Awards Daily’s Megan McLachlan talks to Betty Gilpin of GLOW on Netflix about Debbie’s Season 3 romance with a rancher, her growing friendship with Bash, and what her character really wants moving forward into the final season.
Since Season 1 of GLOW, we’ve seen Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin) struggle with balancing motherhood and herself. The image of her leaking breasts during an aerobics class seems to represent so much about the character, as she tries to figure out where she fits in in a post-divorce, post-acting, post-birth world.
In Season 3, she strikes up a romance with a rich rancher named Tex (played by Toby Huss) in Vegas, and while it turns into a serious relationship, it ends up revealing more about what Debbie wants for herself rather than what she wants out of a partnership.
I had a chance to chat with Betty Gilpin about Season 3 of the critically acclaimed Netflix series, why Debbie and Bash have such a strong friendship compared to Debbie and Ruth, and how she feels about going into the final episodes.
Awards Daily: One of my favorite episodes in Season 3 is the “Freaky Tuesday” one where everyone is bored with their characters and plays a new one. What was it like to step into the role of Zoya?
BG: It was insane and the best. Alison was really gung ho about it, but I was nervous. I didn’t want to step on toes. That’s such her character, and she has such ownership over that character. I didn’t want to seem like I was parodying her or trying to make it different. I felt very protective of Alison at that moment. Then I remembered what show I was on, that we are on the craziest, silliest circus, and I had to act accordingly. That day was one of my favorites on set ever, and that’s saying a lot, because there are some contenders. We just have the best time at work. It was wild. We were all in tears laughing. I will say, that costume is very small! I didn’t realize how small it was. She wrestles without Capezio tights on, and I said, “Debbie is going to be wearing her tights under this.”
AD: Do you think playing a villain speaks to anything inwardly about Debbie’s psyche? Do you think she enjoyed it?
BG: I think where Debbie is in that episode, for sure. She’s being ignored by Bash (Chris Lowell), ignored by Sam (Marc Maron). She’s trying to be heard as a producer, and no one is paying her any mind. She feels bored and overlooked, and I think she’s using Zoya as an invisibility cloak to give the middle finger to Bash—she’s enjoying that.
AD: Debbie develops a relationship this season. What do you think attracts her to the rancher Tex (Toby Huss)? I think audiences could see from a mile away he was wrong for her.
BG: I think there’s a duality to the attraction. What Debbie is dealing with in Season 3, there’s one side of her that’s ambitious and pursuing a career that she never in her life thought she would go into this direction and she’s really betting on herself, but she’s really uncomfortable. She’s having to spend time away from her child, and when she’s with her child, it’s a disaster. It feels pretty unsexy and difficult, and she’s wondering when it’s all going to pay off. Then, this rich rancher comes in, and I think there’s a part of Debbie that thinks, should I marry this guy who thinks I’m sexy and fun and be his arm candy? That sounds a lot less uncomfortable and risky than being alone and ignored at a business meeting. But I also think she’s attracted to him, because he’s doing and being all of the things she wants to be. She wants to be a mogul. She wants to be a CEO and cowboy in these meetings. She wants to mansplain. (Laughs) I think it’s not until the end that she realizes that she wants to be near this person, not because she’s giving up on herself, but because she wants to become him, and she does.
AD: That’s so interesting, because that leads to my next question. He tells her that she’s his girlfriend, not his business partner — which is the way he treats her throughout the season. But what makes it so easy for her to pull the rug out from under him in the last episode? What clicks for her?
BG: I think a lot in Season 3, Debbie’s just like, “I’m not going to think about it right now. I’ll just do this day and this day and this day.” There’s that scene with Geena Davis, where she’s like, “What’s your long-term plan?” Debbie says, “Oh, I don’t have one.” Especially for women, it’s easy to treat ourselves like, “This memoir chapter bubble of time,” then “This memoir chapter bubble of time,” and all of the sudden, you’re in your 30s, and you’ve been treating yourself as a side character in someone else’s story over and over again, and not making long-term plans for yourself, especially in 1986—as an actress, for Debbie. I think all of the sudden she realized she’d been treating herself like arm candy and she’d been letting this guy treat her like that. She doesn’t want that at all. She wants to be the president of a TV network. But I think it took her almost losing that dream to realize that’s what she wants.
AD: I really like the relationship between Debbie and Bash, which really comes out when she comforts him during his breakdown about his marriage and sexuality. She seems to have a patience for him that she doesn’t have with a lot of people. Why do you think that is?
BG: I think part of the reason that Ruth and Debbie have stayed in contact or have this affair of a friendship is that for Debbie, she puts up armor. She’s not very quick to trust people and feels misunderstood and overlooked. She has to put up a front, and for her to let someone in is no easy feat for her. I think for Bash in particular, she views him as a frat boy who inherited this position and is ignoring her and is a waste of her time. Once he opens up to her, she realizes they’re very similar actually. They feel lonely and invisible. Once she sees the scared little boy behind the sharky facade, that lets her love him, which I’m so glad, because I love Chris Lowell. Doing scenes with him is my favorite. I can’t keep a straight face with him.
AD: Speaking of patience she doesn’t have, she’s pretty upset with Ruth in the final scene at the airport. Do you think she still views Ruth as second fiddle, despite her really coming into her own via the show? If so, why?
BG: I definitely think if Ruth and Debbie were to come back together as friends someday, I think there’s some friend therapy that needs to happen that involves Debbie swallowing her pride and treating Ruth as an equal. There are moments like that, where we get glimpses into their friendship, before this scandal happened. Debbie is the kind of friend who does 70 percent of the talking at lunch. She thinks she knows what’s best for Ruth better than Ruth knows herself. She still treats her like a kid, and that’s just not true. I think when Debbie is feeling powerless, she uses Ruth as an opportunity to feel power and tell her what to do. That’s mean, and I don’t want Debbie to do that to Ruth. She wants the best for her though.
AD: She does. It’s almost like a big sister type of thing. It’s almost like she doesn’t want her to make the same mistakes she does.
BG: Also, being an actor involves a lot of heartbreak. Certainly before GLOW, and now still, friends of mine who are not actors are like, “How can you go through this? This is so excruciating. I don’t want to see you in pain.” It’s a lot of rejection. It’s hard to see someone you love go through that. My friends who are actors, I’m like, “Stop! Stop!” (Laughs) I think Debbie feels like she’s found this key to a life where they don’t have to do this anymore, but she doesn’t have the same passion for it as Ruth does.
AD: I can’t wait to find out what happens in the final season. Have you filmed any of it yet? Or did COVID-19 prevent any of that from happening?
BG: We were an episode and a half into the last season. Where I’m staying right now, I’m looking at our studio this second across the valley, waving to our dust-collected costumes, that we will inhabit again. (Laughs) When that is, I don’t know. I’ve only read the first few [scripts], and they’re brilliant and I love them. I just love these characters so much. It’s very emotional thinking that this is our last season. It’s just been the greatest joy to do this job. It’s been a dream on crack.
Season 1-3 of GLOW are streaming on Netflix.