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Heels Season 2: A must watch for wrestling fans [Our chat with the cast]

Fans of the DWL are finally going to get to head back to Duffy, Georgia after two long years away. Heels, starring Stephen Amell (Arrow) and Alexander Ludwig (Vikings, Bad Boys for Life), is returning for Season 2. The premiere has been set for Friday, July 28 at 10pm EST, on the Starz Network.

Cageside Seats had a chance to chat with several cast members about the upcoming season, and while we will not be diving into any specific spoilers in this article, certain plot details from the first season will be discussed.

If you haven’t had the chance to catch up on everything that happened from the episodes that aired in 2021, you have officially been warned.

Shooting for the upcoming season wrapped up last July, but after post-production was completed some corporate red tape caused the final cuts to sit in limbo for several months.

When Lionsgate announced its intentions to spin-off from Starz and become it’s own entity, there we’re questions raised about which property belonged where. By the time everything was cleared up, Stephen Amell says the opportunity to air new episodes of Heels in 2022 had passed.

“I think we basically missed a window by a couple of weeks in the fall... we’re not a January, February show, we’re a summer show. So, [the network] just waited. I would really encourage people to catch it up,” Amell said. “Even though we have taken a break between the first season and the second season, in terms of like airing it, the actual storyline takes place seconds, basically, in the immediate aftermath of when we ended season one.”

The first season of Heels, in it’s entirety, is now available on demand on the Starz Network for no extra cost for those fans who need a refresher.

As for season two, Amell once again sits atop the dome of relevancy in the little fictional town of Duffy. He plays Jack Spade, a full-time independent wrestling promoter and part-time lawn mower salesman who is struggling to keep everything in his life balanced.

While trying to fulfill his late father’s dream of making the Duffy Wrestling League a financial success, Jack finds trouble at every turn.

When we last saw Jack, his brother had just blown the big main event title match after finding out that Jack — with the assistance of CM Punk’s Ricky Rabies — helped orchestrate Ace Spade’s unwanted heel turn. After finding out about Jack’s betrayal of Ace, on top of the mounting stress and tension between the couple, his wife Staci took their son Thomas and moved out of their home.

As his family relationships crumble down around him, Jack finds himself in a constant financial chokehold as he attempts to keep the DWL afloat — much like his father before him.

Then, there’s the ongoing struggles with rival promotion FWD — Florida Wrestling Dystopia. A wrestling show, run by Mike O’Malley’s Charlie Gully, that leans more into hardcore violence to draw a crowd.

Gully isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty in his attempts to take down the DWL. He resorts to vandalism, sabotage and talent poaching just to stick it to Jack Spade.

O’Malley also serves as the series showrunner. He, along with Heels creator Michael Waldron, have done an excellent job of mirroring today’s real life pro wrestling landscape. Where sometimes the storylines that exist outside the ring are just more compelling than the ones playing out inside the ring.

“You’re seeing it in professional wrestling right now, both in AEW and WWE, where... if you find the right marriage between the backstage politics and the in-ring action, that’s really the sweet spot.” Stephen Amell said. “That’s gonna bring the best out of the performers. And when you see real, genuine emotion displayed in the ring, that resonates with the audience. Both in the arena, or the dome, and then the television audience. And so, that’s where you want to cook in professional wrestling.”

Season 2 really stretches Jack to his limits, which causes him to finally seek help from those around him at the DWL. Pending litigation and potential financial ruin meantime, literally forces him to work with his most hated rival — Charlie Gully and the FWD — while the two promotions are simultaneously battling against one another to secure a streaming rights deal.

“The fact that [Jack] has to then work in partnership with Gully and Rooster and the FWD, and that he’s forced to, it’s just like, you can just see it destroying this guy. And, ultimately, it doesn’t end that well for him.”

There’s some ominous foreshadowing for you... again though, no spoilers.

As Jack Spade’s life rides a continuous downward spiral, his brother Ace finds himself with a front row ticket on the world’s largest emotional rollercoaster. Alexander Ludwig truly explores the great depths that life can offer someone over the eight episode run this season, as his character tries to reconcile who he is, with the person he aspires to be.

“He is a very flawed human being, as we all are. I love exploring that,” Ludwig said. “This show is just as much about identity as it is about family and as it is about mental health. Ace [has been] going through his own identity crisis since season one. And now you kind of finally start seeing him lean into, who he was always meant to be. And that’s a really exciting thing.”

Despite teases that he will seek to rebuild his life elsewhere this season, Ace’s road to finding himself brings him right back to Duffy. A familiar home where the younger Spade brother is able to find a new path in life and that path... puts him in one of the most disgusting situations ever played out on television series.

“Dude, when I read that scene, I was dying. It was brilliant, brilliant,” Ludwig said with a big smile on his face.

“So was I.” Amell chimed in after having a good chuckle when Cageside Seats brought up that particular scene.

Were not going to just chuck up the details, but don’t say we didn’t try to warn you.

