Amy Sherman-Palladino wasn’t at the ATX Television Festival just for the Gilmore Girls reunion. She was also there to celebrate Bunheads, the ABC Family comedy-drama that aired for one glorious season. For those who never saw it (because the show’s STILL NOT ON DVD), Bunheads follows Michelle Simms, a Vegas showgirl who quickly gets married, moves to a small town in California, and becomes a teacher to young ballerina students, or “bunheads,” with her mother-in-law (Gilmore Girls‘ Kelly Bishop). Michelle is played by Sutton Foster, a Broadway veteran who’s won multiple Tony Awards and also stars on TVLand’s Younger, which wraps up its critically acclaimed first season tonight.
I spoke to her about Bunheads and Younger, as well as her favorite one-season-only show.
UPROXX: What was your favorite scene on Bunheads to shoot?
There’s a scene in, there’s the private road scene in, I think, episode three. It’s like one of my all-time favorite scenes. It was hilarious and fun to shoot. They showed some of the scenes [at the reunion panel], the Kelly [Bishop] and I scenes, the one in the lawyer’s office was really, really fun. The scene, [Kaitlyn Jenkins, who played Boo] and me, where I help her with her audition. Those are just the ones that are popping up.
How do you approach television versus theater?
I still feel like I’m figuring so much out with TV. It’s different, actually, with theater, you have a lot more time. With theater, I can work a lot more, it sounds so actor-y, but I can work a lot more organically and allow the process to marinate. And with TV, it’s a lot more about leaping and you have to be more spontaneous, you have to make choices and go. It’s not about the process. But what’s been great is that they’ve both, in a way, helped each other. There are aspects of my theater training that absolutely helped my work ethic and even stamina, and also living with a character. And then you get that opportunity with TV to have a character grow. But then with TV, oh, it’s a new scene and I just have to make choices and go, go, go, so then I’m able to bring that back to my theater work and able to go, ‘OK, I’m just going to leap and throw some stuff up against the wall.’ So it’s been interesting to go back and forth between the two. I love both.
Did you always want to get into television?
Not necessarily. I hadn’t really pursued it. I think camera work intimidated me, because it was unknown. I had grown up in the theater and I grew up as a dancer, so it was very, very comfortable being on stage. A set felt incredibly foreign. I had done a couple of guest star stuff before I got Bunheads and then Bunheads was, it felt like my freshman year in television school. Luckily, I was with Amy [Sherman-Palladino]. It was incredibly hard and incredibly challenging and demanding and rewarding, and now with Younger, I was able to walk on set the first day with so much more confidence than I had the first day of Bunheads. ‘Cause I was like, ‘Oh I know what this is. At least I know what that guy does and what that means.’ I knew the pace of the day was going to work out. Which, before, I had no concept of. I still feel like I’m learning a lot.
What was it about Younger that appealed to you?
The dialogue, the words, it felt like I could hear myself saying the lines. The character, in many ways, I feel like I’m more Liza than I am Michelle on Bunheads. Michelle’s very sarcastic, very dry, she looks at the world with a glass half empty outlook, kind of a pessimist, defeatist in a way. But I feel like Liza looks at the world a little more hopeful, a little more earnestly and optimistically. Both characters are amazing to play, but there’s something about Liza that spoke to me. I thought it would be fun, the opportunity to relive my twenties in this way just seemed appealing and that could be a fun bridge to navigate.
Liza got divorced and passes herself off as 26 years old, and Michelle just decided to marry Hubbel, and these two decisions throw the characters into whole new worlds.
Exactly. These are two characters who are literally starting over, so that’s also exciting. Watching these two characters who are at the beginning of this brand new chapter and the world ahead of them with endless opportunities and how are they going to navigate this new chapter in both of their lives. That’s exciting too. And both are about reinvention.
What’s your favorite one-season show?
Freaks and Geeks or Terriers, ‘cause my husband [Ted Griffin] wrote Terriers. It’s another gone-too-soon show.
If you could do any Broadway revival, which would it be?
Someday I’d love to do Gypsy. I’d love to play Mama Rose in Gypsy. I think that’d be fun, but I think that’s probably down the road a little bit. I’ll put that on my bucket list, even if it’s in Poughkeepsie. It doesn’t matter where it is.
Younger airs its season finale tonight at 10 p.m. EST