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INTERVIEW: GLOW’s Britney Young on Playing Carmen

WARNING: GLOW spoilers

Who knew we all needed a series about professional female wrestlers in our lives?

Apparently Netflix did because in June the streaming channel released GLOW and it instantly became one of the most buzzworthy comedies of the summer.

GLOW‘s a fictional telling of a real life phenomenon that aired on television in the mid-to-late ’80s. It’s the story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling and the men who are trying to turn them into stars. At the core of the series, each of the characters find their way to the mat because they’re searching for something they haven’t found in their own lives.

They’re fierce and quirky and a bit damaged. These new experiences will test them and make them stronger. The characters we learn the most about in the first season are Alison Brie‘s Ruth a.k.a. “Zoya the Destroya,” Betty Gilpin‘s Debbie a.k.a. “Liberty Belle,” Marc Maron‘s Sam Sylvia a.k.a. the Ringleader, Sydelle Noel‘s Cherry a.k.a. “Junk Chain” and Britney Young‘s Carmen a.k.a. “Machu Picchu.”

Carnen’s shy, she’s prone to panic attacks when it comes to performing for a live audience. She comes from a family of wrestlers so she knows this world. And when Sam hires her to join this crazy pilot he’s directing, she has something to prove to her dad, her brothers and herself.

Photo Credit: Erica Parise/Netflix

Ultimately, Carmen’s the one who shows the most growth in season one. By episode ten, she’s able to show her family she’s made for wrestling. She’s created connections with the women she’s fighting alongside, she’s gained the confidence she needs to breakthrough her anxiety, and she’s bonded with Chris Lowell‘s Bash, the creator/producer of this show within a show.

On a recent phone call, we talked to Young, who worked in film and TV production after graduating from USC.

In fact, she was a showrunner’s assistant for the CBS procedural The Mentalist, where she says she learned a lot from her behind-the-scenes vantage point.

Britney Young: That was my first time really being on a project where I see it from the idea that the writers write down on the board in their writer’s room, all the way to post at the final cut. It was so exciting to see that full process realized.

Something else she realized around this time is she wanted to make acting her priority.

Young: Having to watch all the casting videos that were coming in and talking with the casting director [on] who the producers wanted, that’s when my dreams of being an actress kind of started poking up again, and just watching all these videos and being like, ‘This is what I wanna do. How can I get into that field of work?’

A friend of hers gave her the push she needed. She offered Young a web series.

Young: She was like, ‘Hey, I have a role for you if you want it,’ and I took it, and that really lit a fire under my butt, and I was very grateful. I had some amazing bosses all throughout my career, but specifically the last three years. They understood that acting is what I wanted but that I was also gonna give 100% to the job that they had hired me for. So I really do appreciate all those bosses. Shout out to them. They know who they are.

Young is happy people are finally getting to see GLOW after all the hard work she, the cast and the crew put into it.

Photo Credit: Erica Parise/Netflix

Young: It’s so nice to see people finally enjoying what us girls have been so proud of and so happy for for the past almost year now. My family came to the premiere, and to hear them laughing and my mom crying at certain things, it really, really warmed my heart. It was such a great experience to have them here for it and then to binge watch the show with them was great.

Since the show’s release her life has changed a little bit, which means she’s getting recognized more often.

Young: I got recognized at an audition just yesterday. I think that has been the biggest difference. I’m that type of person where it’s like if you come up and talk to me, I’m gonna wanna know your name and what you do for a living. I wanna have a conversation. That’s just my personality.

Her character’s trademark shyness isn’t what really drew her to the role.

Young: I don’t get stage fright, knock on wood, and I’m very grateful for that. I think what I related to in that instance was on the psychological level of she is trying something new and it’s something that she’s scared of, and she doesn’t want to fail. She comes from a family of famous wrestlers who succeed at everything they do. I think that’s what I really drew from was having that pressure on you to succeed because of what everybody else thinks of you.

Photo Credit: Erica Parise/Netflix

Especially in that final match in the finale where she just sits there and she’s like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ Even when she’s halfway through the match and she gets her legs taken out from underneath her, and she still has this moment of, ‘Crap, I don’t know if I can really do this,’ and then she finds that energy and that support from her dad in the audience and the audience as a whole. I think that motivated me a lot more through the scene as it went on.

