Liz Flahive, along with her colleague Carly Mensch (who previously worked on Orange is the New Black) is the mastermind behind new Netflix comedy series GLOW, based upon a real-life women’s wrestling show that became a cult hit in the 1980s in the USA.
The original – Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling – is cringe-inducing 80s fun, but it is tinged with exploitation.
“This is a GLOW created by women. That is not what the original GLOW was,” Liz Flahive says of her new series.
“Carly and I fell headfirst into this documentary about the women of GLOW looking back on their time making the show,” she explains. “We were sort of on the hunt for something to make together, and it just hit us. We were not wrestling fans. There was no wrestling literacy between the two of us, so we just got going and then we roped in Jenji [Kohan, creator of OITNB] and tried to figure out how we would do our version of the show.”
They went on to create a whole raft of new personas, characters and behind-the-scenes drama that would become the crux of the narrative. But there are clear shades of the original show’s makeshift tone that give the show an edge and helps it stand out in an era of incredibly polished television.
“We definitely held on to some of the elements, in that it was so homemade and so weird, and some things just didn’t go together,” she said. “There was something a little low rent about the actual GLOW, and there were parts that looked terrible in the most charming way.”
Keen as they were to inject some of that bizarre realism into their show, they were also intent on shining a light upon some of the social issues that the original show breezed over. For starters, they made sure to enlist an ensemble cast of women of varying ethnicities and body types.
“We wanted to have a very diverse cast. The show is so physical, and we didn’t want everybody to be 90 pounds. We wanted to make sure we had a bunch of different looking women to tell our story too,” Flahive says.
And of course, there’s the role reversal at the heart of the story. In this GLOW, at least behind the scenes, the women are in charge.
“I think there’s inherently a lot of exploitation around women and wrestling, and what they were wearing, who they were wrestling for, who was creating that show,” she says.
“Our intention is different. But I think what holds true for both of them is that these women, on our show and the original GLOW, found a real power and felt completely like superheroes in the ring, and it really transformed them.”
GLOW is released on Netflix on Friday 23 June.