Alison Brie on GLOW: ‘They didn’t want to see me at all: I had to audition many times’

The Community and Mad Men actor talks being the star of Netflix's new wrestling show

Alison Brie is the star of Netflix’s GLOW: in it, she plays a struggling actress called Ruth, who tries boosting her profile by joining a new wrestling show, where she continues to face rejection every day – and it’s all based on a real ’80s TV show called Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. We sat down with the actor to discuss the strange comedy-drama, what it taught her, and to ask whether there’ll ever be a Community movie.

How did you get involved with GLOW?

“My agents were getting a little frustrated because I kept turning everything down. They called me one day and were like: ‘We found something you will be really excited about – it’s a women’s wrestling comedy that’s set in the 80’s, Jenji Kohan’s producing it’. I was like: ‘I’m in!’

“I read the script by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch and I was just blown away by the writing, I responded immediately to the character. I became very singularly obsessed with getting a job on the show – and of course they didn’t think I was right for it, they didn’t want to see me at all: I had to audition many times.”

What was the auditioning process like?

“They really didn’t want me to wear make-up to my audition – I would go and wear no make-up, and put my hair back into a ponytail, wearing work-out clothes. I got the sense that maybe they didn’t think that I was or edgy enough based on the roles that I played before, they’re quite polished and it was a great signal to me that this was the role I wanted – I’ve been looking to shatter that pristine image, I’ve had the desire to get my hands dirty and do something that was unexpected. So it was an amazing indication that I was on the right track – and of course when your told that they don’t think your right for it, I was even more fired up to prove them wrong.

“I’ve never felt more like Ruth, the character, than while I was auditioning for this show. I think that is what inevitably won them over – it was my desperation just kept coming through, and my passion for the part. I feel like they purposely made me jump through a lot of hoops just to see if I was willing to and I would just be like: ‘Yeah whatever you want! I’ll come in again, I’ll do a weird rap, I’ll fly to Toronto to to audition with Betty Gilpin, I’ll read again with Betty Gilpin in Los Angeles, we’ll do a full fight scene for you guys!’

“I can really relate to the fact that Ruth feels underestimated or she’s not getting opportunities to show her full range: it was really easy for me to step into her shoes, how she craves better roles for women. Obviously this show itself is a perfect example of amazing roles for 14 women.”

What was the original GLOW like?

“Totally outrageous. It is totally wild and bizarre – and the physical challenge of learning how to wrestle made me excited. A lot of people came out of the woodwork, friends of mine, who had watched GLOW growing up and were huge fans, so that excited me too. When it first aired it really inspired a lot of young girls and made them think that women can do anything that men can do – maybe even better! I hope that our show will be similarly inspiring.”

What else did you love about the script?

“It’s just so multifaceted: it’s categorised as a comedy but there’s a lot of depth and emotional drama happening between the characters. Then there’s the physical aspect of it, the idea of getting to play essentially two different characters. You play these characters’ lives outside of the ring and then the larger-than-life, superhero qualities that they posses in the ring. Often as a actor you read something, you work on it, you have a vision in your head of what it’s gonna look like and then when you see it, sometimes it’s totally different, sometimes it’s exactly what you thought. This was above and beyond: it did look how I thought it would look, but also was just much better than I could have imagined. A lot of shows you watch you can sort of say: ‘It’s this show meets this show’, like real easy reference points. I think that when you watch GLOW, if it reminds you of anything it’s most likely an 80’s movie.”

The opening monologue is amazing – have you ever heard of that scenario actually happening?

“No, I haven’t, it’s so ballsy – I wish I could do that. I feel like the closest I’ve gotten is getting an offer for a role, or getting an audition for a role, then reading the script and calling them back and being like: ‘I’d rather read for this role’ and they usually say ‘No’. But it’s very gutsy [of Ruth] and it kind of speaks to a major theme in the show about women wanting to do more, wanting to achieve more and not wanting to be underestimated.”

Has the show changed you?

“Absolutely! I feel much tougher and more confident. A lot of that has to do with the actual wrestling training we were doing and feeling like a genuine badass. But it was just so satisfying and so fulfilling that I think I’ve actually felt a calmness my life that I’ve never felt before. I would [normally] finish a job and be like: ‘But people don’t know that I can also show this, now we have to find a job where I can do that!’. So coming off of this job I just felt so satisfied and it made me feel a little calm. Like, the next job – we’ll just see what comes. It set the bar really high – whatever the next thing is should also be kind of great. I normally have a very frantic workaholic type of personality and I’ve been trying to take a step back and be a bit more strategic about the work that I do and this job certainly helped inspire that.”

You mentioned how high the bar’s been set now. We’ve had six seasons of Community and fans are still waiting on the movie…

“I know, I know! And I’m up for it. I feel like I’ve been asked a lot about it recently and I’ve not heard a lot of recent rumblings, so it doesn’t seem like it’s forthcoming at the moment. But I’m never really one to give up hope and I think that it could happen eventually – maybe in like an Arrested Development-type way. I’ve sort of shifted my mindset, like maybe we need even more of a break. We could’ve done it right after we finished the show but we didn’t, so now everyone’s kind of busy and doing their own thing and maybe we’ll come together again in a few years. And I’ll say it again, I think Netflix would be just the place to do that Community movie…”