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'There is something that happens when no one in the room is wearing pants'
Betty Gilpin knows how GLOW looks from the outside. Netflix's '80s-set wrestling comedy can get raw outside the ring, but when the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling are performing -- with their big hair, tight spandex, and layers of glitter eyeshadow -- there's nothing subtle about it.
"Being removed from it and seeing it out of context, we look absolutely crazy," Gilpin marveled to TV Guide. "I was sending screenshots to [co-star Alison Brie] like, 'This is our job. That's us at work. Our butts are showing and we have so much makeup on.'"
As soap actress-turned-wrestler Debbie Eagan, Gilpin essentially plays two characters in one: Debbie is a fledgling producer discovering her own ambition, while her wrestling alter-ego, Liberty Belle, is America's sweetheart in a red-white-and-blue leotard. Revisiting some of the show's most memorable scenes as part of TV Guide's 100 Best Shows ranking, Gilpin admitted it was strange when her character's two sides collided in the Season 1 finale. In the episode, titled "Money's in the Chase," Debbie's husband Mark (Rich Sommer) finally sees her wrestle when he joins her at the taping of the G.L.O.W. pilot, where Debbie stages a surprise takeover from the audience.
"I remember being like, 'Rich, you have to remember me as I was,'" Gilpin recalled. "So much of our scenes felt like my secret little quiet play that I got to do sometimes, and then I had this secret other life where I was doing way over-the-top acting."
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The episode's big match, which Liberty Belle wins after a triumphant jump from the top rope, was also a kind of win for Gilpin, who was "intimidated" by the physical side of the show at first. "You just have to find that person within you who's like, 'I know when I feel it's right, and I'm just going to do it,'" she said. "I didn't think that person in me existed."
Gilpin also looked back on Season 2's standout "The Good Twin," which gave GLOW fans what they'd been clamoring for: a full episode of the show within the show, G.L.O.W. -- complete with a catchy '80s PSA-style song urging kidnappers to cut it out already. "It's so G.L.O.W.," she laughed. "That whole episode is so true to the actual show in the '80s."
Gilpin recalled "crying laughing" with the rest of the cast while filming "Don't Kidnap." The musical talents of co-stars like Kate Nash and Jackie Tohn put the pressure on, but she admitted that "there is something that happens when no one in the room is wearing pants, and the vulnerability just gives you a badge of, you know: We're all in this together, pantsless."
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The episode, which, in Gilpin's words, "required everyone to go to a 12," tapped into an over-the-top energy that she knows is a rare gift in the industry, even when it feels ridiculous. "I know that someday when I'm playing a crotchety detective squinting in a sweater asking logistical questions for my lines over a dead body, I'll be like, Oh man, remember 'Don't Kidnap'?" Gilpin said.
The cast also went to 12 to film Season 3's "Freaky Tuesday" match, which found all of the women swapping wrestling personas to shake things up. Debbie took on Russian heel Zoya, usually played by Ruth (Brie), while Ruth put her own spin on Liberty Belle. The scenes left room for a lot of improvisation.
"I couldn't stop Zoya-isms," said Gilpin. "After one take, Alison had to be like, 'You have to let me say stuff too.'"
Check out the video above for all of Gilpin's thoughts on some of GLOW's most memorable scenes.
GLOW is available to stream on Netflix.