She was on the verge of quitting acting when Britt Baron was cast in GLOW as Justine, a punk rocker with a secret. "I’d just gotten back from Europe," says the actor when we sit down at Bustle HQ. "I’d gone backpacking with a college friend, I’d, like, re-centered myself. I’d gone on three auditions — GLOW was one of them. And I remember calling my mom and being like, 'You know what? I did this acting thing. I proved I can kind of do it. Maybe it’s time to get a desk job."
But "casual Fridays" and progress reports weren't in the cards for Baron — at least not yet. Instead, she booked what may be the polar opposite of an office job: playing the youngest member of the first class of the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling — the low-budget TV brainchild of down-on-his-luck B-movie director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron). Though the offer kept Baron in the business, it did come without certain anxieties.
"When I found out that [the cast] was 14 girls, I was scared," Baron admits. She's perched cross-legged in a desk chair and, unlike the careful and quiet Justine, has a habit of talking with her hands. "I felt like, 'I’m the youngest. I still have so much to learn.' I felt like I was going to be a total fish out of water. And especially in Los Angeles, in this industry, I was scared to be surrounded by a bunch of cut-throat, competitive, trying to one-up each other, 90 pound model-women."
If you've seen a minimum of five minutes of the '80s-fabulous Netflix dramedy, you already know that — though its predominantly female cast are perfectly comfortable tossing each other into the ropes, it's hardly a show that supports the "catty girl" stereotype. But the narrative that women are often told about themselves is that two of them together are rivals, three are a crowd, and 14 are a nuclear estrogen bomb ready to blow at any moment.
But for all her trepidation about being thrown into a cage match of psychological girl-on-girl crime, Baron found the GLOW set to be a buster of those stereotypes. To hear the wonder in her voice as she talks about it comes with some familiarity. There's so much toxic content out there, it feels like seeing clearly for the first time when you have an experience that debunks those messages. I know I've been there.
"I feel like a lot of times, as women, we are taught or raised to cut each other down to lift yourself up," Baron explains. "And GLOW and the experience with those women... we are so much stronger when we’re together, working as a team." She disarmingly asks if she can swear before continuing, emboldened: "You don’t have to talk sh*t to make yourself bigger."
From as early as the audition process, Baron could tell that GLOW was going to disregard a lot of rules about what it means to be feminine, not just the "mean girl" myth. She says that worrying about what to wear to a session can add to the pressure of an audition — a pressure the GLOW producers erased by requesting performers to come in with zero makeup and wearing workout clothes.
And as a theater actor, Baron finds that going out for screen work in particular can be stifling. "Especially as a woman, I feel like we’re told, “Use a soft voice, cry pretty, just bat your eyelashes, and do less. Do less,'" the actor says, briefly playing the part of a condescending casting director. "So it was really refreshing to go full-throttle and be over the top."
Once Baron and the rest of the ensemble were in place, the women of GLOW got to establish their onscreen chemistry in an unusual way. Their journey didn't start with a conference table and a read-through, but with a wrestling boot camp. And as Baron describes it, it was the perfect venue in which to get over any remaining jitters and to find that camaraderie she'd been missing in the business.
"I’d never really done sports. And acting, you’re really on your own path," she says. "And this was the first time I felt a part of a team, in a way. Because we were training together, and we were mixing up different groups every day. And everyone, there were different moves that people couldn’t do. So when you saw someone get frustrated and supported them and cheered them on — 'No, no you can do this!' — and then to see them succeed in that move? It’s almost like you’re watching your own child or little sister succeed."
To Baron, the sweat and tears shed in boot camp also served as an amazing leveler. ("I think once you’ve seen someone cry, you automatically become friends," she wisely notes.) The cast was made up of a range of experiences, from early-career actors like herself to seasoned TV stars like Alison Brie to Kia Stevens, a real ring professional. In training, they established a genuine team that's still going strong in the off-season on the GLOW GroupMe chat. (No, I don't know how to get you an invite.)
"No one treated me like the baby," Baron says, with relief.
Unfortunately for Baron, she had a pretty big secret to hold back from her newfound sisterhood. (Spoilers ahead!) Though she knew from her first character meeting that Justine was Sam's daughter, she had to keep that twist quiet. Even Maron wasn't allowed to know until the time came to prepare for and shoot the scene where Justine tells Sam.
"It was a little scary, because I knew it was coming," Baron recalls about filming that big and uncomfortable reveal. "Whenever [Marc and I] had those scenes together, it was such a different dynamic off-screen. It was quiet. Marc’s kinda doing his own thing, I can do my own thing. It was nice. I felt like we fell into our characters a little bit more."
She's not sure about what comes next for Justine now that her impetus for getting close to Sam has been revealed, but Baron doesn't want to see her give up her means of doing it. When I ask her about her dreams for her character in Season 2, she has a couple of things in mind.
"I'd love to see her maybe start working with Sam as an assistant-type director," Baron says. "But I would love to see her wrestle... she has this quiet, badass, 'f*ck you' mentality, but at the same time, she's totally scared. Still a kid. She doesn't know who she is, she’s still finding her footing. So if you see her wrestle and come into her own it would be such a monumental growing point."
They may not share the same taste in horror movies or punk rock haircuts, but Britt Baron and her character both came out the other side of GLOW Season 1 changed women — with new confidence in their sisters and themselves.