CM Punk lit the pro wrestling world on fire when he returned to the ring for AEW on Aug. 20, but now he is getting ready to debut as a completely different character on the Starz drama series “Heels.”
The series is built around a small-town wrestling promotion in Georgia and follows the rivalry between the Spade brothers, who are also the promotion’s top stars. Punk, whose real name is Phil Brooks, will appear in the episode airing Aug. 29 as Ricky Rabies, a well-known independent wrestler.
In an interview with Variety, Punk says he first met series creator Michael Waldron a few years ago and at that time had read for the lead role of Jack Spade, who is now played by Stephen Amell.
“This shows you how show business works, right? Everyone was like, ‘Man, you’re so great. Waldron’s excited, the execs are excited. You did so good. But unfortunately, we’re canning the entire project.’ ‘Heels’ went on the shelf for years and years,” he said with a laugh.
Years later, the show was taken off the shelf and got picked up at Starz. Punk said that he believes another actor had been cast as Ricky Rabies, but for one reason or another that person fell out and Waldron called him to take the role. Given his long career in pro wrestling, the creative team on the show gave Punk the chance to fill in the blanks on the character to a degree.
“The character was fully formed from a visual standpoint, but the showrunner, Mike O’Malley, and Waldron said, ‘This is your world. We’re assuming you probably know or have known who this guy is.’ And they were right,” Punk said. “I’ve shared a locker room with a guy like Ricky Rabies — a perennial independent wrestling journeyman, maybe had a cup of coffee in the big leagues, who has a strong following. People will buy a ticket to go see Ricky Rabies. I got to kind of cherry pick and choose different attributes and personality traits from wrestlers that I have known over the years.”
Punk declined to name any specific wrestlers who informed the character, saying that he would rather people form their own opinions.
Having shot his episodes at the end of 2020 and in the early part of 2021, Punk went on to say that he had some idea he would be debuting for AEW while he was shooting.
“It wasn’t 100%, but I knew that’s what I was doing, if that makes sense,” he said. “It was just fortuitous, I guess. Here I am in a wrestling ring for this acting gig and I know, in the back of my head, I’m getting back into the ring in a few months anyway, so I figured it was two birds one stone. I got a little out of camp training.”
“Heels” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT on Starz.