June 18th, 2012 by thetvchick
Bunheads is back with an all new episode tonight and I am pretty excited about it. How is the town of Paradise going to deal with Hubbel’s death? Will it bring Fanny and Michelle closer together? And will the Bunheads rock the Joffrey audition? I recently had the chance to talk to Kelly Bishop (Fanny, but you know her as Emily Gilmore) on a media call. She shared her insight about the world of professional dance (and theater), why Gilmore Girls fans will enjoy Bunheads and what we can expect coming up.
Besides your relationship with Amy Sherman-Palladino, what made you want to do Bunheads?
Well, I love the character. I think she is so far removed from Emily Gilmore, and I really kind of want—as much as I totally enjoyed that character—this one’s a completely different kind of woman and she has the dance background, which I have, and it just seemed kind of like a nice fit.
Why do you think Gilmore Girls fans will like the show?
You’ve got that same pacing and the clever dialogue and the topical references and the historical references and all of the incredibly intelligent things that Amy puts into her scripts. I mean, you really have to be pretty sharp to—I felt that with Gilmore Girls and I think with this show too. You have to be on top of it. You have to pay attention, and the smarter you are, I think, the more you like it.
Do you have a preference for live theatre versus TV?
You know, they are so different and I love them both and I couldn’t quite decide. It’s sort of like if I’m doing one, I start yearning for the other. When I was doing Anything Goes, and I’ve been some stage work since Gilmore Girls. I’ve done some guest stuff too, but I was doing plays, and I started thinking, “Boy, I really miss working the television thing.” It’s not the schedule. Schedule on television is just horrendous in an hour-long show, but I miss the intimacy and there are so many levels in television that I’d missed. Of course, as soon as I’m doing this for a little while, I’m starting to think about a live audience again. So there are just very different techniques and there are hardships and joys in both. So I don’t think I do have a preference.
What is it that you find particularly challenging about your role?
It’s always challenging with Amy. Probably the very first thing that happens with Amy Sherman-Palladino is learning those words, because there are a lot of them. The challenges are really more pleasures. I’m not running into a wall or gnashing my teeth over any particular thing. It all is making sense to me and what I’m finding rather than challenge, I’m finding a real delight in being able to open up my personality in this character and being a little, oh I don’t know if zany is the right word, but a lot looser and doing things I would never have done with Emily—well, Emily Gilmore wouldn’t have done some of those things. Just some of my behavior is a little more outlandish, and that’s so much fun to sort of free that up. So we’ll see. I’m sure there are challenges down the road, but right now, I’m just grabbing on to those scripts and jumping inside, wrapping myself up in them and having a good time.
So as we saw in the pilot, there are some very special sets on this show, and especially with the main house and the dance studio. Do you like a favorite item, or a feature, from either of those sets?
Well if it was in the house, it would probably take me three or four years to see every item in that house. It’s insane. It’s crazy. There are clowns in there, kind of creepy clowns. I’m kind of enjoying the clowns. Then, there’s a wall of cuckoo clocks. So, I’ve really—it’s amazing to go onto the set because there is so much stuff there that you just keep wandering around and discovering other things if you can get through the clutter. So I think it’s the clowns though, because I find them a little bizarre. I keep looking at them and thinking do they come alive at night? When they shut down the lights and we all go away, do they start dancing around in here? So that house is a trip. I think the ballet studio is amazing—what they built. It’s just beautiful and workable too. You see people dancing on that set and so it’s—you know. Of course there are pictures of me on there. There are pictures of me when I was a dancer—on the walls, in different places on the set. So that’s always interesting to see yourself 40-50 years ago on a wall. I’m always impressed with the set building. The crew knocked me out. I’m just so amazed with what they do and the illusions they accomplish is quite brilliant.
What do you think Bunheads will be giving its teen viewers that other teenage shows don’t?
There’s something that Amy had said actually in the back during Gilmore Girls. In creating Gilmore Girls, she had said, “I am so tired of seeing teenagers on television who are wearing makeup and having dangly earrings and that are looking like little hookers walking around, with these really overly sophisticated quips.” She said, “I want a show where a teenager is a teenager is a kid.” That’s where she created that Rory character in Gilmore Girls. I think the four ballet dancer girls also have that same thing. There’s a level of innocence. There’s a level of being allowed to be a kid and not have to be an adult. That’s going to come soon enough and that stays with you forever after you hit maybe 21. So, I think it’s that and also seeing kids their age who are really dedicated to a goal, who have a lot of discipline and who are struggling in the same ways. We haven’t seen this in all of these shows yet, but they have situations at school. They have crushes on boys. They have this competitive environment in the ballet school, but they have friendships that have developed there. So they’re really kids growing up, and I think that’s kind of a nice role-model picture for kids. I wanted to be very grownup when I was 12. I wanted to be 30. But, there are other kids that don’t particularly want to and they feel pressure, I think, to push it along. This sort of allows them to say, “Oh, that’s okay. It’s okay to be a kid; you don’t have to push it.” The girls are delightful and beautiful dancers. So I think they’re going to relate to it in a lot of ways using their own personal goals that they can identify with. I’m curious to see how they’ll react to it, but I think it’ll be good.
