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GLOW has never been a show that shies away from tackling important issues. Although it’s set in the mid-’80s, the Netflix dramedy consistently takes on topics that have never been more relevant, including sexual harassment, gender equality, pay parity, and more. And season 3 continues to expand on that, thanks to the addition of Geena Davis.

The Oscar-winning actor joins GLOW this season as Sandy Devereaux St. Clair, a former showgirl turned entertainment director of the Fan-Tan Hotel and Casino. Sandy is a potential mentor to the women of GLOW as they move to Las Vegas and become the new headlining act at the Fan-Tan. She’s also the perfect lens through which GLOW takes on ageism, especially in the entertainment industry. A veteran performer, Sandy has not only found a way to stay relevant after her days as a showgirl ended due to her age but also managed to come out on top in a time when females rarely attain positions of power in business.

Below, Davis speaks with EW about joining GLOW, her love of Vegas, how her character is helping shine a light on the issue of ageism in the entertainment world, and more.

Credit: Ali Goldstein/Netflix

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you join the show — were you a fan, or did they reach out to you?
GEENA DAVIS: I was certainly a big fan of GLOW. I watched it and loved it. But they actually reached out to me with this idea. I thought it sounded really cool and immediately signed on. The thing that hooked me the most is that they said she was a former showgirl, and in some other dimension I’m a former showgirl! [Laughs] Ever since I was a little kid, I just loved something about those big headdresses and the way they walk and stuff like that. That really enticed me. They described the character as someone who had really changed her life and managed to stay in the same industry but moved things around to become someone in charge, because they figured a lot of showgirls, after you’re done, what are you going to do? She was able to land a high-powered position, which showed her mettle.

That definitely feels like a smart way of calling out ageism with parallels to Hollywood, something that many actors face when they start to age out of roles.
That definitely flashed through my mind. I love, love, love seeing my friends and peers doing all the things they’re doing and really taking the reins, particularly Reese [Witherspoon] with her company and all the great things she’s doing. To create roles for yourself, she does lots of other things too but that’s the ultimate power. I applaud her for that. I’m disappointed that we’re in an industry where sometimes women have to try to reinvent themselves because they’re not getting parts anymore because of their age. That’s just wrong that things drop off so precipitously for women as they get older. But I’m happy with all the people that are getting into directing and producing because of that.

Sandy’s dynamic with Debbie [Betty Gilpin] is so fascinating because of how complicated it is: Sandy clearly wants to be a mentor for Debbie, but the feeling isn’t mutual. What are we going to see from those two characters this season?
I have quite a running through-line with her because she is determined to elevate herself and take the reins more in her own life and career. I latch onto her and then she latches onto me. We work on some of those challenges together. I’m pretty tough, and I lay down for her how tough she’s going to have to be.

Fans will see Sandy and Debbie start off on the wrong foot, but that quickly changes into something more positive. What did that mean to you, getting to show that kind of a female friendship?
I think it’s wonderful. Sandy, when she first met her, immediately thought about mentoring her, and then she seemed a little stubborn and not willing to take my advice. But finally, finally we do work out a great way of relating to each other. It’s really great. This show does so much to show different kinds of female relationships and highlight women’s strengths and ambitions. It’s such a pleasure to help do that.

Sandy loves Vegas. So. Much. Why does she feel so strongly about a city most don’t spend more than a weekend in?
Right?! She came there determined to succeed, and the first person who hired her became a lifelong mentor and really gave her her start. She just became seriously attached to what it meant to her, to be able to work and earn her living and have the camaraderie of the other women. She came to love Las Vegas in that way, because it gave her what she wanted, which is unlike what you might expect a showgirl to feel like, to feel exploited or unimportant. She thought it was a great step in the right direction and absolutely loved it and loved Vegas.

How do you feel about Vegas compared to Sandy?
I love it. I only really go for the weekend or a couple of days. I think it’s super-fun, and like most people you go for an event, somebody’s birthday or whatever, and it’s a lot of fun. I certainly don’t love it as much as Sandy does, though!

What does Sandy bring to GLOW this season that the show hasn’t had before?
I was very excited about my character modeling future success to the women in the troupe, that I can stand as an example for them as a potential future and be someone who carefully and ferociously made her way to much greater success.

GLOW season 3 premieres Aug. 9 on Netflix.

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