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GLOW

Wingman Wednesday

Patrick Renna

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Photo By: Bjoern

Disclaimer: This feature has the potential to make you feel older than you did prior to reading it.

It’s been 25 years since “The Sandlot” took us out to the ballgame. When it was first released in 1993, the feel-good film about a group of ragtag friends and their summer misadventures played our nostalgic soft spot like a baseball organ, but two and a half decades later it’s striking an entirely different sentimental chord… and it’s knocking us right out of the park!

We recently sat down with “The Sandlot” star Patrick Renna to discuss the reason the film is so special, what he remembers most about the experience, and why a group of gorgeous ladies of wrestling took up calling him Cupcake.

TrunkSpace: When you first stepped foot on “The Sandlot” set some 25 years ago, could you have ever possibly imagined that you’d still be talking about it now, all these years later?
Renna: No, I don’t think so. When we filmed it… you can always tell when something is good, you know? I’m pretty sure everything I’ve ever worked on, everyone is super pumped about it, but you can get a real feel of when it’s turning out really good, but no way do you get the idea that it’s gonna mean as much as it has for people as “The Sandlot” has.

TrunkSpace: The film was nostalgic to viewers at the time of its release just in the way the story was told, and now it’s nostalgic to people for an entirely different reason, which is pretty cool.
Renna: Oh, completely. I think what it is is generally the people that watched it in that age range of 10-20, when it came out, are now, you know, in the 25-40 range now, and they have kids, so, they’re showing it to their kids now.

TrunkSpace: If you just look at all of the other movies that came out that year, and how few of them resonated with people in the way that “The Sandlot” has – that’s a feat to have pulled that off.
Renna: It’s true. It’s great, and it’s really special to be part of something like that, and its humbling, because that’s why we do what we do. Most – and I would say even the people that you think are doing it just for the limelight – everyone does this job because they want to create a character, and be part of a film that means something to people. So, when you’re able to do that, it’s pretty special.

TrunkSpace: The film is a bit of a snapshot in time for people who grew up loving it. Do you find that fans have a hard time accepting that you’re no longer the kid they remember?
Renna: Yeah, I think sometimes people do. With me, and I hear it a lot, is that I look exactly the same. So, I think that’s probably an easier transition a little bit. Obviously I look the same, but 25 years older. I’m a character actor, and I have the red curly hair and the freckles, and so I think that eases that transition a bit.

We posted that photo of all of us together after 25 years because it’s the first time… and I think people generally liked it, but I think they’re probably, “Oh my gosh!” It’s making people feel old, you know?

TrunkSpace: Well that’s probably because one of you guys got jacked!
Renna: Yeah. That’s me. I look the same, see? (Laughter)

That’s Marty (York). Marty hit the gym a bit. He’s pretty ripped. He just posted a picture of him in a doctors uniform and it’s just been too much. We all give him a hard time. We all take shots about how buff he is, and then he looks at us and goes, “Hey, you guys could do it too.” “Yeah, screw you, man.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: For the end user, the audience, the finished film is usually the most memorable aspect of any project. But for the actors, it’s probably the memories – the experience. What did you take from your “The Sandlot” experience that you’ll carry with you throughout the rest of your life?
Renna: Well, I think what you take with you is the good and the bad, you know? You’re there, you’re in the summer, you’re in the heat. The good is that you’re just playing baseball and having a great time, but you are also on a film shoot, and it’s crunch time. You’re there with a bunch of adults who, this is their livelihood. You need to make a good film. So, it was a great learning experience, but yeah, I would say the things that I remember the most are almost immediately before scenes or immediately after.

We all shared this giant trailer and we all had our little section. I got a knock on my door that morning, and it was… I don’t even think it was David (Mickey Evans), I think he had someone come bring me a script, and they said, “David wants you to do this scene now.” And it was that morning, and the scene was the trash-talking scene on our field between the opposite team – the famous scene where we go back and forth. Originally it was supposed to be Benny to do that scene, but we were far enough along in the film that I think our characters kind of fleshed out, and Benny had really become a sort of legend kind of thing, and legends don’t do that. Derek Jeter is not. Maybe he is behind the scenes, but in front of it he’s more of the classy guy, and so I think he went, “Wow, this is Ham. This is Ham material.” So, I did that, and that’s what I remember most about that scene.