Much like the young characters on Bunheads, you grew up studying dance. What did you like the best about it and what was the hardest part of that lifestyle?
What I liked best about it was simply dancing. I just love to dance and I was actually watching a thing on the New York City Ballet School. When you want to dance, when you need to dance and you love to dance, it’s just a wonderful world. It’s terribly hard. It takes you away from any social life you have at school. I mean, I never went to an after-school dance or a prom or a football game or any of those things, and yet I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. I would rather have been taking another class at the ballet school. So it’s a completely different world. It’s very focused. You kind of have tunnel vision actually. It’s just a very focused world, because it’s so very, very difficult. Ballet is really a hard discipline and it takes years and years to just properly even do a position or a step. So you get so wrapped up in that. It’s also very beautiful. It’s exactly like—I don’t know if you know that, but in A Chorus Line, I played a character who sang at the ballet, which was a song that was written from my life story, from my interviews, which was really very flattering to take my words and turn them into the lyrics of a song. It was about how everything is beautiful to ballet. There is a real romance to it. It’s a beautiful form of dance. We all know how pretty ballet dancers are and how beautiful it looks even if we don’t understand it. The hard part is having to dedicate yourself completely, and the good part is how much fun it is and how romantic it is. It’s just a great world if you love it. It’s true of gymnasts. I’m sure it’s true of athletes. It’s true of anyone who loves a particular thing. You just get lost in it. I wish that everyone could find their dream and follow that road, because it’s really the way to live life. So I’m very, very happy that my life worked out the way it did.
What kind of advice would you give some of the younger kids you are working with? What do they need to know to survive?
When I was coming to the set one day—I hadn’t been around for a few days and they said, “Well, yesterday was a tough day. There were some dialogue problems.” What I kind of figured out is that they were just struggling with their lines. I don’t even know who it was exactly. I’m not saying which people, because I don’t know. They were just having trouble with their lines in remembering them. Amy’s lines can be very complicated. They are not the easiest things to learn, and I had an occasion to be sitting with the four of them. I don’t even know, as I said, who was there when that happened. I said, “You know how you would not go on stage to do a number if you didn’t know the choreography?” and they’re going “Ahah, ahah,” and I said, “You don’t go in front of a camera if you don’t know your dialogue, and so you learn your dialogues before you get there.” Somehow when I connected the choreography to the lines, it was like, “Oh, yeah, of course.” So it’s little things like that that I’m kind of … and p.s. they’re very disciplined kids—I call them kids—I don’t know even how old they are. They have a lot of discipline, because they have the ballet training and they’re beautiful dancers, so it’s not like it just kind of happened and they aren’t beginners. It’s just a whole new medium for them and I think it’s a little confusing, because with dance and even with singing, you have something which you can kind of hold onto. With dance, it’s the accomplishment of the step and you can see it in the mirror. With singing, it’s the accomplishment of the sound and you can hear it. With acting, it’s a very nebulous thing. It’s a matter of opinion. One of them asked me, and bless her heart, she said, “How do you know if it’s right?” And it’s all you can do is trust your director. When it’s right for them, they’re going to print that take and you’re going to move onto the next scene. So don’t worry about judging that yourself. Put that out there and let them worry about that. They ask me questions here and there, but they’re just—they’re so sweet and I think they’re happy. They are so happy. They’re having so much fun doing this, and I would be too if I had been a dancer at their age and had gotten an opportunity to act. I would have been thrilled. So they’re a happy bunch. I’m sure I’ll be giving advice all the time. I’ve got a big mouth.
As characters, you and Sutton are already butting heads in the pilot. They don’t really get each other. Can you talk a little bit about that evolution in the next couple of episodes? Do they start to relate a little bit better?
Well, they seem to be trying to. They’ve been thrown together and they now are so stuck with each other, and so I think that what happens in that pilot episode is that Fanny realizes that this marriage is going to be and that there’s nothing she can do about it and that’s why she takes Michelle to the bar and she has some drinks with her, because she’s trying to figure out who she is. It’s like okay, and then she makes the comment, “I love my son. I want him to be happy, so let’s see if we can dance together.” So there is an effort, but you know what it is? They’re both very strong women and they are strong-willed women. So they’re constantly rubbing up each other the wrong way, and they are two different generations. Somebody asked me the other day about the mother-daughter thing and I said, but it isn’t really that, because I’m not her mother. We’re just two women who are in a situation and we sort of have to deal with each other. So there’s a little common ground that comes together and just about the time you think oh, isn’t that nice, then something goes wrong again. Not wrong, but there are two different opinions again. So I think that’ll probably continue to—conflict is always much more interesting than harmony.
What does the relationship between Fanny and Boo mean to you? Is that something that maybe hits home for you?
