We knew that Britney Young was incredibly powerful as Carmen Wade (and her wrestling alter ego Machu Picchu) on the Netflix series GLOW (season 3 now streaming!). What we didn’t know, although we quickly discovered, is that Young is pretty powerful as well when it comes to interviews, as her conversation with Brief Take could easily be described as “no holds barred”. She talked about almost everything and while we were able to recreate the conversation, it has to be heard to be believed, as she said afterward: “I really like to talk”. I’m really glad that she does.
The following is a condensed and edited version of our interview with the loquacious and honest Britney Young of GLOW.
Brief Take: Tell me about shooting this season. I think it’s the best season so far, and every season has been phenomenal.
Britney Young: I almost liken it to shooting season one. We’re in Vegas so we have brand new sets, it’s a brand new location, so everything felt very new. We also have new characters, like the legendary Geena Davis, Kevin Cahoon – who is an amazing addition – and we have new pieces to our cast as well, so it felt like coming in at season one. These characters are now in a whole new atmosphere, a whole new world, it’s almost like bringing these characters to life again from the beginning, does that make sense? Especially for Carmen, because at the beginning she’s unlike herself, she really leans into being in Vegas. And then slowly as the season goes, she kind of reverts back to “this is my past, this is who I am”. Every time we got a script, I remember crying multiple times while reading scripts. I definitely cried on set for some scenes where I wasn’t even supposed to cry or wasn’t even on camera. I definitely know the camping episode was really emotional for all of us girls to shoot, especially since that was, interestingly enough, the week leading up to the SAG Awards. So we’re all out in the desert, fourteen of us girls just hanging out, and then boom, on the weekend we get to celebrate this huge accomplishment, so that was really cool. I definitely did cry again when I did ADR for the last episode, the finale. It’s such a good season!
BT: Did you actually shoot in Vegas for this coming season because it looks so realistic.
BY: We didn’t shoot in Vegas. We shot here in L.A., we have an amazing production design department. Todd Fjelsted is fantastic. Our art department, our ADs, our writers all went on a little trip to Vegas before we started shooting to see if they could possibly shoot anywhere. And they said “you know what, it’s way too modern. We can’t fake anything for 1985 Vegas.” So they recreated everything here in L.A. I mean it would have been fun to shoot in Vegas, but it’s always fun to be home and sleep in your own bed and go to your own house after a long day.
BT: Have you seen season 3 yet? It’s exceptional!
BY: Netflix is fantastic. They usually give us the full season when it’s available for us to watch it before it comes out, so that when we do press, we know what we’re talking about. I am such a film and TV nerd that I love waiting for premiere days. I’m sitting here, just like the fans, waiting for August 9th, and the first day I’ll binge it all. That’s part of the fun for me. So I haven’t watched it yet but I know a bunch of the girls have and they’re all in love with it, so that’s a good sign. [laughs]
BT: This season is packed with fantastic episodes. I loved the episode near the end of the season where you all swapped roles in the ring. Tell me about portraying Carmen portraying a different wrestling persona.
BY: When I play Machu Picchu, I definitely think “how would Carmen do this?”, not “how would Britney do this?”, so it’s always in the back of my head. I don’t want to give a spoiler for that episode, but I definitely watched seasons one and season two, specifically watching this character and this character only. It was really interesting because I think I might have been one of the only people who the person I was playing, she was actually there when I was shooting. She wasn’t shooting, but she was watching behind the scenes with our producers and director, and her husband was there as well. They were dying laughing when I was doing it, and that was the biggest thing for me because I was so nervous! I don’t know if she thinks of herself this way or if she thinks of her persona this way, but this is how I’m interpreting it. But I’m also interpreting it and also taking it up ten extra notches to make it more of a caricature, and she loved it. She came up to me afterwards and was like “Oh my God” – she had tears in her eyes, crying, her husband had tears in his eyes. It was such a great feeling, after being so nervous, especially after doing it in front of her. I didn’t want to offend anybody, I wanted to honour, and to see that she was really excited about it? She even texted me after, watching the season, and said it killed. I was like “yesssss!”.
BT: How did you feel about the Freaky Wednesday episode, one of my favourites of this season, where the women confront the racial stereotypes embedded in a lot of the wrestling personas?
BY: That kicks in when the writers actually put me in a situation in which we have to confront it, because I do think that it’s very interesting, we do have Fortune Cookie, we have Welfare Queen, we have Zoya, we have all these characters who people are playing extreme stereotypes of different races, different classes, and here we have Machu Picchu, and we’ve kind of never touched on that she’s kind of an inappropriate character as well. But I’m not of Peruvian descent, I’m not of South American descent, yet nobody thinks that it’s inappropriate because I’m brown. [laughs] Once the writers put us in those situations – in the switched character episode, I even thought about: “Well, great, well I’m now stepping into this stereotype of a character, what are people going to say? Oh, but I’m half-black as well”, new problems shouldn’t arise, if that makes sense.
