BUNHEADS: Q&A with Bailey Buntain
Bunheads doesn’t get enough credit for what it does well. Yes, it has a silly name (to some) and is nominally about ballerinas (and ballerinas are awesome), but it is a lot more than that. While it is not a show for everyone, I would venture to guess that if you are willing to embrace its charming craziness, you will be rewarded in full. ABC Family aired ten episodes of the quirky dramedy last summer, and it returned with a second batch of ten in January of this year.
Since its return, I have been enjoying Bunheads more than ever. Sutton Foster and Kelly Bishop shared some excellent scenes in the early return episodes, and I could watch the rapport between Michelle and Fanny forever. Also, Liza Weil has been brought on as Truly’s sister Milly, which has been a lot of fun. Milly’s business relationship with Michelle and Fanny has really provided for some great story. More surprisingly, I have finally become invested in the younger girls—the teenage students at the ballet studio. The actresses and the characters have really come into their own, and it has improved the show overall. When we returned to the lives of Sasha, Boo, Melanie, and Ginny, the girls all had new interests beyond dance—new jobs, hobbies, boyfriends, and friends—which was an important step in developing the characters.
In particular, I have really been enjoying the deepening of Ginny’s character, played by Bailey Buntain. She has been dealing with a lot this year. First, her mom has been going off the deep end over her father’s upcoming remarriage. Teenage Ginny has been admirably (and hilariously) managing her mom’s realtor business in her absence. And with the introduction of Cozette and Frankie, Ginny even has a new nemesis and crush, respectively. What’s more, she has developed a new passion for musical theatre, gaining the nerve to try out for the school musical, thanks to Michelle’s coaching.
Last week, I had the chance to take part in a conference call Q&A with Bailey Buntain, which I will share below. She discussed her experience playing Ginny, and her thoughts on her new storylines.
Since this is your first major role in a TV show, I was wondering how the experience has been different going into these episodes starting in January? How has that experience been different in this new batch, with all the new and fun things you guys are doing?
“In these second episodes, I really had the opportunity to like do a lot of things, just because Ginny is dealing with so much and she’s totally turning into her mother. So she tends to like bottle it all in, and then she’ll freak out, and so it’s definitely been really fun.
It’s been challenging, but in a great way. There’s a lot of dancing and there’s a lot more—there’s a lot of dancing in these eight episodes; a lot of different styles. I think we don’t ever repeat a style. We do ballet and we do a jazz. We do a funky one. There’s been a lot of variation, and it’s been different than the first ten just because there is more, but it’s more [of] the same. It’s more of the same stuff we were doing in the first ten, so it was kind of a nice little preparation before they put us into like super gear. It’s been really fun. I actually just started hiatus and I’m missing it. I’m starting to talk at like a normal pace and I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
[Last] Monday night’s episode showed the audition for the musical, and musical theatre is a new aspect of the show. Could you give us any hint as to how that plays out for you both as an actress and for the character Ginny? A little hint as to how that experience is going?
“So, that mainly gave Ginny confidence that she never had before, and Michelle was the person that helped teach her that and give her that. It just shows how much Michelle has really incorporated in to, not just like Paradise life, but in to like each individual girl’s life. It’s not so much just the four ‘bunheads’ in the show. She’s starting to affect us in our private life individually, whether that’s with Sasha and Roman, or me and Zach.
It’s showing how much she’s becoming a part of our lives, and Michelle definitely still has a lot of stuff to go through, as far as what she’s going to do with her career in musical theatre and auditioning and stuff. For Ginny—she’s got some fun stuff coming up ahead, I’ll tease that, but it mainly just showed the relationship between Michelle and Ginny.”
What was it about the character Ginny that made you want to play her, besides the dancing aspect of it?
“I was a really big fan of Amy Sherman-Palladino, so I would have been so over the moon to play any character that she writes because she writes such quirky and fun characters. But [one] of my favorite things about Ginny is I love that she takes care of people. She totally thinks she’s an adult, even though she’s not, and so she’s constantly trying to take care of everyone and their friends. I mean, like organize things and orchestrate things, and I love that about her.
I also like that she has a lot of like gusto and fire in her, and that’s a lot of time what totally like winds her and freaks her out, but she doesn’t quite have the confidence to follow [anything through.] In this last episode, she has so much fire, she’s so ready to go get Frankie, and then she just loses all confidence and all follow through, and I like that about her. And especially as we develop more as a show and our characters get to develop more, I find new things out about her, and so these eight have been really fun because I really got to explore more of who she is.”
I like the depiction of Ginny’s falling out with Melanie because it felt very honest. It didn’t have anything to do with a boy, or something soapy like that. I wanted to get your opinion on the portrayal of the friendships on the show. What do you think it would take for Ginny to forgive Melanie, and just sort of how you feel about the friendships on the show? [I asked this question (very awkwardly), because I think one of the biggest strengths of Bunheads is its depiction of female friendships.]
“I grew up in a dance studio. The thing with these girls is it really is [like this] when you grow up in a dance studio and you have a group of girlfriends. You are tight. You’re family. You’re together like hours upon hours in rehearsal and class. It’s like you are with them more than you are with your own family.
Ginny particularly goes through a lot of stuff right now. Her dad left her and her mom to go be with Faye Mendelsohn and they’re getting married, so that right there is not easy to deal with. And then her mom is going crazy and everyone knows that her mom is going crazy. She’s just at a point where she’s going through a lot of stressful things, and she feels like ‘you’re my best friend, you should be supporting me and be there for me.’ Melanie is going through her own stuff and she’s trying to find herself. She’s not there and so that hurts Ginny’s feelings. On top of it, this new girl comes in (Cozette) and Ginny just feels like so threatened, like ‘Who is this new girl. My friend is not here for me.’ And I think she takes all of that out on Cozette. She blames it all on Cozette because it’s easier to decipher her feelings as opposed to what’s happening to her and Melanie’s friendship.
But I do think that friendships go through changes, especially when they’re long-term friendships, when you’ve been friends since you were, you know, like two. I don’t think that this strain is something that’s going to be permanent. I just think they’re having a growing phase, and I think that as Ginny gets used to the shift in dynamic with the new girl, and as she feels more comfortable again with the group of four girls, I think it will be okay. I just think they’re going through some growing pains.”
Do you think we’re going to actually get to see the wedding and actually meet Ginny’s father and soon-to-be step-mom? Is that going to play out this season or are you allowed to say?
“Well, we actually met Faye Mendelsohn sort of. She was jumping on the trampoline. But some stuff does happen with the family, but I can’t really say if we’ll see the wedding or not.”
Is there somebody on the show that you’d like to work more with, someone you really haven’t had a chance to have a whole lot of scenes with?
“If you would have asked me that a few weeks ago, I would have said Sutton, only because we had really only explored Michelle’s relationship, at least as far as I was concerned, with all four of us and her. [In "There's Nothing Worse Than A Pantsuit,"] I really got the opportunity to kind of explore just how Michelle influences Ginny, which was really fun. So that would have been the first one, but luckily I got to see that.
I would love to have a little bit more interaction directly with my mom. So far, there are a lot of us individually and there are a lot of us talking about each other, but I have that dinner scene with Melanie and her dad and me and my mom. It was so much fun, and we had such a great time, so I really hope that I get to do more with them. And Claire is like—I love Kiersten Warren and she plays Claire. She’s amazing and funny and I would love to be able to do more with her.”
Bunheads airs Monday nights at 9/8c on ABC Family. Watch it, or the pantsuits win.
Photo Credit: ABC Family/Adam Taylor.