We Chat With Ellen Wong About Girl Power and GLOW Season 2
Ellen Wong is pretty badass. From her breakout role playing the feisty Knives Chau in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World to the sword-wielding Commander Misaki Han-Shireikan on SyFy’s Dark Matter, Wong is definitely a power to be reckoned with. Her current role on the popular Netflix series GLOW adds to Wong’s growing list of fierce characters. From head locking, to body slamming, to pulling on some seriously high hair, she doesn’t mess around. But then again, neither do any of the other Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling in this wild, nostalgic ride.
Season 2 premieres this week and its formula–equal parts comedy and heartache–will have you seriously wrestling with your emotions. We’re more than ready to see Fortune Cookie get back in the ring, and to celebrate her return to the screen we sat down with the Scarborough-born actress to talk about everything from typecasting to female empowerment to her favourite restaurant in The Six.
What was it that drew you to this show in particular?
Well, when I first had to audition for GLOW, part of the auditioning process was a scene (which is very typical) and then there was a wrestling promotion. I was like… ‘What is this? I don’t really know the world of wrestling promotion.’ And so Jen Euston–the casting director, she’s awesome–sent some links about the original GLOW show to all the girls so that we could get an idea. And if I had not watched these clips, I wouldn’t know how big or crazy or insane I could be… but watching these clips on YouTube of the original GLOW ladies just going for it, I went into this spiral of watching video after video and going ‘This is amazing!’ The fact that I could play this crazy character who’s ridiculous, but who’s also making a comment on stereotyping and at the same time just able to be a human being outside of that… that in itself, that dichotomy, was so alluring.
Thank you @sagawards for our Best Ensemble Nomination! Just yesterday I laughed my way through the day and couldn’t believe that I get to call this work. It is truly a pleasure spending time with these lovely humans – the whole cast and crew! 🙏🏻😘@jennifer_euston_casting @lizflahive @secretmensch And thank you to our fellow @Sagaftra members for this recognition – we are so humbled and grateful for your support 😘
It must be kind of weird playing two different roles within one character. Do you battle with the fact that one of those (Fortune Cookie) is a stereotype?
Playing a stereotype at first felt strange because I spend my life trying not to be a stereotype. But at the same time, these characters are feeling empowered by being in the ring. They’re using wrestling as their outlet to take out their aggression and to feel powerful. They are also able to find a camaraderie and a bond with these other women. Because there’s so much trust that has to go into wrestling, it feels like we’re really in it together in the ring. So when we’re playing these stereotypes in the ring it feels like we’re not alone in it.
How does it feel to work with a predominantly female cast?
It was awesome to be able to work with so many women because the energy is so different. The way that we all feel, even in our costumes, is treated so differently. I mean, we’re wearing leotards, we’re showing a lot of our bodies and I think it’s done with such sensitivity and celebration of so many unique body types. I feel like only women can have such sensitivity to that when portraying it on screen. So, I love that we’re working with a team of women because I’m not self-conscious. I can go, ‘I’m not feeling great today, but that’s okay!’ and we bond over these things. So, it’s just this kind of feeling of ‘Fuck it! I’m just going to go out and be this and that’s enough!’ and that energy spreads and it’s empowering. It’s awesome.
Since we’re talking about women, I’ve noticed that (along with stereotyping) the show touches on sexism in the workplace in the first season. Is that something that continues on into season 2?
Definitely. That feeling that you’re talking about in Season 1 is a big part of Season 2. As we see the women take on different roles within the creation of the wrestling series, we see the conflict that they have to face in a world that is mostly dominated by white men. And in the ‘80s, there were issues when women tried to have more power or were trying to be successful. What the show has in Season 2 is something that is becoming more and more talked about today. It’s always existed, but I think it’s important to continue the conversation so that women can continue to feel like we have a safe place to be heard and to finally have these hard discussions that have been a burden or a secret for so long.
I remember reading online about how much you loved the role you played in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Knives Chau had this fully-fledged character arc, which isn’t something that women always get, especially when it comes to minority actresses. Will we see more of Jenny’s story in the next season?
I definitely feel like after working on Scott Pilgrim I felt so spoiled because I was able to play a character with a full story arc. That was one of my first experiences in film and TV so I feel like I didn’t realize that there weren’t very many of those roles until I really started going out for stuff and I started to feel a little bit boxed in. But that’s what I love about our show! Right now I do feel like there is a place to have my voice heard. It’s a huge ensemble so it’s going to take time to be able to see who each of these girls are, but we definitely start to see a little bit of each of them in a different way than we did in the first season. And I feel like my voice is heard a lot off-screen, too. You know, just being able to have these types of conversations off-screen with the cast and with the creators and within our character meetings, it just feels like we’re breaking down these walls and there’s room to breathe. We all support each other.
So, what’s a fun memory you have from being on set?
We don’t have this anymore because of the way that everything is spread out, but in the first season we had what we called the Glow Alley. Because of the way that they had it situated, our trailers were all facing one another and it felt like an alleyway. We literally would open all the doors, come out in these crazy costumes and it was just the craziest time. It was a really great bonding experience.
Is Toronto still home for you?
I love Toronto. It will always be my home because every time I come back I have this feeling of comfort and feeling nurtured in some way. I don’t get that anywhere else I go in the world. And so, you know, no matter where I live and work, whenever I come back here I feel like I’m home.
Do you have any favourite places in the city?
My favourite restaurant is Joso’s. It’s a great seafood restaurant owned by a Croatian family and I love it because it feels like you’re part of the family when you go. I love Manic Coffee on Bathurst and Bloor, that’s another sort of neighbourhood gem that I just adore (mainly because the cups come with these cute little squirrels on them). I love stuff like that. Common is another one of my favourite coffee shops. I just like cozy little nooks and there are a bunch of those in Toronto.