Women to Watch Wednesday: Actor & Activist Julia Wackenheim-Gimple
This week, Eileen interviewed actor and activist Julia Wackenheim-Gimple. Julia can be seen in live shows at the NerdMelt Showroom and iOWest, on TV (Red Band Society, MOCKpocalypse, FlashForward, Jimmy Kimmel Live!), and in commercials. Most recently, she’s the executive producer and actor of theweb series F’d. Julia was just accepted into the prestigious New York Television Festival as an Official Selection for their Comedy Pilot Competition this October for her work on F'd.
Describe yourself to people you’ve never met.
My current existence is Mother/Wife/Actor/Producer/Jewish-Activist. I’m mom to a hilarious and opinionated toddler named Gus, who has an odd obsession with saying the word “people.” I’m good friends with three “rescued” dogs - a boxer, a chihuahua and a pug - and my OG, Hank the cat. I’m the wife of Scott M. Gimple, current showrunner of AMC's The Walking Dead—an avid pickle connoisseur who shares my obsession of pizza, coffee and Holiday Hallmark Movies. I can be seen in commercials, TV and onstage. Currently I’m in F’d as an actor and executive producer. Also, I advocate for domestic worker rights and employer education, I’m a member of Bend the Arc, and the social action chair of the Women of Temple Beth Hillel.
Tell me about your work on F’d.
The creator, Ryan Gowland, wrote a fabulous series of scripts for Molly Hawkey, himself and me. I connected with the humor right away, and freakin’ loved the idea of playing a terrible version of myself. Along with acting in F’d, I am the executive producer. I financially backed 99% of both seasons. The three of us produced the first season, hired cast and crew, rented RVs, paid to fix said RVs, props, costumes, locations - everything.
We needed to break up Season 2 into two parts - as you’ll see in the trailer - I’m hella pregnant for the first few episodes. So we took an extended break so I could, like, give birth and feed my baby and stuff. After the break Ryan and I, along with associate producer, Kelli Rose Jacobson, produced the bigger back half - chock full of gun battles, new locations and a short film version of one episode.
What drew you to make comedy? When did you begin?
My lineage is seeped in super sarcastic Scottish folk, so it was genetically predestined that I get into comedy. My dear Auntie Delhi is actually the funniest person I know. I spent last Christmas listening to her Tight Five on how green beans and cookbooks are completely useless.
Though I majored in acting at Emerson College, I could not get cast in any theatre mainstage productions, and at the suggestion of sophomore roommate Maisha, I auditioned for one of Emerson College’s long-standing comedy troupes, This is Pathetic. From there, I kept at it, trying different types of comedy - improv, sketch, stand-up, solo shows and performance art and haven’t looked back.
Tell us about your improv career in LA.
For the last 14 ish years I’ve been performing in LA, primarily on the iO West’s mainstage. I came up through the training program there and had amazing teachers: Paul Vaillancourt, Bob Dassie, Craig Cackowski and Scott Robinson. Before finishing the program I was placed on a house team, Moped Nights. After that team was disbanded, I continued on the iO’s mainstage with: DHT, Lucky Ham - an all women improv group chock full of hilarious women, Cog - a team filled with comedy veterans (Tami Sagher, Bob Dassie, Kate Purdy, Nick Armstrong, Erin McGath, Craig Cackowski and many more), Wheelhouse and somewhere around 5-10 teams whose names I can’t remember.
I wrote and starred in my solo show “Turner and Hooch 2: Murder at Wackenheim Manor,” a musical autobiographical trip through the ‘80s, early ‘90s and “Evita,” which debuted at UCB and continued its run at the iO West.
In 2005, Dave Holmes and Scott M. Gimple created a show called “The Friday Forty” that I’ve been a part of, performing a slew of original characters and spot on impersonations of Carla from “Cheers” and Gerard Depardieu and many more. The show’s current home is Nerdmelt.
Why is comedy essential for women?
