While working on season one of Netflix’s GLOW, co-creators and showrunners Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch hit a steep learning curve. Although they both worked as writers on Nurse Jackie, they had never worked together on a TV show of their own, let alone served as showrunners. And the demands of the show were daunting. Inspired by the real and short-lived show, GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, GLOW follows a ragtag team of women wrestlers in the ’80s who are as strong as they are flawed. Flahive and Mensch had to learn how to juggle a cast of 14 women and figuring out how to write for the physicality of wrestling, all through the very specific aesthetic of the Reagan era.
In the latest episode of Fast Company‘s new podcast Creative Conversation, Flahive and Mensch explain how they’ve fine-tuned their collaborative dynamic for season two.
Listen to the full episode here, and read excerpts below:
Don’t call them writing “partners”
Flahive: “I wouldn’t ever call us writing partners because we came up as individual writers who really enjoy working together. But even in the way we attack a script, we wrote the pilot together, but we wrote it over the course of basically a year. And then when we got the series order, we had to write episode 2 and we totally forgot how we wrote together. We started by sitting at a computer together, and it’s like, ‘Wait! We never did this—we never sat next to each other and typed!’ We would outline together, but then we would divvy individual scenes and then swap them. She can rewrite whatever she wants. I can rewrite whatever I want. It’s full trust. That’s how we’ve gone through this whole process and everything else that we’ve worked on together–nothing is precious, nothing is sacred.”
Defuse in tandem
Flahive: “The other thing that we learned pretty quickly, too, is that it was rare that we got superheated at the same time. One of us would heat up and the other one would go in the opposite direction.”
Mensch: “We have different triggers. We respond to different things.”
Flahive: “Carly can calm me down without being condescending at all.”
Mensch: “Sometimes I’m a dick, like when I told you to rewrite a line and then I looked at what you wrote and I was like, ‘No, but, like, less boring.’ It’s finding ways to be generous and to be articulate and to not just be like, ‘Oh, I hate this’ because that’s never helpful.”
Creating the Gorgeously Flawed Ladies of TV
Flahive: “There are a lot of places where there are women on a show, but they’re not driving the story or they don’t want things … They are not imperative and they are not driving the narrative—and that rhymes and I’m happy about that. We do have friends [who provided] a lot of the inspiration for that opening scene of the pilot. These glorious New York theater actors go and audition for TV and they’re like, ‘I will be reading the role of expositional wife who walks in with the laundry, says something that might spark something in a man to do something, and then I leave.’ We’ve all seen that part.”
Mensch: “I’ve seen a few too many TV lady characters who are just too perfect. I’m like, you’re a woman but I don’t care to follow you because you seem like an imaginary person because you have no flaws. Somehow you have amazing makeup and hair. Three kids. No problem.”
Flahive: “It takes at least an hour and a half time to just become, like, a standard polished version of yourself. That was something I feel like we talked about a bunch just in terms of the show. We talked about with [Alison Brie’s] character—we were like, no makeup.”
Mensch: “I remember during the pilot, I would run out to set, [saying], ‘Sorry, I think she has lip gloss on—no makeup!’ She’s like, ‘I’m not wearing anything.'”
Flahive: “We just wanted it to be authentic and to not have that thing where somebody wakes up and you’re like, clearly somebody has curling-ironed her hair.”