Awards Daily’s Megan McLachlan talks to the crafts behind Season 3 of Netflix’s critically acclaimed GLOW.
In Season 3 of GLOW on Netflix, the series makes the bold turn to take the girls where they’ve never wrestled before: Vegas, baby!
But while most of popular culture treats Vegas in a glamorous fashion, typically a vacation spot or a place to lose the groom before a wedding, GLOW showed us what it’s like to actually be the talent working day in and day out in the City of Sin.
I talked to the crafts behind of GLOW and discovered a lot of things we as audience members probably didn’t know about Season 3, including how they created ’80s Vegas when much of what was there is gone now and how they also managed to take us back to 1980’s Geena Davis!
Shauna Duggins, Stunts
Todd Fjelsted, Production Design
Lana Horochowski, Makeup
Beth Morgan, Costumes
Theraesa Rivers, Hair
Chris Teague, Cinematography
Here are 8 things you probably didn’t know about Season 3 of GLOW.
1. They didn’t actually go to Vegas.
Ahead of the new season, production designer Todd Fjelsted said his first question to showrunners Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch was how much would they actually be in Vegas? “They said, ‘Not at all,'” said Fjelsted with a laugh.
Cinematographer Chris Teague and Fjelsted worked closely together to essentially trick the audience into believing what they were watching was 1980s Las Vegas, since much of it has changed.
“Our challenge became how do we bring that to the show?” said Teague. “A lot of it was in the way we designed our sets and chose our color palette. Previous seasons of GLOW have been more understated in terms of color, not super saturated. So being in a new place, we decided to introduce more color, but at the same time we wanted to maintain a vintage, period feel to the show. It was striking a balance.”
They settled on emeralds, pinks, and turquoises, which added some of the flash and charm of an older, rundown Vegas, as opposed to the Vegas we’re more familiar with today.
But creating Vegas also involved the right look for background actors.
“We wanted people to look very different,” said makeup artist Lana Horochowski. “We pulled looks from the Midwest, East Coast, other countries, so people didn’t look like they came from the same place. We got to expand our color palette, and looking back at the research for Vegas at that time, it was really about going out and becoming a part of the glamour. You bought special clothes. You wore cocktail dresses to dinner. If you were going there for vacation, it was this very glamorous time in Vegas. The heyday of the showgirls.”
The makeup team also was tasked with going from wacky, loud colors on the wrestlers’ faces, to more uniform looks on the workers at the casino, which was also paired well with minimalist hairstyles from the Hair team.
“The look is different, as far as the patrons, and the hotel and casino workers,” said hair stylist Theraesa Rivers. “We also took into consideration, to do kind of a mixture of looks, because people traveled to Vegas. You had people coming from all over. You see more, I would say, pared-down looks for casino workers, maybe not as polished as the people in LA. Maybe a few more mullets going on.”
2. They used miniatures in backdrops to make it seem like ’80s Vegas.
Fjelsted said one of his biggest concerns about Season 3 in terms of production design was that Vegas was all neon in the ’80s, something that doesn’t exist today since everything’s been updated. How would he recreate that and make the audience feel like they were actually there? The answer: Miniatures.
“I found these guys who do unbelievable mind-blowing miniatures and we recreated the entire Vegas strip from 1985,” said Fjelsted. “I think that gave you a sense of actually being there in the time period, without having to do a bunch of really expensive things in post.”
Pay attention during scenes in Bash’s penthouse, because what’s outside his window are highly-detailed marquee replicas, and the production design pulls it off seamlessly.
For Teague in cinematography, the challenge was a technical language barrier and being able to create lighting that worked for both the miniatures and the cast.
“The lighting language that the miniature language spoke was completely different than our world of movies and TV,” said Teague. “We didn’t have a lot of time to merge those two worlds. Finding a way to get the appropriate light levels. The miniature builder was not used to building for film and production, so we had to be able to balance those miniature lighting levels with the lighting of our interior stuff.”
