BWW Interviews: BUNHEADS' Kelly Bishop
Tony Award-winning actress Kelly Bishop currently stars as Fanny Flowers on the new ABC Family series BUNHEADS. The actress began her Broadway career as Sheila in the original Broadway production of A Chorus Line. Her performance earned her the 1976 Tony Award as "Best Supporting Actress' as well as the Drama Desk Award for "Outstanding Actress in a Musical".
She has also appeared on Broadway in Six Degrees of Separation, Neil Simon's Proposals, the Tony Award-winning The Last Night of Ballyhoo and Bus Stop. Most recently she starred in the 2011 revival of Anything Goes with 'Bunheads' co-star Sutton Foster.
From 2000- 2007, the actress starred in The CW series Gilmore Girls in which she portrayed wealthy family matriarch Emily Gilmore.
Bishop took a break from the set of BUNHEADS to chat about why she decided to take on the challenging role in the new TV series.
"I love the character," she began. "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.
You’ve got that same pacing and the clever dialogue of Gilmore Girls and the topical references and the historical references and all of the incredibly intelligent things that Amy (Sherman-Palladino) puts into her scripts. 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.
You recently worked with Sutton Foster in the revival of Anything Goes, and now the two of you reunite on 'Bunheads.'
Yes. In that show, our characters really did not interact at all. I mean, the only time I really talked to her was as she was passing by my dressing room on her way to her first entrance. She’s so fabulous anyway. We all know that she’s hugely talented, but she’s really a sweet, good lady anyway. So we are having so much fun working together; it’s ridiculous.
In the pilot episode we were sitting at the bar and I’m grilling her, we’re tossing back those drinks and I’m trying to figure out who she is. At one point, Amy (Sherman-Palladino) was directing that one, and she said, “The fondness that you two have for each other has started to come through here. Cut that off … now!” We are just having so much fun just playing together. I just think she’s a terrific talent, but she also brings that theatre discipline to the set, which is something that I enjoyed when we were doing Gilmore Girls. We’re ready, willing and able to get going as soon as it’s time to work, and Sutton just brings that right along with her and she’s a joy.
Do you have a preference for live theater 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 in some stage work since Gilmore Girls 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 do you find most challenging about your role on Bunheads?
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!