And then I remember the following scene, where I’m in the backstop and talking trash to each of the batters that come up. The way we filmed that is Dave, the director, was in the dugout and he had a bullhorn, and he just kept the film rolling. And this is 1992, so it was film. It was not digital, it was very expensive Kodak film, and this was not a 100 million dollar budget. He just let it roll, and I’m sure it cost a fortune that day, but he, on the bullhorn, improved lines to me. He’d say, “Say this…” and the whole cast and crew would start cracking up. And he’d go, “Okay, okay, okay, say it…” and I’d go, “Really?” All while we’re rolling. And then I’d say it, and then whichever one he liked made it in the film.

I’d love to see the outtakes that didn’t make it, because I’m sure there’s tons of insults that didn’t make it.

TrunkSpace: We talked about the film’s staying power, but the famous line that you delivered has its share of shelf life too. When you said it – “You’re killing me, Smalls” – did it feel like a line that would become a part of the pop culture lexicon?
Renna: I don’t think I knew or anyone knew that that line would become what it has become. Which, also, because I haven’t seen Tom Guiry for 25 years, until I saw him this past month, I was most excited – no, I don’t want to say most excited, but I was extra excited to see him, because of that line. I’m sure he’s grown up with it, and I’ve grown up with it, and he’s Smalls. I hung out with Chauncey (Leopardi) over the years, and we’ve remained good friends, but I hadn’t seen him so it was kind of extra special to see him because of that line. But no, I don’t think there was any way that we knew that line was gonna take off like that.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of in your career?
Renna: I think for anyone the first job is, and that was basically what “The Sandlot” was. It definitely holds an extremely special place in my heart, and because of what it’s become, and what it means… I think because it was my first job, it just makes it that much better.

The other ones that stick with me are the ones that are popular to people. I filmed an episode of “The X-Files,” which people seem to really like, and it was only a month of my life. Since then I’ve talked to so many people about it though, so it adds to it, and makes it more special over time. You know, projects that I’ve work on that maybe aren’t quite as special, they sort of… you forget about them a little bit. A couple years back I produced and acted in my first movie, and did it with a couple friends of mine, and we put the whole budget together, and produced, directed, and wrote it. All four of us did every aspect of it. It was called “Bad Roomies,” and that was a really special one too, just because I was on both sides of the camera.

And then I think, the latest job you work on is the most special because it’s so recent, and that would be “GLOW.” I just did a multiple episode arc on that show, on Season 2, and I’m pretty excited for it to come out.

TrunkSpace: We’re big fans of that series and pumped to get back into the ring with the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Where does your character fall into things? He’s a super fan, right?
Renna: Well, you know, they’re pretty tight-lipped about storylines, so I’m kind of not allowed to say much. There’s some cool stuff that happens, and it would definitely give it away, so I guess I’m only allowed to say I’m a super fan.

TrunkSpace: Your character’s name is Cupcake, which we have to say, is a great name.
Renna: Yeah, and it so funny because while I was on set with the girls, no one called me Patrick. It just became this thing of, “Cupcake.” Because how do you not? And I kind of loved it. I had a bunch of beautiful ladies, gorgeous ladies of wrestling, all calling me Cupcake all day long. So, it was perfect.

Season 2 of “GLOW” premieres June 29 on Netflix.

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Wingman Wednesday

Marianna Palka

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Palka as Vicky the Viking in “GLOW”

Fans of the Netflix series “GLOW” will know Marianna Palka as the squared circle brute Vicky the Viking, but beyond acting, the Scotland-native is a talented and sought-after filmmaker. Her movies “Bitch” and “Good Dick” were heaped with critical praise and she recently returned to the director’s chair to shoot the upcoming comedy “Egg” with Christina Hendricks, Alysia Reiner and Anna Camp.

We recently sat down with Palka to discuss how she balances wearing multiple on-set hats, how people will always need cinema in their lives, and why “GLOW” is such a game-changer for the industry.

