Jackie Tohn: Powerhouse of Talent

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Jackie Tohn is a powerhouse of talent. An actress, writer, comedienne, and musician, her projects reflect the range she possesses from the pained Melrose in GLOW to creating, producing, and writing music for the children’s show DO RE & MI. She has recently become the host of the new Netflix cooking show Best Leftovers Ever. Learn about the different projects of Tohn and get to know her better as all her grandness and simply a person. 

Being a foodie, I’m so excited for your new show Best Leftovers Ever! Could you give the readers a quick pitch? What can they expect from the show?

Best Leftovers Ever! is a wild cooking competition show. In each episode, three cooks take last night’s Leftovers and turn them into high-end cuisine, competing for the chance to win 10 thousand dollars! It’s like Pee-Wee’s Playhouse meets Chopped. 

People can expect to have (maybe too much) fun watching the show. Also, it’s genuinely funny. I’ve never had the chance to say this about anything I’ve been in before, but it is truly fun for the whole family. You can also expect to learn! In every episode, we share tips and tricks for turning your leftovers at home into totally new dishes. This is also exciting because using what you have in the fridge reduces food waste. Wins across the board! 

I have to say, I picked up GLOW during this quarantine break and I regret not doing so any earlier! Melanie Rosen particularly speaks to me through her Jewish representation which I don’t see all that often in the media. How does it feel knowing that you contribute to a more open discussion as well as a representation for the Jewish community?

This is such an important question to me. After the camping episode of Glow aired (Season 3 Episode 6), the response was overwhelming. So many people came out of the woodwork to tell me how much it meant to them. Our writers created this super powerful episode of television connecting two of the characters through their unfortunate common bond of inherited trauma. Jenny’s family survived the Cambodian Genocide and Melrose’s family survived the Holocaust. What’s wild, is that that storyline was based on our actual histories. Ellen Wong is the daughter of Cambodian Genocide survivors and I am the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. We got to memorialize our family’s history through the characters we played on TV. It was so so special.

Photographed by Sela Shiloni

On that same note, what was it like working with an all-female crew?

It was unreal to work on a show with mostly women. Over the course of my entire career, I had never worked with even CLOSE to that many women. Usually, there’s room for one or two women in the cast. One or two in the writer’s room. Maybe a female director pops in for an episode. And on Glow, our writers were all women but one. Our directors were all women but two. Our cast was 14 hilarious, deep, brilliant women and three (depending on the season) incredible men. And because the show was run by women, they encouraged us to be who we are. They never asked us to change our bodies. They just wanted us strong and safe (because we did all our own wrestling.) I never had a sister growing up, and now I have 13. 

What was it like working on GLOW? How did this experience set you up for your other projects?

I had been acting since I was nine and Glow was my first big break – in my mid-thirties. And for a show, this rare to be my first consistent gig was an absolute dream come true. We did extensive wrestling training for a month before every season under the guidance of multi-Emmy winning stunt coordinator Shauna Duggins and wrestling royalty, Chavo Guerrero. Being on Glow and using my body the way I did really helped me rewrite the stories and false narratives I had been living my whole life – that I wasn’t athletic or strong. Glow changed how I feel about myself and what I now know I’m capable of. 

On the other hand, how was your experience working on The Boys?

The Boys was a blast! I shot for three weeks in Toronto and had no idea what to expect going into it. When you’re a guest star on the first season of a show, you only get to read the episode you’re in and since the show isn’t out yet, you can’t watch it to get a grasp of the tone. So you’re sort of going in blind. I was reading the script thinking, “who is Mothers Milk, and what in the hell is going on here?!” Ha. I had an incredible time on what I now know is an AMAZING show that I am super proud to be a small part of. I’m looking forward to going back for Season three!

I imagine acting is hard enough but creating, executive producing, AND creating music for a show seems impossible. How did you manage on Do Re & Mi?

HA! Quite the opposite of impossible. I’m at my best when I’m doing 100 things at once. My brain pretty much fires on all cylinders at all times, so when I’m not busy it makes up stuff to worry about. Michael Scharf and I created Do Re & Mi way back in 2014! My BFF Kristen Bell came on board in 2015. That’s when my co-songwriter David Schuler and I started working on the music. We partnered with our dream production company, Gaumont in 2016 and started really developing the show. Amazon got on board in 2017 and green-lit us in 2018 with a massive fifty episode first season pickup! At that point, the scripts were coming in once a week and Dave and I were writing our butts off. It wasn’t till 2019 when I started doing all the jobs at once. Voice recording (I play Re the hummingbird) twice a week, songwriting twice a week, producing and giving notes on scripts and art the other days. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to having a full-time job. Do Re & Mi finally comes out in the spring of this year and I truly cannot wait for everyone to see it. 

Photographed by Sela Shiloni

Starting stand-up comedy at just fourteen, you prove to be a comedic veteran. How has comedy contributed to your other works, if at all?

More than a contributing factor, I would say that comedy is the major reason I got any of those jobs in the first place. I love standup and musical comedy. I toured the country for years doing schtick and I loved it. Being funny has been my currency my whole life. 

Am I allowed to ask what your favorite project, small or large, has been so far? 

It’s hard to say which has been my favorite because I wished and worked for so long to have ANY job and now I just feel incredibly grateful to be part of all the incredible projects I’m working on.  

Are there any future projects you hope to work on? 

My writing partner and I just finished writing our musical comedy feature film – so I wanna make that! One day I’ll write my Broadway show. I just want to keep creating. I can’t not. 

Any particular people?

I’d love to do some sort of mother-daughter comedy with Bette Midler – maybe that would have a musical element too. Now you got me thinking…

Lastly, I have a quick “favorites” for you to fill out to know you as a fully-fleshed person. Feel free to comment!

Favorite food: hot pretzels or pizza. I eat like a toddler. 

Favorite animal: my dog Glen 

Favorite hobby/past-time: singing, playing the guitar, and writing music. 

Favorite person: (people) My parents. 

Is there any else you would like to include for our readers? Follow me on Instagram @jackietohn

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

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