BT: Your show is, in many ways, challenging the status quo.
BY: Yeah, it’s really interesting because I remember the first season that came out and there were a few people that said comments to me like: “Oh, you guys are trying to push this feminist agenda by having an abortion episode or having this episode”, and I was like: “Okay, first of all, we’re not pushing any agenda. We’re discussing topics that women in 1985 had to deal with. In 1985, they had to deal with abortion, and in 2018, 2019, we’re dealing with abortion.” We are bringing up contemporary topics but they’re also topics that have been around for years, unfortunately. Even all the people talking about how we have these stereotypical caricatures, or these characters, and it’s like: “No! They’ve always been around, we’re now putting our commentary about them out there”.
BT: Quick shoutout to Gayle Rankin this season as Sheila, what an incredible performance!
BY: Ugggghhh!!! Gayle Rankin…like Jackie Tohn says [raises voice higher] “I just want to pinch her”. She’s so phenomenal, she’s a classically-trained actress, she’s a Julliard actress. I love how Sheila has become this onion that each season, more and more we keep peeling back. There’s definitely a scene this year in which she gives a monologue and she’s looking out into the group and her and I connected eyes and it’s one of my moments, I started crying. Like I don’t need to cry, but she moved me that much that I was lost in what she was saying. She’s phenomenal. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but she has this amazing movie called Her Smell with Elisabeth Moss and she blew me away in that movie, she’s fantastic.
BT: Who would you say is most like their character and who is least like their character?
BY: Ohhhh… Definitely least like their character, I would have to say Betty (Gilpin) – she is one of the kindest, sweetest, most supportive people I know – Debbie, not so much. Debbie’s a little bit out for herself and out to succeed on her own. She has glimpses of being a team player and wanting the group to do well, but I would definitely say that Betty is always about GLOW. She is always out to make our show the best it can be and therefore making us the best we can be. And the most like their character? I have to say me, I think. I am definitely that bubbly person that wants my friends to do better before myself, and sometimes it does take a lot for me to muster the strength and say: “Hey, this is not good for me” or “This is what I want”, which I’m working on. [laughs]
BT: What do you like about the GLOW group dynamic?
BY: We all definitely love and respect each other, it’s a blast going to work each day with this entire group. I think that the dynamic of us getting along together especially for the wrestling, we trust each other. And I don’t just mean: “Oh, I trust you to catch me”, or “I trust you to keep me safe”, we trust each other enough that we can say: “Hey, guess what, that didn’t work for me” or “Can we try it this way?”. I think that in Hollywood, a lot of times people don’t want to step on each other’s toes and tell each other what to do, but we trust each other so much that nobody ever gets offended, and if there is an issue or there is a problem, we always talk it out. There’s no talking behind each other’s backs, it’s always: “Hey, can we talk about something? Let’s figure out how we can make this work”. It’s definitely a blessing, and I think that transfers over into being on set. When we shoot scenes, most of the time it is all 14 of us in a group together. And we all know each other’s strengths. It’s a really great space and Chris and Marc, any time we say “The GLOW girls” we are thinking Chris and Marc as well. They are a part of our team, one hundred per cent. Just because we’re a pro female cast and pro female writers room, it doesn’t mean that we are going to have one dimensional male characters. We want these two men to shine, just as much as we shine, it’s very much a team effort across the board on our show. Yeah, I love our little fam! [chuckles]
BT: What is the best way for an audience to support GLOW and keep it going?
BY: That’s a good question. We have one of the best fan bases. I think that our show has picked up momentum because of that word of mouth. I really do think that fans are sharing it with their families, they’re sharing it with their friends, they’re telling people to watch, which I think is definitely the best way to go: keep it up, bring more people to our show! Tweeting always helps, posting, going to Comic-Con dressed as us, buying the comic book, buying our Funko Pop!, really supporting all of these other avenues that we have I think would be great. I will definitely say though, one thing that really bothers me is [laughs] I’ve talked to so many of friends, because I want to do a mass post on this, I get really discouraged when I see people tweeting “Oh, third season, it’s about to get cancelled. Might not even watch”. We understand that, unfortunately, there is a little bit of a trend on Netflix that they’re done after the third season. But we aren’t done yet. Let’s keep watching, let’s keep supporting. It really is disheartening to see that people don’t even want to watch the third season because they are scared that it’s going to be done. That should be motivation to watch it. It’s like give us that audience number, give us that support, so Netflix can say: “Hey, guess what? People want this show. We’re going to a fourth season”. I see so many tweets in which people are like “Netflix is going to cancel us after season 3”, and I’m like: “Guys, let’s not put that energy into the world! Positive vibes!”. [laughs]
GLOW seasons one to three are currently streaming on Netflix!