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Bunheads Star Gives Advice to young Performers

Aug 20, 2012

By: Lynn Barker

Sutton Foster is an award-winning actor, singer and dancer. She was born in Georgia and raised outside Detroit, Michigan. Before starring as dance teacher Michelle in “Bunheads, Sutton appeared on Broadway in “Grease!”, “The Scarlet Pimpernel”, “Annie”, andLes Miserables” before her big break and Tony Award-winning performance in “Thoroughly Modern Millie”. She has also originated roles in the Broadway productions of “Little Women”, “Young Frankenstein”, andShrek the Musical”. In 2011, Sutton starred in the revival of “Anything Goes” for which she won a Tony and more awards! Wow!

We’re sitting down with this friendly mega-talent to ask what her teenhood was like, how she feels about the show and she gives us great advice for young performers! Check it out

Kidzworld: Give us a little background on “Bunheads” for those who might not have discovered it yet. It’s written by the creator of the popular show “The Gilmore Girls” What is it about?

  • Sutton: “Bunheads” is a show about dance but about the dancers themselves and about three generations of dancers; young teenagers, a 30-year-old dancer on the cusp of letting go of her career as a dancer and an older generation, a woman who had a career as a dancer and now owns a dance school.
  • I think it’s a special show because you get to know these people from the inside out. You get to know them as characters and people and, all of a sudden, they break into dance and you’re like “Oh, that’s right. They can dance too”. I think that exciting. It’s a show about artists.

Kidzworld: What is your character Michelle like?

  • Sutton: She’s a former Vegas showgirl, a fish out of water, completely lost just trying to find something in her life that makes sense and means something. It could be here in the town of Paradise teaching these girls. It could be bolting and moving back to Vegas. She’s grasping at straws. That’s what brought her to the town. She married this guy on a whim and has never had stability or roots anywhere.
  • As the show goes on, Michelle will become more involved with the girls and the school and still keep messing everything up along the way (laughs).  Michelle begins to seek a more permanent life there.
    Sutton's classy red carpet lookSutton's classy red carpet look

Kidzworld: A few comments on the ABC website have said they want to see more of you dancing and singing on the show. Is that coming? Would you like it to?

  • Sutton:  I’m obviously in a show about dance and there will be more singing and dancing coming up and I’m game for anything at this point but it’s exciting to be able to focus more on the acting and the character work but the show does provide opportunities for me to do the other stuff too.

Kidzworld: How is it more exciting for you to focus on your acting now?

  • Sutton: I think, for the last 20 years of my life I’ve been doing musical theater so it’s a nice change of pace. I’m still doing something about the arts and dance but it’s been really great to play a character that doesn’t break into song all the time.

Kidzworld: Which one of the Bunhead girls on the show were you most like at their age?

  • Sutton: I know (my character) Michelle is most like Sasha. She sees herself is Sasha and is trying to stop her from making all the mistakes she made. “Look, I’m a mess. Don’t end up like me”. But, Sasha is dealing with her own stuff. But I probably relate to Boo. I was more like Boo. I had a lot of heart and determination at that age. And Melanie because she’s tall and gangly and funny and I was definitely that too.

Kidzworld: What was the best advice you ever received? You’ve done so well in your career.

  • Sutton: One piece of advice was to take opportunities and say “yes” to everything no matter how big or small the part. That’s served me really well, especially when I was starting out. I was trying to learn and the other advice was not be an a-hole. Be kind and treat people with respect. That goes a long way and that’s my number one advice to kids. “Don’t be a jerk”. You can have two equally-talented people in a room but if one of them comes with a negative reputation then I guarantee the other person is gonna get the job. Be kind and respectful to your peers, your parents, your teachers and fellow castmates and crew.
    Michelle (Sutton) as a Vegas showgirlMichelle (Sutton) as a Vegas showgirl

Kidzworld: That is awesome advice! How much ballet did you do as a child?

  • Sutton: I started ballet when I was four and really studied until I was about twenty or so. I wasn’t a bunhead though. I was more a jack of all trades. I did a little bit of everything. Tap was always my favorite. I did tap, jazz and everything my studio offered. I danced in the shows I did in New York but really didn’t continue studying until I started production on “Bunheads” then I started taking ballet again.

Kidzworld: You are tall. At what point did you reach your maximum height?

  • Sutton: At 14. I was 5’ 9” with big teeth, a really unfortunate look.

Kidzworld: So the guy dancers would say “You do the lift”?

  • Sutton: (laughs) Yeah, basically. I think they still do. I was always taller than everybody and gangly.

Kidzworld: Wasn’t your love of dance responsible for your poise and grace on stage?

  • Sutton: Well yeah. That’s a good way of putting it. If I hadn’t started dancing there is no way I would have found theater because, even my first job they were looking for orphans for a production of “Annie” when I was ten. They called my dance school and I didn’t want to go to audition but my mom thought it would be fun so I auditioned and theater came from that. I’m so grateful to have a ballet background because I have a sense of my body and all of the characters I’ve played on stage, have a different physical presence and I know that’s from my ballet training.

utton Foster at our interviewSutton Foster at our interview

Kidzworld: At what point did you become comfortable on stage and not nervous?

  • Sutton: My mom said I was stealing the show as an elf in a Christmas show when I was 10. It was bad. I was a ham. I loved it so the stage is probably where I felt most comfortable. I’m socially awkward in life but on stage, I’m not at all.

Kidzworld: What kind of challenge did taking on a TV show pose for you?

  • Sutton: As a kid you have a benefit because you are fearless and naïve. You don’t know. You can leap through the air and not think. “I’m not gonna be able to walk tomorrow”. As an adult you realize that everything you do it’s like “I can’t do that. I’d need Advil. I could sprain something”. (laughs) It’s humbling and I have to check my ego. There are some things I can’t do like when I was a kid. It’s harder to learn something as an adult. Ballet is an unforgiving art form but it’s so beautiful.

Watch “Bunheads” on ABC Family Mondays at 9/8 Central time.