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'Bunheads' Creator Calls It A 'Gateway Drug' & Talks 'Gilmore' Comparisons

Mon, June 11, 2012 2:26pm EDT by Andy Swift 1 Comment
ABC Family Bunheads

‘Bunheads’ premieres at 9 p.m. tonight on ABC Family! Read our full interview with creator Amy Sherman-Palladino.

It’s a well-kept secret that adults are just as clueless about their futures as teenagers, and ABC Family is finally blowing that secret out of the water with its new series Bunheads. I’ve already fallen in love with the story of down-on-her-luck dancer Michelle (Sutton Foster), but creator Amy Sherman-Palladino — the brilliant, top-hatted mind behind Gilmore Girls — was more than happy to offer readers a few more reasons to watch.

Read on for my full interview with Amy:

Bunheads centers around a 30-something adult, which is unusual for an ABC Family show. Was it your goal to do something completely different?

I wasn’t really interested in doing a teen show, especially since I felt like I did so much of that on Gilmore Girls when we took Rory through high school and college. It was great, and it was all really fun stuff to write, but it wasn’t something I was really that interested in. When I brought [ABC Family] this thing about Michelle — the dancer who hits a wall and turns around, and as many people do in their 30s goes, ‘Holy s**t, how did I get here?” — I thought, ‘That’s the story I’m interested in telling.’ I was working on a play at the time about my time growing up in ballet school, so I already had these four little girls in my head, and I said I could put her into this environment — this world of ballet, which I love because it was so much a part of my life.

So at the end of the day, the focus will always be on Michelle?

Yes, she is the center of the show — her world, her growth and everything else by extension around it. I asked if ABC Family was good with that, knowing I’m going to focus a lot on her relationship with Fanny as well as the girls, and they were behind it. The pilot doesn’t even have the girls in it for two and a half acts. I really did feel like Michelle was my main character, and once you get your hands on Sutton Foster, all you want to do is watch Sutton Foster walk around in her shorts for two hours.

What about the girls? Will we get to know each of their stories?

Definitely, and we have four phenomenal girls. They’re pretty green in a lot of ways, but just so cool. Every week, I throw this stuff at them hoping they’re ready for it, and they just come through with bells on. They’ll have their own lives to deal with, their own sadness and heartbreaks, but there hasn’t been any shifting from the focus that Sutton is our gal. And Michelle’s not really a motherly type. She’s sort of one of the group, the tallest one there. I think having a slightly more adult view makes it different from [ABC Family’s] other shows, while also maintaining comfort level for their audience with the four girls. We’re a gateway drug.

I love watching Michelle and Fanny go at it. Sutton and Kelly have such great chemistry.

Oh, absolutely. They’re a little less Emily and Lorelai [from Gilmore Girls] and a little more Lucy and Ethel [from I Love Lucy]. When you get artistic people together in a room together, they’re all freakin’ crazy. And it’s awesome, and that’s why you love them and want to watch them. Those things that make them sparkle on stage are always going to be there. They’re from different generations, but they’re both show people who made similar mistakes at early points in their lives that took their plans off into a different direction. There will always be a great amount of conflict between the two women, but they’re also going to appreciate each other and find each other fun.

So you’re totally cool with people comparing Bunheads to Gilmore Girls?

I’d be a moron to think that no one’s going to draw comparisons to Gilmore Girls. I’ve got a very specific writing style. I like people who talk fast. Like, let’s go, let’s go, no one’s getting any younger here.

Plus, you’ve got Kelly Bishop back for round two.

The idea of bringing Kelly in was something debated, a lot by me, because I knew the [Gilmore Girls] question would come up. But the bottom line is that Kelly’s the real deal. She was the original Sheila in A Chorus Line, and she’s a real broad. She’s much more Fanny than she is Emily — and she was so great as Emily. You sit down with her and knock back a few martinis and you’re going to go a couple rounds. She’s a great fun broad to hang out with, and I wanted to play more to who Kelly is. I hope that no one will hold it against me, but when you work with really good people, you just want to work with them again.

I won’t lie, the twist at the end of the pilot surprised me. Will there be more sudden dramatic moments like that moving forward?

Definitely. I love the drama, but I think you need a lot of fun to get to the drama. You need some laughs, so that when the drama happens, it kicks you in the nuts a little more. One of the things that bugs me most about a lot of stuff on television is that there’s so much drama and they don’t have a damn laugh in the whole hour. It’s an hour without a smile or a chuckle. I really think the best dramas have comedy in them. The Sopranos was one of the funniest shows on television, but you’re certainly not going to tell me that wasn’t also a hard-hitting drama.

Watch a preview of Bunheads below, then vote: Will you tune in for tonight’s big premiere?

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— Andy Swift

More Bunheads Coverage:

  1. ‘Bunheads’ Series Premiere: Watch The Pilot (Early) Right Here
  2. ‘Bunheads’ Review: Sutton Foster Shines In Quirky New Drama