It’s been a while since we have seen Alex Riley on television. But the man born as Kevin Kiley will be back on your screens starting on June 23 in the role of Steel Horse, the big babyface in the new Netflix series GLOW.
Apart from his televised appearances as a professional wrestler, GLOW is his first “real” acting gig. Kiley said that acting has always been a dream of his and a talent manager in Los Angeles told him that he had a good chance of making it as an actor after he saw a reel that he put together.
“He came across extremely straight forward (not sparing my feelings) which was refreshing. And more than anyone else he seemed to care how I developed as an actor, almost like a coach. I was set up right away with one of the best acting studios in Hollywood – Stan Kirsch Studios,” Kiley explained.
Then October 2016 came about and while still living in Florida, he got the call about the GLOW audition. There was only a short time to send in the tape to GLOW casting director Liz Barnes, but the timing did not effect his chances. “Not long after I submitted the tape, I got the phone call from my manager saying ‘You got the job and you need to be in LA in 5 days.’” And just like that, Kiley jumped in his GMC Yukon along with his dog Slash and drove to California.
This GLOW series is inspired by the 80s television show of the same name and Kiley thought that the original show was fantastic. “I have tremendous respect for the women that were a part of the original GLOW and for the ones that took on this project. I have a lot of respect for any women who even attempts pro wrestling at any level,” he said.
GLOW showcases actresses and female professional wrestlers as exactly what they are: strong, beautiful, talented, and fearless people. “Just being on set with Britney Young, Jackie Tohn, Allison Brie, and Betty Gilpin, I can tell you they hit turn buckles just as hard as any guy I’ve ever seen.”
Kiley recalled how many women from the original cast of GLOW told him how they had fallen in love with professional wrestling after being part of the show. “Like the 1980’s GLOW, I believe the 2017 GLOW will expand the boundaries of the sport of women’s wrestling and will re-affirm women as just as strong, just as tough, and just fearless as anyone in any sport.”
In this series, Kiley plays the character of Steel Horse. It was only for one episode and as you might have guessed, he is also in a wrestling ring doing what he knows best: wrestling.
The character of Steel Horse came with a detailed breakdown of what the creators of the show Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch wanted out of the character. “He is the ultimate baby faced hero. With a clean-shaven, clean-cut look, he is the most popular and well known male character in the first season of GLOW,” Kiley said.
The scenes he was involved in took the whole day to film and was split in two. The first part was spent filming the in-ring scenes, redoing the same moves from every angle possible until it was perfect. “It was an amazing experience. I loved the process. I worked very closely with Emmy Award winning director Phil Abraham,” Kiley said.
Working with him in the ring was Joey Ryan, another professional wrestler who has a role in GLOW. Ryan plays the heel and Kiley said that Ryan was incredible to work with. “When I met him in person I knew right away the day was going to go smoothly. His movements seemed effortless. You want a guy that’s a pro at not only kicking your ass but also getting hit, and will do both with zero ego,” he explained.
Kiley described Joey Ryan as someone who reminded him of WWE Intercontinental champion The Miz as The Miz would always try his best to make his opponent’s moves look as good as possible. “Anyone that is a fan of pro wrestling knows that sometimes that’s not the case but believing the man you are sharing the ring with is there for the show and is tough as nails, makes all the difference in the world.”
Ryan did end up drawing the short end of the stick though as by the time they were done with every camera angle, he was on the receiving end of around 50 spinebusters in total. “I remember his back turning purple and starting to swell up. He hit everyone with the same effort and intensity. That is a pro wrestler! A dude that’s tough as hell and can give as well as take!”
Kiley also had good things to say about the people behind the show for signing Chavo Guerrero to be the fight coordinator to honor the Guerrero family. His uncle Mando was the fight coordinator for the original GLOW series back in the 80s. “I have always been close with Chavo, in fact, he was one of my first matches in WWE and I always thought he was honest and trustworthy guy as well as being one of the best pro wrestlers who ever lived. It was pleasure to work with him again in Los Angeles. Between the three of us and Phil Abraham, we settled on choreography that I think a loyal wrestling audience will enjoy and respect.”
After filming his wrestling scenes, it was a small break for lunch and then back on set for the second part of the day.
“As soon as we wrapped for lunch the Assistant Director pointed at me, giving me the ‘get over here’ finger. When I walked over he said alright you know your stuff? I said, yes. “And he immediately responded with let’s hear it!’”
Apart from his in-ring work, Kiley had some lines he had to deliver unlike the majority of other well-known professional wrestlers who appear in the series. Kiley said he was prepared for it and knew every vowel and syllable of that text inside and out, front to back.
“I had even worked out what Steel Horse would be doing or thinking before he got into the scene and were he might go after the scene ended or in season 2. I knew Steel Horse very well by time I got to the set.” He was so prepared and completely immersed in the particular scene that sometimes he forgot it wasn’t real. ”It was an amazing way to begin my transition into acting and an experience I will never forget.”
The backstage scene also had a close encounter with Betty Gilpin, one of the stars of the show who plays the character of Debbie. Debbie is the beautiful blond who is presented as the all-American face of the series.
“Betty was amazing. The scene concludes with some ‘extra drama’ and something I was unfamiliar with as an actor,” Kiley said. “She was very nice and understanding of how personal the scene would become and was extremely professional. You could tell she had enormous respect for the situation. She kept saying ‘relax darling you’re killing it.’ For some reason I’ll never forget ‘darling!’”
Kiley said that overall he was extremely fortunate to work with Gilpin as well as Britney Young and Jackie Thon who were all part of the scene.
In the backstage scene with Debbie, Steel Horse gives her a lecture on how you don’t have to be friends with one another to work with each other, a theme that pretty much dominated the whole GLOW series. But how very true is that in real life in the wrestling business?
Kiley said that he had experiences of that while working as a professional wrestler, with stories similar to that of any office in any business. “Most times when two people truly don’t like each other, it brings out the best in their work on a competitive level. It’s certainly true with pro wrestling. I’ll leave it at that!”
With his role in GLOW all wrapped up, Kiley also recently played a fight commentator in the indie feature ‘Glass Jaw’ although there’s no release date yet. Needless to say, he’s looking for a career in Hollywood now.
Kiley said that he feels very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to compete in Hollywood against the best the business has to offer. “I have made some great friends already in the industry and love the process of acting. I love reading scripts and the high you get from being on a movie set. This has always been a dream of mine.”
The man formerly known as Alex Riley added the he owes a lot of thanks, including thanks to his parents and brother as well as WWE.
“Being a part of that company for 10 years taught me things that I couldn’t have learned anywhere else. The WWE will test you to the very core of who you are. They will challenge you in militaristic ways both mentally and physically. I owe thanks to anyone that ever-supported Kevin Kiley, Alex Riley and who ever will now be tuning in on the 23rd to watch GLOW on Netflix. Because of all of these people I am allowed to continue living a dream and for Steel Horse, the ride continues…”