It’s always a little sad when show people leave the Great White Way for television. But in the case of Sutton Foster, it seems like a logical move. The two-time Tony winner’s been working consistently on Broadway since the mid-90s, leading the casts of hits like Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Drowsy Chaperone, and Anything Goes. We couldn’t possibly keep her that much longer.
Still, if we’re going to lose Sutton Foster to television, ABC Family’s new ballet-drama penned by Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls) seems like a pretty solid pick. The gracious, gleeful, and gorgeous actress sat down to discuss her new show, and why she’s ready to begin a whole new chapter in her life:
On making the switch to TV and working on Bunheads
Sutton Foster’s no stranger to have the entire weight of a show resting on her shoulders but television is a whole new medium. So why now? “I was coming to a point where I wanted a new challenge,” Foster told me. Making the move in an Amy Sherman-Palladino show must have made it easy for a woman who calls Gilmore Girls her “favorite show of all time.” “Amy has a very specific voice unlike anyone else on television. [Bunheads is] a whole new set of characters, a whole new town, a whole new base. But you’ve got that rapid-fire dialogue and the humor that Gilmore has. It’s exciting to hear Amy’s voice again on TV. I think she’s just a genius.”
On meeting Amy Sherman-Palladino
Being such a big fan, you can imagine meeting Amy Sherman-Palladino was a bit of a trip. “Oh, I was a super-fan freak on her. She probably thought I was weird.” Clearly the meeting went well. Sherman-Palladino hadn’t mentioned the Bunheads script, but she offered Sutton the show a few days later. “I made up my mind before I read the script. It could have been about anything and I would have done it.”
On the growing presence of musical theater on TV
Foster, whose main exposure to musical theater as a kid was Fraggle Rock and The Carol Burnett Show, applauds this generation’s easy access to the arts, via YouTube, Twitter, and other social media outlets. “It’s such an incredible outlet for people,” she said. “And it’s exciting. It’s bringing theater – people who maybe can’t travel to NY – it’s bringing all of that stuff into the living rooms all over the world.” Foster wishes she had then when she was a kid. “Oh gosh, if I’d had YouTube when I was a kid! Oh my gosh. That would have been – oh who knows. I would have been videoing myself every day and putting myself all over the internet. I would have been obsessed.”
On getting advice from Christian Borle
Foster isn’t the first person to make the jump from the big stage to the small screen. In the past few years alone, we’ve seen Kristin Chenoweth, Matthew Morrison, Cheyenne Jackson, and Megan Hilty turn into certifiable TV stars. But of all the people who’ve gone before Sutton Foster, you’d be surprised who gave her the best advice about adjusting to the new medium. “My ex-husband Christian Borle,” Sutton told me. “We’re very good friends. I was asking him how SMASH was going, and he was saying, ‘You just got to keep moving forward because there’s so much material. And as soon as you finish a scene, you have to let it go and move on to the next one. You can’t keep holding on.’” Foster said Borle’s advice forced her to approach this role withabandon. “In the theater, you do a scene over and over and over and over again for years. With TV, everything moves so quickly. And in many ways, it’s a blessing because you can’t get in your own way. I’ve been able to dive in and do it. It’s been scary and fun at the same time.”
You can check out the premiere of Bunheads when it airs on Monday, June 11 at 9/8c on ABC Family.
Credit: ABC Family