There’s this completely misguided notion that women aren’t funny. Like a lot of sexist thoughts, it makes no dang sense. There are certainly unfunny people, but that belief is another “men are stronger, smarter, braver." And it’s not true. We are just as strong, just as smart and just as brave.
Case in Point: After 20+ hours of active labor, 2 hours of pushing, and only two Tylenol for pain, I pushed an 8 lb baby out of my body. My first non-Holy-Shit-There’s-A-New-Human-that-I-Gotta-Keep-Alive thought was, “Fuck all these haters, I can do anything.” And my placenta jokes were ON POINT, so I know I’m a funny, strong, brave woman.
Breaking it down mathematically: more women = more funny women = more good comedy = more good vibes = world peace.
How does your activism influence your comedy? Is there a common ground between your work and your activism?
Feminism drives me towards working with Caring Across Generations: a Faith Based Los Angeles Alliance,Bend the Arc and my temple’s sisterhood. At the suggestion of my rabbi, Rabbi Jim Kaufman, I became involved with the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights; domestic workers were left out of federal labor laws back in the 1930s and have faced unfair working conditions and exploitation. Many people do not make minimum wage, even when employed and placed by agencies, they're forced to work 24 hours a day, aren't allowed kitchen access, and are abused physically and emotionally. It’s a colossally jacked system that has to change.
Caring Across Generations is a national movement focused on changing the current system of care. Every 8 seconds someone in the country is turning 65 and the need for in home health care is going to become an issue for everyone. Currently, I advocate for legislation reform and educate the public on a myriad of issues related to caregiving and aging. I believe that the reason we're at a crossroads of care in this country because "women's work" has never been valued. But if you are privy to good caregiving, you'll realize that it is one of the hardest jobs out there. To genuinely care about another human's well-being is tantamount to good care, and that shit is H.A.R.D. The reason I can do anything right now with a toddler is because of my son’s nanny, Elizabeth. She’s amazing in all that she does with my son, dogs, cat and husband that it would be a disservice to NOT make her working conditions fair and just.
I’m still searching for how I can marry my comedic work with the stories of caregivers, those with disabilities and aging. There are so many stereotypes that are archaic and we all know 65 is the new 45, so let’s stop making fun of age and show some damn respect. My dream is always to turn on the TV and watch a show where there’s a trans woman actor of color in a wheelchair that is playing a kick ass CEO of a software company because she’s fucking good at her job while her nonconforming traits have nothing to do with her playing “Felicia.”
Who are your role models in the entertainment industry?
Other than Beyonce, who is the Ultimate Role Model, it might be corny, but my husband, Scott, is actually one of the most hard-working, dedicated, talented, good-for-society creatives in the business. He’s been an incredible example of how hard work and confidence lead to good work and, sometimes success.
Abbi Jacobson & Ilana Glazer are genius goddesses and “Broad City” is a masterpiece that’s good for the environment.
Lena Dunham is my spirit animal. I once threw down at a fancy Hollywood dinner over how “Girls” is singlehandedly changing the landscape for women on and off camera.
Artists like Angelina Jolie, George Clooney and Oprah, who are actors and producers, but are also making the world a better place through advocacy and nonprofit work. ‘Cause they could be doing Alkaline Water commercials nonstop.
Did I mention, Beyonce? Because, Beyonce.
When you aren’t making TV, what do you do?
I have a toddler, so it’s a lot of narrating the world right now. And washing and folding small clothes and the small person that goes in them. And going to the supermarket Every. Single. Day. And breathing into his little baby neck nook. Upon my death, I’d like my ashes to be buried in that nook.*
*Not for realsies, just metaphorical-sies, I’ve made it known to Scott I want a green burial, SO Y’ALL ARE WITNESS AND BETTER MAKE SURE I’M NOT BURIED AT FOREST LAWN WITH MICHAEL, BROKAY.
What are your hopes for your current project?
I’d love for F’dto be broadcast or shown on a large level, but ultimately, I’d just like people to watch it. ‘Cause I think it’s really f’ing funny.