1 of 5 | Kelli Berglund (L) and Mary McCormick star in "Heels" Season 2. Photo courtesy of Starz
NEW YORK, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- The West Wing and In Plain Sight alum Mary McCormack says Willie -- the minor-league, pro wrestling group manager she plays on Heels -- is thrilled to be heading a new women's division in Season 2 of the Starz drama. New episodes air Fridays.
Set in rural Georgia, the show follows Willie as she shepherds wrestling stars and sibling rivals Jack (Stephen Amell) and Ace (Alexander Ludwig), who are trying to define success for themselves, while keeping the Duffy League afloat after the suicide of their father.
Season 1 ended with the brothers brawling and Ace's valet and love interest Crystal (Kelli Berglund) jumping into the unscripted fray to claim the coveted championship belt for herself.
"The family drama continues. The brothers are still up to their craziness," McCormack, 54, told UPI in a recent Zoom interview conducted before the Screen Actors Guild strike in July.
"Willie continues to be the thing that sort of keeps it together. She's the brains of the operation, on at least the management side of it."
Introducing a women's division into the Duffy "promotion" or franchise grew out of Crystal's bold move and Willie's mentoring of her after it.
"We're figuring out, 'Well, she has the belt now. She's the champ. How do we sustain that?'" McCormack said.
"We can't have her beating up men every week. That's not believable and we can't have her being beaten up by men every week. That's not sustainable, either."
Crystal's triumph shaped the Season 2 storyline and the attitudes of some of the male characters reluctant to welcome women into the ring.
"Women's wrestling is everywhere and it's huge and it has a massive fanbase and is big business, so it would be unrealistic for us to not get into that world," McCormack said.
It isn't difficult to believe it took the cash-strapped Duffy League this long to try something new, however, since all of its stars have day jobs and Willie is literally fighting to keep the lights on at the arena.
"We have no resources. It's five local guys wrestling. It's a tiny independent league, trying to make ends meet. I love the way they introduce [a new division]," McCormack said.
"Willie has been waiting in the wings. She didn't even ever consider [wrestling herself] as a possibility. She would have loved to have been Crystal. So watching her dreams fulfilled through her mentee is exciting."
Willie is feeling important and fulfilled in her new role, even as Jack and Ace seem to be at a crossroads regarding their family dynamic and business partnership.
"She was so into policing them in the past and, I think, in this moment, when Jack leaves to go find Ace and she is left to book matches and write [scripts] for the first time, she is more interested in that," she said.
This explains why Willie appears detached when Ace takes off and Jack is "clearly destroyed" because he can't coax him home, the actress added.
"I almost can't take him in," she said. "I'm so excited about a woman's division, so excited about Crystal, that I'm almost not registering him."
The actress said she understands why Willie loves this circus-style life so much.
"I've done a lot of research about people who love wrestling and it's no joke," she said. "I love it now, but when I see wrestlers, talk to wrestlers, watch interviews with wrestlers and fans, people don't take it casually. It's Willie's lifeblood."
But viewers don't need to be big pro wrestling fans to find something to connect to in Heels.
"I think everyone can relate to, if not life in a small town, then not having resources to make your dreams work and trying to make your dreams work anyway," McCormack said.
"That's something everyone can relate to and, also, identity, I think, is something we all wrestle with all the time. Who am I? And who am I at different stages of my life? Who am I if my kids are gone? Who am I if I am divorced? I think it's really relatable."
She likened viewers being surprised they have fallen in love with Heels to her own reluctance to sampling Friday Night Lights -- a drama about the lives of a high school football coach, his team and family in smalltown Texas -- on her husband's recommendation.
"I couldn't care less about football. Hard pass!" she recalled telling her spouse, director Michael Morris.
"And he was like, 'If you watch one and you don't want to watch anymore, you don't have to.' And I was in! Because it's not [only] about football. So, I don't think you have to be a wrestling fan to be invested in these characters."