Thirteen of the fourteen-woman cast of executive producer Jenji Kohan‘s new Netflix series, women’s wrestling show “GLOW,” were present at the premiere Wednesday evening at the Arclight Hollywood cinema in Los Angeles.
“GLOW” is based on the real-life 1980s women’s wrestling show of the same name, and gives a fictional account of how the show began. Alison Brie stars as Ruth Wilder, a young “serious” actor struggling to find work, with Betty Gilpin as her soon-estranged best friend and ex-soap opera star Debbie Eagan. The two are accompanied by a large cast of other wrestlers, who each develop their own unique story throughout the show — a specialty of Kohan’s, who created the streaming service’s “Orange Is the New Black.”
“What I think is really cool about [the show] is that we’re seeing a variety of women,” said Ellen Wong, who plays Jenny. “We’re seeing women of all different shapes and sizes, and they’re here to tell their story.”
Brie said she appreciated getting to play a “tougher” role than her “Community” and “Mad Men” personas. “I was looking to get my hands dirty, and shatter this image that people have of me, and it was exhilarating,” Brie said.
She continued, “I loved getting to play a woman who in her life is not perfect, has some flaws, makes some really bad decisions. I think it’s a fun challenge for the audience to decide if they still want to root for her.”
The show tackles some unpleasant stereotypes in a roundabout way, as many of the women of color are forced to take on stereotypical roles for their in-ring characters, such as “The Welfare Queen” for Tamee, played by Kia Stevens, who has previous experience on wrestling shows. Stevens said she faced a similar situation with her first wrestling name, Awesome Kong, which she disliked because she felt it denoted a gorilla.
“But I thought about it, and an N.W.A. song came on, and I figured if they can be N.W.A., then I can be Awesome Kong,” she said. “And one day I’ll be speaking to Variety about how conflicted I was and what I had to do to get to a place like this. As for Tamee, I think she’s going through the same thing.”
Wong said she felt some similar hesitation about having to portray “Fortune Cookie” — Jenny’s in-ring persona — but that she was able to talk to producers Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, about bringing those feelings into Jenny’s character. Wong also said she felt that Jenny’s experience of being pigeonholed as Chinese, despite the fact that she’s Cambodian, was an important experience to be depicted on television.
Many of the cast members said “GLOW” tackles feminist issues in a way that isn’t present in other shows centered around women. “Our show is really political, but in a really fun, vibrant, glittery wrestling environment,” said Kate Nash, an English singer-songwriter who plays Rhonda.
Gilpin echoed the sentiment, and said especially with the “horrible train wreck” that is the news cycle these days, experiencing the “feminine positivity” of “GLOW” will be “the best vitamin you can take.”
“GLOW” will be released on Netflix in its entirety June 23.
(Pictures above: Tara Herrmann, Jenji Kohan, Alison Brie and Cindy Holland, Netflix vice president for original series)
|Stars of the show, Rebekka Johnson, Sunita Mani, Ellen Wong, Kate Nash, Marianna Palka, Britney Young and Kimmy Gatewood, have a friendly scuffle on the carpet with Netflix Chief Creative Officer Ted Sarandos. Latour/Variety/REX/Shutterstock|