New Net­flix show rings the changes

It’s back to the 1980s for on-de­mand fe­male-only wrestling drama GLOW.

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - WEEKEND TV -

If you’re yet to be in­tro­duced to the glit­ter­ing world of women’s wrestling, Net­flix’s lat­est nos­tal­gia-tinged dram­edy is a must-see. GLOW — short for the Gor­geous Ladies Of Wrestling — is set to trans­port view­ers back to 1985 Los An­ge­les, where Jane Fonda-es­que span­dex, big hair and body slams are rife, all in the name of all-fe­male pro­fes­sional wrestling.

In­spired by a low-bud­get pro­gramme of the same name (a TV hit for the US in the late Eight­ies), the orig­i­nal 10-part se­ries fol­lows the fic­tion­alised story of out-of-work ac­tress Ruth Wilder (Ali­son Brie) who takes on the sport in a last-ditch ef­fort to keep her ca­reer afloat.

“There’s com­edy, there’s drama, there’s ac­tion and there’s wrestling,” Brie quips of the show co-cre­ated by Liz Flahive and Car­lyMen­schan­dex­ec­u­tive­pro­ducedby Or­ange Is The New Black’s Jenji Ko­han.

“I think that’s what made this a re­ally ex­cit­ing project for me. You get to see a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing and use ev­ery tool in your ar­se­nal to at­tack this role.”

But much like her co-stars, the Mad Men ac­tress (34) is the first to ad­mit she knew lit­tle of this “in­sane” world.

“I looked it up and it was like, ‘What?’ It’s un­like any­thing I have ever seen,” she re­calls, with a laugh. “And it’s so Eight­ies. It’s the wildest lit­tle cor­ner of the Eight­ies.”

“I think wrestling in it­self is a crazy, huge world that I had no idea re­ally was so big or ex­isted,” con­fides Betty Gilpin (30), who plays Ruth’s feud­ing best friend, Deb­bie Egan.

“GLOW is this strange lit­tle back room of wrestling — like, ‘What’s hap­pen­ing in there?’”

Join­ing the en­sem­ble cast is Sy­delle Noel, Jackie Tohn, Brit­ney Young, Kia Stevens, Kate Nash and ac­tor and co­me­dian Marc Maron, who takes the part of GLOW’s gruff-but-car­ing di­rec­tor.

For the stars and its cre­ators, FIGHT­ING FIT: re­search into this phe­nom­ena was key.

“The taste line for wrestling is in just a dif­fer­ent place to nor­mal so­ci­ety or nor­mal scene work,” ex­plains Home­land pro­ducer Flahive.

“So we just watched all the cra­zi­est stuff; we watched tons of GLOW, we watched tons of crazy Eight­ies movies and we tried to just take a big bath in the cul­ture of the time. It was a blast, but it was a crazy pool to swim in for all of us.”

“You can watch the doc­u­men­tary about the ladies of GLOW on Net­flix right now,” adds Brie. “That was prob­a­bly the most in­valu­able thing, I thought, watch­ing and hear­ing about their jour­ney.”

“Learn­ing about this cul­ture was re­ally key for me to re­spect­ing wrestling, to get­ting what the whole thing was,” chimes 30-year-old Lon­doner Nash, who plays Rhonda, a kind, naive Brit who be­comes brainy “Bri­tan­nica” in the ring.

“(Trainer, Mex­i­can Amer­i­can wrestling pro Chavo Guer­rero Jr) taught us to re­spect it and un­der­stand it and push our­selves phys­i­cally.”

The emo­tive — and of­ten hi­lar­i­ous — nar­ra­tive is where the se­ries comes into its own, how­ever. “I think they’re go­ing to come for the wrestling, but they’re go­ing to stay for the char­ac­ter and the story,” Brie says of the view­ers. “It’s so in­ter­est­ing, and it’s very com­plex.” Flahive agrees: “It was re­ally ap­peal­ing to us to make some­thing where we could tell these small, grounded sto­ries about women and friend­ship and strug­gling ... and also hav­ing this crazy stage where we could tell a dif­fer­ent kind of story and be in­cred­i­bly the­atri­cal.”

“It is to­tally pri­mal,” says New Yorker Gilpin, no­table for her role in TV se­ries Nurse Jackie. “So much of wrestling is about the nar­ra­tive and the char­ac­ters and that sort of in­forms the move­ment and the matches. In my mind, we were jump­ing 40 feet in the air.”

Deeper, still, than per­fect­ing the moves and the hall­mark-era look — the bright lights, the ac­tivewear and the syn­th­heavy sound­track — though, is the show’s permed nod to gen­der pol­i­tics.

With a cast and crew pri­mar­ily made up of fe­males, Flahive and co were in­sis­tent that GLOW would ex­plore what makes us “ex­hil­a­rated and un­com­fort­able at the same time”.

“Ruth’s re­ally try­ing to blaze a trail, she’s de­ter­mined to blaze a trail and she’s just be­ing smacked to the ground a lot,” she rea­sons. “She’s so plucky, she’s so great, but there’s some­thing about look­ing at the sex­ual revo­lu­tion and the fem­i­nist move­ment of the Seven­ties and be­ing like, ‘Well, did it work? What do the Eight­ies look like?’

“There was a lot of back-slid­ing. I think that, in terms of GLOW, the gen­der pol­i­tics and the sex­ual pol­i­tics are tricky be­cause it’s both in­cred­i­bly em­pow­er­ing and it’s also an ex­ploita­tion of these women. Those things have to both ex­ist in the show — it’s a big part of it.

“Our ver­sion is watch­ing the girls grap­ple with that emo­tion­ally and deal with that and de­cide if they can han­dle play­ing a huge stereo­type. It’s keep­ing their job and see­ing where this takes them.”

“This idea of con­stantly search­ing for com­plex roles as a wo­man is still some­thing that is very rel­e­vant to­day for ac­tresses,” ac­knowl­edges Brie.

“And we’re so lucky to be able to work on this type of show, which has 14 com­plex and in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ters for women.” GLOW is avail­able on Net­flix now

Ali­son Brie plays Ruth Wilder in the new se­ries

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