Sutton Foster: Raising the Barre On “Bunheads”

The Fleet-Footed, Motormouthed Actress Reflects On Season One

As “Bunheads” pirouettes to a finale, star Sutton Foster admits she’s loving slinging one-liners as fast as she moves her feet.

The fast-talking ABC Family series created by “Gilmore Girls” scribe Amy Sherman-Palladino emerged as one of the summer’s sassy-snarky-sweet series, especially given ballet-skilled, Broadway-trained Foster’s enviable facility with both the trademark warp-speed dialogue and the frequent jettes. With the finale about to air and a second season assured, Foster fills PopcornBiz in on her spin in the TV spotlight.

How are you adjusting after coming to Hollywood from Broadway?

It's been awesome. I'm having the time of my life and I think it's because it was the right project. I wasn't actively looking to do TV, but when this came along, I'm a huge fan of Amy from "Gilmore Girls," my favorite show of all time. It jus felt like the right time and the right show.

Was it a learning curve, getting Amy's dialogue right, sort of akin to learning how to deliver Shakespeare?

In many ways, yeah. It's like a whole other skill set and it has to be verbatim, and I think that can be torture, but it's also the greatest challenge because as an actor you dream to be able to get to say pretty fantastic dialogue. So, you want to do it well, and so I spend a lot of time memorizing and wanting to try and nail it. But it's hard.

Did you also have to learn to adjust your acting style for television rather than playing to the back row of the theater?

I guess. It's more intimate. What's great, I'll say, about the world Amy creates is that my character luckily is very expressive, thank God – she's incredibly expressive which helps. I'm only encouraged to do that because often I'm like, 'Are you sure?' But that's been fun, to be able to play a character that has no boundaries. She's a flailing character, a bit, and so that allows for more animation, I guess.

You're coming off doing eight shows a week on stage. Is television a slower pace?

I've just learned. I felt like I went to college for three months, shooting these first ten episodes. It felt like an education. The crew and everybody was so great. They all knew this was really my first thing and I would get the DP, and I'd be like, 'What is that and that and that?' I didn't know. I felt like I just learned so much. A lot of it just learning how to pace your day. On Broadway it's two and a half hours of intense performance and on TV it'll be a 15-hour day where you might work for 20 minutes and then you'll have a two-hour break or whatever. I've just learned how to kind of work that pacing.

 What's the experience of having fans even before the show aired? Amy’s following as well as the dance element of the show had people learning about you way ahead of the premiere.

Yeah. It was exciting. I have nothing to compare this to. The best part about it is that I feel really proud of the show and I'm such a fan of Amy's. It's like my head could explode. It's all just been a good thing. As someone who's been known as a Broadway actor, to sort of transition or move into something that's brand new, into a world where I'm not known, it's been great. It's been really…I couldn't have asked for a better experience.

What can you say about what the show is building towards?

I think it's building towards Michelle, my character, sort of taking a more permanent role in the studio, with the girls. Although at the end of the first 10 episodes, some things change in regards to that, but I do think that it's heading towards her becoming a real mentor to these girls and becoming an influence.

You and Alan Ruck had great chemistry in the pilot, it was a shame his character was killed off even though it set the story in motion. Has there been a flashback or dream sequence discussed, just to get you two back together?

Tune in!

Is there a dream Broadway role that you'd jump at the chance to do?

“Sweet Charity” – Shirley MacLaine and Gwen Verdon! There's something about Charity. She's kind of similar to Michelle in a way, kind of a hot mess. There's something that's very similar to Michelle. She's just trying to do well and there's something there that would be fun to tackle.


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