Rebekka Johnson, one half of the Beatdown Biddies from Netflix’s GLOW, talks to Awards Daily about pranks, her ’80s-style audition, and the unlikely companion show to GLOW from—scandal!—another streaming service.
Rebekka Johnson plays prankster and “Beatdown Biddy” Dawn on Netflix’s GLOW, something she unknowingly spent years preparing for.
“I was on MTV’s Boiling Points [hidden camera prank show],” says Johnson, “and I was on several prank shows after that for like 10 years, on and off.”
While perfecting the art of the prank, she also spent years working alongside her fellow “Biddy” buddy Kimmy Gatewood, who plays Stacey on the Netflix series. They both waited tables at the same cocktail bar The Varnish in LA before starting the comedy group The Apple Sisters. They even had their own feather hair accessory business Nerds of a Feather to pay for plane tickets home for the holidays.
“Kimmy and I are kind of like sisters. It’s been so fun to go through the experience of being on a TV show. It’s amazing to have a partner in crime. If we needed to vent about anything, we’d vent to each other and also we got to celebrate everything together. And even our characters are best friends, so we were always in every scene together, even in the background, so there was always someone to work off of, no matter what.”
Between breaks while shooting GLOW, they write and work on their own TV show in development. “And our kids are three months apart, so we spend a lot of time together. Even now, we were both away from each other for three weeks, and we were like, this is the longest we haven’t seen each other.”
Nerds of a Feather
Johnson and Gatewood actually got to audition together for GLOW, because producers were looking for existing comedy duos. The Beatdown Biddies are based on real-life GLOW characters The Housewives.
“In the second audition, they asked us to come up with our own tag team character, so we came up with five different versions of tag team characters. We really thought strategically. We knew they weren’t coming to us because we were athletes, but because we were comediennes.” Although Johnson admits to throwing in her dance ability (“I did a jump split”) and Gatewood’s strength in pratfalls and throwing herself against the wall.
In addition to comedy, they also had style on their side.
“We gave it everything we had and dressed in ‘80s vintage jeans and teased our hair. Everyone in the callback was in athletic wear, and we were wearing ‘80s clothes. We gave them a 20-minute sketch show basically. We felt really good about it. The show is entirely scripted, but they will let us ad-lib as the Biddies sometimes. We’ll take some time and pump out jokes, so we have a whole list of Beatdown Biddies jokes that can be used whenever.”
The comedy part comes easy, but then there’s the work in the ring. For Season 1, the cast trained for four weeks before shooting and did the same for Season 2. Johnson credits the wrestling/stunt team with giving them confidence in their moves and safety.
“Definitely there’s a fear of getting hurt, but the cool thing is that our wrestling coach Chavo Guerrero Jr., stunt coordinator Shauna Duggins, and stunt woman Helena Barrett—their main job is to keep us safe, so we really put a lot of faith with them. It’s all about learning things and figuring out choreography we know how to do and putting it together and doing it over and over again until we have to shoot. They’re really good about saying, ‘Hey, in this shot, you’re not gonna see you hit the mat, so you can take that bump a little easy.’”
What they’re doing is actually safer than what you try at home.
“We learn so much wrestling, but we learn from people who really know what they’re doing. A lot of guys I know know headlocks and body slams and suplexes, just because they did it in their backyard growing up. The way I’m learning it is way more safe than my brother when he was messing with friends.”
Going Over the Top
Often, Dawn and Stacey steal scenes without even being the focus of the moment (see: the pommel horse scene), employing a unique strategy.
“Kimmy and I started being as big of assholes as we could possibly be and they wouldn’t tell us to stop. They just wouldn’t say stop. They wrote us running our heads into the wall and that was written in, but it’s based on the idiocy of our natural selves. There was only one time while filming Season 2 where they got mad at us for being over the top. That was the only time.” Johnson laughs, “It’s Dawn and Stacey, not Rebecca and Kimmy!”
Season 2 of GLOW is one of the most highly anticipated TV returns of the summer, something Johnson thinks is due to the Bad News Bears-style story that gives audiences a ragtag team to cheer for.
“You root for these girls because they’re not shoe-ins for being amazing at wrestling or being amazing at being television stars. I love that there are 14 women, now 15 in Season 2, and they’re completely different characters. It’s so different than so much of what I’ve auditioned for where a female character basically has a physical description, and the male characters have, like, 20 quirky differences. It’s not in everything, but sometimes it’s like, ‘Goddammit, they don’t even have a real character description.’ And so it’s cool that GLOW has created these amazingly rich, layered women, so even if my character only has a couple of lines sometimes, you can still see I’m based on something and supporting everyone else. It has a lot of heart. It’s really funny. Wrestling is a storytelling art form and itself is really fun. But seeing women do something traditionally thought of as a male sport I think is also really fun.”
GLOW Season 2
Season 2 picks up with the girls actually making the TV show, which of course changes the dynamics within the group.
“We get more competitive, because we’re competing for more screen time. You also see the girls take ownership of their identities and not just go along with what they’ve been given by the men. It’s even more empowering than last year and as much as there are bigger wrestling moves, there are also a lot more dramatic moments between the girls. It’s still uplifting.”
Johnson also offers up GLOW as an unlikely antidote to another female-driven series.
“I loved The Handmaid’s Tale, and I felt like it was such a great thing and I thought, ‘I can’t wait for people to see GLOW’, because it’s the other side of the coin, in terms of women kicking ass and winning. I know it’s on a different network, but it’s a good show.”
Season 2 of GLOW starts streaming Friday, June 29.