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'This show is an amazing oasis of feminism... I find it empowering'

Glow, about women's wrestling, is back for series 2 on Netflix. Georgia Humphreys meets two of its stars, Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin

Glow is a TV show that screams female empowerment. The Netflix comedy follows out-of-work actress Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie) and a group of 12 other misfits as they try to find stardom in an undeniably male-dominated field: wrestling.

Based on real-life Eighties phenomenon Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, the first series was a fist-pumping watch as we saw the group succeed in securing a first season of their very own TV show.

But, as their characters battle behind the scenes to make the project a success, stars Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin explain that series two feels more "difficult and vulnerable".

"That is what it feels like to do what you love for a living," suggests Gilpin (31), who is also known for US drama Nurse Jackie.

"It can at once feel like the most empowering, most wonderful, fulfilling feeling, and then the next day you're back in the basement just feeling horrible and vulnerable and not knowing what the next step is."

California-born Brie (35) agrees, adding: "The one thing I've learnt in 10 years of working in this industry is that nothing comes easy."

Alongside Brie and Gilpin (who plays Debbie, Ruth's best friend turned wrestling nemesis), the show boasts an eclectic ensemble of actresses - including real-life wrestler Kia Stevens and Briton Kate Nash, the former pop star known for 2007 hit Foundations.

Their characters may have the help of Sam Sylvia, a washed-up director of B-movies (played by Marc Maron) in their mission for fame, but it goes without saying that this is a bunch of very strong, dedicated and forward-thinking females.

"A big theme of our show is women empowering themselves and that's what I think you see our characters, all the women on the show, trying to constantly do: define their own roles and make their own way," says Brie, star of acclaimed US series Mad Men.

"And then they have these men in their lives who really want to limit those roles and define them in a different way."

Playing Ruth has certainly changed the way that Brie approaches future jobs - she confides that, in the past, she settled for roles "that were not as interesting or dynamic".

"Now feeling so fulfilled by this job, I feel like I don't need to do that anymore," she adds.

A big part of Glow is that the stars do their own (very impressive) stunts.

"I definitely think in season one, I struggled with second-guessing myself in the ring and not being confident enough and then doing moves I didn't know I could do," New York native Gilpin recalls of the wrestling scenes.

But this season, there were no limits and both actresses found it surprising how easy they found returning to the action.

"We still did a month of training before shooting," Brie elaborates, "and right away, it came back - physically, our bodies really remembered what to do.

"And, because we had already gotten rid of that barrier of embarrassment, or anything like that, we had the intimacy with each other. We were able to use that as a jumping-point and work on bigger moves."

Indeed, one reason why Brie loves starring in Glow so much is the fact it's made her realise her own physical power while training.

"The way that you work out is not about being super skinny, or losing weight," she points out. "It's about lifting weights and it's about being really strong, and believing that strong is sexy."

It's inspiring to hear how portraying a wrestler has changed the way Gilpin sees herself.

"I realise that I never really thought about my body as a functional thing," the actress frankly admits. "I considered myself an actor from the neck up and from the neck down, it was the thing that you had to keep as small as possible, so you wouldn't be fired.

"So much about what is happening in the world right now has made me realise how unkind to myself I've been and how there is a representative of the male gaze working in my brain. I think that it's our job as women to murder that voice in our own brain."

But that's understandably difficult to do in an industry based so much on how you look.

"It's very easy to believe the business when it tells you that the things that are valuable about you are the things that are going to expire and that your body is a vessel for a bikini, or a sex scene, instead of something that could have function and be powerful and support you throughout the day," Gilpin remarks. "It (Glow) has completely changed the way that I eat, the way that I walk. I'm now trying to be a social worker on behalf of my own body and self, instead of a critiquing, gross, male-gazey troll."

It goes without saying that it's a tumultuous time in Hollywood currently, what with the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the feminist movements that have followed.

Discussing this topic, Brie notes: "It's refreshing, actually, that Glow wasn't a response to this movement, but was actually just part of the wave that was oncoming for a while.

"But on a day-to-day basis, reading story after story and reflecting on my own career and experiences, it's incredibly refreshing and just wonderful, I guess, to work in such a safe space with women and be seen and heard and feel well-represented."

Indeed, even with the huge strides being made in Hollywood to empower women, Brie argues: "Glow remains an amazing feminist oasis."

Especially in terms of body image.

"When we think and talk about our bodies while working on Glow, we really talk about them like athletes; we're talking about the moves that we're doing in the ring," she adds.

"And, sometimes, it can still be easy to forget that positive message, when we are unleashed back into the wilds of our industry, trying to book other jobs, you feel that unhealthy voice creep in and go, 'Maybe I would have gotten it if I looked this way'. That voice is the enemy.

"Glow has shown me the healthy way to think and be and now my journey is to listen to that healthy voice all the time."

Series two of Glow launches on Netflix on Friday, June 29

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