What really set the tone for the filming, however, was the intense four-week training where she and the rest of the cast learned the wrestling moves they were going to need for their on-screen battles.

Young: I think the great thing about it and that made us bond really well were a couple things, but mostly it was that we all came into this training session and had no wrestling experience except for Kia Stevens (GLOW‘s Tamme a.k.a. “Welfare Queen”) who’s actually a professional wrestler. But on the flip side, she had never acted before, so she’s also coming into a new realm, and I think that having us all on that level, it wasn’t a competition thing. It wasn’t a ‘Let’s see who’s the best wrestler.’ It was literally 14 women encouraging and rooting each other on. There was nothing like going in there and doing a little mini-match and having 12 other girls screaming and chanting and hooting and hollering on the ropes.

There was one move that was a bit challenging to master.

Young: I think it might be the wrong name, but I believe it was called a headlock take-down. The reason why I thought it was difficult was because I didn’t want to crush the girls that I was wrestling. It was an insecurity thing in my head where I’m bigger than all these girls. I don’t want to hurt them. But I did it once with Chavo Guerrero Jr., who was our wrestling coordinator, and he basically looked at me because I kept on saying, ‘I’m going to crush you. I’m going to crush you.’ He was just like, ‘Get over it.’ I was like, ‘Okay.’

And then I went and did it once, and we did it perfectly. It was like, ‘Alright, now I know how to do the technique. I’m not going to crush you because that’s not the purpose.” I think it was more so getting over the psychological humps than it was actually physical, if that makes sense.”

One of Carmen’s key Season 1 relationships is the one she develops with Bash. It’s a friendship but at certain points seems like it could become more. It’s a connection that was surprising but refreshing at the same time.

Photo Credit: Erica Parise/Netflix

Young: I love Carmen and Bash. I think it’s such a sweet relationship. Some people are like, ‘Oh, I want them to get together,’ or some people are like, ‘These are the best friends I’ve ever seen.’ I love that people are interpreting it the way that they see fit. I’m very curious to see where we go if we get more seasons. If it goes romantic, then I’d love that, but I want it to be earned and I want it to make sense for those characters. If it’s more they stay in that confidant, platonic, best friendship area, I love that, too, because I really do like the dynamic between them as characters, and I love Chris Lowell.

Young says she and Lowell really put a lot of thought into their scenes together. They ultimately realized Carmen and Bash had more in common than you’d think.

Young: He and I actually had a lot of conversations. We have a lot of one-on-one scenes that towards the end of the season started to get emotional. With each scene, we sat there and talked, what did we think their relationship was. It started out in a place where it was like, ‘Oh, maybe Carmen has a crush on Bash. Maybe Bash has a crush on Carmen,’ and then it developed into where we thought these people are really confidants. They are kindred spirits. They’re both under the pressure of their family to be these people that they’re really not, and here they are taking this chance on what they really want to do.

For Young, GLOW wasn’t just a great experience, she saw it as yet another way to perfect her craft. She learned simply by watching actors like Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin work their magic.

Photo Credit: Erica Parise/Netflix

Young: Best master class I could’ve ever taken watching that. They are so talented, so brilliant in all the choices that they make. I would just sit there and sometimes watch them and everybody in the cast just do their scenes and really get involved. I think it’s funny because with Marc [Maron], real quick, there was this scene where I got so into what he was saying, I forgot I had a line. He looked over at me and was like, ‘Hey, Carmen, you got anything to say?’ I was like, ‘Oh my god, Marc, I’m so sorry. You were just so good.’

Photo Credit: Erica Parise/Netflix

I love seeing all these different actors work. They’re so open, and I ask so many questions like, ‘Why did you do this? Why did you choose that?’ They really do want to make everyone else around them better and put on a good performance. I’m just so blessed to be able to watch them work and then also work with them. They’re just honestly, best cast ever. I know I’m biased, but wow, [GLOW casting director] Jen Euston did a fantastic job.

Fun Fact: Britney Young once guest starred on the CW series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. In the “I’m Back at Camp with Josh” episode in season one. She was the camper that cold-cocked Rebecca Bunch. Hmmm…maybe she was just preparing herself for GLOW.

GLOW is streaming on Netflix now.

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