BWW Interviews: BUNHEADS Sutton Foster on Braving the Small Screen and Why She'll Always Come Back to Broadway
Two time Tony Award-winner Sutton Foster is set to star in ABC Family's new series BUNHEADS, premiering Monday, June 11th at 9:00pm ET/PT. BUNHEADS is the tale of a Las Vegas showgirl who impulsively marries a man, moves to his sleepy coastal town, and takes an uneasy role at her new mother-in-law's dance school.
Executive-produced by Amy Sherman-Palladino ("Gilmore Girls") and headlined by Foster, BUNHEADS also stars Broadway vet Kelly Bishop as Fanny Flowers. Additional cast members include Kaitlyn Jenkins, Julia Goldani Telles, Bailey Buntain and Emma Dumont.
Sutton Foster earned her Tony Awards for her lead performances in 2002's Thoroughly Modern Millie and 2011's Anything Goes. Her other Broadway credits include Little Women, The Drowsy Chaperone, Young Frankenstein and Shrek the Musical.
The actress took time out from her busy filming schedule on the LA set of BUNHEADS to chat about why she chose to take on a TV role at this point in her career. "There were a couple of reasons," she begins. "Amy Sherman-Palladino being one of my favorite writers. Also, the show is based around dance and its affording me a lot of opportunities to do some pretty cool stuff. Already we've shot one song and dance routine and I know there's more down the pike. But the thing that I’m most excited about is really the character and the writing. And being really able to showcase my comedic stuff. She’s just a really awesome character who is a dancer, so I’m sure as the series grows and grows they’ll be throwing lots and lots of stuff at me. I always say I’ll try anything once, so they’ve already thrown a bunch of stuff my way. I’m sure a lot more is coming. I don’t think theater fans will be disappointed!"
Sutton shared the series of events which led up to her joining the cast of the new ABC Family series. "I had a meeting (with Amy) last year. I don’t think the pilot had been picked up by ABC Family at that point, but she had me in my mind for the show but she wasn’t allowed to mention it yet," she explains. "But then two weeks later my agent called and said 'Amy’s written this pilot and she wants you to star in it' and I was like, 'What is it? I’ll do it!' and she said, 'Well don’t you think you should read the script first?' and I was like, ‘Oh alright, send me the script.' But I had already made up my mind. I mean it could have been about anything and I would have been like, 'Yes, I want to work with this woman.' But then I read it and I was like, 'Oh my God,' and then it seemed like a no-brainer. So it really didn’t take much convincing."
Taking on a lead role in a TV series was a big step for the Broadway star, but so far she is thrilled with the results. "I have to say that I’m loving it. I really am. I’m having the time of my life," gushed the actress. "I think it’s because it feels like the right role, the right writer, the right project and the right timing. I’ve been living in New York for about fifteen years. I absolutely love the theater, it's my home and what I had always wanted to do. But I was coming to a point where I just wanted a new challenge and this came across my path and it's just been already an incredible experience. I’m learning every single day something new and it’s exciting at 37 years old to be learning so much. It’s a whole new challenge, a whole new chapter of my life. Kind of cool."
Foster revealed that she has always been a big fan of 'Gilmore Girls'. "It was my favorite," she confesses. "This is before I even met Amy or worked on 'Bunheads'. It’s my favorite show of all time and I watched every single episode and own all the DVD’s. I think Amy has a very specific voice unlike anyone else on TV and 'Bunheads' is her voice again. A whole new set of characters, a whole new town, a whole new face. You got that rapid fire dialogue and wit and the humor that Gilmore had. It’s exciting. And it's exciting to hear Amy’s writing again. 'Gilmore Girl' fans are going to love it."
When asked about the show's unusal title' Bunheads', Sutton explains, "A bunhead is someone who spends a lot of their life with their hair in a bun, meaning it would be someone who is dedicated their life and their time to the art of ballet. Ballet is an incredibly difficult, beautiful artform that takes a lot of training, of a lot of time and a lot of hard work...When I was in New York I lived near Alvin Ailey dance studio and I’d often see a bunch of girls walking down the street with their hair in a bun and I’m like ‘Oh, they're ballet dancers.’ It's like a symbol. You can go, 'Ah, I know what they are!'
In the series, Foster will once again work side by side with her 'Anything Goes' co-star, Broadway vet Kelly Bishop. She treasures the relationship she has with one of her theater idols. "When she came into 'Anything Goes', I freaked out because I was such a fan of hers," she exlains. "She’s just such an awesome lady- she’s Sheila from Chorus Line – she’s awesome! Our relationship on the show is very specific and we’re like sparring partners, but off-set she’s very motherly actually and is always making sure I’m okay and taking care of me. She’s just a wonderful woman. I’ll do a scene and I’m like, 'I can’t believe I’m acting with Kelly'. We’re just like a real team, she’s a great scene partner and a great adversary in the show. She’s just really great. I can’t say enough about her."