With its sharp writing, compelling characters, and a bitchin’ ’80s soundtrack, GLOW had all of the makings of a hit early on. The Netflix series was quick to game acclaim from critics and audiences alike, putting female stories into the forefront in a way that few shows do.
Despite a packed slate of standout characters, one of the clearest breakouts from season one was Britney Young’s Carmen, a.k.a. Macchu Picchu, whose optimism and family dynamics endeared her to viewers from the start. Young was kind enough to speak to Uproxx on the phone ahead of the new season, breaking down the appeal of the GLOW set, what to expect from season two, and how diversity in Hollywood needs to catch up to real life.
The first season of GLOW really came out of nowhere. At what point did you know that you were working on something special?
Not to be cliche, but when I read our pilot, essentially the first time I read it through, I was like, “I cannot believe this is what I’m about to be involved in.” I think it was only further confirmed when we had our first table read, and it was the first time that the 15 of us had sat down and really gotten to know each other and got to know our characters. It’s just good writing is good writing, and chemistry is chemistry, you know?
It felt so different. It’s crazy that in 2018 the idea of such a diverse cast of women — color, age, body type — represented, and it’s still revolutionary. It’s so refreshing to see though.
I think too, a mixture of the Eighties itself, it’s a happy decade. You kind of want to see how far we really push it.
Yeah, definitely. Not every show has a cocaine robot.
What do you think it is about GLOW that people responded to so much? Do you think it was the characters or the setting, or combination of both? Why do you think it took off like it did?
I definitely think it’s a combination of both. I think like you said, not only do we have just an array of different women represented ethnicity wise, age wise, background wise, and I think what made it so successful from the get-go was that a lot of women were drawn in because it is an all-female cast. It is from the production team that gave you Orange Is The New Black, so you know that there’s going to be some real meaty and real authentic female stories told. But then what I think brought in everyone else, all the male viewers, I think was that we just have so many relatable stories. We have so many relatable situations.
I got a lot when I posted a picture on my Instagram about the day I shot Carmen’s panic attack. I had so many different kinds of people send me messages just saying, “I really, really responded to the scene and here’s why,” and that was great just to see that we’re looking past the fact that these were female stories, and seeing them as universal stories. Good writing is good writing.
But I think again, the atmosphere, the 80s, I think we’re the only show, outside of Stranger Things that doesn’t just spin the top of being an ’80s period show. Most shows are kind of just like, “Oh, we got big bangs, they’re wearing neon shorts” and that’s about it. Everything on our show is authentic, down to period-appropriate deodorant in a locker that’s never going to be opened.
That is attention to detail right there.
Yes, we have attention to detail across the board. The music, the lighting, the color scheme, the costumes, the hair, the makeup. I think a lot of people feel nostalgic.
With a lot of television shows about people who are quote-unquote “struggling to make it,” but at the same time you see them living in these huge apartments and driving nice cars and you’re like, okay, they’re not really struggling to make it. But everybody on GLOW just feels like they’re really just scraping the bare bones together to make it. To me, that just feels pretty unique.
Yeah, of course. And I think it’s really fun because like everyone is struggling to make it, but what they’re struggling with is all very different. We do have some girls, like Dawn and Stacey, who do have jobs which they love, yet they’re just given a suggestion “you girls are funny, you should try something.” So now they’re having to deal with the first nerve jitters of being actresses. Then you have Rhonda who literally is living out of her car. So I agree with you. I appreciate that these characters are struggling, but we show that there are more struggles out there, and how these people react to them.
Now I feel like this is such an interesting time in the industry right now, sort of shifting, giving more power to women. Do you feel like it’s improving, particularly for women of color?
I do feel like it’s improving, but I think it’s improving at such a small increment versus the number of people that want to see the change. There’s so many people, so many companies, production companies, producers, directors who are saying, “Yes, we want to give women more opportunities to tell their story. We especially want to give more women or women of color to tell their stories.” I’m so excited for Crazy Rich Asians to come out.
I think that’s the thing where it’s like women of color does not just mean black women, and I think we need to really start expanding that, and tell Asian stories, tell Native American stories, tell Hispanic stories. We need to start encompassing those women of color. And like I said, I think we are making positive changes. I think it’s just very, very slow, and it will start getting bigger and bigger and bigger. But where we’re headed right now is obviously great, and I’m very optimistic about it.
Yeah, like you mentioned with Crazy Rich Asians, I think that it’s great, but it’s such a small step shouldn’t be such a big deal.
