For the stars and creative team of Heels, the Starz drama is more than just an inside look at the world of professional wrestling. Heels tackles universal themes that extend far beyond the the scripted fights and spandex-clad heroes and villains of DWL for a deep and resonating story of passion, brotherhood, forgiveness and more.
“This show that Michael [Waldron] has created that we’ve all worked on is very deep,” said writer and showrunner Mike O’Malley during the show’s TCA panel on Thursday.
Penned by Waldron and O’Malley, Heels follows brothers Jack Spade (Stephen Amell) and Ace Spade (Alexander Ludwig) who seek to bring back their family-owned indie wrestling promotion and carry on their father’s legacy. In the ring, somebody must play the good guy and somebody must play their nemesis, the heel. But in the real world, those characters can be hard to live up to — or hard to leave behind.
Of the themes explored in the series, O’Malley shared that contrition was one he was most “excited about going into.” He shared that the series also takes a dive into community and perseverance, themes and messages that are often overshadowed by the wrestling itself. In addition to showing the vulnerable sides and personal lives of its lead professional wrestlers, Heels also thrusts the indie wrestling scene to the spotlight.
Amell, who has his own history with major promotions like WWE, said that Heels highlights the opportunity to explore one’s wrestling persona within the indie space – as both Jack and Ace do when scripting their matches.
“The cool thing about the indies, is it is where wrestlers get to work themselves out and see where their characters go,” he said.
Heels further taps into the indie wrestling scene, with Luke Hawx, a professional wrestler and CEO of indie promotion Wildkat Sports serving as a consultant on the project. When working alongside members of the wrestling community, Ludwig said his “respect for the men and women that do this just exponentially grew.”
In the indie promotion of DWL, Ludwig added that “there’s really no limit to how far you can take” Ace’s character. He shared that exploring Ace as a wrestler, allowed him to do even more deep diving for his character outside the ring.
“What I loved about Ace is that he’s such a paradox… in the ring he’s this rock star, he’s just this bigger than life personality and outside of the ring, yes there’s elements of that but it’s also just a total mess,” he said of his character. “I mean he’s a child who lost his daddy and can’t figure it out, you know he’s just a broken man. So I think that that was so much fun to play because in a lot of ways, it really emulates how we all live our life regularly.”
During the panel the Heels team spoke about missing out on indie matches due to the Covid-19 pandemic and more. Additional cast members present for the Thursday panel were Alison Luff, Mary McCormck, Kelli Berglund, James Harrison and Allen Maldonado.
Waldron and O’Malley executive produce Heels with Peter Segal, who also directs several episodes. Additional EPs are LBI Entertainment’s Julie Yorn, Christopher Donnelly and Patrick Walmsley. Heels is produced by Lionsgate TV for Starz in association with Paramount Television Studios.
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