Britt Baron, Westport native and graduate of Staples High School, is preparing for the season two release of the hit Netflix Original GLOW, or Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, on June 29. It follows the trials and tribulations of the first all-female wrestling league of the same name as they strive for notoriety. Filled with engaging fight-sequences, heartbreak and powerful characters, GLOW gives us the ’80s-themed, girl-power, wrestling drama that we didn’t know we desperately needed. Baron also has an upcoming role in Crackle’s comedy series Rob Riggle’s Ski Master Academy, and boast guest roles on Grey’s Anatomy, Awkward and Lucifer, among others. Britt Baron recently spoke with Westport Magazine about her theater experiences in town, the University of Michigan, and what GLOW means to her. (See more on GLOW at Netflix.com).
You were a Westport theater kid?
“I always loved doing theater, but I was really more of a dancer. I danced at D’Valda & Sirico in Fairfield up until maybe high school, where I finally had to decide to pursue theater. I always loved it, but I don’t know if I was a typical theater kid. I was friends with everyone, a lot of sports kids. I think I was really able, in high school and college, to compartmentalize my life…I was never really the kid who was interested only in theater.”
What theater experience shaped you?
“In high school we did Romeo and Juliet, and I played Juliet. It was my first real starring role experience, and, at the same time, I was starting to apply to colleges. I was at a crossroads between deciding if I should pursue a B.F.A. or if I should just try and go to college like a regular student and do something not in the arts, where I could get a job [laughs]. I remember our theater director, David Roth, pulling me aside—I think it was during rehearsals for Romeo and Juliet—and coaching me to get a B.F.A. Juliet may have been the first role where I thought that maybe I could do this professionally.”
What was your most challenging theater experience?
“Romeo and Juliet! It was just such a big deal, and I think that David Roth was using it as his thesis because he was still in graduate school, so there was a lot of pressure. We started rehearsals months ahead, just Noah, who played Romeo, and I. We started just the two of us and Mr. Roth just reading the text, over and over again. It was Shakespeare. I was, what, fifteen? I mean I was really Juliet’s age! [laughs] It was my first Shakespeare production and my first major, major lead role. It was my first time carrying a show. There’s that moment where, yes, you want to be the lead, but once you get it, there’s that moment where you’re like, ‘Uh-oh, can I do this?’
Any production that you would redo?
“Twelve Angry Men? I was at the end of my senior year, and we just played so many pranks and goofed off, and I got to play a really great part. It was kind of the best the both worlds, where I was having so much fun at rehearsal but also really enjoyed the production.…we were cherishing every moment because it’s right before you’re graduating. It’s the last time you have with your friends before you all go off into the world.”
How did the University of Michigan B.F.A. program shape you as an actress?
“I came in so fresh-faced. I didn’t understand really what I was doing. At that age, I was relying mostly on instincts and what you’re born with. Michigan, and that program in particular, is wonderful at shaping young kids into professionals. I was lucky enough to take part in some university productions there, and that really prepared me for my professional life. We rehearsed four hours every single night—seven to eleven every night, six days a week. It was really rigorous, really tense. It prepared me for when I got my first professional theater job. I wasn’t as intimidated as I would have been without that training. And the program is so interesting because I’ve heard it described as a buffet, where you learn a bunch of different techniques and ideologies and you can take what works for you and leave at the table what doesn’t.”
Now you portray Justine Blagi on GLOW. What’s the atmosphere with the rest of the cast?
“I would have to describe it as like a party, just a big slumber party. It’s a lot of fun and supportive! Before I started GLOW I was apprehensive about working with all of these women, because, especially in this industry, it can be very competitive, cut throat, passive aggressive. The show works so well because we’re all so unique. I’m obsessed with everyone. We have a group chat that goes off every single day. It’s a lot of us making up songs and pranking each other and doing dances. If someone’s doing a wrestling match, even if you’re not in it, often times the cast is there watching and cheering each other on. Our off-screen dynamic makes the show so special.”
Are you similar to Justine?
“Um, no. Sometimes I’m surprised I got cast as this! I think we’re really different. I live with two kids from Westport who were in the theater scene. They know this character is so far from me. They also remind me that in high school I did go through my kind of ‘Justine Phase.’ I painted my nails black, wearing converse, listening to all these kind of emo bands. Justine’s punk rock, but still. I had to be reminded that at Justine’s age and where she is in life, I did go through that. Now I would definitely I am a much more social person. I think nicer too! [laughs] Definitely not as cagey. At that age a lot of people go through that phase where they’re kind of not a kid, not an adult, but they’re rebelling. It’s the first time you’re trying to take your own independence and establish yourself as your own person without the need for parental supervision. I guess I did go through that, I’m just not in it anymore.”
You said in an interview with Bustle Magazine that the casting directors requested that you audition in gym clothes and no makeup for intense authenticity. Is that carried throughout GLOW?
“That message really was carried all the way through shooting. We were told specifically, ‘Don’t try and lose weight. Don’t suddenly change your whole workout routine and try to get jacked for the performance. We cast you because of who each and every one of you are.’ Which you don’t hear that often in this industry. We’re in a world where everyone’s wearing tight leotards. It’s usually like, “Okay, you need to lose like ten or fifteen pounds. We’ll get you guys a trainer.” We do have trainers. I thought initially it was for all of us to all of us to have six-packs, but, actually, the training was just wrestling. It was about learning body slams and moves, not the way we looked. They’ve made it a very safe space to work because you are vulnerable. I remember the first day that I walked into my trailer and I had these little booty shorts that were hanging up there, and it’s scary! You’re super vulnerable, because not only are you about to be in those in front of, you know, a hundred crew members, but it’s gonna be on TV. To have these women showrunners like Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch who are so supportive, incredibly encouraging, just celebrating who you are as a person, makes it a really, really safe place to work. That helps speak to the level that the show is at; it’s authentic performances, really grounded performances within this crazy circus of circumstances.”
You’ve stated that GLOW moves to subvert the societal standards of beauty and “politeness” that are pushed upon women. Do you carry this message with you personally?
“Yes! I’ve recently been reflecting on how much my personal life has changed now that we’re going on almost two years. I think that the women that I’ve met and been able to work with, and form friendships with, have completely changed my whole outlook. I think our whole society, especially with the #MeToo movement, has really been moving forward and encouraging women as a whole, but also myself to not be afraid to stand up for myself, to accept who I am, and to support one another. These women are…just so endlessly supportive of one another’s beauty, on the inside and the outside. I’m just really lucky to have these women. The more that we can be like this to one another, as opposed to society that says you’re only pretty in makeup. It’s okay to defend yourself and know your worth, and to also accept yourself! You don’t need to go and try to change your face or your hair to be loved. GLOW has been such a gift, but I think that the greatest gift of all has been the girls that I’ve met because they’ve changed me and my whole outlook on society.”
Where do you see your career moving in the future?
“I would like to continue to work on good projects that I believe in and would watch. That’s one of the biggest gifts of being on GLOW—being on a show where I can say, “Oh! I would actually watch this even I hadn’t been cast in it.” I would love to be able to work in different genres and as different characters. My biggest fear would be to be pinned as one type of character. Moving forward, I would just be lucky to be able to work in different characters who contrast me and challenge me in a way Justine has.”
Editor’s note: Interview has been edited for fit and clarity.
Images by Erica Parise/Netflix