In addition to family and mental health, as Ludwig mentioned, another underlying theme of the series is grief. Jack and Ace are both still struggling in the aftermath of their father’s suicide, which took place about a year prior to the events of the show’s pilot episode.

Much of this new season takes the audience back to see the immediate shockwave that the death of King Spade sent across the town of Duffy.

With the ghost of their father’s failures hanging over their heads, Jack and Ace are able to find common ground. The brothers combine their efforts in an all out attempt to succeed where the King did not.

“Suddenly these guys get an inkling of what [the DWL] actually could be,” Alexander Ludwig said. “And for the first time, I think in Heels’ history, you start to see the road to success. Granted there’s gonna be a lot of obstacles along the way, but I do think that for the first time you see what a massive promotion this really could be — on a national scale.”

Jack Spade (Stephen Amell), Ace Spade (Alexander Ludwig)
Starz Network

The extremely talented Mary McCormack is reprising her role of Willie Day, the former valet and friend of King Spade turned managing producer of the DWL.

Willie is a character who breaks away from the typical female standards in Hollywood. McCormack mentioned the tendency for actresses to take on the super mom role. A woman who can be tough, hard-nosed and excel at her job, while also being the kind-hearted presence at home.

McCormack’s portrayal of Willie, in season 2 especially, shines a light on the complex lives that women truly lead.

“I really appreciate how they wrote her. How they continue to write her. I love that she’s, you know, sort of a hot mess at home. Not sort of, is a hot mess. I mean there [are] some pretty dark moments and I just love that.” McCormack said. “There’s a sort of tendency sometimes in lesser writing to have the women characters be the moral center of the piece... [Willie] is just more human than that, you know? I love that they wrote her excellent at some stuff, and sort of, really s—ty at other stuff.”

Willie Day is a dedicated woman, who is very good at her job. But she’s also conflicted, bitter, and is holding a closet door shut to keep all of King Spade’s old skeleton’s from spilling out into the public eye.

Heavy lay the head who picked up the King’s crown. The writers on Heels make it look as though Jack Spade is doing most of the heavy lifting, but this season we find out just how integral Willie is to the DWL’s survival and the toll that has taken on her and her family.

“It’s brave to write a woman who’s not a great wife and mother. It’s brave because we’re [not used to it]. It makes people go like... [gestures]. It’s hard to watch.”

Michael Waldron and Mike O’Malley have not shied away from women’s issues in wrestling. The first season of the show detailed the rise of women in this business and their struggles to earn respect for their abilities, instead of being judged and utilized solely for their appearance.

It’s an issue that transcends wrestling, but without question, the booking of female talent has undergone the largest evolution in the sport over the past several years.

Trish Stratus is widely regarded as one of the all time greats. A seven-time Women’s Champion and WWE Hall of Famer. Her extended return to the company this summer has given Trish the opportunity to take part in a number of firsts in her career, that have become customary for almost the rest of the women in the locker room today — like participating in something as simple as a contract signing.

There wasn’t a Women’s Royal Rumble back in Trish’s heyday. Women didn’t get to compete in ladder matches or cage matches. They were lucky if their spot on the show didn’t get cut down to mere minutes or off of the card completely.

Important to note, the evolution is not complete. Booking improvements for women’s rosters can be made across nearly every major promotion, but the industry has still come a long way.

McCormack was excited to see Heels tackle women’s struggles in professional wrestling, highlighted by her character’s past and a young talent who reminds Willie of the dreamy-eyed woman she used to be.

“It’s actually just rich and fun and dynamic and people love to watch women wrestle, McCormack said. “It’s silly for us to do a wrestling show without [a women’s division]. When we first started the show, I was sort of like, there’s something missing. It seems odd that that we don’t have a women’s division. But I love the way it sort of unfolded. I think it’s very believable. It’s a tiny, tiny, tiny town and a tiny, tiny division of independent wrestling. So I believe it, that there was no money for that and no resources for that.”

Willie Day (Mary McCormack), Jack Spade (Stephen Amell)

But as any wrestling promoter worth their salt will tell you — plans change. Sometimes out of necessity. In the case of an injury, for one example. Other times, you get a golden goose that falls into your lap and you’d be a fool to ignore it.

At the end of the first season of Heels, Crystal Tyler — played by the fabulous Kelli Berglund — had her Becky Lynch moment. She wasn’t bloodied and concussed by an errant punch, but her quick action to save the main event of the South Georgia State Fair — amid chaos and attempted sabotage — propelled her to superstardom by the next morning.

Tyler started the triple threat ladder match as a valet named Bunny Bombshell, but by the final bell she was the DWL Champion and the biggest star at Jack Spade’s disposal. The impromptu finish threw Spade and Willie a few creative curve balls.

“They’re faced with this issue of, how do we sustain it? We can’t have [Crystal] being beaten on by men every week and we can’t have her beating up every single guy, every week. Like, both won’t work. So what do we do?”

