Women wrestlers positively ‘GLOW’ in new Netflix comedy series

Before there was WWE Divas or the Exotic Ladies of Wrestling, there was “GLOW,” otherwise known as the “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.” A new comedy series dropping on Netflix this week hearkens back to the days of that 1980s syndicated TV series and the women who starred in it.

“GLOW,” which begins streaming Friday, June 23, tells the fictional story of Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie, “Community,” “Mad Men”), a struggling, out-of-work Los Angeles actress who gets one last chance at stardom as one of the spandex-clad faux competitors on that 1986-89 series. Also among the 14 in the cast is Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin, “Masters of Sex,” “American Gods”), a former soap actress whose seemingly idyllic life as a wife and mother comes to a screeching halt thanks to a rude surprise. In leading this cast of Hollywood misfits, washed-up director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron, “Maron,” Girls”) sees his own shot at redemption.

The series has an impressive pedigree, counting showrunners Liz Flahive (“Homeland,” “Nurse Jackie”) and Carly Mensch (“Nurse Jackie,” “Orange Is the New Black”) and executive producers Jenji Kohan and Tara Herrmann (“Orange Is the New Black”) among its creative forces.

To bone up on the wrestling aspect of their roles, Brie, Gilpin and the other actresses underwent about a month of training with professional wrestler Chavo Guerrero Jr., learning the various moves and how to land without getting hurt.

“It was a big part of what the show was for all of us, and a major challenge,” Brie says, “and at the same time one of the most fun aspects of doing this show and a very empowering aspect of the show. It really bonded us as a cast, the 14 women who got to meet each other a month before shooting and do this thing together, which we were all so vulnerable and it was a very level playing field in that none of us had any experience doing, except for one woman.

“Kia Stevens is a pro wrestler and also an actress on our show,” she continues, “and she became invaluable in imparting some of her wrestling knowledge on us and just really helping to nurture us throughout the process.”

Guerrero was also able to help the actresses with the mental aspect of their roles, from wrestling philosophy and committing to a character to the do’s and don’ts of storylines.

“I realized how much of wrestling is story-dependent, character-dependent,” Gilpin says. “That felt very freeing for me because coming up with a character is something I know how to do and something as actors we all knew how to do. I didn’t realize how much of wrestling is sort of story-driven and it is very much like a soap opera. It’s like ‘All My Children’ in the Coliseum.”

Alison Brie stars in “GLOW,” which begins streaming Friday, June 23, on Netflix.
George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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