TrunkSpace: We know that you write, direct, and act. Sometimes you do all three in the same project. Is that multi-hat experience wholly different than when you do something like “GLOW” where you’re focusing on acting alone?
Palka: That’s such a good question because I think those things all feed into one another. When I’m doing all of them together, it’s almost more streamlined and somewhat easier on some level because there are less conversations. I’m not explaining anything to my lead actress. I’m just talking with myself. So, it’s a beautiful thing when I’m doing all the jobs, but then it’s nice to just do one job like “GLOW” where I just have my lane and I like to stay in it.

Now with “Egg,” I like to stay in the directing lane. It’s the best.

TrunkSpace: Even though you like staying in the lane when you’re focusing on acting alone, is it hard to shut off the director’s brain? Not questioning decisions, but just wondering what the framing looks like and how a scene is playing out?
Palka: I like shutting off. It’s like a holiday. It’s like going on vacation. Do you like going on vacation to Hawaii or do you like going on vacation to Fiji? They’re both really awesome, you know? If I just have to focus on Hawaii, that’s fine. I tend not to be outside of what’s going on. I’m looking at it from the objective point of view when I’m working so subjectively as an actress.

It’s all about details and being in the moment. I’m really focused, so it’s kind of precise. I’m not really thinking about what anyone else should be doing, including other actors. I’m just thinking about me and how much I can bring to it or how generous I can be. It feels like a very giving, community-based activity.

TrunkSpace: The way people consume content has changed and continues to change. With that in mind, do you shoot your films with a particular format as your vision? Do you make them for the big screen?
Palka: I always thought about it both ways. Back in the day, I’d be like, “We’re making all of this detail, and someone may end up watching it on their VHS, or on a copy of a VHS, or whatever.” I’ve always been very open to that concept. I feel like now, even more so, I watch a lot of stuff on a small screen. But we’re still going to make all the cinematic decisions that we make in order for all of our movies to work in a cinema, because luckily enough, my movies have all played in the theaters first, and then they go wherever else they go. I know that’s not the case for everybody.

But that said, I think even if you’re a filmmaker and you’re making stuff that you know is going straight to online, you can still use the rules of cinema. You can still use justified camera movement. It doesn’t mean cinema has to die just because there’s a smaller screen. You can still make sure that the production design is amazing and that you’re not just pointing and shooting, but that you have a shot list and you’ve got good angles, and you’ve done it the way that a movie really gets to soar. The story really soars if you give all that skill.

TrunkSpace: It’s easier than ever to shoot a quality, affordable film and with so many distribution platforms now, it’s easier to get stuff out there. But with all of that in mind, is it more difficult to get people to notice what you’re doing on a grand scale because viewership is so segmented?
Palka: I’m not sure what’s going on in general for other filmmakers, but for me it’s the inverse of that. The more I’ve made movies, the more people have watched them. So the audience has been building, and I think that has to do with people wanting to see the stuff that’s more authentically in the cinema voice.

There’s this band First Aid Kit from Sweden made up of two sisters. They don’t have any modulation on their voices. It’s just their voices. You like to hear that. It’s just two people singing together that have sang together their whole life. There’s something so beautiful about it and it’s simple. It’s what we’ve been doing for hundreds of years. It’s like a centuries-old sound.

I think that there is something about the cinema that people need. They need stories that are told visually in a way that makes sense to them. I know not everyone will be able to articulate what it is visually that they’re finding appealing, but they know that they are appealed by it. They know that they find it appealing, the same way when I listen to First Aid Kit, I get choked up. I’m like, “Oh my God, this is so beautiful,” because it’s so authentic.

I think it’s really the authenticity in cinema that hasn’t died yet and will never die. I don’t feel like it’s going somewhere just because we’re changing our devices or our ways of watching it. I think it’s kind of stronger than ever because it’s been able to go through whatever ways society’s been changing.

