Glow with the flow
How the wrestling comedy Glow helped Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin push against type.
ALISON Brie and Betty Gilpin, the stars of Netflix’s wrestling comedy Glow are enjoying a bada** afterglow.
It’s mid-December and the duo, wearing metallic leotards and balancing some heavily teased hair atop their heads, are taking a breather from shooting an episode of the series at the Hollywood Palladium. There’s been shoulder straddling, body slamming and elbows to the face.
“I don’t think we even could have totally imagined the stuff we would be doing,” Gilpin says. “I don’t think we were ever daunted, mostly excited.”
Brie chimes in: “We have such a respect for wrestling now; I will defend it to the death. I was watching some WWE Raw last night just to get pumped for filming today.”
In Glow, the duo star as two jobless actresses, Ruth Wilder (Brie) and Debbie Eagen (Gilpin), who find their next gig with the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (Glow).
So, your agents say, “There’s this show ... about female wrestlers ...” What’s your immediate reaction?
Brie: When my agents first called me about it, it was the most vague thing. They said, “Jenji Kohan’s doing a new show, it’s about women’s wrestling. It’s about this real show.”
And immediately, I pulled some stuff online and watched some stuff about Glow. I knew nothing about it, and prior to the show knew nothing about the world of wrestling. It had never been a major interest of mine, but for some reason it sounded immediately like the most exciting thing I’ve ever heard.
I just thought, “Why hasn’t someone done a show about this before?” And yet, because it’s so tricky, if not done the right way, you can see it going really badly.
The opening scene to the series is an audition scene with Ruth, where she boldly and confidently reads the male part because it’s far more interesting than the receptionist part. Have you been there? Could you relate to that fight for a part?
Brie: Oh, 100%. I’ve never felt more like Ruth than I did auditioning for this show. It really made me fight for this role. I felt so confident and had my thing thought out and as soon as I got in the car afterwards, I would sob and be like, “I don’t know, I feel so insecure in the room, it was so cold.”
Gilpin: Which is so meta. A show that’s a commentary on how ridiculous that process is ...
How would you describe the training process?
Brie: We did our wrestling training with Chavo Guerrero Jr, who’s incredible, and also Shauna Doggins, our stunt coordinator and Helen Everett, our stunt woman, who doubles as me on the show. Most of that training started out focusing on safety. It was a lot like, “You are not pro-wrestlers, let’s figure out the safest way to do this.”
And to get to do it with all the women on the show, I think that really bonded us in a really cool way. I watched a lot of videos, but I ended up mostly watching old episodes of
Glow. Because the type of wrestling that was done on the original Glow is very different from the type of wrestling, women’s wrestling that is being done now. They’re so acrobatic now.
Gilpin: I was watching that show today, Total Divas. The stuff they do is insane. We can’t do that.
Brie: Similarly to how our show was made, the women that werecaston Glow wereout-ofwork models and women trained to be wrestlers. I wanted to get into that mind-set of the kind of rawness and the inexperience that was there versus the super polished pro-wrestling that’s being done today. Gilpin: The last sport I played was little league. So there were so many firsts for me that so many people have in high school – the feeling of failing at something in front of a bunch of people or succeeding in front of a bunch of people and the rush your entire body gets. And also the feeling of having crowds cheer and boo ... Brie: There is nothing fake about what people are doing when they’re wrestling. You learn to do things in a safe way so you don’t break your neck. But you’re still hitmat. ting the
I will say that after our training, it was exciting to watch contemporary wrestling matches and see all the unspoken communication. To know how people are working together. How did the wrestling inform your acting? Gilpin: To me, wrestling is such a crazy physical metaphor for what it means to be Debbie, for what it means to be a woman. Using your power to take care of someone, in the most powerful possible way.
You feel like your body is swimming. Sometimes you’re in charge, sometimes the other person is in charge. It’s the most beautiful feminist dance that you can do. And then you’re flying through the air and landing on your back.
It’s also nice to not feel like “the girl.” Because usually there’s a bunch of guys and a girl.
And to not only have a bunch of women in the show, but to be physically close, together in a primal way and for it to be so nonsexualised is just so great.
Brie: Yeah, there are some romantic story lines on the show, but that’s not the featured thing. And for actresses, so often you’re only the love interest.
So, even if you’re the lead of something, your whole story line is about getting the guy, or keeping the guy. It was so fun to do a show, where in the first season, the major “will they, won’t they” is between Ruth and Debbie.
Did you watch the documentary Glow: The Story Of The Gorgeous Ladies Of
Wrestling and what did you pull from that, in terms of what drove these women?
Brie: It was so fun to watch, just to see the ins and outs of how wild it was that when they got cast, because you know, a lot of our show is fictionalised, but the root of, like these women being cast on a show and literally having no wrestling experience, is wild.
Some of those women really were super into wrestling, some continued wrestling after Glow.
And others were like, “I don’t know. It seemed like a fun idea, I wasn’t doing anything else at the time.” – Los Angeles Times/ Tribune News Service
Brie plays outof-job actress Ruth Wilder in Glow
Prior to Glow, Gilpin starred in Nurse Jackie.