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How Alison Brie fought for her wrestling role on GLOW

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A version of this story appears in Entertainment Weekly’s Summer TV Preview issue, on stands now and available here. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

Even with her name emblazoned in the credits, it still might take you a moment to recognize Community star Alison Brie — sporting a legit perm and astounding mom jeans — on her new series, GLOW. And this is something that delights her.

“That was my No. 1 goal — to look like a totally different person,” Brie, 34, tells EW. “Ruth is so different from any character I’ve played.”

Created by Nurse Jackie‘s Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch and executive-produced by Orange Is the New Black‘s Jenji Kohan, GLOW is set smack in the midst of the glorious big hair, glitter, and spandex of the 1980s and tells the fictional origin story of the very real Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling league. Brie plays Ruth Wilder, an out-of-work actress who throws herself in with a group of misfits under the melancholic eye of a washed-up director (Marc Maron) hoping the wrestling show can be a path to redemption. Complicating matters is Ruth’s best friend, Debby (Betty Gilpin) — a soap opera beauty who discovers that Ruth has slept with her husband — throwing down in the ring right alongside her.

When Brie first read GLOW‘s script, it was the kind of project she’d been looking for: funny, poignant, dramatic. But convincing the powers that be that she was right for the role proved a challenge. “They didn’t even want to bring me in,” she says. “I don’t think they thought I was gritty enough.”She persevered—showing up to auditions sans makeup and in workout clothes. “I fought for this one,” she says proudly.

She persevered, showing up to auditions sans makeup and in workout clothes. “I fought for this one,” she says proudly.

It wouldn’t be the only fighting she’d do, as she and her castmates went through an intense month of wrestling training. Brie — who showed off a very impressive bicep to EW — says she learned things about own physical abilities she never knew before. “I’ve honestly never felt cooler or more powerful. I’m now capable of things I never even knew. I can do, like 10 pull-ups in a row,” she says. She laughs, “I was challenging our crew to competitions on set like an a–hole.”

GLOW arrives on Netflix on June 23.