‘GLOW’ returns to Netflix for its 3rd season on Aug 9, and star Jackie Tohn shared EXCLUSIVELY with HL everything about the show’s biggest Melrose moments.
[WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD FOR ‘GLOW’ SEASON 3]
Talking to Jackie Tohn is a dream come true for any GLOW fan — and I’m a pretty massive one. Having been on the show since day one as Melrose, the wild child with a heart of gold and a killer top rope cross body maneuver, Jackie has incredible stories to share from behind-the-scenes of Netflix’s massive hit, which rightfully has just been nominated for five Emmy awards. “It feels really good to be part of a thing that I recognize as a deeply, deeply rare occasion,” Jackie shared with me when we chatted about the show ahead of the show’s season three premiere. From there, we dove right into what is perhaps the most heartbreaking and hilarious season of GLOW yet and how Jackie tackled some big, emotional swings with Melrose.
When they return to the world of GLOW, the women find themselves living in Las Vegas after losing their TV show, regrouping as a stage act on the Strip. Their new boss, Sandy Devereaux St. Clair, played by the incomparable Geena Davis, has a sharp eye on the show, monitoring their success closely. Each of the women find themselves dealing with unforeseen, big life changes. What really makes GLOW’s third season stand apart from the previous installments is the individual time spent on each of the characters. It’s not just a token episode here and there, but deep dive storylines that carry over the ten-episode arc.
For Melrose, it starts with her involvement with a gigolo named Paul, played by Nick Clifford. After meeting in the hotel bar, the two retreat back to Melrose’s room to get frisky, which leads to the show’s first full-frontal male nude scene. “And, it’s the first Melrose titty shot,” Jackie reminded me with a laugh. “There was a time when Melrose was supposed to put her shirt on,” she explained. “But I thought it would be funnier if she didn’t and she was arguing, yelling, and fighting [topless]. I just was like, ‘Yeah, theatrically, as a comic, that’s a funnier joke. So, I got so comfortable that I game time decisioned it and changed it at the last second.”
This perhaps would not have been possible if it weren’t for the show’s ‘Intimacy Coordinator,’ a woman Jackie says she genuinely reveres. She explained how the whole process was made not only safe, but enjoyable. “I imagine this was very different from the movie making of years past,” Jackie said. “When it was like, ‘You’re doing a sex scene. You wanted a job as an actor or an actress. Take your tits out. We don’t really have time for this. There’s another girl waiting if you’re not comfortable with this.’ This was the opposite of that vibe. There was extra care, extra caution, extra comfort, and extra padding in between us to make sure nobody felt anybody else’s nether region and nobody was uncomfortable.”
It’s at this point that Jackie delves into the intricate process of getting “dressed” for a sex scene and what really goes on between the sheets. “I’m so happy we’re talking about this,” she said, as she takes me down the list of items she wore to make sure she was completely covered below the waist, even though Nick was, well, not. The process is extensive, including something called a “NoToe” to keep everything from riding up where it shouldn’t, mole skin, and a thong that “tapes to your front, so your butt is out.” Then comes Jackie’s favorite part: the ‘Vajoga’. [NOTE: We discussed and agreed on the spelling of this invention before parting ways.]
“In between us, they cut a yoga mat into the shape of a bikini bottom with a cutout for your thighs and they put that between you and then they wrap that in a pillowcase. So, when he’s on top of me, there is a ‘vajoga’, a whale tail undie, a moleskin and a NoToe. That’s how the layering goes… A ‘vajoga’, Bro. Okay. You’re getting the tea today.” Indeed, I do feel blessed.
Putting aside the ‘vajoga,’ the scene is a kick off to Melrose’s season long romance with Paul, whose chosen profession at first is a turn on for Melrose, but quickly gets dicey as she starts to develop real feelings for him. Things get even more complicated with Melrose offers Paul up to pal Rhonda (Kate Nash) to make new hubby Bash (Chris Lowell) jealous, and the three eventually end up in a very intense threesome. By season’s end, Melrose is still in the dark about her friend’s ménage à trois with her boyfriend and husband, and it could spell some trouble in hopeful season 4. “I think that’s going to be really dramatic for her,” Jackie said of Melrose learning of the betrayal. “Because I feel like she finally found someone … She doesn’t judge Paul at all for doing what he does and he doesn’t judge her for doing any of her crazy antics. I think she finds a good thing with him.”
“If they do end up staying together,” she added while speaking about a possible season four, “I think Melrose would be the type of person that would say like, ‘Oh, I don’t care, he can do whatever he wants as long as he comes home to me.’ But she doesn’t really feel that way.”
Indeed, Melrose develops far beyond a one-dimensional party girl in season three. In an unforeseen turn, halfway through the season, the show tackles Melrose and Jenny’s traumatic family histories. In a particularly hilarious and totally fan service episode, the wrestlers trade characters just before the show, and Melrose’s bestie Jenny becomes angry with her for mocking her culture as she adapts the persona of “Fortune Cookie.” Shortly after, the team goes camping out in the desert and Melrose tries desperately to apologize for her impersonation, something Jackie confessed she did in real life while filming. “When I came in as Fortune Cookie and I was taking those little tiny, racist-ass steps — that’s what the script called for!,” she explained. “We were shooting with Geena Davis that day, and after I said every line, they would call cut, and I would just apologize to the crowd. And Geena was laughing at me so hard because she was like, ‘Oh my God, the shame you’re feeling right now is palpable.'”
When Melrose’s apologies won’t suffice, Jenny withdraws further away from her friend, who tries a different approach by bringing all the women together for a campfire seder. That’s when things get real. “I have full body chills that the question is even being asked, because that means that this exists.” Jackie said when I asked her about how she prepared for the scene where Jenny and Melrose share their families’ experiences with the Holocaust and the Cambodian genocide.
“With me and Ellen [Wong, who plays Jenny], we realized, I think in the middle of season one at a Passover Seder — or we were talking about having a Passover Seders because Ellen’s married to a Jewish guy and she’s Cambodian — we were talking about the Cambodian genocide and I didn’t know, of course, anything about it,” she explained. “And [she told me] her family are survivors of the Cambodian genocide. Her parents, her actual parents. Not even like her great, great grandparents. Then, we were talking about the gross similarities to the Holocaust, which my grandparents survived. They were able to give birth to my mom, who was able to give birth to me, which makes me a second-generation Holocaust survivor. “
“It’s just crazy,” she continues. “And we were telling Sasha, one of our writers, about that and they were like, ‘That’s an amazing connecting line for Melrose and Jenny.’ And that’s crazy in and of itself; that our writers see us and they don’t shy away from these gnarly topics like the Cambodian genocide, which nobody talks about, and the Holocaust, which people do talk about here and there, but also it’s a long time ago already. It’s sort of becoming a thing of the past, thank God, but also gross similarities to things that are still very much going on in the world.”
Eventually, the women’s shared pain reunites them again, and peace is restored amongst them, along with a deeper understanding of who they are as people. And while the audience is offered up a deeper level of the show, Jackie admitted that she also has a deeper appreciation for the show after that storyline. “On the one hand, it’s just incredible that they’re willing to tackle these subjects,” she said. “Then personally, that I get to be the actor that’s telling these stories that are this close to my heart and lineage and family. It’s really spectacular.”
‘GLOW’ season three premieres on Netflix on Friday, August 9, 2019.