The parallels between Alison Brie’s “GLOW” character Zoya the Destroya and real-life WWE Hall of Famer Nikolai Volkoff are unmistakable. So when news broke that Volkoff died Sunday just as Netflix’s day at the Television Critics Association press tour was getting underway, TheWrap had to ask Brie if she based Zoya after “the Russian villain.”
As it turns out, even though Brie’s fictional in-ring persona is a Russian villain herself, the baddie wasn’t created with the late Volkoff in mind.
“No, I mean, I’m just learning that from you now,” Brie replied, when TheWrap asked the actress if she was aware of Volkoff’s death and if she had she taken any inspiration from him when crafting her character. “I’ve not based anything off of his work. Much of the research I do for the show is so specific to G.L.O.W., because it was a bit outside-the-box of mainstream wrestling, even when they were making it.”
“So, [Col.] Ninotchka, the Russian character on [the original] ‘G.L.O.W.,’ had been more of an inspiration to me, certainly trying to look more at women and the way they were doing that,” she continued, “but I’m very sad to hear that.”
Later, TheWrap spoke with co-creators/showrunners Carly Mensch and Liz Flahive to see if they had looked to Volkoff at all when shaping the fake Soviet Union resident who is at war with “GLOW”s American sweetheart, Liberty Belle (Betty Gilpin). The answer is no. But they see why one would make the connection.
“Stereotypes are tricky that way,” Mensch told TheWrap. “Because look, it’s 1985, the U.S. vs. Russia–”
“Have you seen ‘Rocky?'” Flahive said, jumping in to finish her partner’s thought.
“I think what we’re talking about in terms of a Russian wrestler in an America vs. Russia story is also trying to tap into the culture of the time, and the boogeyman of the time,” Flahive said.
“And we definitely watched tons of movies where there were Russian villains,” Mensch added. “We did a bunch of outside of the ring, ‘How did 1980’s cinema portray Russians?’ [research]… Wrestling is always going to be a window into the stereotypes of the time and you kind of drape them on people.”
“And we also have a Beirut and there is an Iron Sheik,” Mensch said, referencing Sunita Mani’s character, Arthie, who has the Middle Eastern in-ring persona of Beirut the Mad Bomber, and the real-life WWE star who was Volkoff’s tag team partner. “I think there are just certain stereotypes that like, you know, if you’re the boogeyman of the times it’s kind of unavoidable to become a wrestling character. And I think that we tried to forge our own, but knowing that’s like a giant fear, a national fear of the ’80s.”