3. Geena Davis said her wig made her look like herself in the ’80s.
Surely, production design would have liked a time machine just to go back to 1985 Vegas (although the miniatures are pretty damn cool), but the makeup and hair team actually took Geena Davis back to the ’80s.
Horochowski remarked that after applying makeup to Davis, she and the makeup team started giggling. “We looked at her, and she looked like she did in Beetlejuice! We died laughing. She said, ‘I used to look like this!’ And we were like, ‘We remember you looking like this!'”
For hair, Rivers said that Davis brought her own wig for them to use, since Davis’s hair was shorter and blonde at the time, compared to her character Sandy’s red hair.
“I prepped the wig without really trying it on her, and when I put the wig on her, her whole face lit up,” said Rivers. ‘She said, ‘I love it. You know, this is me from the ’80s.’ I felt so proud of myself. I can end my career now. Geena Davis’s face just lit up.”
4. Because they couldn’t get permission to film past a certain time, the campfire scene in the episode “Outward Bound” was on a sound stage.
In the episode “Outward Bound,” a playful day off outdoors was actually a lot of work for the cast and crew. Red Rock Canyon, where much of the episode takes place, has filming restrictions.
“Our big challenge was that we couldn’t shoot past 9 or 10 p.m.,” said Teague in cinematography. “For us on that location, we’d rush like crazy to get done before sunset and then we’d have to immediately rush to get our night work done before they kicked us out of there.”
So in order to be able to get the night scenes around the campfire, Fjelsted and the production design team built it indoors.
“We built the campfire element on stage and then married the desert scenes in post-production,” said Fjelsted. “If we do our job correctly, you can’t tell.”
“We shot the wide shots out in Red Rock Canyon,” said Teague, “so our amazing production design team built our campfire and the greenery to match so we could shoot all of our closeups. It’s amazing what you can do with propane fire and a couple of plants.”
This was good news for the cast and crew, who were often freezing during the outdoor shoot.
“It was actually very challenging,” said Rivers in Hair, “because it was freezing cold, very windy, and that posed a challenge. You want to see the characters looking more natural, so it’s hard on a hair dresser.”
5. While she’s a cheerleader for the holidays in Season 3, Britney Young, a.k.a. Machu Picchu, was also a real-life cheerleader.
In Season 3, Britney Young’s character Carmen, a.k.a. Machu Picchu, sets into motion holiday gift exchanges and celebrating Christmas, proving to be the group’s cheerleader. She was also a real-life cheerleader, something that helped her become the perfect base for wrestling.
“No matter what, if she goes down, she will not drop you,” said Shauna Duggins, two-time Emmy winner for her work on the show.
In the holiday episode, Carmen and Zoya (Alison Brie) wrestle each other, which was a bit unusual for the two, since they aren’t typically partners. (Although it was a bit unusual to have a wrestling-themed A Christmas Carol, too.)
“We trained with Britney basing Helena [Barrett, Brie’s stunt double], back and forth, and then we’d go to the other side with Chavo [Guerrero Jr., fight coordinator] basing Ali, and we’d get them both ready and put them together. We really wanted to play with the characters. It was about getting her in the grave as a Grim Reaper. The whole story was what could we do to put her in there and how much Ali is going to avoid that. She tip-toes around it every time. Playing with the strength of each of them. It was really silly, really fun.”
6. That was an original Bob Mackie creation that Sandy wore to the fundraiser.
“We had this amazing opportunity, which is kind of unheard of,” said costume designer Beth Morgan.
In preparation for Season 3, the GLOW EPs and writers got some behind-the-scenes tours, and one of the things they got to see was a dressing room of Jubilee, the Las Vegas show that celebrates female beauty, usually topless.
“Bob Mackie really elevated the showgirl look to such an amazing level when he did Jubilee in the ’80s. Jubilee had recently shut down, and we got the opportunity to rent their costumes. We didn’t know what we were actually going to use them for. We also designed our own showgirl outfits at The Fan Tan. We could never afford to make a Jubilee costume. One costume costs my entire episode budget.”
