In Glow, the new 1980s-set Netflix series produced by Liz Flahive, Carly Mensch, and Jenji Kohan, Betty Gilpin plays Debbie, a soap actor who has relinquished her career to start a family. “We meet Debbie when she thinks that the movie of her life is coming to a close and the credits are rolling,” Gilpin explains. Soon after, however, Debbie makes a discovery at home that forces her to reassess her identity and her future. She agrees to join a new women’s wrestling show as Liberty Bell, its all-American star.
Raised by two New York actors, Gilpin spent much of her childhood watching her parents perform. “I grew up in a lot of stage managers’ booths, memorizing the lines,” she says. “I’m sure I was the most annoying child in existence.” While getting her B.A. from Fordham, she made her New York stage debut. Since then, she’s appeared Off-Broadway in venues like the Roundabout Theatre, the Manhattan Theatre Club, and the Signature Theatre, and in smart television dramas such as Nurse Jackie and Masters of Sex. Glow, which comes out tomorrow on Netflix, follows quickly on the heels of another exciting job for Gilpin: playing Audrey the Starz adaptation of Neil Gamain’s American Gods.
HOMEBASE: Brooklyn, New York. I just re-watched Ghost, and Whoopi Goldberg mentions she lives in a rough neighborhood. She’s like, “I live in Prospect Heights!” Times have changed.
INTRO TO ACTING: I grew up going to the theater with my parents. It was a different world for New York actors [then]; you did theater and Law & Order, and you went to L.A. for everything else. My parents mainly did theater, and that is their first love. They worked in a lot of Off-Broadway theaters in New York and regional theaters throughout the Northeast.
My parents were not keen on me joining the industry. The rule was I had to go to college first and graduate, and I couldn’t go to a conservatory. I could major in theater, but I had to go somewhere where I had to take science and math and history as well. I think they were hoping that I’d fall in love with something else while I was there. I did not. I definitely was stoned through all my math classes and took theater of the absurd very seriously. I started doing plays in New York while I was at Fordham, but I did graduate by the skin of my teeth.