Tonight’s winter finale marks the end of ABC Family’s current run of “Bunheads,” though hopefully not the end of the show for good.
The most excellent dramedy from “Gilmore Girls” creator Amy Sherman-Palladino stars Sutton Foster as Michelle, a washed-up Las Vegas showgirl finding a new lease on life in the small California town of Paradise. It’s a strong contender for wittiest and most inventive show on TV, and although it’s not a ratings powerhouse, the series really hit a creative stride in its first 18 episodes.
We talked to Foster about tonight’s finale, Michelle’s season-long arc of “taking responsibility and committing to this town” and what she’d like to see when (cross your fingers) “Bunheads” gets renewed for another season.
What should we expect from Michelle in the finale, are there any big changes on the horizon?
Sutton Foster: Michelle begins to look at [her friend] Talia’s life with envy. This idea that [Talia]’s settling down, that she has a job. Then Talia turns down [a chance to be in “Rock of Ages” on Broadway] to be with this guy. That’s very confusing to [Michelle], so I think it sparks something. Michelle decides to go on a big audition for a Broadway show — to secretly drive to L.A. and go on this big cattle call.
Also in the finale, the girls are turning to her for guidance and advice. That’s been a big change in Michelle’s journey. All of a sudden she’s become an influence to these girls, they’re really turning to her and depending on her.
Is that Michelle’s dilemma? Whether or not to stay in Paradise and help the girls, or to possibly pursue her own dreams?
I think that will always be her dilemma. I think she really feels like she missed the boat with her own life and her career. She’s not quite ready to let go of that dream, and yet she’s really starting to make an impact in this town. It’s that push-pull thing. But the way that the finale leaves Michelle, a whole new door opens. You leave going, “Now what?”
That push-pull of following your dream or taking care of other responsibilities is a part of Fanny’s backstory too — does Michelle discuss that with her at all?
Michelle doesn’t really talk to her about it. Michelle does this on her own, which I think is interesting. She doesn’t go to Fanny for advice. She asks for the day off, Fanny says OK, and then Michelle goes. She needs to do it on her own. And things play out the way they do.
Now that you’ve finished 18 episodes of the show, is there anything different about how you approach playing Michelle? Do you feel more comfortable in her skin?
I think I’ve become more comfortable with the pace of a TV show. When I first started I had no concept of what that was because I hadn’t really done that before. I’d done small stuff but nothing like this. I can now go on set and I know how the day’s gonna go.
And more of myself is getting infused into [the character]. That’s been really fun. [The writers] have given me so many amazing opportunities, great scenes and fun things to do in this back half. I think it’s because we’re all getting to know each other better, as writers, as actors, as everything, it’s all becoming more organic. I trust Amy and her team with 100% of my being.
What about Michelle is most like you?
Some of her silliness, her sense of humor. I wish I was as witty as she is. She’s so smart and says so many witty things and I’m like, “Aw, man I don’t think that quickly!” Just the goofy things [like] putting Michelle in a pantsuit. Putting her in situations that she wouldn’t normally be in, there’s something [in her reaction] that’s relatable to me.
And how is it working with the younger actresses on the show? This is the first major job for most of them, does that help keep it fresh on set?
I absolutely love those girls. They’re all so different on screen and off screen. What’s been really great is watching them all grow and watching them get more confident and stronger, really bringing their A-game every day. We have a really tight schedule and we all have to talk a lot. We end up filming 77 pages in seven days, which is a lot of material. Everyone comes off book, ready to work, completely prepared. There’s no time for anyone to be a diva or difficult. It’s a great place to work. One of my favorite things to do is to watch them dance. I get to sit back and watch them work their asses off.
Michelle recently shared a great moment with Ginny (Bailey Buntain), when she helped her work on an audition performance of “A Perfect Relationship” from the show “Bells Are Ringing.”
That was probably one of my most fun scenes to shoot. When I read the script I was like, “Oh my gosh this is gonna be awesome!” [Bailey] is so special and talented, it’s been fun to see her character develop more and more. Being able to have that moment with her was really cool.
We’ve learned a lot about Michelle in these past few episodes — we met her brother (Hunter Foster) and mother (Lolita Davidovich) — but what would you like to see from Michelle that we haven’t seen yet?
I’d like to see what it would be like with her in a romantic relationship, and what that does. I have a feeling that would bring up a lot, obviously. I can’t imagine… That I would really love to explore. She has a flirtation with Godot and she has fun with him but I don’t see her and Godot having a future together. It would be interesting to see what she would be like in a serious relationship with a guy.