Wrestling might not be “real” in the sense that contestants aren’t actually trying to injure each other during a match, but it’s still an extremely physically demanding sport nonetheless. But with a show about wrestling, like Netflix’s new series GLOW, the lines between reality and performance are blurred even more. Which begs the question: Are the actors in GLOW really wrestling, or are they being helped out by stunt performers?
Good news for all the purists out there — Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, and the 12 other actors that round out the cast of GLOW’s show-within-a-show are all definitely doing their own stunts.
"I’m excited for [fans] to see us wrestling. Every time we went in to do ADR, I would just look to see if you could see my face in all the scenes so people knew it was really us doing the moves," Alison Brie tells Bustle. "I want people to be excited and surprised by it."
According to the New York Post, for most of the actors (with the exception of Kia Stevens, who is a wrestler), that meant an intensive training bootcamp put together by stunt coordinator Shaunna Duggins and real-life Lucha Underground wrestler Chavo Guerrero Jr., who comes from a legendary wrestling family. His uncle, Mondo Guerrero, was the teacher for the original Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling series in the 1980s, and the gym in the show was named after him (and his father, Chavo Guerrero Sr., who died in February of this year) in tribute.
While the Netflix show is a fictionalized account that’s loosely based on the syndicated program, both programs have one thing in common: They specifically sought out young actors rather than wrestlers. In fact, according to the 2012 documentary GLOW: The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, the casting process was very much like it appears on the Netflix series, with huge groups of women not even knowing what they were auditioning for, only to become wrestling superstars on television.
Chavo Guerrero Jr. ended up doing more than just teaching the girls on the Netflix series how to do the movies: According to an interview he gave to Rolling Stone, his input was valuable in making GLOW as authentic as possible.
“Being hired as a wrestling coordinator morphed into ordering rings and set designs, and they were even giving me the script beforehand, so I would highlight and change wrestling terminology,” he said. “They were all about it, it was great.”
This commitment to authenticity makes GLOW that much more empowering to watch, especially when it comes to the female characters; over the course of the show’s 10 episodes, you feel like you’re witnessing each of the performers get better in real time. Of course, they’re not perfect — after all, live wrestling requires much more skill than a scripted TV series does, because you can always stop and reshoot a move if it doesn’t look right the first time. As Guerrero also recounted to Rolling Stone, he told Kia Stevens that “we're not training [the women] to kill each other, we're training them to be safe.” So yes, Kia could probably take down any one of her co-stars in an actual ring, but on screen they all seem pretty capable.
And although no one got seriously injured during filming, the bruises certainly added to the show’s realism. “I got into makeup and pulled down my pants and the makeup artist was like, ‘Oh, there’s already a bunch of bruises here. Should I just fill them in more?’ ” Allison Brie told the New York Post. “We definitely didn’t have to add. I kind of liked seeing my real bruises in the shots.”
Bruises aside, after watching the show myself, I've got half a mind to find a local wrestling school in my area and learn a few of those moves myself. How much do you wanna bet that after GLOW premieres on June 23, other Netflix subscribers all over the country will be doing the same?
Additional reporting by Martha Sorren