TV role a ballet good move.............................
The small screen is a pleasant change for Bunheads star Sutton Foster, writes Guy Davis
SUTTON Foster may not be a familiar face to many TV viewers, but that doesn’t mean the multi-talented performer hasn’t paid her dues. While her biggest TV role to date was a brief but memorable stint as Bret’s girlfriend on the cult comedy Flight of the Conchords, Foster is an acclaimed musical-theatre veteran with 15 years’ experience on Broadway and two Tony Awards to her name.
But now the singer-dancer-actor is making a shift, taking on the lead role in Bunheads, the new series from Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino.
Playing Michelle, a former Las Vegas showgirl who ends up overseeing a small-town dance studio full of aspiring young ballerinas (the ‘‘bunheads’’, because of their shared hairstyle), has resulted in something of a culture shock.
‘‘It’s definitely a huge life change. I had been living in New York for 15 years, I had never really spent time out here in Los Angeles, and so I was sort of just taking a leap,’’ she says. Not unlike her Bunheads character, one might say. ‘‘It was a total parallel,’’ she says. ‘‘Brand-new town, brand-new job and (thinking), ‘Is this going to be a good thing? Is this going to work?’ But it’s been really nice.’’ How is starring on a TV series different from starring in a stage show?
I’m coming from a world of theatre where every day is the same, and there’s a comfort in that. But on TV, once you’re done with a scene, you never do it again. You’ve got 40 people staring at you with a camera and lights, there’s no time to be scared or to be like, ‘‘I don’t know how’’. There are days where I’m like, ‘‘I can’t do it’’. But you work through it and move on to something else. Have you been recognised more since Bunheads premiered?
It’s definitely changed. It’s always been very nice and positive. But I was followed in the grocery store by a gaggle of 10-year-olds, and that cracked me up. I just heard, ‘‘You go after her’’. ‘‘No, you go after her.’’ I’m standing there looking at cereal and there are four little girls. They come up behind me and they’re like, ‘‘Are you on Bunheads?’’ And I’m like, ‘‘I am’’. They said, ‘‘Oh my god. I told you. We love that show.’’ It was so sweet.
How do you view your Bunheads character, Michelle? In a way, Michelle is the villain. That’s not the right word, but she is wreaking havoc. I love her because she’s flawed but trying, and it’s fun to play such a messy character. It’s neat to be in a show that’s about dance and teaching and relationships, so it was just a no-brainer. How is your relationship with the girls playing your students?
At first they thought I was cool, and now I don’t know. They’re wonderful girls. We work really hard but we have a great time. When we shot the pilot they were like, ‘‘I saw you in (Broadway show) The Drowsy Chaperone’’ or ‘‘I saw you in Anything Goes’’. Each of them had a story, which was very cool. I’ve always tried to maintain a really professional manner on set, while also having fun as well. It was just trying to keep a balance with them.
I don’t necessarily know if I want to be their mentor, or if they need me to be a mentor, but I do want to be a good example and say, ‘‘Hey, look, you can work hard, you can be a good person, you can treat people respectfully and you can have success’’. And that’s important to me, but they’re already great. There’s not a bad apple in the bunch. They’re really great kids, and we have a great time together.
Bunheads, Mondays, 7.30pm, pay TV’s Fox8.