The Cast Of GLOW Tells Us Why "Sexism Is Back"

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
If you've already seen Wonder Woman in theaters eight times and are wondering where else you can watch ladies seriously kick ass without shelling out $15, look no further. GLOW, which stands for Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, is Netflix's latest must-watch series. And it packs enough girl power to make you want to put on a leotard and leg warmers, and jump into the ring.
The show stars Alison Brie as Ruth Wilder, a struggling actress in 1980s Los Angeles who finally lands a role in a female wrestling show, directed by B-list director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron) alongside Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin), a former soap opera star who quit to be a stay-at-home mom.
Advertisement
But like executive producer Jenji Kohan's other hit Netflix show, Orange Is the New Black, GLOW is an ensemble effort rather than solely focused on one woman's journey. You'll laugh, you'll emote, and you'll want to go out and buy hairspray, STAT.
Refinery29 spoke to Brie, Maron, and Gilpin about training to be a credible wrestler, mom jeans, and what they imagine their own wrestling names would be.
Refinery29: I knew nothing about wrestling or the real-life GLOW while watching it. Did you, before you signed on to this project?
Alison Brie: "No! When it came to me, the whole idea of women’s wrestling in the eighties was just so exciting and fun. I’ve been a fan of Orange Is The New Black since the first season so hearing that Jenji was a part of it I knew it would be really cool. That’s why I signed on. Then I discovered GLOW the show, and the documentary about GLOW only after getting the role."
Marc Maron: "I knew a bit from talking to wrestlers. I was not a kid fan of wrestling, but I grew to learn that it was serious business and a real craft and art in and of itself by talking to wrestlers. I didn’t know that GLOW was real until I got the script for the show and looked around a little bit. I had respect for it, but I wasn’t a fan."
Betty Gilpin: "This show has sort of been a window, for me, into how big wrestling is in this country. It’s kind of like Dead heads. If you know someone who’s into the [Grateful] Dead, they are in all the way. Same with wrestling. I have friends who I now found out. Once they heard I was doing GLOW, they were like: 'You know, I’m into wrestling.'"
Advertisement
MM: "Oh, they admit it?"
BG: "Yeah, and then I find out that they’re WAY into it. People I’m very close to."
Since a lot of our readers won’t have seen the show yet when this interview comes out, can you describe your characters?
AB: "I play Ruth Wilder. She’s a struggling actress. She can come off as very desperate, but she’s really just super passionate about acting in a very earnest way."
MM: "Oh, when you do that Audrey Hepburn impersonation..."
BG: "I play Debbie Eagan, who is a former soap actress, new mother, and thought she felt powerful before but is learning that she has a deeper, more powerful power."
MM: "I play Sam Sylvia, who is a washed-up B-movie director. Who I think is a little bitter but kind of cocky and slightly overcompensating."
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
What was training for that like? Did you actually learn to wrestle?
AB: "We did wrestling training with Chavo Guerrero Junior! Did about four and a half weeks of training before starting shooting and continued training throughout shooting. It was incredible. It was a great bonding experience for all of the women on the show because they were constantly mixing up the groups of the women who were doing it together. We were all learning everything at the same time except for Kia Stevens, who’s on the show, and she is a professional wrestler. She also became a second teacher to us in the ring. It went from really basic, remedial moves to really building a foundation of safety first, building into bigger moves and much longer matches."
Advertisement
BG: "I grew up in a house full of boys. I remember watching ESPN, watching the older Sportscasters always segue into talking about their baseball career, their football career. I was expecting that with wrestling. Being a very ego-driven, self-centered world. Every wrestler that we worked with, it was the complete opposite. There’s so much vulnerability, and give and take and generosity in wrestling because you’re putting your body into someone else’s hands. That lent itself so beautifully to teaching and learning and scene work in a way that was really inspiring."
AB: "Because of the camaraderie we established with the women on the show before we started shooting, we were so supportive of each other. Everyone was. We’d cheer each other on. It was the first time I’ve been on a set where you finish a scene — just acting in a scene that has no wrestling ‚ and all the girls would cheer and be like 'Good scene! Good scene!' and we’d high-five. It was like being on a sports team. Well, it’s the closest I’ll ever get."
