Kimmy Gatewood: “I would like to encourage more female driven comedy”

I would like to encourage more female driven comedy. When I was starting out in comedy, there were a lot of articles and a systematic sexist notion that women weren’t funny. It fueled me to write and perform. As I have progressed in this industry, I was told I couldn’t direct because it was too […]

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I would like to encourage more female driven comedy. When I was starting out in comedy, there were a lot of articles and a systematic sexist notion that women weren’t funny. It fueled me to write and perform. As I have progressed in this industry, I was told I couldn’t direct because it was too hard to break in and they “don’t hire women.” I’d like to continue to push for more inclusion on and off camera.

As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Kimmy Gatewood.

You may recognize Gatewood from her on-screen role as Stacey on Netflix’s critically acclaimed series “GLOW” or as Coach Crowley on Atypical. As a director, she will be making her feature debut, Good on Paper written by and starring Iliza Shlesinger for Netflix, premiering globally June 23rd. Credits include “Timeline,” an interactive series produced by Will Gluck’s Olive Bridge Entertainment, and Emmy nominated series including “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (The CW) “Sesame Street” (HBOMax) “Girls5Eva” (Peacock), and “The Babysitters Club” (Netflix). Upcoming projects include the feature Vengeful Virgins and two scripts with her writing partner Alison Becker, including Girlworld produced by Ben Stiller at Amazon.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I’m originally from a small town in Maryland. My parents ran a small contracting business, so I learned to paint and put up drywall at a young age — a perfect skill for building sets for the theatre. When I was looking at colleges, I was initially thinking of being a biology major, but in the end, I went to Syracuse University for theatre. I was the first one in my family to go to college, so I give them a lot of credit for letting me chase my theatre dreams!

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

My dad is one of thirteen children, so I remember holidays were always a big deal with tons of family. We would go up to Lake Canendaigua in upstate New York every year for Labor Day which to me equaled a captive audience. I would recruit my cousins to put on shows — and my aunts, uncles, and their partners would be forced eager to watch our dances to “Opposites Attract” and “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” I think the early days of putting on shows for family and skits at Girl Scout Camp really nurtured my love of performance.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I was working at a cocktail bar called the Varnish in downtown Los Angeles. It was a wild time (in fact there’s a book about it called Unvarnished where I share a story). The bar was always packed with celebrity chefs, restaurant owners and Hollywood celebrities, including Ryan Gosling. He wanted to learn how to make a cocktail for the movie Crazy Stupid Love (you remember that scene with him and Emma Stone, right???) After hours, we would gather around the piano sing old 1940s tunes. We all shared a passion for the Andrews Sisters, in fact, my comedy, The Apple Sisters, was a send up of the Andrews Sisters. So, he came to see our show live, ended up producing our first album and we opened for his band Dead Man’s Bones. It was a TIME.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I first started out in New York City, I went to open calls — which meant waiting in line for 4–6 hours to audition for a live show. A production of Cabaret was looking for actors who sing and play instruments. I was SO excited — I sing and play trombone. I hired a vocal coach to help me with the song “Give Me One Reason” by Tracey Chapman and lugged my trombone to the Equity building in midtown. I walk into the audition room, played a little trombone and then it was time for me to sing my song. I give the piano player my music, he starts playing and then I blanked. I couldn’t remember a single lyric. Now, you may be thinking “Oh Kimmy, that happens from time to time” BUT if you’ve ever heard the song “Give Me One Reason” — the entire lyrics of the song are “Give Me One Reason to Stay here, or I’ll turn right back around” over and over. That’s the whole song! I was mortified. It felt like I had wasted so much time and energy and FAILED. The lesson I learned was that part of being a creative person is failing in front of people. And you have to keep moving forward. In fact, there have been several times since when I thought I failed and ended up booking a part.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There have been a ton of people along that way that have helped me get where I am. One person I’d like to acknowledge is my long time collaborate and husband, Matt. When I was pregnant with our daughter, he was moonlighting as a director. There was one directing gig he was offered that he was unavailable for, so he recommended they hire me. I had been directing a lot of sketch comedy and live performance at the time and was feeling the full-on effects of imposter syndrome. I had been told by reps to stay in one lane, it’s too confusing if you act and direct. I didn’t think I was ready. He looked at me and said, “You’ll never feel ready. You’re ready. Do it.” That pilot got picked up for an online series and lead me to my next series that got picked up. I started listening when people said, “you can do it.”

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

I have had ups and down in my career and will probably continue to do so. My biggest piece of advice is: be kind and be persistent. There are a ton of rejections ahead of you but try to find something positive from each experience and then move on. It’s a hard industry and even harder not to take personally — I definitely cried in my car after many a pilot audition, but it was because of those hard times that I appreciate each and every job more than ever.

What drives you to get up every day and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?

I would like to encourage more female driven comedy. When I was starting out in comedy, there were a lot of articles and a systematic sexist notion that women weren’t funny. It fueled me to write and perform. As I have progressed in this industry, I was told I couldn’t direct because it was too hard to break in and they “don’t hire women.” I’d like to continue to push for more inclusion on and off camera.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

I am very excited about Good On Paper premiering globally on Netflix June 23rd. It’s written by/starring Iliza Shlesinger, based on her true story.

I have a short film that I directed called Navel Gazers written by Annie Mebane — it imagines a world where we’ve all been looking at our phones so long for so many years that everyone’s spines are permanently curved. It’s currently on the festival circuit and just recently won Outstanding Sci-Fi at the Micheaux Film Festival.

I would love to continue to develop and direct features with up-and-coming comic talents. I have several projects with my writing partner Alison Becker, including Girlworld at Amazon produced by Red Hour.

We are very interested in looking at diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture and our youth growing up today?

Diversity in entertainment is important because art is a reflection of society and as our world continues to evolve so should art. Diversity in entertainment adds important discussion and perspective — the film Rashoman is a perfect example of how the same incident can be viewed in three very different ways. We have a richer understanding of our world when we see and hear it through a greater diversity of eyes and ears. Visibility is key — when children see someone that looks like them doing a job, it suddenly seems possible. When my daughter started watching women’s soccer and seeing people like Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan celebrated for their talent and achievements, she suddenly wanted to be a professional soccer player. The same goes for our industry.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1, You are worth more than you think — ask for more.

2. Rejection isn’t personal — there are many factors at play. Use the opportunity of the audition or meeting to make an impression and a connection.

3. Listen — listen when your friends tell you that you are good at something, conversely listen when people say you need to work on a skill.

4. Always ask for help — the worst they can say is no.

5. Do it yourself — you are your best advocate for yourself and your project.

Can you share with our readers any selfcare routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.

Since I travel a lot and my hours are rarely consistent, I try to keep simple routines that can travel. I wake up and exercise every morning for at least 30 minutes, I make my bed and I have a little skin care routine written down in my medicine cabinet (or phone when I travel). Also, my friend Rachel Bloom recently introduced me to Liberate run by Liv Bowser. Her philosophy is all about mental health fitness. I was never much for meditation or self-reflection, but it’s been a great experience. I’ve been happy to add mental health to my routine.

You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Let’s all get behind Equal Pay, Paid Family Leave, and Paid Sick Leave. As a woman and a parent, I think it’s important to be able to work and take care of your family without fear of losing your job or being left behind.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

I’d love to meet Catherine O’Hara. She is a comedy legend that continues to inspire me with everyone role she takes.

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

Follow me on instagram, twitter or facebook @kimmygatewood

This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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