One half of The Beatdown Biddies talks about recreating ’80s Vegas and her favorite dramatic moment on the third season of Netflix’s GLOW.
Netflix’s GLOW feels underappreciated, but it has one of the most solid ensembles on television. With this third season, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling find themselves feeling a bit bored while doing their show in Sin City, and they decide to change it up. In episode 5, they switch roles, and one of the funniest trade-offs comes from Rebekka Johnson. Johnson’s Dawn gets to dance around the stage as Junk Chain, and it looks like she’s having a blast.
Johnson has such an infectiously fun personality, and it was great hearing her comment about her training, her relationship with co-star Kimmy Gatewood, and what she hopes for Dawn in Season 4. There is a moment in one of the episodes where Johnson gets a brief dramatic moment, and it stuck with me as the season concluded. I hope everyone notices it, and it needs to be carried into the fourth season. Johnson is a shining example of a good ensemble member. She steals the spotlight when she’s on screen and leaves you wanting her to come back for more.
Awards Daily: Has the physical stuff gotten any easier now that you’re three seasons into it?
Rebekka Johnson: Yeah. With Season 1, it was pretty intense for me. I went from basically not working out—I did physical comedy and, you know, took a walk every once in a while. My son was not even two at the time, so I was focused on that. With the first season, we went into one month with wrestling training. Even though we started off small and worked up to bigger moves, it was really intense on my body. I spent a lot of Season 1 with knee pain and some with my back—as anyone would who was a mushy lump and then started to wrestle. Between seasons 1 and 2, I started doing pilates. I was focusing on getting any strength going in my body. Season 2 was easier, and I amped it up between 2 and 3. Season 3 was easier, too. You can’t see my abs, but they’re there.
AD: Hey, I just had an appointment with my doctor recently, and when he asked me if I do any exercise, I told him that I walk to work every day. That counts, right?
RJ: I get 3,000 steps a day and they’re like, ‘It should be 10,000.’
AD: Do I stop and get a croissant on my way to work? Yes, I do.
RJ: Absolutely. Exercise your mouth.
AD: You guys didn’t film anywhere near Vegas, did you?
RJ: No, we filmed in Los Angeles. They built it on a stage. Well, they built an ’80s GLOW version of Vegas. They were inspired by ’80s Vegas. They made an entirely fictional casino for the Fan Tan and some of the sets were miniatures.
AD: Oh, that’s cool. I didn’t know that.
RJ: Being on the set felt like we were in a real casino. It’s amazing what they can do with an empty warehouse and make it feel exactly like ’80s Las Vegas. We also did some shooting in Ontario, California, and there’s a hotel that was kind of a time capsule. Like not renovated. They did some renovations for GLOW but then we stayed in the rooms that could’ve been from the ’80s. It was like staying in a museum. A dirty museum (laughs).
AD: One of the highlights of the entire season is “Freaky Tuesday” where you all switch parts? Were you excited to change it up and play other characters, and did you give Kia and Sunita any pointers on playing The Beatdown Biddies?
RJ: It’s so funny because Kimmy and I work on our bits a lot. We write things for The Biddies because it’s something that we really enjoy doing. A lot of times it will say, ‘The Biddies enter’ and Kimmy and I will say 20 jokes as we walk to the stage that we’ve written. It was really funny to see the script for it, to see the writers’ jokes for the girls. It’s was funny to see those written out and not on my and Kimmy’s voice memo on our phones. The writers obviously write the show, but they let me and Kimmy come up with a lot of bits for our characters. It was awesome to see Kia and Sunita play our roles. I got to play Junk Chain, and I was freaking out a little bit because Shakira [Barrera] and I are not the same size at all. Shakira works out all the time—she used to be a professional dancer. She’s just one big muscle, and she used to teach Zumba. I was like, ‘Are you guys kidding me? I have to wear her hot pants and crop top?’ It became a joke that I couldn’t close the shorts, because I couldn’t close the shorts! They let me wear Dawn’s sweatpants for the match because I truly could not close them. I had to swallow my pride a little bit, but it ends up being funnier. I look at my body when I’m shooting GLOW and I think it’s not my body—it’s Dawn’s body. It’s not my fault.
AD: Damn it, Dawn.
RJ: Dawn needs to lay off the doughnuts. Dawn is the one that needs to go to Weight Watchers.
AD: We’ll have to track her down and have a talk with her.
RJ: Dawn is a star now—she needs to look like one.
AD: How do you think your chemistry and relationship with Kimmy has changed over the course of three seasons of GLOW?
RJ: We are very close. I was the maid of honor at her wedding, but I feel like, as GLOW continues, we keep collaborating more and more. We went from being really close friends to really sharing the same brain. The other day, we did a number in Rachel Bloom’s variety show, and we watched each other’s rehearsals and just punched each other’s bits up and directed each other. We make each other’s comedy better.
In terms of having someone be your personal champion, I love her comedy style and we are on the same page with some many things. It only elevates everything I do. Friendship-wise, it’s great to have someone I know so well as part of this TV show which I think would have been so daunting without someone I knew. It’d be like going to a new school—I’d be so excited to be there, but I wouldn’t know anybody! It was awesome to have each other. In Season 1, we had these small little trailers, and there was a little door between them. So we had one big trailer.
AD: Oh nice!
RJ: And by big, I mean the size of the rug in my living room. But we shared a trailer!
AD: I couldn’t imagine playing parts like Dawn and Kimmy and not having that bond immediately. It would have been so scary to try and establish that if it wasn’t already there.
RJ: Or what if you don’t get along? What if they’re a douchebag? What would you do?
AD: In the ‘Outward Bound’ episode, you have this sad moment when Stacey suggests that maybe switching characters permanently would help with Dawn not chewing the scenery. Can you talk about that moment, because I thought it was a nice, poignant moment for your character.
RJ: Thank you. It’s so interesting because the director of that episode Anya Adams created such an amazing energy where we could make crazy jokes and also cry at the end. It was such a wild episode. For that moment specifically, I thought Dawn was really hurt by that, and they were pushing me to be a bit lighter with it. I’d do a take where I joke about it and then I’d do my take. We entered this journey together and Stacey is flippantly saying that she doesn’t want to be my tag-team partner. I just thought that would cut a little deeper, and so they used that take which I was really happy about. I think it shows that we really care about each other. Stacey is being selfish in that moment (laughs). If she wanted to switch it up, she shouldn’t spring it on me while I’m stoned! (laughs)
AD: She should come to you first! How rude!
RJ: Kimmy better not pull any of that!
AD: I did not know that you did voicework. You recently did a guest spot on American Dad! and I find that type of work so fascinating. Would you want to do more?
RJ: I really do. I did a bunch of voicework in New York, and I did some work on a Comedy Central show called Ugly Americans, but I would love to go to work in my pajamas and only act with my voice. I’m lazy, so it’d be perfect! (laughs)
AD: What do you want to see with Dawn in Season 4 of GLOW?
RJ: I would love to see Dawn have a real romantic story, and I would love to see her relationship with some of the other characters. I want to explore more of that. What are her aspirations beyond partying and being an idiot in the ring? I want to see how she plays in with Debbie and Ruth. Dawn hasn’t gotten laid in a while. Come on, she’s hot.
AD: She is.
RJ: She’s flexible! I am really hoping that we get to make the fourth season!
All 3 seasons of GLOW are streaming now on Netflix.