Yes, yes! Or like looking the Ocean’s 8 cast with Awkwafina, Rhianna, and Mindy Kaling and I’m very excited about that. But again, it’s the fact that we have to point out that they’re there shows that we don’t have enough inclusivity.
I definitely agree. Now, GLOW is your first time as a series regular. What was it like settling in on set, and with the cast as the new kid?
I’ll be honest, it was very nerve-wracking just because since I was very, very young, my dream was always to be an actor. And when I graduated college and came out with so much student loan debt, I just got so scared that I wouldn’t ever be able to pursue it. So when GLOW came around, especially towards the beginning, it was like, okay, I have to make the best of this experience. I have to make sure that this lasts. And I think I got in my head a little bit, where I just second-guessed everything I did.
Liz [Flahive] and Carly [Mensch], our creators, are just so great because I had several times where I emailed them or had meetings with them and was just basically like, “Am I doing okay? Am I doing a good job?” And they just basically were like “Brittany, we chose you for a reason, and the reason is what you’re doing. You’re doing great, please stick with what you’re doing. Please know that you’re doing a fantastic job.” And once I let go of that, now I’m just like, “Oh my gosh, this is exactly where I need to be. This is exactly what I should be doing.” And that was such an empowering feeling.
For first season it was a cast at 14 amazing women and Marc [Maron], and then now 15 amazing women and Marc. It’s just such a great safe set. We can have those moments of self-doubt, and we can have those moments of fear and just wondering, because we know that everyone around us is going to support us, and rally us to do our best. So it’s just an amazing experience.
Yeah, that sounds like it’s really unique. You hear some stuff about sets, and the fact that women’s voices are brought to the forefront so easily, on your set sounds like a really, really beautiful thing.
Oh yes. It’s very rare, but I’m so glad that I get to be a part of this rarity. It’s funny, all of our girls during the hiatus have gone on to other projects and we did group text on our WhatsApp all the time. Just like, “I’m at a new set, I’m having a good time, but it’s not GLOW.” We have it all the time, and really so supportive and want them to go and do these other things, but we understand how rare our bond is, and how rare our cast and crew family is.
Carmen was definitely one of the standout characters of last season. I feel like she got a lot of the really emotional beats of the story. That moment when her dad showed up at her final fight was legitimately one of my favorite TV moments of last year.
I cried when I watched it and I was there!
How could you not? I imagine that gives you a lot to work with as an actor.
It does. Episode four was the first real emotional break for Carmen when her father comes and tells her she has to leave. And again, just going up there, and doing these scenes and getting to work with amazing people like Chris [Lowell] and Marc, and just having to work off of their energy and find my own is something that helped a lot, but I just love the way our writers write. They play to our strengths, and they really listen to our choices that we want to make.
I know in episode seven, I think it was the live audience episode when Carmen has her panic attack, our director Jesse Peretz and I stood there, and we talked about how we wanted to portray this. And I just told him, I was like, “You know what? I’ve had panic attacks before, and it’s nothing like what you see in other film and TV. She’s not going to be hysterically crying and running around the room and out of breath. It literally is just being in this small space, feeling like you’re being compressed, and feeling like you’re just going into your own body.” He was like, “You know what? Do it the way you know how it feels.” I think a lot of people responded really positively to that scene, because it was something that they themselves had experienced, and it wasn’t overdramatized.
It felt very real. Now, I know you can’t share a lot, but can you tell us a little bit of what’s coming in season two?
Season two is definitely bigger, badder, better, and I have added another letter to that, or another word to that even though it’s not a b: deeper. We really use season two to delve into these relationships between all these women, these friendships, and then start introducing the rivalries in the competition and how all of them deal with being in this space.
They do become a little bit famous, and get a little bit of notoriety there, and it’s just interesting to see how each of them deals with it. You have characters like Melrose who is obsessed with the limelight and welcomes it. Then you have characters like Sheila and Carmen who really don’t want it, and just want to do their jobs. But there’s a lot more wrestling for sure, and it’s, oh my goodness. The wrestling this season is insane. We have a lot of really funny, funny, great, relatable storylines. And I just love that we focus on the big things in female relationships, but then also the little minutia things, like simply just taking each other’s clothes, borrowing things that aren’t yours. So that’s really great.
And I know like specifically for Carmen, season one, we left her off with still dealing with her new role in her family dynamic. She spoke up for herself, she told them this is what she wants, and she’s going to go after it. Now she’s doing that same exact thing, finding her place within her new family of this GLOW world. She’s still struggling to find her own voice, and what her voice can say within this space of these 15 women says a lot of fun, new things this year that are spoilers so I can’t it give away.
‘GLOW’ is currently streaming on Netflix.