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Back in June when GLOW was on hiatus while in production on what the cast thought would be the fourth and final season of the Netflix series, six of the show’s stars sent a letter to the streaming giant and GLOW‘s co-creators and executive producers Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch to say, collectively, “we can do better” when it comes to representation and authenticity onscreen.
At the time, Sunita Mani, Sydelle Noel, Britney Young, Kia Stevens, Ellen Wong and Shakira Barrera — all women of color — wrote and signed the letter in hopes of “creating space for change” when the female-powered wrestling comedy would return for its fourth and final season. But now that Netflix has reversed course and canceled GLOW — a decision that was made due to safety and financial concerns created by COVID-19 — the six stars have taken to social media to share both the original letter and updated notes on what happened as result of the cast speaking out, even though viewers will never get to see those results play out on screen.
“Our show creators and producers HEARD US,” writes Mani, who played wrestler Arthie Premkumar since season one, in a lengthy post to Instagram (below). “They were in the process of making Season 4 reflect some of the systemic problems we outlined. … This was a huge deal—creating space for change—and it was a testament to the love and support that was, by no twist of fate, an intentional element seeded by our show’s creators and germinated in the entire cast.”
She continues, “I can’t help but think that a show that tried to tackle themes surrounding women in Hollywood and loaded racial stereotypes — the RELEVANT, precise moment we are in 30+ years later — sought to imbue within each of us as a cast and hopefully as a viewer a sense of pride in who you are, COME AS YOU ARE, ultimately got squashed by…a Netflix corporate algorithm?”
Mani says the cast letter led to a “series of poignant Zoom conversations” about ways to address the concerns that the women raised about their characters — which included being “sidekicks to elevate white leads” — and their issues with the show as a whole, which employed no writers of colors for their large ensemble of diverse cast members. “The meta narrative of our show—actors dealing with the conflict of perpetuating stereotypes in order to have opportunity—is exactly what is happening in our real life,” reads the original letter, which asked that the show specifically hire an executive or consulting producer of color and amplify their characters’ voices within the final season.
The result of this letter, a source confirms, was that Flahive and Mensch, along with Netflix executives, met with the cast to hear their concerns and make a plan to address them in the final season, and before the cancellation. The source adds that the conversations and proposed changes had no impact on Netflix’s decision to cancel — or un-renew — GLOW.
After the cancellation news, the entire 17-person ensemble virtually gathered for a fundraiser that doubled as a reunion, where the cast asked viewers to rally around a growing petition for Netflix to bring the show back for a wrap-up movie. “It would be a very exciting thing and it would seem like Netflix could do it if they wanted to do it,” said star Marc Maron, noting that the story has already been written.
Read each cast member’s full letter, posted to Instagram, below.
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