Interview With REBEKKA JOHNSON | Laughter is Everything for Me
To live is to experience variety. It is present on every step of the way and enables us to expand beyond we have been before. To be facing situations that seem unfair or undesired and to meet them with a smile on our face is to walk through life supported by the one true power – the one that no-one else has access to as it is the light from within. By doing so for ourselves first and foremost, we will be able to do, be and act equally for others. When we care about how we feel, we will tap into our innate kindness that will, in turn, spread to everything we do and everyone we encounter in our way.
Talented actress, writer and comedian Rebekka Johnson, who can be seen as Dawn on Netflix’s series GLOW says: “Laughter is everything for me. I realized that I inadvertently taught my son that I value laughter and kindness above most other things.”
In this interview with Rebekka, you will enjoy discovering her life views and journey towards the existence she wants to experience.
- Please introduce yourself briefly. Who, in your own words, is Rebekka Johnson?
Hello! My name is Rebekka Johnson. I’m an actress, writer and general comedian person living in Los Angeles. I grew up in Staten Island, went to college at Montclair State University where I met my husband and started doing improv. Now I have a five-year-old kid, a thirteen-year-old marriage, a twenty-year-old comedy career, and a brand new attitude.
- The entertainment industry is rapidly evolving as technology makes both the production and viewing sides of the industry more accessible. How do you think the evolution of technology and streaming platforms has changed the industry?
Streaming platforms have made it possible to break the typical mold for the types of shows and movies that get made. It has also created an environment where it feels like there is just too much to watch. It’s a blessing and a curse. It can be harder for a quality show to rise to the “watercooler talk” level of shows in the past. That being said, I don’t think shows like GLOW, Fleabag or Russian Doll would have been made before streaming platforms changed the game. I’m excited to be a part of this “Golden Age” of television.
- On GLOW, the Netflix comedy which follows out-of-work actress Ruth Wilder in the ’80s as she creates the first women’s wrestling TV show, you play Dawn, a female wrestler. How was the process of becoming Dawn and how do you relate to her?
Before GLOW, Dawn wasn’t a wrestler. She was a hairdresser who used to make her clients laugh and charm her way into the pants of rock club barbacks. Dawn and her best friend, Stacey had dreams of being famous but could never get past the first round of a music video background open call. Now, they have found a home in the unlikely world of female wrestling.
They fit right in with this ragtag group of outcasts and may finally make their fame dreams a reality. (And maybe move on up from barbacks to BARTENDERS!)
I haven’t had the same journey BUT, I have been busting my buns, grinding out a career and climbing each and every rung on the long ladder of success. I get to work with my best friend and comedy partner, Kimmy Gatewood. I had never wrestled before but I was down for anything and threw myself into the mat, literally. I had been doing a bunch of freelance work as a director, producer, writer and actress before GLOW and I was teaching improv and waiting tables until very recently. I feel like my long journey prepared me to play Dawn. I worked super hard to get here and yet, I still can’t believe my luck.
- The third season of GLOW premiered on August 9, 2019. Throughout the seasons, Dawn has evolved as she has become more famous and the stakes become higher. What does the future have in store for her?
I don’t actually know exactly what the future has in store for Dawn. I do know that she can never go back to giving permanents to blue-hairs at the Beverly Center. She is a wrestler now – playing a blue hair and cracking up the crowd. Now that she has had a taste of the spotlight, she’s not going to give it up.
- Dawn and Stacey, played by Kimmy Gatewood, are inseparable in the series. Off-screen, you and Kimmy are part of the comedy team ‘The Apple Sisters.’ How does your relationship off-screen contribute to your characters’ dynamic on-screen?
We started The Apple Sisters thirteen years ago with our third comedy partner, Sarah Lowe. The three of us have an insanely close collaborative relationship. We get each other so well, it’s like we can read each others’ minds when writing and performing. Kimmy and I have been able to continue that dynamic whether we are the Beatdown Biddies, The Toxic Twins or Dawn and Stacey.
- On GLOW, you often do your own stunts. What is this experience like and how do you train?