I think with Fanny, and I’ve noticed it when I was a dancer—there are dancers – now, p.s. Kaitlyn’s a beautiful dancer, but she doesn’t have the like the skinny, skinny body and that whole thing going and I remember dancers who—actually, her body is quite good. She has a little more weight on her, but that’s a requirement of the role. That was important that there would be one girl who was heavier and apparently, she lost weight and they went to her and said you have to put it back on again. Well, because that girl, that’s the way the character breakdown went and she was supposed to be bigger than the other girls. I remember dancers like that. They loved to dance and they were good dancers, but not even so much like with Kaitlyn, because she’s got the body, but there would be people who just didn’t have the physicality to be able to accomplish that, even when I was studying. Studying in class with these same people and I’d see how dedicated they were and how hard they worked, but let’s say their feet weren’t good. They just didn’t have good feet and they were never going to have good feet. You’d kind of look at them and you feel really badly, because you knew this person certainly was not going to be a ballerina. That kind of dancer could go on to be a jazz dancer or do some other kind of dancing, but I think that’s what Kaitlyn’s character is about. It’s like not every little dance that comes into class is perfect and has the perfect turnout and the perfect foot and the perfect extension, but she has the perfect love for it. So to me that’s always a sympathetic position. She’s a sweet girl. She’s not only sweet in life, but her character is a very sort of insecure, really sincere kid. She really wants to dance and Fanny totally recognizes that in her and appreciates it. She wants her to be realistic, but she sees what’s there. Fanny’s not a mean woman. She wants to turn out good dancers and since she loved to dance so much, she always is going to appreciate a dancer who truly loves to dance. Yes, we’ve a those couple of nice moments in scenes together. Yes, I think that’s developing.
We learn a little bit about Fanny’s back story in the pilot. Are we going to see more in the future episodes?
I don’t know. I think so. I haven’t had any discussions with Amy about this and the same thing weirdly happened with Gilmore Girls. I had my ideas of where Emily came from and what her back story was and it was so strange. Like episodes go by and then suddenly something would pop out—a little bit of exposition would pop out about Emily and her background and I’d go, “Oh my God! That’s exactly what I was thinking.” We had never discussed it. So I have some ideas that I have gleaned from what we’ve shot so far and what has been said about me that that’s my picture in my head of what’s happened, but yes, I’m sure stuff will start to come out. Right now, she’s in the process of introducing the characters, introducing the relationships, really setting up the stage as it were so that the audience has an idea and an understanding of who these people are and how they interact. Once that’s all set, I’m sure new characters will be coming in all the time. Then I think it will start to expand on exactly the backgrounds of the main characters. Certainly, we’re going to find out more and more about them, but I haven’t had any discussions about that. I’m one of those people that don’t like to open a present before it’s time. Even as a kid, I never went up and went through my stuff to see what my Christmas present was going to be. I love surprises, and it’s not a lack of curiosity, it’s actually an enjoyment in anticipating what’s going to happen. So I don’t even ask. I don’t probe.
Is there something little that you can share that you have pictured in Fanny’s back story?
Well, I just learned that she went out of town to study. She left her home. She went out of town to study ballet when she was 16. I found that out, and with her parent’s approval. I mean, they were packing her up and sending her off to some ballet school out of town. So I know that—that she was out there and she probably never moved back home, I would think after that. She probably got into a company, I would venture to say, by 17-18, and then she was off in her dance world until she met that fellow who impregnated her, who I’m guessing was probably another dancer. I don’t even know that. In my mind, I have him as some gorgeous Russian that we had a [thing] together and continued it offstage.
You had said Emily Gilmore and Fanny are totally very different characters, very different women, but do you think there’s any Emily Gilmore in Fanny at all?
Oh, probably, just because of me, you know. I don’t really think. I don’t, but I know it’s my face, it’s my voice, it’s my mannerisms even though I’m not trying to do the same thing, but there is just me and you just simply can’t avoid that. I really don’t. I don’t see the backgrounds as the same; I don’t see the inner life and the desires. I don’t see anything in them that’s the same. I don’t think they’d like each other very much. I think Fanny would only like Emily if Emily would give money to the school. I think that’s the only way she’d like her.
Will they sneak in a little solo of you dancing on the show maybe?
I almost hope not, but I would like to dance. I haven’t really danced much since I did one little thing where I do a little turn, because I’m by myself and looking at myself, and of course, I’ve got that little stuff that I do with Sutton and at the end of those—the pilot. I don’t know. It’d be kind of fun rather than ballet, because ballet is really not my thing anymore as far as my body goes. It just—I mean, I still understand that I could Waltz and maybe a couple of … pirouettes or something like that, but I’m really a little old to dance, so let’s see what comes down the line. Maybe there’ll be some jazzy thing that I can do. That I can accomplish. That I can do.
Be sure to tune in tonight at 9 PM to ABC Family for an all new episode of Bunheads.Tweet