Musician Kate Nash has dipped her toe into acting before. She appeared in 2013 British indie film Powder Room, which was written by a woman (Rachel Hirons, based on her play When Women Wee), directed by a woman (MJ Delaney), and featured an all-female cast including the superb Sheridan Smith. Soon after, in 2014, following a sleepless night in LA, Nash devised an online community via a YouTube channel titled Girl Gang, which was concerned with “outside empowerment” and giving women and feminist men a place to voice their concerns and fight the power.
Netflix's new show GLOW (Glamorous Ladies of Wrestling) then, seems like the perfect fit for an artist inspired by the Riot Grrrl movement, who cites Buffy the Vampire Slayer as one of her heroes. Set in the 1980s, GLOW is a fictionalised story inspired by the women who took to the ring to launch their careers in the real-life wrestling show Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling. GLOW is executive produced by Jenji Kohan, created by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, features a predominantly female cast led by Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin, and is a TV show that wears its feminism proudly on glittery spandex. We caught up with Nash and talked GLOW, wrestling, bodies, and all things '80s.
How was it for you working on a TV show for the first time?
It's good to put yourself out of your comfort zone. That’s how you keep learning and getting better at things. I was scared. "What does going to set mean?" All these things I was learning for the first time. Luckily, I had fourteen women around me who did have that experience, and it was very open. I didn’t feel embarrassed or scared to ask. It was communal, and no one judged anyone. I had a dream scenario. Also, Alison Brie as our lead set the bar as to how everyone was going to act. She’s so caring and took time out of her schedule to ask how things went. She’s so amazing. We’re in love with each other and we’re all on a group WhatsApp. Real friendships were formed because we were all in trailers next to each other, which we called GLOW alley. It was loud! We got in trouble for being too loud on set a lot. Honestly, everybody shared with each other. We all talked and bonded. Carly, Liz and Jenji worked really hard to get this group of women together. They set the tone and they made sure we were all treated equally. There wasn’t a competitive nature, everyone was so supportive of one another.
How much did you know about wrestling before you began the audition process?
I never really knew that much about wrestling...I have a couple of friends that do. I’m friends with Sam Duckworth, who’s a musician in Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, and when I told him I was working on an audition for GLOW, he was like, "You need to take this seriously and you need to work really hard." He sent me a file with about 300 interviews. My drummer is really into wrestling too, and she was grilling me on what I needed to know. Wrestling fans are very hardcore about their culture, but everybody else thinks it’s silly and fake. When you understand it and become involved in it, you become protective of it. I have so much admiration and respect for these wrestlers because no one, unless you’re in it, understands what you’re doing. They’re so strong and they’re actually trying not to hurt each other, which is quite difficult. There’s a female wrestling league that tweeted me after the trailer came out, called EVE in Bethnal Green. They invited me down to a match and I went a couple of weeks ago. It’s such a rush to stand by a ring and watch people do crazy stunts. Once you enjoy the fact that some of it is fake you see the humour in it too. Wrestling is feel-good escapism.
What was your personal experience of training?
When I first walked up to the ring, I was definitely intimidated by it. It reminded me of when I first got on big stages as a musician. You feel tiny. Not knowing how to get in the ropes and feeling awkward about it...The sound of the ring is really loud. When people are throwing themselves down it’s a scary sound. I saw some of the moves we were supposed to do and I thought I would struggle. Meeting my cast mates in the ring was cool, because we were all on this level of being a little bit scared, and we were intimate with each other from day one. It broke down a lot of barriers so we bonded fast because we were quite nervous and wanted to protect each other. That’s quite unusual, as you’re not really worrying about injuring someone the first time you meet them. It personally brought me a lot of confidence and a new relationship with my body that I never had, and that’s something I’m hoping young girls in particular can get out of the show. That your body can have a physical purpose without trying to look perfect.
Falling backwards was scary, but I liked taking a front bump. It reminded me of fighting with my sisters growing up. But falling backwards is hard. It’s counterintuitive. Some stuff didn’t click until performance time. All of a sudden, when it’s action and it’s just you in the ring, the adrenalin kicks in and you’re not thinking about doing this, you’re thinking about performing for the camera. The crowd were there and there was such a rush. I found that with music too and you get better at it.
What did you learn about the 1980s, and what did you love?
Obviously, the fashion department did an amazing job with some ridiculous outfits. I enjoyed researching the details in the differences in the mundanities of everyday life. I tweeted my fans and asked them to let me know about their experiences or their parents’ experiences growing up in the '80s. There’s this amazing Angela Lansbury bath thing that’s so weird! You’ve got to look it up! The music is really sexual and she puts lotion on... I love it, but did wonder why it was made. It was fun researching that.
Can you tell me about the character you play?
Rhonda Richardson is really kind and caring. She has a very positive outlook on life and is extremely confident. She’s oblivious to what people think of her which is really liberating. I think she would be shocked to hear that people think she’s dumb or weird. I’m defensive when people say Rhonda is dumb. She’s not dumb, she’s just not academic. She’s resourceful in many ways.
I think she shows emotional intelligence throughout the show...
Thank you! It was really freeing to play her and to get into the psychological mindset where you’re not thinking about being judged. It’s so rare because most of our lives are built on how people see us or think of us.
There are so many aspirational characters in GLOW, particularly for young women. When you were growing up, which TV characters did you want to be like?
Buffy! Buffy is the best TV show ever made...after GLOW! I remember everything about the day I saw the TV trailer for Buffy, I was 14. My sister’s older friend was staying over, and I thought she was so cool, and I remember sitting on the sofa with them. It was on BBC2, and I even remember the old logo that came up. I remember Buffy jumping up on the pool table, and I was like, I need to watch this! I was instantly drawn to it. To have this female superhero that validated being a teenage girl...being a teenage girl was as important as saving the world. She was constantly trying to get people to see that. I get emotional talking about it. Joss Whedon is great. So many times, girls are told they’re not capable because they’re too emotional, and that gets in the way of you doing your job. Buffy, when her emotions came in to play, she was the strongest fighter she’d ever been. All these characters came in to stop her from being so emotional and she always battled through that. Her emotions empowered her. That’s never told to you as a woman, you’re always told they get in the way. She cares about prom as much as she does about saving the world. I’m so honoured to be in a show that is going to do something physical for girls. We’re all misfits, but Rhonda’s finding her way, herself and confidence through the ring. It’s so empowering.
Photos via Netflix
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Katherine McLaughlin is a writer, reviewer and columnist for Broadly, Little White Lies, The List, SciFiNow and HorrorVille. She also co-hosts UK horror podcast Casting the Runes. You can find Katherine on Twitter @coconutboots.