Ballet-themed movies Red Shoes, Black Swan and Center Stage did not hit the mark, says Moira Walley-Beckett, showrunner/EP of Starz’s limited series Flesh And Bone, which follows Claire (Sarah Hay), a young ballet dancer with a distinctly troubled past as she joins a prestigious ballet company in New York.
“I think this is the first time we’ve really seen the underbelly of a ballet company,” she said at TCA today. “I feel like a lot of those movies have catered to the very glossy, ethereal, optical illusion that is ballet. We rip the Band-Aid off,”
Casting was challenging, she said.
“I did not want to have body doubles or actors who could dance a little. I wanted to watch them sweat and bleed,” she said. The EP added that it got “down to the wire” because she could not find her Claire, until a choreographer remembered Hay from when she was a student and tracked her down dancing for a company in Germany. “And the rest is history,” Walley-Beckett said.
But today, when one journalist said how surprised he was by the limited amount of dancing in the initial couple episodes he’d seen, Walley-Beckett responded: “This isn’t a show about ballet; it’s a character drama with a ballet backdrop. I’m not telling a story about ballet — I’m telling a story about these characters.”
Nonetheless, Flesh And Bone — created by Walley-Beckett (Breaking Bad) and also executive produced by Lawrence Bender, Kevin Brown and John Melfi — has been described as a dark and gritty drama that unflinchingly explores the dysfunction and glamour of the ballet world. It originally was envisioned as an ongoing series but, in October, the network announced it would run it as a limited series after wrapping production on Season 1. Starz announced today all episodes of Flesh And Bone will be available for subscribers on Starz Play and Starz On Demand in the U.S. in conjunction with the premieres of its first episode on November 8.
“I hope people are going to have a voracious appetite and cause a sensation,” Walley-Beckett said of the play pattern. “The first two episodes, they’re the lightest episodes, and it plunges into labyrinth darkness after that. … I’m excited about the binge because that’s how I would watch it”
Meanwhile, Hay says she’s already returned to her job with the ballet group in Dresden. “I started my job the day after,” she said.