Bunheads’ Kaitlyn Jenkins Dishes on Ballet, Bonding, and That Big Cliff-Hanger — Exclusive!
We’ve kind of already fallen in love with ABC Family’s Bunheads — but we knew we would. Amy Sherman-Palladino (the genius brain behind Gilmore Girls) delivers the kind of small-town stories and quirky characters that we can’t help but adore instantly. This time Amy’s introduced us to Vegas showgirl Michelle (Sutton Foster), who impulsively marries a man from a small California town called Paradise. Co-starring is Kelly Bishop (Grandma Gilmore) — Michelle’s mother-in-law, and big personality who runs the local dance school where a small clique of young dancer hopefuls train day in and day out.
One of those young hopefuls is Boo — played by Kaitlyn Jenkins — an awkward, shy dancer who’s just as eager to learn as she is full of natural talent. The only thing holding her back is her confidence. We caught up with Kaitlyn to find out what it’s like working in the shadow of Gilmore Girls, what we can expect from Boo’s journey — and, oh yes, that whopping season premiere cliff-hanger!
Wetpaint Entertainment: Everyone is so excited to have a new project from Amy Sherman-Palladino on air — were you a fan of Gilmore Girls? If so, in what ways did Bunheads feel similar or different from GG to you?
Kaitlyn Jenkins: I did watch Gilmore Girls and loved the characters that Amy created through her incredible writing! I guess the biggest similarity between Bunheads and Gilmore Girls is the quick pace and witty dialogue that Amy is known for. Paradise, the town that Bunheads is set in, also resembles that small town feel of Stars Hollow, complete with a quirky cast of fun characters. I really think that those people that loved Gilmore Girls will not be disappointed, and although it does have a Gilmore Girls feel to it at times, Bunheads is unique and really stands on it’s own very nicely.
We were all kind of surprised that people didn’t know what a “bunhead” was! Okay, a “bunhead” refers to a female ballet dancer that devotes her time, energy, and life to her art form. Most commonly you will see them sporting their hair in a bun, hence the term, “bunhead.” It’s kind of a slang term used to describe a hard core ballerina.
How extensive was your additional dance training for Bunheads?
Well, we didn’t have additIonal training for the audition of Bunheads because they were mostly interested in actors that already had a really strong ballet background. We had to present a one minute piece of choreography for the audition and I did a variation from the ballet “Don Quixote.” When I booked the show, we began rehearsals with the amazing choreographer, Marguerite Derricks. The piece that she set for the second episode is so beautiful and is one of my favorites so far. It really gave the cast a chance to show the technical level of dance that they are capable of as well as explore their artistry through the emotional content of the piece.
Can you talk about it’s like working with Sutton Foster, a theatre actress who has so much training on the stage?
Sutton Foster, she is amazing, talented, versatile, smart, funny, thoughtful, hard-working, and professional... all the things I hope to accomplish as an actress! She will even take the time to visit us in our dressing rooms and give us little pep talks. People say that it is sometimes hard for actors to transition from stage to small screen but I don’t think she had any problem at all. She seemed to take to it “like a duck to water.” Really, for my first big project I don’t think there could have been anyone better to work with. We are all so lucky!
How much did you draw on your own experiences as a dance student for the role of Boo? How do you relate to her? In what ways do you not relate?
Boo and I are so much alike in so many ways that it is scary at times. People that know me well say, “she’s just like you were at fifteen,” and they are right! The characteristics that we share in common are, of course... our passion for ballet, our hard work ethic, sometimes not feeling self confident in who we are as a person and a dancer, and her genuine care for others. I was able to grow as a dancer and person through some of the hardships that I faced as a dancer, that helped me shape “Boo’s” character. I think I am a more confident person now and I try to no longer let what other people say control how I think. Boo still needs to overcome that, I think you will like how her character takes shape in the upcoming episodes.
What can we expect from Episode 2?
Hopefully everyone’s already seen the first episode so they know that it has a real “cliff-hanger” ending. I can’t say too much but viewers will begin to see a bonding begin between “Fanny” and “Michelle,” you will get to see the four bunhead characters have some fun through their mischievous hijinks, and there is a beautiful dance scene that I think everyone will LOVE!
What are Boo’s biggest challenges?
Sweet “Boo” is not very confident. She struggles with her body type as a dancer and it worries her that this will hold her back from realizing her dream. She also allows herself to be a “doormat” sometimes and doesn’t speak up for herself enough. Hopefully we will get to see her overcome some of her major challenges as the season progresses and watch her come into full bloom!