'Glow' Liz Flahive, 'Dear White People' Justin Simien, & Carly Mensch 'Glow'

By Turchiano, Danielle | Variety, June 11, 2018 | Go to article overview

'Glow' Liz Flahive, 'Dear White People' Justin Simien, & Carly Mensch 'Glow'


Turchiano, Danielle, Variety


They have second season singlecamera comedies that often lean more on heart than humor (including both tackling the emotional topic of abortion); coincidentally, they happen to live in the same small pocket of Los Angeles; they share the same streaming home (Netflix); and they happen to be huge fans of each others' work. When "GLOW" creators and executive producers Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch and "Dear White People's" creator and executive producer Justin Simien sat down at Variety, they had a lot of praise for each other and one key request - "No spoilers."

Although Simien's sophomore offering launched in May, he had yet to see Flahive and Mensch's, as "GLOW" isn't due to return until the end of June. It is their first season, which dropped last June and scored some key SAG noms and a Golden Globe nom for leading lady Alison Brie, that is Emmy-eligible this year.

Here, the producers discuss how real life politics have influenced their seasons, why the look of their shows is just as important as the tone, and what they learned from their first successful seasons that they took to heart for their second. ->

How much do you find yourselves researching for your shows, versus just reflecting issues and topics you see in your own world? Flahive: Wrestling in the '80s, all of these stereotypes were there and they were always so much worse if you were the villain, they were always so much worse if you were the minority If you're a minority, you're a villain, done, but what kind of a villain? And then our heroes also had to be stereotypes, and that was a little harder. But then we also had that problem of not everyone could reject their character so we had to have different relationships between who they really are and who their character is.

Mensch: And how they grapple with it is different, which is also true, because not everyone is taking it on in the same way. It's funny because we had never watched wrestling growing up, and just watching it as writers, that's all we saw. It's kind of how you're introduced to wrestling - you pick a stereotype, and you get in the ring, and you lean in. And that was really uncomfortable for us.

Flahive: But we had people like Kia [Stevens, actress/pro wrestler] and Chavo Guerrero Jr. [stunt coordinator], who shared so many stories with us. And we are research nerds, so we talked to them for hours.

Simien: That is the thing, the research part gives you so much stuff. This season is so obsessed with the past, partially, because I think diagnostically that's the problem - we're not all caught up to what got us here. ...I remember we were having a conversation on set and someone was like, "Well you know, I'm going to put this together and I want to make it realistic, but, of course, there wasn't slavery at the Ivy Leagues, so I was just wondering" - and I was like, "Wait, wait, wait, there definitely was." But no one teaches you that. You have to seek that information. That's why I think the Ivy League is such a good representation of America - it just looks so perfect and you can go there and change your life, but it is an institution that was founded on the same thing that America was.

How do you balance the tones of your shows?

Mensch: For us, we're always attracted to dramatic stories, but we have comic voices. So that pairing - and I feel like I see it in "Dear White People" - it feels like a very natural fit to not take the drama so seriously Our ambition is to tell bigger stories. We're in the comedy category, but I feel like we never sit down and think, "You know what would be a funny story?"

Simien: Same. It's becoming a catchphrase, and I didn't mean it to, but shade is my love language. I genuinely think that way. And even if I sit down to write something dramatic, I can't help it - I can't help but make jokes. But the thing is, too, when you really boil it down, "Dear White People" is a story about identity versus self, and the identity that these characters have to play is decided for them because they're black, and that's patently absurd - the concept is absurd. …

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