It’s been a year since Netflix‘s wrestling comedy “GLOW” hit our screens and we’re a week away from it’s second season dropping on the streaming platform. The show, set in the 80’s, became an instant success thanks to its unique, neon-lit brand of humor. In “GLOW,” a plethora of diverse and highly talented women lead the cast, including Sunita Mani.
“GLOW” stars Alison Brie (“Community”) as Ruth Wilder, a struggling actress who auditions to be a part of an emerging reality show, Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling aka GLOW. Her ex-best friend Debbie Eagen (Betty Gilpin) also joins the show, causing unprecedented tensions between both of them. Mani stars as Arthie Premkumar, a fellow contestant on GLOW.
Arthie is an Indian-American pre-med student who needs to make money and auditions for the reality show. She is quiet at first but after befriending the rest of the ladies, Arthie comes more and more into the limelight, accepting her glorious avatar.
In the show within the show, all of the GLOW wrestling women adopt heightened personalities and fight each other while the audience watches. Ruth Wilder transforms into Zoya the Destroyer, a Russian fighting pro, complete with a heavy accent. She gets to battle out against Debbie Eagen’s Liberty Belle, the American heroine. “GLOW” tends to dramatize these moments to full effect, making even the wrestling scenes extremely fun and glamorous.
Mani’s Arthie Premkumar morphs into Beirut the Mad Bomber for her wrestling scenes. She dons a camouflage outfit, a vest that has fake bombs on it, and enters the arena only to get booed by the audience. Who wants to see a fake terrorist win a fake wrestling match, right? Arthie is elated at the negative reaction because it means people are paying attention.
In an interview with Nylon, Mani commented on the possible stereotypes of her character Arthie and also Beirut the Mad Bomber. “I’m playing a new-to-acting Indian-American woman who is stereotyped and cast as an Arab, and thusly a terrorist, but I am also, as an Indian-American, playing a stereotype to make a comment on it. It was exciting to figure out the role and the conversation, even though I can’t always pinpoint how I feel about it. I went from being nervous to play a loaded stereotype to being very ready, like, ‘Let’s do this.'”
Like Mani claims, “GLOW” takes the loaded stereotype trope to turn it into commentary of sorts, whether its through Arthie’s Arab personality, Russia versus America via Ruth and Debbie, or any of its female wrestling stars. “GLOW” works mainly because all of the ladies, especially Brie and Gilpin, fully embrace the madness of the show. The women of GLOW are just trying to set their course and make something of themselves, even if the method is bonkers.
Mani’s performance, whether its mild mannered Arthie or crazed out Beirut the Bomber, is wonderful. Mani’s previous credits include TV shows like “Mr. Robot,” “Search Party,” “The Good Place.” She’s also a terrific dancer and comedian. Hopefully, she gets an even bigger role in “GLOW” season 2, which premieres on Netflix on June 29.