So then, when it came time for Geena Davis’s Sandy to attend a fundraiser, the costume team knew they wanted to put her in a showgirl outfit because they had all of these amazing creations at their disposal. They had her try on a few different ones, and then they had her try on one that didn’t have a bust. Morgan didn’t feel comfortable taking a half-naked photo of Davis for fitting purposes, so they FaceTimed with Liz and Carly to seek approval.
“The reaction was so amazing. We decided in the end to put pasties on. [Davis] also is so into character—Sandy would have been proud to still have this amazing body.”
7. The Fan Tan was intentionally politically incorrect.
One of the challenges that drove the production team in Season 3 was where in the city were the girls? So the GLOW team created a fictional hotel and placed it in a spot in the Vegas landscape that was just far enough from the Strip that they were still a part of the action in a way, but they also had to take a bus to get a haircut. The ’80s were obviously a different time period, and The Fan Tan was a reflection of that, demonstrating regressive design influences from the decade.
“The Fan Tan was based on a hodgepodge of Asian influences, which in the ’80s were not delineated by Japanese, Korean, Thai—none of that,” said Fjelsted. “They were delineated as ‘Oriental,’ which is a slur today. It was all over the place, and we wanted to play with the corniness of that and the accidental offensiveness of that. And then to place Jenny (Ellen Wong) in that scenario where she had to experience everybody’s view on her.”
The costumes are even reflective of this.
“Our uniforms had elements of Thai, Japanese, melted into one,” said Morgan. “We’ve made a lot of progress about being aware of racial differences, and I think it’s nice to reflect on the trials and tribulations of the past.”
Since the hotel is meant to make you feel isolated, Teague and cinematography had to demonstrate this without making it boring.
“You want to be able to feel like you could film one scene over at the bar and one scene over at the craps table, and they feel very different from each other. You get worn down by seeing the same thing over and over again. Knowing the footprint of the stage we were working in was a challenge, but a fun one. And figuring out how to light all that, so it felt like it had the appropriate look for a casino, but also was flattering for the actors [was a challenge].”
8. Even the crew switched things up on Freaky Tuesday.
For makeup, Horochowski usually has specific artists for each girl. But with “Freaky Tuesday,” where the girls swap their alter egos, that posed a challenge of new makeup possibilities. In the end, she ended up having the makeup artists swap who they usually paint.
“It was a wild experience,” said Horochowski. “I think it ultimately ended up going faster, because when you’re working with glitter, it can be so messy. You really have to take your time with it.”
And because everyone was wearing Spandex, most of the cast was able to fit into each other’s outfits, like a Sisterhood of Traveling Pants.
“Even Tamme as she was becoming a Biddie, those pants were all Lycra,” said Morgan in costumes. “No one really had to have something else made.”
However, Betty Gilpin did have to have multiple fittings for her Zoya the Destroyer costume.
“We were in deep debate. She was like, ‘I need to be able to move!’ and I was like, ‘Can it be a little bit tighter?’ We had to think of what the realistic situation of what they would do? What could they have pulled off? Debbie keeps her bra on. Ali sticks shoulder pads in her bust. It wasn’t trying to necessarily match them exactly. We tried to do some things funny and artistic, but keeping in mind that the wrestling characters did it themselves; it’s their interpretation of the alter ego they’re switching with.”
The switching also involved some confusion when it came to calling out stunts, according to Duggins.
“The funniest thing is watching the crew now have four names for each person,” said Duggins. “So there’s Alison Brie who is Ruth, aka Zoya, aka Liberty Belle.”
Duggins said that she had to tweak the signature moves for each wrestler, relying on the strengths they have established over the course of two and a half seasons.
“With Zoya and Liberty Belle, Liberty Belle’s signature move is a Cazadora—she’s only ever done that as the flyer to Welfare Queen (Kia Stevens). Kia is an incredible base and Betty is an incredible flyer, so now Betty has to learn to base it and Ali has to learn a move she’s never done. It was really mind-tricky on that one, but so much fun.”
GLOW seasons 1 through 3 are streaming on Netflix.