“GLOW,” which made its Netflix debut in June, tells the story of the “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling,” based on the original, all-female TV wrestling program in the 80s. Make It Better talked to the series’ co-creator (and Highland Park High School grad) Liz Flahive about the development of her new show, its unique gang of characters, and how living on the North Shore influenced her decision to pursue the arts.
The multi-talented Flahive has a “glowing” resume, filled with credits as a writer, playwright and producer. She currently serves as executive producer of “GLOW” as well as a writer for the show. Her past achievements include consulting producer and writer for the TV show “Homeland,” executive producer and writer for the TV show “Nurse Jackie,” and writer of the movie “Adult Beginners.” A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts Department of Dramatic Writing in New York City, her first play, “From Up Here,” was nominated for both Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for Best Play.
Make It Better: How did you develop the characters for your show?
Liz Flahive: My co-creator, Carly Mensch, and I worked for a year on the pilot script before we showed it to anyone. So we took our time getting the characters right and really figuring out the story. Then once Netflix ordered the series, we hired a room of super talented writers (many of whom we knew from our playwriting days in New York) and continued building character arcs and season stories from there.
How true to life are the characters from the original show?
We were deeply inspired by the original “G.L.O.W.,” but in order to have creative freedom to tell the stories we wanted to tell, none of our characters are based on the women from the original show.
What has the response been to the show?
Netflix doesn’t disclose numbers to their creators, so I don’t have any hard information about the response. But the greatest thing has been getting calls and emails from so many people about how the show spoke to them in surprising ways. We’ve heard from friends and family that were so pumped watching the wrestling that they felt like they needed to jump up and move around during certain episodes. Someone recently told me that she went out roller skating after finishing the series. We think about this show as a “bodies show” because it’s so physical and the women you see on our show and in the ring aren’t cookie cutter shapes and sizes. The idea that watching our show puts someone more in touch with their body is both awesome and thrilling.
How did the girls train for the show?
The actors all participated in a three- to four-week boot camp with our stunt coordinator, Shauna Duggins, and our wrestling trainer, Chavo Guererro Jr., in order to learn how to wrestle safely. We knew at the start that we wanted to make sure all the girls could do their own stunts and, frankly, that meant a lot of extra work for everyone. But the girls were so incredibly devoted and game. And by the end, they all became completely obsessed with wrestling. We could barely get them out of the ring.
What did you do as a group to get the girls to bond?
Honestly, the wrestling training bonded them so deeply, we didn’t have to do anything else. They all jumped in together and learned this new skill and supported one another. It was extraordinary and not something we’d planned in any way.
How did growing up on the North Shore impact your decision to pursue a career in the arts?
I was lucky to have parents who found money and time for things like piano lessons and driving me to choir practice. They’d take me and my sister to see Shakespeare plays at Northwestern University, theatre at the Goodman and concerts at Ravinia Festival. Even though I grew up middle class in an upper middle class suburb, I felt like I had access to all the cultural things I was interested in. And, attending a high school like Highland Park High School that valued arts education as much as football felt really key. As a student at Highland Park High School, I had an opportunity to participate in their biennial “Focus on the Arts” program. During one session, actor Anthony Rapp (of “Rent”) directed me in a scene, which gave me an important perspective on the entire dramatic process.
What nonprofit organizations do you support?
While living in New York City, I got involved with the 52nd Street Project, an organization that pairs inner-city kids with professional artists to create original theater. I’ve been a volunteer for the Playmaking program, which is an eight-week course where the kids learn to write a play. I continue to support this organization from California.
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Mira Temkin is a Highland Park-based author who writes about destinations, cruises, hotels and resorts across the globe as well as feature articles in general interest publications. She is a blogger for Orbitz.com, Food Wine Travel, UrbanMatter.com and many other print and online publications. You can read more of her stories at miratemkintravel.com.