Jackie Tohn Talks To Us About ‘GLOW,’ Gilda Radner, And Her Bizarre Music Video

Netflix’s GLOW is already a critical and pop cultural hit, and pretty much every cast member seems poised to break out in a big way as a result of this amazingly well-crafted series. One of the most notable characters in the first few episodes of the series is Melrose, played by Jackie Tohn and seemingly modeled quite a bit after original G.L.O.W. Girl Hollywood.

Tohn is a former American Idol contestant and has some other huge projects lined up following GLOW. We got a chance to talk to her and pick her brain about the show, her first music video, and whether Melrose will play the keyboard in season two.


With Spandex: I wanted to know, first question, obvious question, did you watch the original G.L.O.W. while you were growing up?

Jackie Tohn: I think … I’m not 100 percent certain of the year … What year did the original G.L.O.W. come out? I was trying to look it up and I don’t see it on the clipboard.
I believe it was 1985. [Editor’s note: it was 1986, but the pilot was filmed in 1985.]

1985? Yeah, so I was too little. So I didn’t watch the original growing up, but I did watch WWF with my brothers. But I didn’t really catch the original G.L.O.W. I think [I] remember it being a thing when I was really little, but then I got far more into it when I watched the documentary after, well after I got the part.

Actually I think I watched the documentary before I auditioned, but you get the point.

I imagine that you’ve watched a lot of the original series at this point?

You know, the original series is actually really hard to get a hold of. I’ve seen the documentary and I’ve seen almost everything that exists on YouTube, but I haven’t gone as far as going on eBay and buying original G.L.O.W. VHS tapes so I could see actually everything that exists. It’s pretty hard to get a hold of. I don’t know if you’ve tried? We have.

There are bootleg VHS copies on eBay and things like that. It’s not available. You can’t get it. But all that said, I’ve watched as much as I possibly could and the girls and I have gone down to G.L.O.W. rat hole, big time.

Who are your favorites from the original series?

I’d say my favorite, I loved Godiva. I thought she was super, super sexy and such a bad ass. I loved The Farmer’s Daughter. I loved MTV. Those are three of my favs, that I could remember. I loved Fiji, I loved Sylvester Stallone’s mom …
Your character, Melrose … you’re the closest to an original G.L.O.W. Girl that the series has so far. Because your character seems to be pretty closely modeled around Hollywood. I wanted to know if you watched a lot of Hollywood to prep for the role?

I didn’t, I didn’t at all. I was only really able to watch whatever of G.L.O.W. was available — I mean I know this sounds crazy, but again I couldn’t, it was really hard to find. So I pretty much just watched whatever was available on YouTube. And I, before I … I didn’t necessarily … because our characters are … they are not based on the G.L.O.W. Girls. They’re more based on the ideas of people that I feel existed in the universe, like they are the amalgamations of off sorts of different people.

So my character is a drug addict. And she’s a Jewish girl and there are far more, I think, intricacies than her being a music video girl. I think it’s a combination of like MTV and Hollywood. There’s a bunch of them that I think she is, that I think she’s similar to. But I guess the question was did I watch a lot of Hollywood, I didn’t.

I’ve actually spoken to Hollywood and she’s a huge fan of the show.

She is the loveliest person. I spoke to her on Instagram and she sent me the awesomest G.L.O.W. tank top ever.

In fact, I would love to watch more of her stuff. I would love to watch more of all their stuff. If someone sent me a DVD of the whole show, Oh my God. Talk about binge.

(Laughs) Well, I’ll look into seeing if I can hook that up for you.

Hello. Thank you. I’m here.

You said you watched pro wrestling growing up with your brothers. Did you have any favorites back then or did you have a general opinion of pro wrestling at the time?

My brothers were so into it. And my brothers, my little brother especially was a very close TV watcher. He would just sit there like six inches from the TV, right? You couldn’t even take in what was on the TV screen that you’re that close to. Like what are you doing? But besides that, they had the [toy] ring. My parents bought them the ring, probably for Hanukkah, and it was the biggest deal.