We train for a month before we shoot. In Season 1, we started with the basics and then moved on to more complex moves. At first, I was high on enthusiasm but low on athletic skills. I am used to physical comedy and musical theater but wrestling was a whole other ball of wax. I was scared of getting hurt but luckily we have the best stunt team in the world. Shauna Duggins, Chavo Guerrero, Helena Barrett and Marty Elias not only kept us safe but also somehow turned this lump into an actual wrestler. I actually did almost all of my own stunts. The only time Helena had to go in for me was when I had food poisoning during the finale of Season 1. I threw up between takes for a couple of hours and when production found out, they sent me home early.
- GLOW portrays a feminist moment in the 1980s which is in conversation with the feminist movement today. What aspects of the show do you think are most relevant to our current society?
GLOW sheds light on how far women have come since the 80’s but also makes you aware of how much more has to be done to achieve true equality. I love to see Debbie stepped into the producer role and take on the work-life balance so many mothers like me face today. I think that just the existence of this diverse group of women kicking ass on television is a good thing for feminism. To be on a show about women’s bodies and friendships run by women is great for our society. MORE PLEASE!
- You have expanded your repertoire to include producing. What inspired you to take on this new path?
As a sketch and improv comedian, I spent many years producing my own work. When the opportunity came to spin my experience into an actual job (Speakeasy with Paul F. Tompkins) I jumped at the chance. I was acting and writing at the time but it was always helpful to have other ways to make an income while developing my own work. Plus, I like being on the top of the callsheet!
- Your short film Consent, a Short Comedy About a Serious Subject, which you produced and star in, follows a fan who is put in an uncomfortable situation with a singer. Why did you choose this subject matter?
I wrote the film to further the discussion about the grey area between a bad date and sexual assault. I chose to flip the traditional gender roles and play the aggressor myself. We cast the victim as a white male and used an allegory instead of any sexual acts to focus on the emotional journey of the victim. I hope people see that consent is so much more than “No Means No” and that if we communicate during dates and listen to each other’s body language we can tell when someone is not into it. And if someone is not into it – stop. I wanted to say, “Hey, man- If no one wants to f%&k you… just go f%&k yourself! Literally.” But instead, I wrote a thirteen-minute film.
- The film is currently making its way through the festival circuits. How have audiences reacted to it? Have you been able to connect with the viewers in any way?
Consent has garnered fantastic responses. We won a few awards and had thoughtful Q and A’s after the screenings. I have had several people tell me that it made them consider the topic in a new way and that is just great.
- Acting and producing are creative pursuits, and your emotional reality influences the physical outcome. How do you take care of yourself to maintain a state of being that supports your creative expression the way you want?
I go to therapy once a week. My husband and I go on weekly date nights. I take workout classes that combine yoga with jumping on a trampoline. I also try and spend as much time playing with my five years old as possible. He’s a quirky kid and cracks me up. Oh, and I also try to get away – I am currently doing this interview while on vacation in Hawaii. Wild pigs are bathing themselves in a mud pit in the yard. Maybe I should take a cue from them.
- Are you involved in any charity organization or humanitarian cause you would like to mention?
I am devastated about what is happening at our border. I encourage all of your readers to donate to RAICES. It is a nonprofit agency that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees. We need to do everything we can to help the detained families, unaccompanied minors and asylum seekers that have come here to find a better life.
More info and a link to donate: https://www.raicestexas.org/donate/
- The spirit of The Hedonist Magazine is The Essence of Joyful Living. How does Joy during the creative process affect your own experience and in consequence the final manifestation of your actions?
Laughter is everything for me. I realized that I inadvertently taught my son that I value laughter and kindness above most other things. He is constantly trying to pull pranks and make jokes (sometimes at inappropriate times). I don’t take myself too seriously and seeking joy makes me a better mother, wife and comedy creator.
- When you hear: “You can be, do and have anything you want,” words from the Abraham-Hicks teachings, what is your take on such a statement?
It seems like a statement that wealthy people in power believe. They wake up, slap on their after shave and say it to themselves in the mirror. It doesn’t take into account privilege and the fact that some come into the world with an easier path laid out for them. I am so lucky that I get to be and do what I want. I don’t have everything I want but I don’t need all that crap anyway.
Header Photo by Mandee Johnson