Making a call to AJ Mendez (fka AJ Lee) is a good start. Wrestling fans rejoice. The former three-time WWE Divas Champion not only has a multiple episode run this season, but she returns to in-ring action for the first time since her sudden retirement in the spring of 2014.

Granted, it’s not exactly the same thing, but fans will be more than thrilled with what Mendez brings to the table as Elle Dorado. Both from an acting and in-ring stand point, as she breaks out a few of her classic moves and taunts while performing inside the Duffy Dome.

“So great. And CM Punk... it’s so cool when the real wrestlers [are part of the show]. First of all, they’re all good actors, which should be no surprise. And they’re all like, total pros. They whine a whole lot less than [actors]. These guys... they make us look so soft,” Mary McCormack joked before expounding upon pro wrestlers transitioning to Hollywood. “Storytelling is storytelling and being engaging and holding an audience captive... they’re excellent at it and they’re used to a lot more hard work than [actors] are.”

Jack and Willie brought Elle Dorado, a seasoned vet who’s wrestled all over the South, into the fold to give Kelli Berglund’s character a real first rival and suddenly, the new DWL Champion started to show a bit of trepidation. It’s the first time she had been put in the ring with a woman who has significantly more experience than her and you start to see Crystal doubt her newly earned position in the company.

It sounds like the woman behind Crystal Tyler would have no reason to doubt herself. Kelli Berglund dove right into the deep end with her training and has been very impressive through both seasons.

“She’s incredible in the ring. Like, she doesn’t skip workouts.” McCormack said. “She came in, I think, knowing very, very little about wrestling and was like, I guess I’ll start working out a lot. And like she’s jacked now and does way more in the ring than I think the insurance guys are happy with.”

Allen Maldonado plays the cocky Rooster Robbins, who bolted for rival FWD when he felt that Jack Spade was purposefully holding him back as a member of the DWL locker room.

Maldonado is a man who clearly likes to joke around and have some fun, but he takes his craft and his preparation very seriously.

“The training starts months before we even start filming and then throughout filming is the challenge of, not just maintaining your physique, but then you got all this good food roaming around. Crafty [craft services, catering] haunting you as you try to stay in tiptop shape. But, ultimately it’s [about being] able to have the stamina and the ability to just go in the ring and do as many stunts as we’re allowed to do. And, you know, really represent wrestlers in a way that really showcases the hard work that they do on a regular basis.”

All of the cast members we had the chance to speak with, really wanted to showcase the level of respect they have for professional wrestlers. Specifically how they train and what they put their bodies through.

Well, eventually they all shared that sentiment.

“I just showed up and did it, man. I was ready. You know what I mean?” Trey Tucker said to a chorus of laughter with a deadpanned expression on his face.

Tucker, who took on the role of wrestling rookie Bobby Pin in season one, is back for another year. The kind-hearted, and often naive, Texan doesn’t see much in-ring action this go around unfortunately. Pin is still recovering from the broken leg he suffered at the hands of Ace Spade in season one, and finds himself taking on a variety of different supporting roles this season - including as the Duffy color commentator.

After soaking in the laughter from his initial joke, Tucker cracked a sly smile before admitting that the prep he went through to get ready for the role of Bobby Pin was intense.

“The guys who do this for a living, they’re working on it all the time. That’s why they look as good doing it, as they do. And if we mean what we say and we want to respect the industry of wrestling and what these guys put themselves through, we gotta show up and do the same thing.” Tucker said. “It’s a lot of work. And if anything, it makes us respect these guys who can do it for a living, even more.”

Tucker made sure to mention, hard work aside, it’s also fun to get in the ring and live out some childhood fantasies. What kid, who watched wrestling growing up, didn’t want to go flying off the top rope? Some cast members expressing just a bit jealousy.

“I wanna get in the ring. Would they let met me at my age?” Mary McCormick jokingly asked. “I would love to see it happen. It’s what Willie missed out on. She wants in.”

McCormick did get a tiny taste of in-ring action this season, but she’s hungry for more. If Michael Waldron and Mike O’Malley are reading this, how about booking Willie Day in a match for Heels season 3? Or do you not have the GUTS?

Sorry Mike, couldn’t resist.

Willie’s time to shine, sadly, will not happen in season 2, but hopefully there will be another day for that to happen.

Heels season 2 absolutely delivers, particularly on the two key items fans want to see from a wrestling show — great in-ring action and compelling storylines.

Oh and a massive cliffhanger that’s going to have you begging for a third season. Hopefully if\when Starz gives the show the greenlight for another season, we don’t have to wait another two years to find out what happens next.

Check out the video at the top of the page to see our full conversations with members of the Heels cast, including Stephen Amell, Alexander Ludwig, Mary McCormack, Allen Maldonado, Robby Ramos, and Trey Tucker.

You can follow Rick Ucchino on Twitter and subscribe to the Bleav in Pro Wrestling Podcast Channel for more of his work.

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