Netflix's 'Glow' creators on confronting racist stereotypes and sexual harassment in season 2

  • Business Insider spoke to the creators of “Glow,” which debuted its second season on Netflix June 29.
  • They talked about confronting racially charged wrestling personas, and a poignant storyline that addresses how different women react to sexual harassment.
  • The creators also said they didn’t realise how much time hair and make-up would take for this season, since the actors were in full wrestling costumes a lot more than in the first season.

Last Friday, season two of “Glow” dropped on Netflix – and it goes even deeper than the first season into its thoughtful examination of female friendships, motherhood, and racial stereotypes. But despite the season’s heavy material, it is actually even funnier than season one.

“Glow” is one of the best Netflix original series, and one of the best shows on television right now.

Business Insider recently spoke to “Glow” creators Carly Mensch (“Weeds,” “Orange Is the New Black”) and Liz Flahive (“Nurse Jackie,” “Homeland”) about the second season. Mensch and Flahive discussed having characters confront their racist wrestling personas, the hilarious episode that is a “show within a show,” and comedian Marc Maron’s transformation into a romantic lead. Mensch and Flahive also said they didn’t realise how “slammed” hair and make-up would be this season, since the actors only got fully dressed in their wresting costumes for one episode in the first season.

Carrie Wittmer: What was it like going into season two after the success of season one, with critics and with audiences?

Carly Mensch: I think the game of working for Netflix is you kind of don’t know if you’re successful. We were so excited because we had saved so much story from season one, so we went into season two just pumped that we had so much story and knew that we had only scratched the surface of these characters. In season two, there was a whole new joy of digging in deeper. We had so many new things we wanted to talk about, we could barely fit into season one, so season two was like … game on.

Liz Flahive:There were things in season two that were on our wish list for season one in terms of ideas for episodes. But we just went too slow with the wrestling very deliberately, because once we teach the girls how to wrestle, you can’t go back. There was also a little bit more freedom in season two to push it in some different directions and to go with some characters in a way I don’t know we had the narrative freedom to do in season one.

Mensch: We started the writers’ room for season two over a month before we aired.

Wittmer: Oh wow.

Flahive: Is that true?

Mensch: I feel like we we did.

Flahive: Wait a second. No we didn’t.

Mensch: No, yeah, you’re right. Because I gave birth.

Flahive: You gave birth.

Mensch: Never mind! Liz and I had so many brainstorming sessions before, that’s why it gets messy for us. We had so many discussions and so many things written down, and we did have a mini round.

Wittmer: So you had a game plan for season two before going in … before the first season had come out?

Mensch:For sure. We kind of had our wish list going in.

Wittmer: There so many characters but only so many episodes. What were some storylines you had to have in season two?

Carly: We’ve been excited that we have two mothers now on the team that didn’t really interact a lot. We were excited to have an episode that paralleled them.

Flahive: We were also excited to tell a story about Ruth and Sam that felt very different from season one. And new kinds of complications for them in terms of working together and power dynamics and we didn’t want to rehash the Ruth/Debbie story. We didn’t want to tell the exact same story. We wanted to explore what their friendship was before and surrounding this incident so you got to see more context, what they were like before. That was definitely on our laundry list.

Mensch: Our show within a show was something we wanted to do for a long time. It made no sense in season one, but it was still our dream.

Wittmer: That episode was wild. I loved it.

Flahive: That was one where we were really like, we have to or else. If we can’t do that episode, we’ve done something wrong. But doing it in season one would have been a terrible mistake. All of season one, we wanted to do one, but we were like …

Mensch: We can’t do it yet! We haven’t earned it! But now we earned it.

Wittmer: It was so clever. And Alison Brie was so funny doing the Russian twins.

Flahive: Something we didn’t fully process from the production side is how slammed hair and makeup was going to be in season two. If you look back at season one, we didn’t do the full wrestling looks until the final episode. I feel like we really paid the price this season. But it was so incredible to watch them really fully inhabit their in-the-ring personas and get to know those wackos, too. We pride our show on being silly and smart, but the show they’re making is pretty dumb and ridiculous. It almost felt dishonorable to pretend that they were doing something so noble when we could at least just show you what they are making is insane and silly. And then you’re like, “Oh, yeah, this is a show about people making that show.”

Wittmer: Did you watch any actual wrestling shows from that era to get some ideas for that episode?

Flahive: No. In season one we did a lot of that and for season two we realised we had made our own show based on who these women were, what they wanted. Like, Arthie is a med student trapped playing a terrorist so of course she needs to escape. She wants to be a dancer!

Mensch: So we need a dream ballet! If you let each of these characters make what they had in their hearts, what would their pitch be?

Flahive: Obviously Melrose just wants a music video. It had to come from them.

Mensch: Yeah, what would these actresses have thought of if they sat down and were like, “Let’s make a show based on our talents.” What would that show be? [It’s] different than, “What would a crazy episode of wrestling look like?”

Flahive: I think we were also inspired, always, by the fact that the original “Glow” was so many different things mashed together. And that was both the thing that everyone loved or hated. But this is about shoving a bunch of things and letting them hit each other. Story-wise, it was about building from character.

Wittmer: Ruth and Debbie disagree on Ruth’s reaction to sexual harassment with an executive. Could you walk me through planning out that arc?

Flahive: It’s one of those things where it was really just there for us. We had talked about telling that story, and really it felt like the most exciting and surprising event of that episode was not what happened to Ruth in a hotel room with an executive, it was the conversation between her and Debbie after the fact. And that was our intention.

Mensch: We didn’t come up with the idea of Ruth having the encounter first and then that next. We started with: we’re telling a season-long story of their friendship. We wanted something that’s going to really rock them. So we worked backwards from wanting that fight. So we started with the fight, then found the event.

Wittmer: Despite that fight and other things, I loved how this season really was about bringing Ruth and Debbie back to an understanding, maybe even back to friends?

Mensch: We’re always trying to tell a very complicated, deep story about a very complicated, deep friendship that’s very, very broken. So nothing should feel easy. It should be one step forward, two steps back, without feeling repetitive or too neat at any point. It’s so fun to build that given the actresses we have playing these characters. They’re just so alive in the story. We definitely intended to move this story forward, but not doing it in a way a felt easy.

Flahive: Or resolved.

Wittmer: You already mentioned Arthie, who doesn’t want to be portraying this racial stereotype anymore, same with Tamme. A lot of people who love the show wanted this to be addressed

Mensch: These women are playing the two most difficult-to-wear stereotypes. Tamme is a mother. She has a son. She is comfortable playing her role on the show, but her most uncomfortable experience being this stereotype is in front of her son. Arthie is younger, and she hates her character. But unlike Tamme, Arthie is wearing it uncomfortably.

Flahive: We’re telling the story of two women grappling with stereotypes in two very different ways, and that comes from who they are as their characters. The moment that’s going to be the hardest for Tamme isn’t going to be an exact mirror of the hardest for Arthie. They’re both going to have different experiences of playing racially charged stereotypes – and owning versus rejecting it.

Wittmer: Sam has quite the arc this season, and Marc Maron fantastic.

Flahive: We agree.

Mensch: We keep seeing Marc and we’re like, “Will you just watch the season already so we can talk about how good you are?!” And he’s like, “errh.”

Flahive: He’s a very beautiful actor.

Mensch: He’s a romantic lead! The word is out.

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