And then they had the rubber, movable “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Jimmy “The Superfly” Snuka, and Hulk Hogan, Iron Sheik. It was that whole era of WWF. So I could watch it with my brothers and get so into it, screaming. I was just like, wanted to be cool for my brothers. So I got into it, too, and I ended up really loving wrestling as a kid.

And now you’ve been trained as a wrestler with Chavo Guerrero Jr. What was that training like?

Oh my word! It was the best. It was truly, you know we went into this show not having any idea what we were capable of, and less feeling like stronger, more empowered, badass women. And it was a really powerful experience. And I think a lot of us, I think we all have Chavo and our stunt coordinator, Shauna Duggins, to thank for that. Because I would say more than half of us were barely athletic. There were a couple girls in there who are pretty good ass kickers, but like already. And I just mean like athletes. But there were a bunch of us that were just sort of like theater nerds. And we were just like, “Oh, we’re about to challenge ourselves, and jump off the ropes and do this.”

And training with Chavo really gave us all the strength and more importantly belief in ourself that we could do it. There was never a judgment like, “Oh you silly actresses. I’m a big famous wrestler. Let’s see what you can do.” It was only ever kindness and it was only ever gentle and it was only ever super powerful.

What was your favorite part of the wrestling training? Or what was your favorite move that you learned how to do?

I think … my favorite move, I would have to say body slams. Because you just feel, you feel so powerful and I think a big part of … not I think, I know a big part of wrestling is that when you are the recipient of the move, it is on you to make it look good.

I can always just think of Kia [Stevens], who was the Awesome Kong, [and Kharma] in WWE and she is, I always find her to be the best example because she can make you look amazing or she can make you look like a puny ant. You can run full speed at Kia and not knock her over or you could give Kia a quick arm bar and she could drop on her back, and make you look like a beast. And so the recipient is who makes the person enforcing the move look good. Does that make sense?

It makes perfect sense. Did you learn a lot from Kia?

I learned so much from Kia, she is … yeah, she’s incredible. Kia would sort of whisper, in takes, to grab some acting tips and we would also whisper in takes, “Hey Girl, did that look real? Where do I put my hands? Oh, clasp my hands under her chin. There was space between her chin and my hands so it couldn’t have looked real because it looked like I wasn’t touching her.” So Kia would be like, “Yo, yo, yo. Lift your hands, lift your hands. Touch her chin.” We were quiet and sly, never embarrass anyone, never call anyone out, but always be just giving little tips here and there.

And so we all learned a ton from Kia and I would venture to say, we all learned a ton from each other. I would say every person there learned something from every other person. Not to get all you know … crunchy, [like] we’re all holding hands on the grassy knoll together, but it’s really true. When you go in there with a team of ladies and you have no idea what to expect and you all come out stronger and better, there’s a real family element that gets developed.

Yeah, everyone that I’ve spoken to from this show has talked about the camaraderie and how everyone is just sisters now coming out of it.

Yeah, it’s incredible. We have text threads where like Kate’s in London, and Gayle’s playing Ophelia and Betty and Ali are all over the place and it’s just like I’m in New York now, and we just, we’re all staying together. I’m seeing Sunita for dinner in a minute. We’re just … yeah, we like each other quite a bit.

One thing that’s sort of a common thread in all of Jenji Kohan’s shows is that the first season is about the protagonist and then all the other seasons are about the supporting cast. Since Melrose didn’t really get a whole bunch to do in season one, are you confident that there’s going to be more of Hollywood if there is a season two and beyond?

