Check it out, Gentle Reader!
Ok, serious voice now:
Gentle Reader, I am very (very super-very) pleased to share with you my interview with Kaitlyn Jenkins, who stars as Boo on ABC Family’s Bunheads.
Why do I love Bunheads?
I mean duh, there’s the getting to watch ballet on the tv every week part. Each episode features a fantastic dance number by choreographer Marguerite Derricks, sometimes as a performance, sometimes as a dream, always great fun.
The writing is funny and quick and poignant and silly, and I love that Amy Sherman-Palladino has approached a sort of meta-level of the rapid-fire dialog for which she’s famous: fast-talking main character Michelle is actually called out for never shutting-up by her hysterically Bad Cop foil, Madame Fanny.
Also, I really like that it’s a story about two people learning to love eachother- just not the two you think it’s gonna be up until the end of the first episode.
The show creates an interesting and totally charming world I look forward to jumping back into each week.
(And just so you know, if you are like me and you don’t trifle with cable, you can purchase Bunheads episodes from the iTunes store.)
Why do I love Boo?
She’s our Way In to this world, she’s the one who represents Us. Michelle is spontaneous, Madame Fanny is severe, Sasha is Trouble, Melanie is comedy, Ginny is responsible, Boo is full of big dreams and hopes and fears we can identify with, she draws us into the story.
Why do I love Kaitlyn?
She answered all these questions!
Here we go!
Adult Beginner Bunheads seems to be a story set in the dance world, rather than actually about dance. Do you think there’s something about dance that allows the writer to say what she needs to say, more so than if Madame Fanny taught music or gymnastics or, like, football or something?
Kaitlyn Jenkins Well… Amy Sherman-Palladino (the creator/writer/director of “Bunheads”) spent many years with her hair in a bun and had plans of becoming a dancer. She had a personal and special connection to the dance world and I think she used that time in her life as inspiration to reach the viewers.
AB Where is your daily ballet class? Provided by the Bunheads production company? Or off-site on your own time?
KJ We did take a few classes as a group with Marat Daukayev in Los Angeles before we began shooting, but after that there was really no time to take class, which made the dance sequences especially challenging. When I have time I return to my former school, Anaheim Ballet, and take ballet classes with Larry Rosenberg or jazz class with John Ajayi. When I am up in Los Angeles, I enjoy taking classes from Mark Lopez at Westside School of Ballet and from various teachers at The Edge.
AB Pointe shoes present an extra detail/headache most TV wardrobe departments never have to deal with. How does it work? Does each dancer request her own particular make and model? Does wardrobe have a big gorgeous shoe closet like in a ballet company? With cubbies full of shoes for each dancer?
KJ ABC wardrobe did provided us with pointe shoes which I was so grateful for because they can get pretty pricey if you have to buy them for yourself. I usually wear Gaynor Mindens because of the durability and comfort, but ABC was also able to get my favorite brand of Freeds. Usually they break too fast and I can’t afford them all of the time, so it was a treat to have ABC allow me to get those! My wardrobe person even sewed on my ribbons and elastic, that was an extra bonus!
AB In the pilot episode, we learn that Boo is a jumper and a turner. What about you, Kaitlyn, what are your ballet strengths?
KJ I have pretty good feet and extension, but like Boo my technical strengths are also in turns and grand allegro. However, I think my greatest strength is in my
artistry. People always seem to remember me most for that, even as a young dancer my performance came from the inside out.
AB I notice that none of the female students in Madame Fanny’s class wear shorts over their leotards and tights! They’re all either like Boo in just tights and leotard, (which is a great way to express Boo’s honest, nothing to hide nature) or they wear a little chiffon skirt. How much of this is actor’s personal choice, how much is the costume designer, and how much of this is Madame Fanny being Old School?
