From Perms to Piledrivers, 'GLOW' Star Alison Brie Is All About '80s Wrestling Now
Alison Brie may have only been alive for a portion of the 1980s, but she's having a totally awesome time revisiting the era -- even when she's pinned to a wrestling mat.
Brie, who came on the scene with a powerful one-two punch with her starring role on the cult-favorite sitcom "Community" and recurring appearances on the modern TV classic "Mad Men," returns to television as the central contender in GLOW," which turns back the clock to the glory days of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, the Reagan Era's female professional wrestling organization.
Playing Ruth, a down-and-out aspiring actress whose desperate search for gainful employment leads her try her hand at suplexes and piledrivers and in the process finds herself on a road to an unexpected sort of stardom, Brie tells Moviefone she reveled in everything the role had to offer, from the physical challenges to the all-too-relatable auditioning process to those revealing high-cut leotards.
Moviefone: You were just a baby in the '80s! Do you have any hazy real-life memories of that period of time?
Alison Brie: I do! I do, and I'm sure it's a blend of actual memories, and then just like things I've seen in photographs, that sort of your mind tricks you into thinking, "I remember being there for that."
Definitely, I remember perms! I had a perm for this show, and the smell of the chemicals that they put in your hair to make a perm really took me back. It was some major nostalgia because my mom used to get constant perms. A lot of perms in our household!
As you dove deep into the era, what blew you away -- in a good way -- about some of the styles and the pop cultural artifacts? And what made you think, "This was actually a thing"?
The clothes I actually really liked! Marc Maron has been very outspoken about his true hatred for the jeans that Ruth wears on the show. Nothing sexy about those jeans. But I actually really like the shapes of women's clothes at the time. We see high-waisted jeans coming back in fashion now.
But the fact that, like in even the '50s and '60s, we had those shapes, those hourglass shapes for women's figures, that even women that had boobs and butts and things, could wear clothes in a cool way, and have that cinch at the waist, things that are more flattering, versus those really boxy shapes that we see in fashion now. I love everything about '80s fashion. I really like the super high cut leotards, although, it makes for a bikini line challenge, I think for all the women on the show. That was a real tricky thing.
Probably the racism is one of the more shocking things that I had kind of forgotten about the '80s. Although, I guess you could argue that things like that are still a problem in our country today. However, in the wrestling world in particular, when you really look back at the characters from the '80s, the really aggressive patriotism is interesting.
After watching the first few episodes, It's not entirely obvious whether Ruth was actually potentially a good actress or not. Did you have to decide that?
I think that she is a good actress, but sometimes she's so overzealous about it, that she gets in her own way. I think she has a lot of potential, but she needs to be reeled in some of the time -- much like myself, I would say.
Part of her journey, I imagine, was pretty easy for you to relate to. Tell me about connecting with her as far as the obstacles that she faced trying to follow her dreams.
Oh, absolutely. As an actress, I could relate immediately and immensely to the challenges that Ruth is facing trying to get work, trying to find roles that she feels are worthy of her. Trying to find interesting and different roles to play is still a challenge for women -- and men, but women I think a little more, acting today.
When this role came along in this show, I think that's one of the things that I loved most about it: just the sheer volume of unique and interesting female characters was enough to make me really excited, and Ruth herself is such a complex and interesting character that I really fought for this role. In my auditioning process for the show, I've never felt more like Ruth either.
I imagine you -- like every actor in Hollywood -- have gone through a lot of bizarre auditions, a lot of brusque auditions and a lot of brutal auditions. Do you have a favorite "I can't believe that somebody actually did or said this to me during an audition" story?
I've never really been casting-couched or anything like that. I can remember an early audition for a movie that I booked called "Born," a B horror movie, would be the best way to describe it, in which, in the audition I was playing a young woman in a fight with the demon fetus inside her body that's possessing her, and that was a pretty wild audition. Then I had to do it again in the movie.
How about those moments between gigs, like Ruth faces, when you're trying to make progress, and you've got to do things like call home for that extra bill money or take a gig that you might think was beneath you in another circumstance. Have you had those experiences yourself?
I'm lucky in that I'm from Los Angeles, so my family lives here. So rather than calling home for money, I just lived at home for a long time. I lived in my mother's house in South Pasadena until we were going into our third season of "Community," if that tells you anything about my confidence in my career. I really wanted to make sure I could support myself before I moved out of my mother's house.
Physically and maybe even mentally, how did playing this part change you?
Definitely mentally. I've never done a more empowering job, and I think that the physical side had a lot to do with it. Doing our month-long wrestling training prior to shooting, as well as doing some really heavy lifting with my personal trainer, Jason Walsh, I really wanted to change my body, and build my muscles, and build strength, and then use it in the ring.
As we were learning to do these moves, it's like you're overcoming your fears on a minute-by-minute basis, when you're in the ring. More like a second-by-second basis, as you're sort of having to make a choice and then commit to a move in a really major way. I think overcoming those fears so constantly made us all feel like badasses. I realized that I was capable of so much more than I ever would have imagined. That was a great feeling. I definitely was walking a little taller throughout the whole shoot.
If you were to actually wrestle, what was the main move that you mastered?
The suplex is my favorite move, and I think I have it down, on either side. I feel like I can suplex somebody, and I'm pretty good at getting suplexed. That's my favorite move. It's a crowd-pleaser.
Did you have to work up the nerve to take on this part because it was going to be so challenging on a lot of levels?
Not at al! I fought for it tooth and nail. It's all I wanted, once I heard about it. I had been really looking for a challenge, and I think really wanted to, similarly to Ruth, wanted to prove that I was capable of doing some different types of things. The element of wrestling in this show was something that really turned me on.