'Bunheads' Cast and EP Talk Show's Pacing, Dancing and Growing Up

The ABC Family show's creator and stars face reporters at the Television Critics Association Press Tour.

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If you’ve noticed anything about the the pacing on ABC Family’s ballerina drama Bunheads, you’ve probably thought the show is a lot like Amy Sherman Palladino’s previous hit, Gilmore Girls, in that there is a lot of talk and not much action.

But Palladino isn’t worried. To her, pushing too much plot could damage the longevity of the show.

“We are the nihilistic, weirdo, crazy show that, you know, is the hour of, 'Well, they are just talking.' If you burn through all of your plot points in one episode, how do you get five years out of a show?” Palladino told reporters at the Television Critics Association Press Tour panel in Pasadena on Thursday.

“You know, longevity is important for somebody with my Neiman's bills,” she joked. "It's important this show continues for a while."

Of the difference between her pacing and other current shows, the executive producer and writer said, “Well, you know, television has changed. I'm an old, tired broad. I do my thing. I know what I am. But television has changed, and I think that storytelling on television has changed."

“It's a very similar pacing to Gilmore Girls," she said. "But now television shows are cut up. And I've never written to act breaks. It's just not my style. It's not my thing because I want the story to, sort of, unfold the way I hear it, the 20 voices in my head. So I think that it's a combination of the structure of TV has changed, and there is just more plot now pushed into shows.”

Palladino was on hand, along with her cast, including Sutton Foster (Michelle), Kaitlyn Jenkins (Boo), Bailey Buntain (Ginny), Julia Goldani Telles (Sasha) and Emma Dumont (Melanie)  at the event to talk casting, “boot camp,” dancing, and what’s to come on the back eight episodes of Season 1. Here are some more highlights from the panel:

  • On casting the Bunheads: “I had very four very specific kinds of girls in mind, and that always makes casting harder. Like Boo had to be very specific, and Sasha I mean, they're all very specific,” said Palladino of her cast. “It was like these four girls were the four girls. There was only Sutton. There was only the four girls. So the picking process actually was relatively easy because it was sort of like it was just a lot of like, 'Oh, God. We're not going to find her. Oh, God we're oh, she's here. Okay. Great. We're done.'
  • Palladino likened the first 10 episodes of the season to “boot camp” for the girls making sure that the dancing was to "snuff." In the back eight, is "the first chance we had to really sort of now meet boyfriends, meet parents, open open the world of the girls up, and now I felt like we pounded into them enough, like, 'Here's how you talk. Here's how you dance, kid. Now let's see you act.'
  •  The second half of Season 1, which began airing Monday, will focus on breaking down Michelle’s walls and growing up.”Now that she's [Michelle] sort of gotten the ‘I'm running away’ out of her system, it is sort of that hunkering down and figuring out what's next, because it is the letting go of old goals and old dreams and refocusing on what is the road ahead,” said Palladino. “As we learn more about the girls, as we learn more about their lives, … and they bring all that into the world of the dance studio, it's even more interconnected of Michelle's, a person who has a lot of, you know, gates and walls up. She's smack dab in the world where she's going to have people constantly trying to connect with her, and those walls are gonna be slowly broken down. That is sort of what our first season is is getting her deeply connected and entrenched into this crazy madcap world."
  • Jenkins said the increased dance numbers on Bunheads are nothing like those on FOX's Glee and very realistic. “I think it's also -- it's not just like Glee -- where it's like you expect to see a dance number every single five minutes. It works. It actually is realistic. It's not like, 'Oh, and now we do our dance number.'" Dumont added, "What's great is that  we do have dances that are part of the plot that we learn in our class and we perform, but we also have dances that mirror storylines that happen in the show."
Bunheads airs Mondays at 8PM on ABC Family.

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