After completing the first season of the ballet-centric series Bunheads on ABC Family, two-time Tony winner Sutton Foster can now add “TV star” and “role model” to her overflowing resume. Foster, whose Broadway credits include Thoroughly Modern Millie, Anything Goes, Young Frankenstein and The Drowsy Chaperone, made her TV debut this summer as Michelle Simms, a former Vegas showgirl who moves to Paradise, California, to teach at her mother-in-law's ballet studio. Currently on hiatus, Foster recently discovered the good news that Bunheads will return for a second season, with filming to resume in October. Broadway.com chatted with Foster about her new life as a TV star in Los Angeles, and whether she’ll ever return to the Great White Way.
Congratulations on Bunheads getting picked up for a second season!
Thank you! I found out from a text via Stacey Oristano, who plays Truly. My heart was pounding, and I think I cried a little, I was so excited and relieved. I love the show, and I just wanted to do more of it, so I’m thrilled that we’ve been given the opportunity to keep going.
What has it been like for you adjusting from a late-night Broadway schedule to the early morning call times of TV?
One of the biggest challenges is the exhaustion factor. They’ll be like, “Okay, your call’s at 5:45.” What!? [Laughs.] I'd go to bed at 8:30, then work a 15-hour day and memorize the dialogue on the show, so the biggest challenges are brain melt and exhaustion. I’ve never been more addicted to coffee and Diet Coke.
What is the most surprising thing so far about starring on your own TV show?
I’m coming from a world of theater where every day is the same, and there’s a comfort in that. But on TV, once you’re done with a scene, you never do it again. You’ve got 40 people staring at you with a camera and lights; there’s no time to be scared or to be like, “I don’t know how.” There’s days, obviously, where I’m like, “I can’t do it!” But you work through it and move on to something else.
Do you find yourself getting recognized more now?
It’s definitely changed. It’s always been very nice and positive. But I got followed in the grocery store by a gaggle of 10-year-olds, and that cracked me up [laughs]. I just heard, “You go after her.” “No, you go after her!” I’m standing there looking at cereal and there’s four little girls. They come up behind me, and they’re like, “Are you on Bunheads?” And I’m like, “I am.” They said, “Oh, my God! I told you! We love that show!” It was so sweet.
Michelle is an unlikely role model—she’s a ballet teacher, but also a former Vegas showgirl.
In a way, Michelle is the villain. That’s not the right word, but she’s wreaking havoc! [Laughs.] But I love her because she’s flawed but trying, and it’s fun to play such a messy character. Plus, it’s neat to be in a show that’s about dance and teaching and relationships, so it was just a no-brainer.
Do you see yourself in any of the young ballerinas on the show?
I’m probably a cross between Melanie and Boo, ’cause I was tall and lanky, but I had Boo’s innocence and the naivete.
Have you been bonding with the girls?
At first they thought I was cool, and now I don’t know [laughs]. They’re wonderful girls. We work really hard, but we have a great time. When we shot the pilot they were like, “I saw you in The Drowsy Chaperone,” and “I saw you in Shrek and Anything Goes.” Each of them had a story, which was very cool.
We were waiting for you and Kelly Bishop to sing a duet all season. Could it happen in season two?
That could totally happen. That’s probably on the pike, and I’ll throw in a request. I’ll see what I can do [laughs].
Have you missed the show since you’ve been on hiatus?
I miss it so much, but it’s been nice to have leisure time, which I’m not used to! I love it out here, so I’ve been enjoying my summer, doing a little bit of traveling.
What are you planning to sing on your August 31 appearance on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson?
I’m not gonna tell you! [Laughs.] It’ll be a song from one of my albums, so people who are familiar with them will know it. I’m excited, because it’s the first time I’ll be doing a song not from a show I’m in.
By the looks of your Twitter feed, you’re having a ton of fun in L.A. But we’re afraid you’re going to break up with us and never come back to New York.
No! I hope to have a long, lustrous career. People ask me what’s better, Broadway or TV? I can’t pick. That’s not fair. Bunheads has been a great challenge and something I needed creatively. If Broadway will have me, I’ll be back for the rest of my life. Hopefully my life will be very long. I’m aiming for an Angela Lansbury career!
Amy Sherman-Palladino mentioned wanting to write a Broadway musical. Would that bring you back to New York?
Hell, yeah! If I had to pick someone to write for me for the rest of my life, it would be her. I would follow her wherever she goes.