Jackie Tohn has been in the entertainment industry nearly her entire life, but being part of projects that encourage women to work together and support one another still felt pretty rare for her. At many of the auditions she's been on, women were often pitted against each other to compete for the one female role in a series or movie. However, all that changed when Tohn's role as Melrose on GLOW came around, and she became surrounded by women taking the reins both behind and in front of the camera. In an exclusive interview with Elite Daily, Tohn gets real about how GLOW embodies female empowerment on and off screen.
Now in its third season, GLOW tells the story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, the real-life female wrestlers who made a splash in the sport in the 1980s. With a mostly female cast of characters who live and work together, the show is filled with interesting and diverse women. Tohn's character Melrose is at the center as a "fervent wiseass" whose "insecurities are masked by what looks like overconfidence."
For most of Tohn's career, she was used to being the only funny woman in a room. However, when Tohn began on GLOW, she quickly realized she was far from alone; in fact, female camaraderie was prevalent all over the set.
"In the beginning of Season 1, a little part of my lone wolf energy of like, 'Wait a minute, we’re all here and shining and it’s not competitive and everyone’s getting to do fun and interesting, deep, cool, funny things,' Tohn explains in an interview with Elite Daily. "And I think once a bunch of us realized that this is a really true sisterhood, it’s really what it became. It’s like a ragtag group of misfit, crazy Barbies."
Not only does GLOW feature women on screen, but it also has a talented team of female writers and directors bringing the story to life behind the scenes. These writers have helped add a more personal touch to many of the show's storylines. For example, Season 3 includes a powerful arc for Tohn's character Melrose, in which she leads a Passover Seder for the other women and shares her family's history as survivors of the Holocaust. The storyline offers some deeper insight into Melrose's character, and it also gave Tohn — whose own grandmother is a Holocaust survivor — the chance to share a piece of herself through GLOW.
"It feels unheard of," Tohn says. "Not only am I getting this opportunity to say the lines that these unbelievable women writers are coming up with. And we’re being directed by these incredible women directors. And then I get to do the coolest, deepest work of my career, talking about the real things that my actual family went through. It’s a really rare situation we got going on over here."
The Seder storyline also offers Melrose the chance to connect with Jenny (Ellen Wong) in a deeper way. The characters realize their families had similar experiences and they have more in common than they thought. It helps their friendship to grow deeper, which is all part of the show digging deeper into the women of GLOW during its newest season.
Just as their characters have grown closer over the course of GLOW's three seasons, the cast has also bonded in big ways over the years. They regularly hang out on hikes in Los Angeles and keep up to date in their group WhatsApp chat. The cast even does a Secret Santa each year, which Tohn hosted at her home this past holiday season. In addition to giving gifts at the annual event, they've built a tradition of sharing all their favorite things about each recipient.
"This year I got Sydelle [Noel, who plays Cherry], so I got up and did a speech about why I love Sydelle," Tohn describes. "And how when we were first on the show we were so different but we’re actually really twins. And we come from totally different places but there’s so much that’s similar about us."
Realizing she and her fellow cast members are able to connect in so many ways has strengthened their friendships and their time on set.
"Getting to learn that about these women that are on the surface nothing like you is really a cool and powerful thing, especially for a female actress," Tohn explains.
A big part of the success of GLOW is the fact that it offers audiences the chance to watch women taking charge of their careers and their friendships. Tohn is showing how the spirit of the show is just as alive for the ladies of GLOW in real life.
GLOW Season 3 is available on Netflix now.