Icing: Taking The Cattiness Out of Cheerleading with “Wildcats'” Rachel Puchkoff & Madeline Nehlin
When you think of cheerleading do you think of badass chicks with mad hoisting skills? Well, that’s the side that Wildcats creator and former badass cheerleader Rachel Puchkoff wants you to know. And, she’s making a good case, with a web series that packs the anti-misogynistic punch. Puchkoff and co-star Madeline Nehlin cut the crap (literally) and talk the raw struggles of competitive cheerleading. You’re gonna love this squad of funny ladies. So, forget the Barbie Doll stereotypes and get to know the reality of cheerleading – unwarranted baking, sexuality struggles and bodily functions for all! (God, she gets us!)
COMEDY CAKE: What is your real life experience with cheerleading?
RACHEL PUCHKOFF: The series was actually loosely based off of my own experiences- so you sort of just watched it ( : But I was very very involved with competition cheerleading which was actually not a part of the high school at all; that’s an entirely other series that comes with it’s own absurd antics and politics!
MADDIE NEHLIN: I was super into gymnastics and dance as a kid, so I always wanted to be a cheerleader when I got to high school. But when it came down to it, I knew that I wouldn’t really fit in with the other girls, so I never even wound up trying out. It all worked out for the best though. I played volleyball instead, and had the best time! At my school, cheerleading had very little to do with actual athletics.
CAKE: What inspired this series?
RACHEL: I was looking for something to write for my college thesis film and my dad was the one who said “Um why don’t you write about that absurd time you tried to stop baking for the football players”- and so I did – although it is really only a loose backdrop.
CAKE: We see the girls struggle to control bodily functions. Real life experiences, perhaps?
RACHEL: Oh you bet. That bathroom scene might have been the most true-to-life moment in the entire series.
CAKE: What are your coping tricks for nervous stomach butterflies?
RACHEL: Let it happen – that’s my motto. If you give in and are not too embarrassed by what noises might fly out in public – you’re probably less likely to have nervous stomach in the first place.
MADDIE: I feel like trying to suppress them is never good, because they’re going to come out eventually! I try to keep in mind that if I’m nervous, it’s only because what I’m doing is important to me.
CAKE: Why did you give the cheerleaders that awesome “Over it” perspective, regarding supporting their team at games?
MADDIE: It was mostly just Allison and Rachel: Cheese, who I think were the most in tune with the juxtaposition of kicking ass on a performance stage at their own competitions vs. cheering on badminton or basketball.
CAKE: How important was it for you to not make these girls Super-Girly Cheerleaders?
RACHEL: It was not actually a priority for me at all. I wanted the girls to seem real, and those are and were the types of cheerleaders I knew.
CAKE: What made you choose cheerleading as a platform to expose misogyny?
RACHEL: It was the most recognizable platform for me – I remember being in High School thinking “there is something very wrong with this set up” and most of the girls didn’t agree because they fell into the “Role” of cheerleader – so I think it was obvious to mess with that supposed standard.
CAKE: Why did you choose to make Allison’s character struggle with her sexuality the way you did?
RACHEL: That was directly based off of my own experiences – and I felt that it tied in nicely with her struggling with feeling strongly about something that seemed bigger than herself – with no support behind her (i.e. finding cheerleading sexist).
CAKE: We love how the girls talk in code around the parents. Did you and your friends have a “parental talking code,” when you were a teenager? Were there times when someone cracked it?
RACHEL: We didn’t have a code that I remember but if you ever hang around a group of teenagers these days it really is like a secret language! It was based off of a conversation my mom and my younger sister had once – she just couldn’t understand her, and I thought it was hilarious.
MADDIE: No, but I do remember once in high school we got a letter sent home that had a dictionary of “Instant Message Acronyms,” so that our parents could decipher what we were saying on the internet, and they were so ridiculous! They were all like 9 letters long. I think our guidance counselors had made them up.
CAKE: Spoiler Alert: Leslie, the Squad’s despised, former coach inspires Allison to be herself. Who was someone, seemingly bitchy, who helped you to grow personally?
RACHEL: Well, Leslie was a combination of a few different people from my childhood, but I never saw them as bitchy. I really respect women who don’t give a damn about what other people think and speak their mind, even if its not necessarily appropriate or polite. That’s the type of woman Leslie was based off of and I’ve certainly met a few!
CAKE: The cast members really bounce off each other. How did you pick them?
RACHEL: It started with an audition process when I was in school – and as I started casting – I did very much keep in mind how they would interact or connect as a group. Plus it helped that the pre-production phase ended up taking so long that everyone really got to know each other.
CAKE: What was your position in the high school caste system?
RACHEL: I really prefer not to look at the experience as having an actual caste system – but if I had to say, I was a floater? I was a cheerleader but I mixed with everyone.
MADDIE: I flew way under the radar. I went to a really small school, so I pretty much had the same friends from kindergarten on.
CAKE: The girls are assigned to each bake for and pamper specific basketball players. What do you bake to impress someone (We love butter and sugar.)?
RACHEL: I don’t bake to impress anyone – I only bake for myself – and that’s probably because I’m not that great at it – once I tried to make sugar cookies and they came out as biscuits.
CAKE: You also explore lactose intolerance in the series. What are your thoughts on dairy?
RACHEL: Cheese is my preferred form of dairy, in fact – I think I really named Cheese after my love affair with ghouda.
CAKE: What can we expect from you next?
RACHEL: I am writing a few things, but unless some major offers come my way (they are on their way right?!) The next project is set to shoot in early fall – all I’ll say is the working title is “Expecto Patron” which is the psedynum/performance name for someone who likes equal parts Harry Potter and tequila.
MADDIE: Right now my writing partner and I are working on a short play that we’re hoping to perform in New York this Summer! I’m also currently filming an independent comedy directed by Greg Locke (Forever Into Space, Holler and the Moan). I’m starring as an aspiring actress from Ohio who takes off to move to New York, but lands on the quirky and much unknown Roosevelt Island.