Rebekka Johnson fell in love with pro wrestling as Dawn on the hit series "GLOW" on Netflix. The actress, writer and director gained a new appreciation for the physicality and theatrics required to be a successful in-ring performer.
"It's just fun to watch all the different moves that they do, look and see how they take hits," said one-half of the "Beatdown Biddies" with Kimmy Gatewood's Stacey.
"How they express being in pain. I also really enjoyed going and seeing it live. All the girls freaked out when Bray [Wyatt] came out with incense and smoke. All the over-the-top elements of everyone's' characters. It's so fun to see that it's not much different than what I do, which is sketch comedy. They are all so committed to their characters, but they also get to do this amazing athletic stunt performance."
Johnson recalls attending numerous "SmackDown" and "Raw" events. It's there she got to meet some of the top female WWE superstars firsthand.
"I love Becky Lynch. I love Natalya. I am a fan of Taya from Impact Wrestling. I know her from Lucha. I love Lana. I think she is a lot of fun. I got to meet a lot of them backstage, and I was completely starstruck because not only did I watch WWE "SmackDown" and "Raw." I also watched, guilty pleasure, "Total Divas" and follow a lot of them on Instagram, so I felt like I know them," she said.
"Even when I met Renee Young I was like, 'So hi, are you actually married to Dean Ambrose.' I was such a weird fan. I met Paige. We met so many of the people. We met AJ Styles. Everyone we met was really into the show. They really loved 'GLOW,' especially the female wrestlers who thought it was great to see us onscreen and expressed how it helped shine a light on what they do and were getting more interest than what they had been."
The "GLOW" cast member liked the tone of season three as the ladies ventured to the bright lights of Las Vegas. It's there more relationships are explored where working regularly in Sin City impacts their lives.
"You get to see a little bit of the toll it takes on their bodies from wrestling that much. They went from practicing and wrestling once a week on the show to doing the same moves every single day," Johnson said. That affects them in a different way. Season three also tackles a lot of big themes like homophobia, sexism. It showed what happened in the '80s, but I feel like when you watch it with a 2019 lens you can see how some of this stuff is still going on.
"You get to see how things change but also how they stay the same. I think it's a pretty amazing season for the girls. It's so exciting to watch. There wasn't as much wrestling, and I miss the wrestling. I really enjoy getting to wrestle. I don't get to do that eight months a year, so those four months I want to get in the ring as much as possible. We didn't get to do as much, but the stuff we got to do was really fun."
Johnson has been receiving glowing feedback for the latest round of episodes. For her, audiences have enjoyed watching more of the girls involved in fleshed out storylines. She names the ones involving Bash and Debbie in particular, as well as Yolanda and Arthie. Outside the squared circle and away from the cameras, Johnson feels her involvement on the series helped change the way she looked at herself.
"After season one of 'GLOW,' my son was not even two-years-old. I had not been working out that much since having my kid. I was always worried a little bit about my weight and making sure I fit in Hollywood, which I never quite did. It was amazing to be put in a role where I wasn't picked skinny, and they told me not to lose weight. They told me they want real bodies and want us who we are. That was sort of odd to me.
"I was wearing these unitards and leotards that were really revealing. Then the show has nothing to do with that. It has us using our bodies for this athletic, powerful performance. It just made me look at myself in a completely different way. After season one, I went on a vacation on the beach and didn't think twice about being in a bathing suit. There was literally no self-consciousness.
"It's not like I look in the mirror and say, 'Wow, look at that perfect body.' But I just don't care as much anymore. I used to care so much. Now I just don't care enough anymore. It's been so confidence boosting when it comes to my self-image. Also, I never thought I could be an athlete. Now I feel like I'm on the lowest tier of athlete, but I actually feel much more athletic than I ever felt before."
If there is a season four, Johnson hopes to see Dawn and Stacey in some sort of existential crisis. There is the sense "GLOW" has only scratched the surface in fleshing out the comedic duo.
"When the show is up in the air, they are not going to go back and work at the salon. That will be so difficult for them, but then are they going to try to be regular actors. What is that struggle? It really depends on where the show picks up from," she said.
"We know Debbie and Bash now own a television station, so maybe "GLOW" will come back. But what is going to happen until then. I want to see the emotional journey they are going through. Also, how does Vegas affect them and change the way they look at Los Angeles? I feel like it might have ruined a little bit of the party scene for them. I hope they get some hookups because it's been dry."
Aside from "GLOW," Johnson is creatively fulfilled lending her creative vision to other projects with "Consent, a Short Comedy About a Serious Subject" at the top of the list. The film short is near and dear to her heart.
"I really wanted to talk about the gray area between sexual assault and a bad date. I wanted to do it in a comedy because that's the art form I've chosen to dedicate the last 20 years to. It took me a while to try and turn that dark concept into a comedy, but then figure out I can make it into an allegory," Johnson said.
"I decided to write about a musician who wouldn't stop singing to a fan. I taught myself how to play ukulele. I wrote the song. Then enlisted the wonderful Kimmy Gatewood to direct the film and We made it in two days. We raised money. I convinced Jackie Tohn to be in the film as well as the amazing Tate Ellington, who is about to be in 'Lincoln' on NBC. Now we're doing festivals all over the place, and hopefully soon, we'll be putting it up online. It has been such an exciting journey this last year putting that movie together and seeing the response. It has been incredible.
The three seasons of "GLOW" are now available to stream on Netflix. Rebekka's full interview with Wrestling Inc was included as part of a recent episode of our WINCLY podcast. It can be heard in full via the embedded audio player at the bottom of this post.