Photo By: James Branaman

 

TrunkSpace: Certainly from a storytelling standpoint, the cinematic storytelling has sort of transferred over to television and “GLOW” is a perfect example of that. It’s a show that would have never been made even 10 years ago.
Palka: I know, it feels that way. It feels like it wouldn’t have been made even five years ago. Maybe not even a year or two years ago. It’s this moment in time that has allowed for it to happen. I love that. I love that years ago it would’ve been a movie that people would’ve gone to see at Sundance and that it wouldn’t necessarily been on Netflix for the world to see.

I love that we have this port in Netflix on that level and that they understand really what cinema is… that what they’re putting out there is really good stories and really well-crafted visuals with amazing quality of sound. It’s just wonderful. They’ve really maxed out the potential of each project. The way that they’ve done that has really given the artists feeling. It’s kind of like the Wild West right now. You’re allowed to make whatever film you want to make, or whatever TV show you want to make. You can really do anything and you can really say anything.

TrunkSpace: “GLOW” feels like the kind of series that is going to force the industry to look at what it’s doing and go back to the drawing board and diversify more.
Palka: I like how you literally said “GLOW” has changed the way that the industry views itself. Oh my God, that is so incredible. I feel like that.

TrunkSpace: It’s a show that people are enjoying in the moment and don’t realize what a game-changer it will be in the long run.
Palka: Oh my God, it’s so true. That’s what it felt like to make it. It felt like breaking all of these barriers. It felt like going through all of these ceilings. It was like, wow, we really want to be on a show where everybody’s a woman. We want to be on a show where all of the ladies are represented, every ethnicity, as much as they are possible. I loved it so much for that. That’s my experience in my life and it felt like putting that on the screen was a logical act. Then once we did it, it was like, “So we’ve done that, and now other people can do it more!”

TrunkSpace: And it could have gone in a completely different direction had the tone been different. There’s a version of this show that would have existed 10 years ago that was all slapstick with someone like Will Ferrell playing the Marc Maron character.
Palka: Wow, that’s so true, right? It’s such a meaningful, heartbreaking, authentic show. I love the creators, Liz and Carly, and Jenji… they just knew what they wanted to do. They were really clear with us. They’re very supportive and distinctive of females and they’re super beautiful mothers. They lead completely and dynamically, and it’s really awesome.

TrunkSpace: It kind of felt like a series that took people by surprise as well. There wasn’t much discussed publicly about it until its release and then it just sucks you in.
Palka: It really was beautiful on that level, because we got to have this beautiful time… we got to have so much connection. It felt like being soldiers together, connected in this bubble that was as intense as anything else. It felt like we were taking all these risks and anything could happen, because we were doing so much of the wrestling ourselves. It really felt like we could die. There was a sense that we could get injured, but also, we were in it together. It was beautiful to know that here we all were, going through the same experience and being so unified. So that was interesting because we were very jelled.

The half year, the eight months, between being done with it and it coming out, it was this real amazing time. We’re all really connected and need each other, because we’ve changed each others’ lives. We can’t go home after that. I care about every one of those women as much or maybe more than I care about myself. I really feel this deep bond. It’s like a link. You can’t take it away. Nothing could change it. Even if the world hated the show, we would still have had that bond.

I also think it’s funny, on our pink carpet at our premiere, we all were so put together and everything. We’re so dirty and sweaty and all our clothes are gross, and there’s nothing elegant, really, about the majority of the work that we did. Not like the fancy stuff that we did like when I’m Vicky the Viking and I’m playing that character. That was very elegant. That was like the most superhero stuff I’d done. But I just mean, like the daily grind of doing all those shows in our sweaty, dirty, disgusting stuff… felt so good. Then going to our premiere and seeing everybody in Givenchy, and all of our fancy, amazing, thousands of dollars worth of jewelry that we had… it was really funny to be like, “Oh yeah, we clean up nice.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Have you heard any word on a season 2 yet?
Palka: We haven’t. When they’re going to be official about it, they’re going to be official about it, but we’re all looking forward to more for sure.

Palka is currently filming “Egg.” “GLOW” is available now on Netflix.

