GLOW Stars, Creator Preview Critically-Acclaimed Netflix Series

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If people remember GLOW, they remember it almost fanatically, down to the details of how they watched and with whom, snuggled up to the TV on Saturday mornings.

It was either people's obsession for the few minutes it was on the air, or it was a hazy memory from childhood, and it really took hold for the 12-14-year-old boys at the time.

Now Netflix is bringing GLOW back to the small screen by way of a show about the show and how it came to be. The series was created by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch and stars Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, and Mark Maron as well as a whole host of other lovely ladies as the GLOW wrestlers.

We sat down with Flahive, Brie, and Gilpin at the ATX Festival in Austin to chat about their experience filing GLOW and what to expect.

Brie and Gilpin ATX

Flahive had never seen episodes before she and co-creator Carly Mensch came upon the documentary, but they were blown away by the way the women were talking about it, as well as the fact they had never heard of it. "Then we started watching old episodes and couldn't believe it existed."

Brie joined in, "That's what I was going to say. After you watch it, you're like, 'How did I miss this?!' What was happening?'"

GLOW stands for Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling and centers on Brie's Ruth, Gilpin's Debbie and Maron's Sam as they come together to form a cohesive women's wrestling team in time for a television premiere of the same name. 

Ruth in Training

Ruth is flawed, which is something we're seeing a lot more on TV these days. Initially, it's easy to identify with Ruth, and then her woefully inept decision-making process comes to light and so does your judgment of character. "I love that Ruth's decisions really challenge the audience," Brie said.

"I thought that was very exciting. I loved the writing of the show, about both women, about this relationship. But also about this character. I could definitely relate to her drive, her passion about what she wanted to do. But I liked that she wasn't totally wholesome. She makes bad decisions. Even with the best of intentions at times.

"I like the idea of playing a person who is struggling. I like the idea of playing her as a character. You're struggling to win the audience back over the way that she's struggling to be liked by this group of women that she's now working with. I find that to be very interesting. I also just really like the push and pull of her own confidence.

It's something that I could really relate to. You know, Ruth is a person who obviously [in Russian accent] has pretty big balls. In the first scene, we see her reading the man's part in an audition. She's got a lot of gumption, which I appreciate, but at the same time, she can feel totally invisible.

I think that's why this indiscretion happens, that she does have this desire to feel special. I can relate to this push and pull as an actor where you have to have this giant amount of confidence in any job that you go into like, 'I know I am inhabiting this role, and I have a purpose, and it's important that I am here and inhabiting it,' and at the same, you're filled with self-doubt."

Flahive agreed, "I think the idea of a desperate character is really interesting. A desperate person trying to find their way in a place where desperation is not really accepted. And what if the thing you dreamed of doing is not what you end up doing? And if you end up taking another whole road? Watching humans try is always interesting."

Aerobics with Ruth and Debbie

Ruth and Debbie begin as best friends until something in their personal lives tears them apart. Their friendship is on terrain so rocky that you genuinely fear for their lives when the two are in the ring together. But it's exactly what the erstwhile friends need to test the deepest parts of themselves and their relationship.

"We sort of find all 14 women at the end of their rope in their own specific way and find wrestling when they're at that very vulnerable place. I agree with Ali; I connected with Debbie for some of the same reasons," Gilpin shared. 

"I think there's a big difference between self-confidence and self-worth, and I've played a lot of Barbie-esque characters who like what they see in the mirror and walk into a room thinking, 'I've entered the room, and I think I'm fantastic.'

"I certainly don't feel that, and I think a lot of the women we think feel that way really don't feel that way. To play with the feeling that you can have confidence and at the same time think you deserve less than you do, I think that's a very interesting thing to play with."

Russian Ruth

GLOW, hopefully, speaks for itself as far as telling stories about women, and you can probably watch the show in different ways.

Flahive said, "I think it has a lot of depth so that if you want to drop into it, you can get. I think there's sheer entertainment value. The sheer entertainment value of just watching these women come together and seeing if they can actually achieve the thing that they set out to achieve.

"But for me, I think it's just about watching these real women connect with each other because if that's not there then it's just flash. If it's flash and no substance, then it's not as interesting. So I think it's just being able to..."

"At the same time, I think you can smell an agenda," Brie countered. "And I think maybe if Liz and Carly had just set out to like make a feminist show, the show would be something really different. But isn't it interesting how, if you have really amazing source material and compelling writing, the stories are something you want to watch?

Debbie Being a Diva

"It's not about whether it's about women or men. GLOW is such cool, interesting source material it's not about, '[sucks in breath] Oh, but it's got a lot of women on it. How do we make men...It's got such great source material that instead it's just, Let's just tell this story about this thing that is so cool and weird and bizarre and people will respond to it.' I hope."

Flahive considered for a moment if there ever was an agenda for the show. "If there ever was an agenda for the show, I think there was a serious physical component, which is something you don't really get to see with women. And in film, too.

"I think it just wanted to be a very physical show about bodies, about different types of bodies and seeing that really happen on screen."

"It's something that really excited me," Brie said as she apologized to Flahive for interrupting, "like so much about the physical component of the show. I'm a really physical person, though had never considered myself athletic until I worked on this show.

"I really had the desire to work on something physical before this show, and I think that women are constantly underestimated in that arena, so that made it exciting and fun, and it was very empowering. We trained for about four and a half weeks before we started shooting.

Ruth Setting Up a Routine

"We continued training while we shot the whole series, with Chavo Guerro, who is a pro wrestler from a line of wrestlers. His Uncle Mondo trained the original cast of GLOW, that's an interesting piece of trivia.

