Bustle Exclusive

Kaia Gerber’s Crash Course In Comedy

The model and actor wants to make people laugh, and Hollywood’s funniest people are showing her the way.

Kaia Gerber On 'Palm Royale,' 'Bottoms,' & Working With Kristen Wiig

In last summer’s sapphic satire Bottoms, there was a scene in which Kaia Gerber’s character was frustrated by her homework. “Who is bell hooks, and why do we care?” the high-school cheerleader asked. Flash-forward nine months to Palm Royale, and the Apple TV+ dramedy leans on a similar laugh: “I’m not a reader,” says Gerber’s character, Mitzi, a mid-century manicurist. “I’m gonna model.”

The lines are a knowing wink to Gerber’s real life. “It’s funny that I get put into these roles that are very different than me in the literature department,” the 22-year-old tells Bustle. “As I was saying it, my body was so tight, like, You can’t say this!

In between modeling on the world’s largest runways and acting alongside Hollywood heavyweights like Kristen Wiig and Carol Burnett, Gerber is also a budding literary maven, running the online book club Library Science.

Fortunately, she’s in on the on-screen jokes, which she credits partially to Bottoms. “It was the thing that truly made me fall in love with comedy,” she says of the film. “I didn’t know that was something I could do. And being able to work with people like Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri, who I think are two of the funniest people ever, I felt like I learned so much.”

Gerber as Mitzi in Palm Royale.Apple TV+
Kaia Gerber and the cast of Bottoms.MGM
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If Bottoms sparked Gerber’s passion for comedy, then Palm Royale, which she filmed right after, gave it room to grow. (Spoilers ahead!)

Over 10 episodes, Mitzi goes from Maxine’s (played by Wiig) attentive confidante to an independent, if tentative woman in her own right. In the season finale, which airs May 8, she reveals that she’s ready to try her hand at modeling and motherhood, the latter due to an affair with Maxine’s husband.

Although Gerber isn’t sure of Mitzi’s fate, she’s grown “very protective” of the character. “I’m curious for people to watch the finale and hear their takes, because when you’re shooting something, you’re so close to it,” she says. “I’m so biased toward Mitzi.”

Below, Gerber talks about her favorite on-set look, backstage laughs, and the surprising way she resonates with her character.

Apple TV+

Despite what Mitzi says about not being a reader, you are. What books would you recommend she read at this tricky time in her life?

I would have Mitzi read Joan Didion, Eve Babitz, bell hooks. If she’s moving to New York like she says she is, I’d have her read Just Kids [by Patti Smith] to get a little inspired. I’d love to curate a book list for her.

Were there elements of Mitzi that you personally influenced?

It’s hard to tell how much I influenced Mitzi and how much she influenced me. In a lot of ways, she feels like me if I had grown up under very different circumstances. I could relate to a lot of the things that she was going through as a young woman, her struggle with trying to navigate being in a world that is maybe more grown-up than she is.

What’s a look from the era that you’d like to revive?

There’s this amazing pair of jeans — really long, high-waisted bell-bottoms — that [costume designer] Alix [Friedberg] put me in that were so good and quintessential of that era. And if I had the time and energy, I could maybe get my hair half the size of Mitzi’s. I just don’t. But it was really fun to have that hair and makeup.

Gerber at the Palm Royale premiere with the cast.ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Even the manicurist’s work outfit was so fun and breezy!

Yeah! And what was so wonderful was underneath the smock, there was still an incredible outfit. People don’t even see it, but that’s how detail-oriented our entire team was.

Do you have a favorite behind-the-scenes memory of working with Kristen Wiig?

You have quintessential Kristen Wiig physical comedy at its best [in Episode 5], and she throws herself all over Ricky [Martin], who plays Robert. I was standing in the other room waiting for my cue, trying so hard to stop laughing before I had to come in a state of being upset. It’s very difficult to cry when you have Kristen Wiig across from you.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.