"Guess what? We met filming a sketch."
The stars of The Bear (Edebiri, 27) and Bodies Bodies Bodies (Sennott, also 27) met as students at New York University, acting in one of their classmate's comedy bits. Said friend was playing the dean of Tisch, the college's school for performing and cinematic arts, who was known for sending way too many emails. "We would get these emails that would be 'Come hang out with the dean.' And the emails got more and more frantic. 'Donuts! Cookies! Pie now!'" Sennott recalls. "So the sketch was like this really frantic hang, and Ayo and I played students who showed up. It was very fun."
Courtesy of Orion Pictures Rachel Sennott as PJ and Ayo Edebiri as Josie in 'Bottoms'
You can trace the comic sensibilities in Bottoms, the pair's high school lesbian fight club movie (in theaters now), back to these early mess-arounds. Even the film's director, Emma Seligman, who also made Shiva Baby with Sennott, ran in the same NYU crowds. There would be more sketches in Edebiri and Sennott's future. They spoofed The Baby-Sitters Club and made something called "Mall Trip," which Sennott describes as a music video featuring them inside a shopping center. Then there was their Comedy Central sketch series, Ayo and Rachel Are Single, episodes of which can still be found on YouTube. But they remember even more high jinks.
"I remember you did an Instagram takeover of my story. Do you remember that? I have it saved in my phone," Sennott tells Edebiri, who responds, "I remember when I tried on your clothes. That was really fun. I don't know, just making stuff together, getting to know each other as friends. I think we were obviously attracted to each other's sensibilities, but I was like, the person underneath this is kind of amazing."
And now they're beating each other up on screen. In Bottoms, the duo star as Josie (Edebiri) and PJ (Sennott), two unpopular lesbian high school students whom the principal refers to as "the ugly, untalented gays." In order to hook up with girls, specifically their cheerleader crushes, Isabel (Havana Rose Liu) and Brittany (Kaia Gerber), they start an all-female fight club to empower their classmates.
"We filmed for two years," Edebiri says. "We were beating each other up, and then we'd have to wait for all the injuries to heal, and then we'd beat each other up again."
"And then we did boxing for a little just to break up the routine," Sennott adds.
Courtesy of Orion Pictures A lesbian teen fight club is born in 'Bottoms,' starring Ayo Edebiri and Rachel Sennott
They let that image linger in the air for a beat, observing the reaction in the room. Edebiri can't contain her laughter, though. "I'm lying, sorry," she admits. But it's the ease of having been friends for as long as they have that shines through. If Edebiri starts a bit, Sennott immediately picks up on it, adding to the absurdity. It's what made their improvising on the set of Bottoms so memorable. "We'd gone off and done some things on our own and then got to come back and share a brain together on a whole new level," Sennott says.
When it's Edebiri and Sennott telling the story, everything sounds entertaining. It happens again when they recall filming the movie's big ending, which entails a bunch of cheerleaders beating the absolute crap out out of a team of football players. That alone sounds like something to behold, but then there's the added complication of bad weather.
"What stands out is two weeks of thunderstorms," Sennott explains. "We were literally shooting overnight on a football field. It rained every night. It literally rained thunderstorms every single night. We would go on the field, set up the shot, and then a man who was in charge of counting lightning strikes — I had never met him before — appears, he's like, 'Three strokes to the thunderbolts!' And we're like, 'Wait, what?!' So then we all run back to the trailer. So that last shot — that big, beautiful oner — we had to come back and do. But I'm so glad we did because it's incredible."
"That was just maybe a note for young filmmakers who are considering making a movie across from a lake during the rainy season of New Orleans," Edebiri says. "Don't. Not there."
And then in unison, again reading each others' minds, they add, "Pick another place."
Interviews were conducted prior to the start of the SAG-AFTRA strike.