Awards Daily’s Megan McLachlan talks to Betty Gilpin of GLOW on Netflix about the “Mother of All Matches” episode and why it was the most fulfilling experiences she’s ever had on set.
In the Season 2 episode of GLOW titled “Mother of All Matches,” Liberty Belle/Debbie (Betty Gilpin) breaks like the American landmark in her name.
After her ex-husband’s new girlfriend/secretary calls to ask what kind of bed she shared with her husband (for ordering purposes), Debbie sells all of her possessions in an everything-must-go sale. And when she gets into the ring with the Tammé (Kia Stevens), her role as show protagonist comes into question when the audience sides with the plight of the Welfare Queen.
It’s a pivotal episode for both Debbie and Liberty Belle, as both are cast as the hero even when they have dark tendencies only a true heel would love.
I had a chance to chat with Gilpin about Season 2 and this mother of all episodes (“To take that insanity for a walk was the most fun possible!”) and what fans can look forward to in Season 3 (it apparently caused Gilpin to sob on the floor!).
Awards Daily: What was it like filming Season 2 compared to Season 1? Was it easier since you all knew each other pretty well?
Betty Gilpin: In ways it was easier, in ways it was harder. They definitely ramped up the wrestling this year, so we were throwing each other higher and farther. Physically harder, but emotionally easier, I would say.
AD: What specifically about the physicality was different?
BG: In Season 1, we’d spend a week learning a body slam and they really used kid gloves with us and Montessori voices, and this time we were more of a varsity team. We’d do body slams for a half hour and then move on to suplexes. No time to talk about how you felt about those things.
AD: The first season found Debbie trying to save her marriage. In the second season she’s dealing with the end of her marriage. How does that affect her in the ring?
BG: Going into Season 2, Debbie is using GLOW, the show within a show, as a safe space to try out a stronger version of her identity than she has been living in her outside life. The combination of playing Liberty Belle and learning how to wrestle and having her life implode is actually freeing to her, wiping the slate clean. It lets her find her power in the ring and outside of the ring. I think we see ways in which Debbie succeeds in that and ways in which she fails in that. She’s the strongest and messiest and loneliest person I’ve ever played.
AD: I have more questions having to do with that! Do you think the producer credit she vies for is an element of wanting a sense of control in her own life?
BG: In so many ways, she is spiraling and is out of control in so many different aspects of her life. She feels very small and forgotten by the world. I think she’s trying to find ways where she can feel powerful and in control and strong. I think she based her personality on being an alpha, the most glittery person in the room, and now the circumstances of her life are not reflecting that. She’s reassessing what’s important to her and what her life is going to look like.
AD: What do you think was symbolic of her getting rid of everything in the entire house?
BG: I think that Debbie has spent her life suffocating the part of her that is weird and big and loud and maniacal and strange. As girls, we’re told to be agreeable and quiet and arm candy, and I think at this time in her life that part of her is just too loud to be suffocated. Especially in episode 4 (“Mother of All Matches”), she just lets that maniacal part of herself drive the bus for a while. And that part of herself told her to sell all of her furniture! (Laughs.) It’s a Debbie unplugged moment, where she’s not posing for anyone or smiling and nodding and acquiescing. She’s just letting it rip because she doesn’t have to answer to anyone anymore. The sad part of not having anyone to answer to is loneliness, and the good part is you can sell all your furniture.
AD: Debbie usually paints herself as the victim, having endured infidelity from her husband. But in the “Mother of All Matches” episode, we see her as a villain for the first time, even though she doesn’t mean to be one. Do you think she could ever play the heel? Or does she always have to be the hero?
BG: Yeah, I totally think she can play a heel. She’s got a real darkness in her. This betrayal that happened to her in Season 1 unleashed that darkness. She found ways to funnel that into empowerment, but I think it can also spiral into madness. I definitely think that could lend itself to playing a heel for sure.
AD: I’d love to see what that would look like.
BG: Tune into Season 3. You may get that opportunity.
AD: Yes! What was it like filming that episode? I love the way that your character is paralleled against Tammé, the Welfare Queen.
BG: That episode was one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had on a set. I like to make big choices as an actor and let the weirder, clownier part of myself drive the bus, and playing Debbie as a person where that was happening to her as well, it felt like a perfect marriage of what I like to do and what Debbie was doing. Usually Debbie is so good at putting on the mask and playing this put-together person who knows what she wants and walks into a room with her shoulders back. To play her as a far more raw and sillier version of herself, to take that insanity for a walk, was the most fun possible.
AD: Do you think she causes herself to be a victim sometimes? Mark says about Debbie: “You always take everything too far. It is always about you. Do you even think about the person on the other side?”
BG: Even though it seems pretty black and white that Ruth has done this to her and therefore Debbie is the victim, in Season 2, we get glimpses into their friendship dynamic and we’re able to see what was flawed about the dynamic even before the infidelity. One of the flaws is that Debbie is controlling to Ruth and doesn’t let her have an equal amount of spotlight. She’s certainly the alpha in the friendship and has probably spent 80 percent of their lunches talking about herself and not enough time listening to her friend. I think Ruth probably really needed Debbie and Debbie was blind to that because she was busy thinking about herself. In the hospital scene (Season 2, Episode 7 “Nothing Shattered”), we see that all implode, when they finally get to really unleash the things they’ve been thinking for years. It comes as a total shock to Debbie that Ruth felt overlooked and neglected by her. I think if they can move to try to repair their friendship, that’s something that Debbie should examine.
AD: Do you think we’ll see more of her examining that in Season 3?
BG: In Season 3, we see her get a little closer to valuing herself more. I definitely think a lot about how Debbie is an actress in her life, too. She sometimes wears empowerment like a costume. She pretends to be a certain person, but on the inside, there’s a little girl asking if she’s doing a good job, behind the hair and eyelashes. She’s come very far in self confidence, but she has a long way to go with self-worth.
AD: Can you tell us when Season 3 is coming out? Any details about the new season?
BG: I think all I can say is sometime this summer. We had the best time. Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch have set the bar very high and it feels like a different show every season. I will say a person joins the cast and when I found out about it, I sat down on the floor and sobbed.
GLOW seasons 1 and 2 are streaming on Netflix.