For the new comedy "Bottoms," stars Ayo Edebiri and Rachel Sennott underwent fight training
"I don't think any of us could take anyone in a real fight,” she tells PEOPLE. “I don't think we should! But, I definitely know how to throw a punch an inch away from your face and make it look good."
Throwing a mock jab and jerking her head back, she adds, “If you can time out your reaction well."
In a June interview (conducted before the actors’ strike and her first-time Emmy nomination for The Bear) Edebiri, 27, tells PEOPLE how much she and her Bottoms costars had to learn to fight convincingly — and unconvincingly. It’s the story of queer high schoolers Josie and PJ, played by Edebiri and Rachel Sennott, who form an impromptu fight club that’s secretly a ploy to seduce their female classmates.
“We learned the basics,” she remembers, at the behest of writer-director Emma Seligman and stunt coordinator Deven MacNair, whom Edebiri calls “an incredible woman … she just really helped us figure out physicality.”
“She had this bootcamp with a few of the stunt people in the movie and then just some of her regulars.” Then, she adds, “after the basics, we learned how to do it not as convincingly, and then we learned how to do it more convincingly, in order to give us this spectrum of skill in the fighting.”
That’s how the Bottoms team was able to confidently film something like Josie punching PJ hard enough to break her nose as they improvise their way through leading their feminist fight club.
It helped that Edebiri has known Sennott since their days studying at New York University, when Sennott encouraged her to try performing stand-up comedy. The two went on to create and star on Comedy Central’s zany 2020 web series Ayo and Rachel Are Single.
“As soon as we found our rhythm, that was just our rhythm,” Edebiri says. “And we love to ping-pong off of each other because we have this base, I think, of absurdity. But they stem off a little bit differently.”
She adds, “It's just really fun getting to talk with her, whether it's as my friend and we're being ridiculous or as a creative partner.” And when it came to pushing comedic limits on Bottoms, Sennott was both. “We obviously still felt that connection that we've always had, but we’ve had so many more experiences both in our lives and creatively in our work lives."
“It just allowed us to have more fun,” she continues, “knowing that, okay, we've got the basics down and we know how to work with each other, that's done. And, also, we can hit our marks now better than we used to, great! We just get to play.”
Edebiri and Sennott’s sense of play is evident throughout the film, especially during its hilariously bloody fight sequences.
Learning how to kick and punch well, says Edebiri, was “so fun. Also, I was getting a good workout when we were doing Bottoms. Pretty much every day I'm doing some cardio, I'm doing some arm stuff or whatever. … I was like, great, I don't have to go to the gym!"
Bottoms is in select theaters now, then wider on Sept. 1.
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