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Sydelle Noel talks 'GLOW' Season 2, Olympic dreams

She was a promising track star until an unexpected injury derailed her.

Sydelle Noel arrives at a For Your Consideration

Sydelle Noel arrives at a For Your Consideration event for "GLOW" on May 30 in Los Angeles. Photo Credit: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Chris Pizzello

Never say never—that’s what Sydelle Noel learned on her way to becoming a breakout star in the Netflix comedy series “GLOW.”

         Growing up in Hollywood, Florida, Noel never took acting seriously. She was a promising track star and Olympic hopeful, until an unexpected injury derailed her dream. She “fell into” acting, she says, and last year earned critical acclaim on “GLOW” (the hit show about the real-life-inspired, ‘80s-era “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling,” which returns for an eagerly anticipated second season on Friday, June 29). Noel plays Cherry Bang, a washed-up stuntwoman training this motley crew of wrestlers, though when we last saw her at the end of season one it looks like she may have to choose between wrestling and a lead role in a new TV cop show.

Noel has also appeared in Marvel’s hit film “Black Panther” (as one of the Dorae Milaje), and recently shot “The Clearing” (an upcoming horror film) and “Daughter of the Wolf” (a thriller). She spoke with Newsday contributor Joseph V. Amodio.

“GLOW” is your first major TV series. Did shooting season two feel different from season one?

No. The girls and I are such good friends. That’s rare in a female cast. So it was like getting back together with your girlfriends again. Even with the wrestling—we weren’t rusty at all.

How handy are those wrestling moves in real life?

Every time anyone recognizes me, they don’t want an average picture—they want me to put them in a headlock.

Ha! Do you oblige?

All the time. It’s much better than just standing there smiling.

What’s up for Cherry Bang this season?

In the first season she was the mother figure, the coach, she took care of the girls. This season, Cherry goes through an emotional rollercoaster. She’s more vulnerable because of things that happen in her life…which I can’t really talk about. You’ll get to see a little bit of “Chambers & Gold” (the series within the series Cherry auditioned for in season one). So you’ll get a taste of both worlds.

Your costumes are outrageous. Do you have a favorite?

There are soooo many I love. Like the bathing suits she wore in the first season. There’s…a yellow spandex outfit you’ll see in season two. And a brown spandex leotard…. (She laughs.)  I could go on and on. Our stylist on set does a tremendous job.

Do you miss anything about your former track career?

Oh, I do. I see people I knew back in the day who are still running and I’m like, wow…I wonder what my life would be like if I hadn’t been injured? Every time the Olympics come around, I get a little bummed. I always miss it.

Maybe that’s made you more resilient.

I don’t take anything for granted now. I know I’m blessed to have this career. I know it’s not stable. “GLOW” could end tomorrow. As we speak, I’m learning lines for an audition—even on hiatus, I want to keep working. I’m not one to be settled. When I decided, okay, I want to go after acting, I tried to learn as much as possible. I interned at a casting director’s office, I was a P.A. (production assistant) on set, a second A.D. (assistant director). I learned behind the scenes.

Would you like to work behind the camera?

I’ve thought about it. I have a few outlined projects I’ve thought about directing.

Dramas? Comedies?

One’s a drama. It’s track-related, loosely based on my experience. 

Cool. Meantime, you just shot “Daughter of the Wolf,” starring Richard Dreyfuss.

Oh my gosh—working with him was amaaazing. It’s an action thriller. You get to see a lot of fighting…and Richard Dreyfuss slapping me around a little bit.

What’s that like?

Oh…well, he’s very “Method.” Very. He was really slapping, pulling. I took it like a champ.

Back when you were an aspiring Olympic athlete, and your hopes were dashed due to injury—I imagine you didn’t foresee this kind of turnaround.

I didn’t. When you’re young, and have that dream of being an athlete, especially an Olympic athlete, that’s it. There’s no plan B. So after my injury I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was in a slump for a year. Finally my sports agent suggested sports modeling. That led to commercials, then acting. In college I took a theater class—I was taking it as an “easy-A” class—and my professor at the time said, “You should consider switching to theater, you’re really good.” I laughed at him. (She laughs herself.) I said, “That’s not a major, that’s not a job. I’m an athlete—I’ll always be.” I wonder if he knows what’s happened—HE’S probably laughing now. 

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