You know it’s interesting. I have … I would be afraid to say that I’m confident. You know what I mean? But I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful that people like Melrose enough that the little birds in the writers’ ears or the writers’ hearts, maybe coming from inside them themselves, “Hey, let’s write more for this girl.” I can only do the best job I can do and hope that people enjoy Melrose and enjoy the show enough. If we get a second season and that all the characters get really cool backstories and we get to really know them all. And I think with Jenji she has shown that that is something that is important to her.
So you were on American Idol, Kate Nash is on the show, you know the original G.L.O.W. and a little bit of the Netflix show has some rapping in it, so do you think it’s going to be good to have that musical background with this show?

Jackie Tohn: Oh, well I hope Melrose plays the keys in season two and just goes in. Singing and playing. Maybe Melrose will turn into … turn from a music video girl into her own personal rock star where she plays electric guitar and just goes in. That would be amazing.

You know I think that is one of the things that is so fun, is all the girls come from all walks of life. And I think a lot of us would love for the show to be … Oh my god, season two musical episode, let’s go!

That would probably be my favorite television episode of anything of all time, if there was a musical episode.

Of any show of all time. That would be the dreamiest dream. I’ll tell them it’s your idea, let’s go.

(Laughs) Okay, I’m in. All right, so earlier today I watched the video for “Beguiling” and it’s been stuck in my head all day.

Ready for who choreographed that music video before anyone knew who he was? Ryan Heffington. He goes by Stern Heffington. He did Sia’s “Chandelier” music video. I just saw Baby Driver, he choreographed that. He’s literally one of the most successful choreographers in the world right now. And he was just some inside L.A. kid who the director knew, and he choreographed the music video.

That’s amazing. Actually, my question for you was … what exactly is happening in this music video?

Oh, good luck if you think I know.

Though we wanted to do … the directors were a team and they wanted to do a … we did it in a single shot. And so they just wanted to do it as one single shot video and it was kind of their idea. And the song it just like one sort of run-on thought. It moves so quickly and it’s such a circus, that we just went for it. And so the directors has this idea to do this single shot. And then I just put some clothes on. They asked all these fun, cool, weird people to show up. Some reason they got however many hundred people were there and it was on my friend’s … my friend who’s an actress, had this house, she doesn’t live there anymore, and we just shot this video at her house. It was like the most thrown together thing ever, but it came out incredible. I’m so bummed that it’s like a pixelated mess on YouTube. But it’s actually pretty cool.

And everybody was encouraged to … like there was this dude, they were like, “Bring whatever you have that’s weird.” So there was a dude in a flamingo head, and those dudes that are dancing in the powder on the trellis or whatever on the stone stairs, that’s Heffington [with those] dudes.
What’s your next project?

I’m playing Gilda Radner in a — Gilda Radner is one of my personal heroes — in a Netflix movie coming out early 2018, based on National Lampoon. Henry Beard and Doug Kenney at National Lampoon at Harvard. And sort of that crazy rise and fall and perhaps rise again, but I don’t know that we … we don’t take it as far as the 2000s.

But it’s really cool and it’s … and Joel McHale plays Chevy Chase and Jon Daly plays Bill Murray and Rick Glassman plays Harold Ramis and Seth Green plays Christopher Guest. I mean it’s Domhnall Gleeson and Will Forte. It’s really, really crazy cast. And then I play Gilda. I’m just like, “What kind of dream is that? Are you kidding me?”

I have to say, that’s some of the greatest casting I’ve ever heard.

Right? I showed up the first day and I was like, “So do I pee in my pants now or did I already pee in them but not realize? What is happening?”

It was just so monster. I think that … because I did that movie before GLOW, I did that movie in April of last year, and then did GLOW, we did wrestling training in August and then we shot September to the end of the year, and I think that playing Gilda gave me the confidence to believe that I could do anything. Now whether that’s true or not is a different story, but it put in me like, “What?”. You know I think we’re so built to doubt ourselves and not be proud of ourselves and to be shy about our accomplishment because we don’t want to seem like braggers. And then you play Gilda Radner and you go, “I can do stuff.”

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