Featured image by: James Branaman

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Wingman Wednesday

Kimmy Gatewood & Rebekka Johnson

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Photo By: Mandee Johnson

The new Netflix series “GLOW” may have thrust the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling into the spotlight, but the female-driven ensemble is stacked with members of a group we just now invented called GLOC, or as costars Kimmy Gatewood and Rebekka Johnson are proof to, the Gorgeous Ladies of Comedy.

We recently sat down with the hilariously infectious Gatewood and Johnson to discuss the importance of women working behind the scenes in Hollywood, riffing as The Beatdown Biddies, and how having the other person’s back means never being afraid to pull the Spandex out of their butt.

TrunkSpace: You are both content creators. How important is it that more women pursue creating content?
Gatewood: I think it’s really important. I think it’s important for women to be learning how to direct and edit, in addition to writing and producing. Our show was very proactive. It was probably 80 percent women writers and the creators were women.
Johnson: So were the directors.
Gatewood: Six out of the nine directors were women and there were 14 women in the cast. It’s all about storytelling. You need the storytellers, which are the writers and the directors, to be a part of that.
And also something we noticed, all 14 of our characters were these layered, amazing women and they felt
like real people on the page.

TrunkSpace: Absolutely. Each of the “GLOW” characters were interesting, dynamic, and as you said, layered.
Johnson: I had an audition for something after “GLOW” and the women were main characters in this show but didn’t have any character description. The only characters that had the character descriptions were the men.
Gatewood: The character descriptions were their age and that they’re “beautiful.” So it’s nice when you can be in a show where the descriptions are within the dialogue or it actually explains what kind of person they are and not just how they look.
Johnson: Yeah, in fact that, for “GLOW” there was nothing about our physical appearance at all in the breakdown. It was just such a cool thing to be a part of. I hope it inspires and encourages more women to tell female-driven stories and to tell their own stories.
Gatewood: When Rebekka and I first started comedy, we were the only women on the improv teams and you can imagine how daunting that was.

TrunkSpace: That’s a lot of pressure.
Gatewood: And it was almost an unwritten rule that there was one woman allowed on the team. It’s so weird. I am very happy to see that these days at the UCB, at The PIT, and everywhere else, that there are definitely a lot more women. And now it’s time to push even further and get them inside the writers’ room. We take particular care to encourage young women to be writing for themselves.
Johnson: Yeah, and we’ve been writing for ourselves and trying to create stuff for us. We’ve been working in comedy with our comedy group The Apple Sisters, which is three gals. You know, we’re just three gals, trying to make it in Hollywood.
Gatewood: We’re so progressive.
Johnson: Yeah. (Laughter)
Gatewood: Ahead of our time! (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Who better to know your voice than yourself, right?
Gatewood: Yeah, in fact, for the show, when we were doing The Beatdown Biddies, the writer looked at us and said, “This is why we hired you guys, so you don’t have to stick to what’s on the page at all.” And that was just such a vote of confidence. Obviously we’ve been working together for so long and we know each other’s voices, so we know what will make each other look the funniest.
Johnson: Yeah, and when you come from an improv and sketch background, you end up doing everything for yourself.
Gatewood: From writing to producing…
Johnson: To cleaning up. (Laughter)
Gatewood: Yeah.

