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The secret history of GLOW's weirdest tag team

Kimmy Gatewood, aka one half of the Beatdown Biddies on the Netflix show, talks sweaty armpits, quitting acting and Geena Davis in a showgirl outfit.


Kimmy Gatewood (top) and Rebekka Johnson in GLOW.

Ali Goldstein/Netflix

You could say Kimmy Gatewood has been blessed with Hollywood fairy tale magic. 

It wasn't until later in life, the actor scored her big break -- a role in Netflix's female wrestling series GLOW, based on the real-life '80s female wrestlers who came from acting, modelling and dancing backgrounds, to perform Backbreakers, Brainbusters and Chokeslams in lycra on TV.

But stripping back the bold makeup and fancy costumes, Gatewood went through the Hollywood grind like anyone else. In that respect, she and her character on the show, hairdresser Stacey Beswick, have a lot in common.


Kimmy Gatewood.

Amanda Ramon

Like Beswick, aka one half of wrestling duo The Beatdown Biddies (two old women whose walking frames provide an advantage in the ring), Gatewood found herself working in Las Vegas, the setting for GLOW's third season currently out on Netflix.

Once upon a time Gatewood drove into Sin City as one third of The Apple Sisters, an improv comedy trio. Unable to afford plane tickets, Gatewood would spend an hour every night on the road, coming to and from gigs. Company came in the form of best friend and fellow Apple Sister Rebekka Johnson. For years Gatewood and Johnson spent hours and hours driving the same road, together.

"I'm really excited for when we're 80, 90 years old, eating cheese cake like the Golden Girls," Gatewood says.

Now, when Gatewood hops into her car, she finds her own face -- and beefed-up '80s hair -- beaming back at her from a billboard advertising GLOW. She also sees her best friend Johnson, because show creator Jenji Kohan -- the groundbreaking writer and producer of Netflix's female-led dramatic comedy Orange is The New Black -- hired the two as a pair. Or, you might say, a tag team.

"We did grinding, pounding the pavement for many years together and remained passionate about comedy, about art the whole time," Gatewood says. "To be able to share the success together has made it so much sweeter."


The cast of GLOW.

Ali Goldstein/Netflix

In many ways, Gatewood embodies the spirit of GLOW. Most of the characters are aspiring actresses who take jobs on a brand-new experimental show called Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. The pay is low, TV executives could pull the plug at any moment and barely anyone involved actually knows how to wrestle.

In GLOW's third season, the now experienced wrestlers relocate from their dingy training center in Los Angeles to an air-conditioned palace in the City of Lights. Instead of shooting a TV show, they perform live shows on stage every night.

"It almost feels like every character this season went through some existential crisis. You're doing the same show over and over and over again … you start to question yourself," Gatewood says.


The cast of GLOW became a team on and off screen.

Ali Goldstein/Netflix

Vegas was hard but it allowed Gatewood to hone her performing skills. It was also where she discovered the healing effect of fellow creatives in the same boat. Before GLOW, the car journeys to Vegas passed all the more quickly with Johnson's company. On the set of GLOW, the 15-strong cast of women form a collaborative, comfortable and supportive team.

"Within an hour of meeting each other, we were rolling around on the ground and holding each other and shoving our heads in each other's armpits," Gatewood says. "We were told we have to keep each other safe and not drop someone. It was amazing the trust we all had.

"We also sang a lot of songs randomly," she adds.

The cast, including Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin, do a Secret Santa every year -- a tradition Gatewood says the writers finally incorporated into the show. Outside gift giving, the cast band together to see each other's films, plays or gigs. Their Instagrams scrapbook it all.

A new face in those frames is Geena Davis, who plays Sandy Devereaux St. Clair, the Vegas hotel's entertainment director. "For her to want to be on our show really elevated everyone's game," Gatewood says. "She's a living legend."


Geena Davis.

Ali Goldstein/Netflix

Gatewood offers a Davis tidbit that needs to go on the show's Imdb trivia page. "In episode 9, that was 100% [Davis'] idea was to get into a showgirl costume," Gatewood says. "You never see women of a certain age singing in a skimpy outfit, doing something sexualized. It was her idea that she brought to the table and the creators were like heck yes, we'll put you Geena Davis in a sparkly showgirl outfit."

Davis' famous role in 1991's female buddy road film Thelma & Louise springs to mind when looking at Gatewood and Johnson's own journey. A two-decade long journey as friends and collaborators through the entertainment industry, which saw Gatewood nab directing gigs including an episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for show creator and star Rachel Bloom, who Gatewood has since directed music videos for.

Along with acting and motherhood, Gatewood's got a busy schedule ahead. She's directing an episode of The Baby-Sitters Club for Netflix, her short comedy called Consent is hitting select theaters, and come October she's launching a podcast called Mother of all Shows (which takes an anthropological look at motherhood).

But everything could so easily have fallen apart.

Before GLOW, Gatewood reached a point where she was ready to quit acting and take on a job executive producing a podcast network. Then she saw an email with "Jenji Kohan" in the subject line and then she saw that she could audition with her best friend.

"It was a crazy moment. I was going to get on a plane and accept a job doing not acting … If I could go back and tell myself, all those years grinding it out, 'Just go for it,' maybe it would have been a different experience."

Gatewood, who actually watched the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling when it was on TV in the '80s, is more than happy to have one "awesome" job in her lifetime, especially one with a diverse, collaborative female ensemble.

"When you see a billboard with your face on it, you're like, 'I did it.'"