rebekka: Yeah, we’d have a comedy wrestle-off with them!
P-C: You both have also been involved on the production side of things—directing, writing, etc. and also have a podcast, The Apple Sisters (and created a short for it, too). What’s the biggest challenge of having so many different roles at once—production and acting in it?
Kimmy: Well the most difficult part is the scale compared to a larger production, but that’s also kind of the benefit of it. It is much more intimate, and you have complete control creatively. And, truly, it was out of necessity most of the time when we first started The Apple Sisters. It was just the three of us (Rebekka, Kimmy, and Sarah Lowe), and we roped in a couple other people. It was a lot of work, but it is worth it for the creative control. And, honestly, we couldn’t afford anything else.
Rebekka: Yeah, and it’s kind of incredible when we’ve worked on projects with bigger budgets, and you have one person doing one job. Because we both did so much stuff behind the camera recently, during GLOW I even had a hard time being like, “Oh, I don’t have to worry about anything except acting. Wow, this is so easy!” I didn’t have to coordinate craft services, or make sure the lights are rented, or check on insurance, or any of those things.
Kimmy: It was really fun.
Rebekka: It felt like real luxury to work fourteen hour days in wacky makeup and not have to load any equipment.
Kimmy: Though I’m sure we offered a few times.
P-C: What’s coming up for each of you?
Rebekka: We’re still performing as The Apple Sisters. We have a show in Los Angeles on July 31 at the UCB Sunset and in Las Vegas in September for Scoop Fest. We’ve been doing The Apple Sisters for ten years so we’ve been writing and rehearsing songs in our head during this interview!
Kimmy: I have a short film that I directed, Control, that is starting the circuit now. We were at the Palm Springs International Shortsfest, and now it’ll be playing at HollyShorts next month. Hopefully it will be at the a city near you very very soon.
Pop-Culturalist Speed Round
Guilty pleasure TV show or movie
Kimmy: Dancing with the Stars
Kimmy: Bossypants by Tina Fey
Rebekka: I liked all the books by Tom Robbins
The person you would both like to meet
Kimmy: Michelle Obama
Kimmy: I play the trombone and have been know to strip tease as I do it.
Rebekka: I am really good with a glue gun!
Photo Credit: Erica Parise/Netflix