KJ In most conservatory ballet schools, shorts are considered taboo, so I think the wardrobe took that in to consideration. When dressing us, wardrobe also had to consider our character types. Boo always wears just a leotard and tights because she wants to be looked at as a serious classical dancer, Sasha wears different random ballet attire to show her slight frame and suit her character mood, Melanie always wears a skirt to play up her height, and Ginny is always dressed in a leotard or dance sweater that enhances her bust line. Personally, when I take ballet class I wear either a black or colored leotard, only pink tights, and always a skirt!
AB How hilarious that on a show called Bunheads you no longer do your own! Have you picked up any tips from the hair and makeup team?
KJ It is a treat to have someone else do your hair and make up! We have an amazing team of hair and make up people and they have shared so many industry tips with us, from taking great care of your skin to using the best products on your hair, they have taught me so much! Sometimes on the show our buns are a bit over the top, but I think that’s just to play up the fact that we are “bunheads” and the more exaggerated the bun the better. Usually a ballet dancer has a much more low profile bun than the ones we wear in the show.
AB (Just for fun, here’s a link to a behind-the-scenes article with Kim Ferry, head hairstylist at Bunheads.)
AB You competed in the Youth American Grand Prix; you studied with ABT and Boston Ballet; and you got a principal role on Bunheads. Obviously, you know how to audition. How would you advise Boo? Bonus round: would Boo listen?
KJ I guess the best advise I could give Boo (or anyone auditioning for that matter) is to try to relax, be happy with your personal best, and try not to compare yourself to anyone else. If you don’t make it, it probably wasn’t meant to be, and one thing is for sure, there will always be another audition! Would Boo listen to my advise? I hope so!!! When I go to auditions I try to come well prepared, have fun, not take myself too seriously, and accept whatever the outcome is.
AB Do you have a lucky audition leotard? Lucky snood?
KJ Several years ago, my mom gave me a pair of stud earrings that were a rainbow crystal and I wore them to all of my ballet auditions as a good luck charm. When I auditioned for “Bunheads” I wore them to the audition and all of the callbacks, I guess they really were good luck!
AB I take ballet class from a crotchety but hilarious old Russian dude, who has a once or twice commented on my weight in class, in front of everybody. In the Bunheads pilot episode, Boo receives some rather blunt criticism about her body from Madame Fanny. Boo responds with much more grace and maturity than I have ever been able to muster, which just makes me love Boo all the more. Was that a hard scene for you? Or does ballet training make this kind of personal critique easier to deal with?
KJ Ballet dancers are hardest on themselves and they have come to expect a certain amount of criticism from their teachers. The persona that ballet dancers are supposed to be abnormally thin is undeniable, but I don’t think that critiques about our weight, no matter how well intent the comment may be, are ever easy to take. I once had a particularly hurtful comment about the size of my derriere from a well respected dance professional, right before I went onstage to compete! I think she meant well, but really… right before I went on to perform? This kind of experience was painful but it did help me to develop a pretty thick skin. It also helped me to better understand and sympathize with Boo when I was developing her character. The scene with Fanny was kind of difficult because it took me back to my own experience, but I am somehow thankful for that because it helped me have something personal to draw from. I hope it made the scene relatable to others who have walked in my pointe shoes!
AB Ok, the Snoopy leotard! Some people loved it, some didn’t get it, either way it got a lot of attention. Was it custom-made for the show? How would it fit in with your ballet class style?
KJ Oh, that crazy leotard! When I first saw it I thought to myself, no way any respectable teacher would ever let me wear that in class! It kind of fit Boo’s character though and it was something that definitely made her stand out. I think the wardrobe people were trying to give Boo a small town feel and show how she was kind of “green” in the world of ballet. ABC actually had to get the right to use it on the show and had to make six of them because Snoopy kept peeling off when I would dance!
AB Do you ever take open level ballet class? Can you totally spot the adult beginners? How?!
KJ Sure, I take open level adult classes all of the time. I really admire the adults that take class, it’s never to late to try something new. They are a great example for us all!
Big thank you to Kaitlyn!
And to all of you who submitted questions, I had a really fun time doing this and hope you enjoy it too.