Independent sensation Kayla Sparks made headlines earlier this year by being one of the few to make an appearance on both AEW and WWE programming on the same night. While her collective time on AEW Rampage and WWE SmackDown was short, the Kayla Sparks story is getting major spotlight in the entertainment world.

Against the Ropes follows the real-life Michaela Simmons, as played by Marissy Rose Brightman, as she navigates her teenage years en route to becoming Kayla Sparks, the professional wrestler. Speaking to Wrestling Inc.’s Liam Crowley, Brightman noted the inspiration to tell Sparks’s story came from show creator and executive producer Shane Alden’s pro wrestling fandom.

“Shane and I worked on a project together previously to this, and he actually wrestled with Kayla back in the day and knew Kayla for over 20 years,” Brightman said. “He also said he was listening to a podcast and was inspired by it. He always wanted to make a wrestling project because he has a background in wrestling. He was thinking about a few things, and decided to contact Kayla, and knowing her he was like, ‘Hey, what do you think of this?’ She was retired for a while, but she was completely on board.”

Once Sparks gave the green light, Brightman revealed it didn’t take much deliberation for Alden’s casting process.

“[Shane] actually remembered me from the last project, and was like, ‘I think she’d be perfect for it,'” Brightman said. “He reached out to me, and I was sitting on my couch. I got the message and the break down and I was in. Sign me up, let’s start.”

Before Against the Ropes, Brightman admittedly did not have much wrestling knowledge, but she quickly became enamored with the culture.

“I knew zero about wrestling going into this project, which was really exciting for me. I googled a lot of things and was talking to the producers about, ‘Hey, can you give me a sense of what kind of moves I’ll be doing so I can look them up?’ When they sent me the YouTube videos, either of themselves or Kayla, I was like, ‘Alright, I gotta watch some stuff,'” Brightman said. “I was watching Sasha Banks. Britt Baker. I then discovered Thunder Rosa, who came to our premiere. I was like, ‘Wow, they’re like superheroes!’ That’s where I pulled inspiration from, but mostly from Kayla because she was working with me one on one the entire time.”

Beyond the pomp and circumstance of the sport, Brightman emphasized she has a newfound respect for those who put themselves through the physicality of wrestling.

“I give them a lot of credit now. I did a few scenes and I was hurting for two weeks!” Brightman said. “I can only imagine what their bodies go through.”

That physicality is only second to the mental game of wrestling, which Against the Ropes unapologetically highlights. Mix that with the turmoils of adolescence and sexuality discovery, and this show’s narrative was born. Brightman hopes spotlighting these struggles while also showcasing the real-life positive outcomes will inspire the younger generation to be whoever they want to be.

“I want people to see this as more of a journey and not necessarily just the one time thing. I think it’s one of those things where we want to incorporate all of the aspects of growing up. Growing up as a teenager, you can’t pay me enough to go back. It is just an awkward and challenging age, but it’s so important to find who you are,” Brightman said. “As an actor and even as a person, I couldn’t see people like me on TV. I couldn’t see girls do dominant things like play football or wrestle or do anything like that.

“Being able to connect to people now, especially being in that younger generation as an actor, to tell those stories for my younger self, it’s really rewarding. I hope they get to see that we are here to make them feel like they are not alone. We are here for them to see that you can be whoever you want to be regardless of the household you grow up in or the people that you’re surrounded by at your school. The world is your oyster. You can do anything.”

Even with a full season completed, Brightman noted there is still much more of the Kayla Sparks story that her and her team want to tell.

“I am fully dedicated to this project. We are super excited and are trying to get ready for a possible Season 2. Hopefully this journey continues, and when it does we’re going to be ready,” Brightman said. “We can’t wait for everybody else to see more about Kayla, where she came from, and where she’s going to go.”

All eight episodes of Against the Ropes are available to watch on the “Against the Ropes” app, downloadable on any Roku or Amazon device. It can also be streamed on Strong Voices Television, as well as their website, svtvnetwork.com.

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