It’s almost time to get back in the ring. Netflix’s GLOW returns with new episodes on June 29, and in this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly we have an exclusive look at what to expect when the 1980s-set dramedy returns for season 2.
Created by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, and executive produced by Jenji Kohan, GLOW is a sneaky Trojan horse of a show. Ostensibly, it’s the fictionalized origin story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, in which a band of misfits — led by Ruth (Alison Brie), a frustrated under-employed actress and Debbie (Betty Gilpin), a former soap star in mid-existential crisis — learn the wrestling ropes under the gimlet eye of a washed up director (Marc Maron). Its quick and quippy dialogue, slick synth soundtrack, and retro big shoulders and bigger hair, all packed into a half hour, lulls one into think they’re watching a lighthearted comedy. But GLOW is up to something else entirely. In many respects it secretly has much in common with The Handmaid’s Tale. Both are shows about women’s bodies and empowerment; both tell an urgent contemporary story set in a (granted, wildly different) genre setting. “When people say GLOW is hilarious, I’m like Oh really? Cause I feel like I’m ripping out my soul,” says Gilpin with a laugh. “I think that the cast of The Handmaid’s Tale and the cast of GLOW as two groups of women that live in all of us. Like, hey: I’ve got a team of Sylvia Plath cannibals and I’ve also got a team of feminist Muppet clowns, and this whole time I’ve just been pretending to be Marcia Brady zoning out at brunch.”
This season, the GLOW universe expands. Now that GLOW — the show within the show — has been picked up by late-night cable, there are even more challenges to hurdle. Debbie insists on becoming a producer, only to be thwarted by a boys’ club; Ruth has a flirtation with a camera operator, much to Sam (Maron) and Debbie’s discomfort; one character has a sexual epiphany; another is a victim of a startlingly 2018-resonant sexual harassment situation; and one of the wrestlers is injured in the ring. But no matter what drama was playing out on screen, all the actors continually circle back to point out just how happy a place GLOW is to work. “I feel like with all these terrible stories coming out and reading about people’s traumatic experiences, you catalog your own and decide what effect they had on you,” says Brie. “But then you do look around our set, and it’s the most welcoming, safe place to work. It feels…nice to be on a set like this while all this is happening. That starts with our female showrunners and our characters and us as actors. The women on the show really do take ownership of the set, and feel comfortable and powerful and not objectified. We’re comfortable in our bodies, comfortable in our costumes, and comfortable with ourselves.”
Need a refresher on season 1 before the show returns? Check out this handy recap trailer:
Take a look at the cover below — and for more on GLOW, be sure to pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands this Friday.