MM: "I kept my distance from all of them. They all used to sit in one area and I thought 'I can’t go over there and sit with all of them, because then all my power would be diminished.'"
AC: "You’re the one guy on the set!"
MM: "Well, as a human, not even as a guy. I had to stay in character."
AB: "I think it was wise."
MM: "I do, too, actually. I don’t think it was really about power. It just seemed exhausting over there."
Advertisement
AB: "Yeah, it was a lot of energy."
MM: "Fourteen women all jacked up on wrestling."
The leotards are quite something. What was your favorite eighties moment or costume element of the show?
AB: "I love Ruth’s jeans. Marc finds them to be the least attractive thing ever made."
MM: "And she always wore them."
AB: "She only has one pair of jeans! The quintessential Ruth, to me, is those horrible mom jeans, tucked into slouchy socks, bad tennis shoes, and a loose button down tucked in. Ruth at her finest. "
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
I feel like every time you see Ruth, you’re just like “Aw…”
AB: "Yes! Aw... Be better. She needs help."
MM: "You’re rooting for her."
BG: "I was excited for eighties clothes. They designed for curves back then. It’s just a box now. In those clothes, I look like Chris Farley signing the Declaration of Independence. So, I was glad for the mohair sweaters that come in at the waist and the high-waisted Wranglers that allow for a booty."
MM: "I wore these bell bottoms. I think they were more seventies. Black cowboy boots. Everyone seemed to like that white sweater from that one shoot."
AB: "Ooh, that sweater! We’re still talking about Marc in that sweater!"
BG: "We were losing our minds."
MM: "I like my glasses and the way they did my hair. All the shirts were kind of fun. But that sweater seemed to have an impact on the ladies. I thought it was too snug, but they liked it."
Advertisement
That’s probably why they liked it. The eighties are kind of having a moment — there’s The Americans, there’s Stranger Things. What do you think it is about the eighties that appeals to us right now?
BG: "Well, sexism is back in a great way. America versus Russia is back."
MM: "It’s all coming back around."
AB: "It’s not not-true. There’s, I think, two things that appeal to people from the eighties. The excess, which is certainly what our show is triggering. That excess from the hair and makeup to certain women’s clothes in the show and certainly when we’re in our wrestling outfits. And then, the nostalgia, which is what people like about StrangerThings. It feels like you’re watching E.T. and you really have that eighties high school movie…"
MM: "It seemed like a lot of effort, too. People put a lot of effort into their look. A lot."
Takes a lot of time to get hair that big.
MM: "And the makeup! The courage to go out in the world looking like that."
AB: "Well, it was so fun. Before the grunge of the nineties and 'less is more' and 'I don’t care' came into fashion. The eighties was like 'We care too much and we want everyone to know!'"
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Did you come up with your own wrestling personalities? If you had your own wrestling personality, what would it be?
AB: "I’ve decided that the way that you make your porn name could apply to a cool wrestling name. Mine would be 'Sally Montecito.'"
Advertisement
How do you arrive at that?
AB: "My first pet and the first street [I] lived on."
MM: "I’d be 'Mack Dakota.'"
ALL: "Whoa!"
AB: "That’s an amazing wrestler name!"
BG: "I have a really good one. 'Smokey Front.'"
ALL: "Whoa!"
The show opens with Ruth reading the man’s part at an audition because it’s the more interesting part. GLOW is actually a show with a strong female cast. Did you relate to Ruth and Debbie?
AB: "Absolutely. That’s the most exciting thing about doing a show like this. Really amazing, meaty roles for fourteen women for a show that’s about women finding themselves, but also doing a really cool thing at the same time."
BG: "I was excited to be able to play a part that’s three dimensional. Liz [Flahive] and Carly [Mensch] let women have things simmering under the surface and not just be telling the man how brave they were that day."
AB: "It was a nice relief to get to be really complicated."