Photo By: Mandee Johnson

TrunkSpace: Is it difficult at times to turn off the improv switch and just focus on the story as presented in the script?
Gatewood: Sometimes, yes. (Laughter) We’re always thinking about what’s not on the page and oftentimes that helps you as an actor… to kind of know what’s happening before or after. That’s a pretty common thing, I guess, in acting school. It is hard to turn off our brains because we pitch jokes constantly. And it was only when they were like, “Yeah, yeah, we don’t have time…” (Laughter)
Johnson: Yeah, like in episode 5 when we did the prank calling scene. That was all totally scripted. Everything we said was scripted.
Gatewood: But episode 10…
Johnson: We are able to do it. (Laughter)
Gatewood: In episode 10 as The Beatdown Biddies, they just let us go hog wild.
Johnson: Yeah, and we will not stop talking unless you make us. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Getting to improv in “GLOW” is kind of perfect for that world because so much of professional wrestling, at least in terms of character work, is unscripted.
Gatewood: I have to say, I was very surprised how much sketch comedy was a like wrestling. You’re doing a lot of improv, a lot of comedy, and wearing stupid costumes most of the time. (Laughter)
Johnson: You’re committing really hard to a character and that’s what makes the best kind of sketch comedy, when you’re really committed to whatever it is that you’re doing character-wise.
Gatewood: And trying to make each other look good. The cool thing about wrestling, which I think I learned over time, is that it’s unlike regular sports where you don’t know what’s going on. With wrestling, it’s always guaranteed to be an awesome match because they’re going to hit certain beats and I think that’s the same thing with sketch comedy.
Johnson: Yeah.
Gatewood: If you don’t get a laugh per minute, you’re not doing your job. And I think if you’re not wowing the audience per minute with wrestling, you’re not doing your job.
Johnson: It’s another art form for storytelling. It’s a cool, athletic art form and a way to tell stories in this physical way, which is just so fun. I could wrestle right now if you’d let me.

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) One of the cool things for you two must have been the idea that you were actually getting to play multiple characters in “GLOW.” You were your real-life series personas Dawn and Stacey, but then also your wrestling personas.
Johnson: Yeah, I feel really lucky that we got to do that because we do come from this sketch background and we love playing all different kinds of characters. Even in episode 3 when we had to do the Kuntar play, it was just so much fun to stretch and do all different kinds of voices.
Gatewood: To play good guys and bad guys.
Johnson: Yeah.

TrunkSpace: Speaking of bad guys, at one point your characters are tasked with wrestling under the guise of a couple of members of the KKK. From what we read, you had no idea that was going to happen, right?
Johnson: Yeah, it was just for that one episode. We go back to the Biddies too. (Laughter)
Gatewood: We were really nervous. When we saw that, we had no idea what we were doing. They held that information from us until the last minute when the scripts came out.
Johnson: We started working on the match and we thought we were gonna be the Biddies. It’s just like what happened in the show.
Gatewood: (Laugher)
Johnson: We were like, “So we’re gonna be the Biddies,” and then they were like, “Well, actually you’re the bad guys.”
Gatewood: “You’re gonna be wearing, you know, some things that might make your wrestling weird.”

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) Surprise!
Johnson: Yeah, and Kimmy looked over the shoulder of our wrestling coach and read his script. Her face turned white and she was like, “Um… it’s the KKK.” And we were both freaking out.
Gatewood: “We’re bad. We’re bad guys. We’re really bad guys.”
Johnson: Yeah, we didn’t know how it was gonna be handled, but it ended up being such an important and cool thing to do.
Gatewood: And surprisingly funny too.
Johnson: Yeah.

TrunkSpace: Do you each have your own favorite moment from a performance standpoint?
Johnson: Well, I’ll say it was when I saw episode 3, at the end when we first play The Beatdown Biddies, and we’re doing the promo for it. Kim and I had crafted those jokes and when I saw they were in, honestly, I cried so hard. And it’s so ridiculous, because I say, “I’m like a good fiber cereal, I’ll make you shit your pants!”
Gatewood: (Laughter)
Johnson: And I cried. I was like, “It’s in, man! That made it in there!” Which is a ridiculous thing to cry about, but I’ve been doing comedy for so long that it just meant so much to me. (Laughter)
Gatewood: I think the scene in episode 7, right before we put on our hoods, was a really awesome moment. It was the first scene where you saw Dawn and Stacey by themselves and you got to see just a little glimpse of them not being total clowns.
Johnson: Right. They were not “on.” We weren’t putting on a show for anybody.

TrunkSpace: We get the impression that you guys really have each other to rely on, not only in performance but in life.
Johnson: Yeah, we have each other. That’s been really lucky.
Gatewood: It is the benefit of being in a duo that you can constantly watch each other’s back, whether it’s finding a good joke or if it’s that your spandex is caught up in your butt.
Johnson: Yeah, she had to button my jeans for me one day because I couldn’t button them. I had to lay down flat and she had to button them. We had each other’s back. (Laughter)

Season 1 of “GLOW” is available now on Netflix.
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