"You know, the show is about these women, these sort-of outcasts making their own way and realizing how much they're capable of. I think we were all sort of going through the same thing as we were learning to wrestle and learning what we could do once we broke our own limitations we set in our minds.

"Well, I'm doing this now, I got this job, I have to do it, I want to do it. I'm gonna run at it. It was so empowering and bonding and confidence building to walk around and think, 'You don't know what I'm capable of.'"

Shawna Dougins was their stunt coordinator, and Gilpin's double, and Helena Barrett was Brie's double. "We probably do of the wrestling than any of the other women on the show, "Brie said, "So we had doubles who were there with us on the show all day, every day.

Debbie Gets Into It

"But it was really important to Betty and me, and I think to Liz and Carly, as well, that all the women on the show, that we were capable of doing every move you see on the show, save one move in the first episode – the monkey flip.

"But we could do it all. We did it all. We had our stunt doubles there to tag in when we needed a break, and we were exhausted, and the show was a million miles away, and you couldn't see anyone's faces."

Gilpin interjected, "We'd been shooting for eight hours."

"Yes," Brie continued. "But they were incredible and incredibly supportive of us doing the moves and incredibly aware of our safety and Shawna and Helena also worked with Chavo in choreographing our fights and working to our strengths. So as they learned more about our bodies through the training, they really tailored our matches to our bodies and our characters."

Flahive laughed, "Yeah, because as amazing as Chavo is with wrestling, he doesn't have boobs or a vagina. It's just a thing that has to be factored in or acknowledged."

Gilpin laughed, as well. "Definitely. There would be moves, and Chavo would be like, 'You're gonna do this!' And I'd be like, 'Do you see how I can't do that? It would hurt me?' [She attempted to imitate Chavo] 'Oh, yah.'

Ruth Wants Back In the Ring

Brie gushed, "I just have to say that I think Betty and I have incredible in-ring chemistry.

"I think in-ring and out of ring chemistry," Someone else shot back. 

Brie demurred, "Thank you. We do have a deep love and appreciation that I think helps, but in the ring, I think we were so deeply connected to our characters.

"I think we have very complementary attitudes and body types and things like that where we just fit together. It was just totally exhilarating to be in the ring and also to feel that I trust this person with my life, more than anything and let's work together. I just want to support you and lift you up and then SLAM YOU DOWN," Brie finished with gusto.

"I think Betty and Debbie both appreciated the opportunity to wrestle with Alison and Ruth. I was scared to film GLOW as an actor, for many different reasons," Gilpin said honestly.

"It was a very scary, intimidating experience. And to have everyday physical contact with my scene partner where it felt like powerful swimming together, like guiding each other's bodies to the ground, I felt my body talking and listening for the first time in my life to another female body in a powerful way.

Ruth and Debbie in the Ring

"It was the best sort sort of held my hand through the process of GLOW and made me able to be a powerful person. I also think character wise, Ruth and Debbie are going through this crazy fissure in their friendship that could kill their friendship, and to be forced to be together to wrestle in the most intimate way when they can't even make eye contact, that they have their hands on each other, I think, helps them survive what they're going through."

Marc Maron is a standup comedian and podcaster in the role of Sam Sylvia, the man who is tasked with bringing together the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling into a cohesive group for the beginning of the television show.

Flahive admitted she was shocked at he came to the role and how well he played it. "He sort of hit it out the park the minute we saw his tape. We did not run after him. We didn't think of him for the part. We didn't think we were writing the part for him, which I know seems crazy since it seems like it's just all naturally coming out of his mouth.

"The thing that was so surprising to me about Marc is that we knew he was funny. We knew he was cranky. We knew he was smart, but I didn't know the depths to which he would go or just how straight he would play every single scene. He was line perfect, letter perfect on every episode. It was amazing. To watch him navigate a set was...

Gilpin interjected, "Personally, it was really thrilling."

"Hilarious," Brie agreed.

"There's a scene in the second episode when he comes to convince Debbie to be a part of GLOW," Gilpin shared, "and I remember doing that scene with him, which was my first scene-scene with him, I guess, and when I say, 'OK, I'll come,' and he responds with a "YES!" It wasn't a bit. It wasn't a button on the scene. It was like his whole body and being, and I thought, 'Marc Maron is here to fucking play. He is doing this for real.'

"I had this preconceived notion that this standup comic was going to come in and roll his eyes through this and do bits and talk out of the side of his mouth and go back to his trailer. He is 100% committed to playing this character, Sam Sylvia, and does it so beautifully."

Sam Sylvia Takes a Drive

Brie also had compliments to shower on Mr. Maron. "Marc is also incredibly self-aware. So I think he was really ready to tap into the parts of the character he could relate to, even stuff that he's worked for many years to avoid in his life, but that this guy is right in the midst of.

"He was ready to dive right into that. But he's also deeply vulnerable. He's really open and gentle with the women on the show. I think I was the most surprised by his gentleness and his supportive nature throughout filming, which is really exciting and I think Ruth is sort of a perfect foil to Sam and I just loved watching our friendship develop throughout the season."

GLOW delves deeply into women and their relationships with each other and themselves. It shows how an intimate connection to the body can help reconnect you to your soul. The acting is superb and the subject matter unique, fascinating and wholly entertaining. 

The cast gives everything in their effort to breathe life into the '80s, and it works. These talented women deserve a second season to prove how hard they've trained to pull off such an enjoyable freshman season of Glow. 

Be sure to watch the series in its entirety beginning on Friday, June 23 only on Netflix!

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA), enjoys mentoring writers, wine, and passionately discussing the nuances of television. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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