The ballet-themed dramedy, which I hear has received a 10-episode order, had been an internal favorite. The pilot was met with enthusiastic reception by Fox executives which has been compared to the reaction at the network to the Glee pilot more than a decade ago. The pickup completes The Big Leap‘s six-year journey to the screen.
Written by Heldens inspired by the UK reality series Big Ballet, The Big Leap is described as a modern tale about second chances, chasing your dreams and taking back what’s yours. The show revolves around a group of diverse, down-on-their-luck characters attempting to change their lives by participating in a potentially life-ruining reality dance show that builds to a live production of Swan Lake. What this group of underdogs lack in dance training, they make up for with their edge, wit and desire to reimagine an iconic story to fit their own mold.
Winder directed the pilot for The Big Leap, whose cast also includes Simone Recasner, Ser’Darius Blain, Raymond Cham Jr., Jon Rudnitsky, Kevin Daniels and Mallory Jansen.
This marks the second 2020 Fox pilot to go to series, joining comedy This Country.
Delayed by the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, production of The Big Leap pilot in Chicago was disrupted in mid-December when filming was paused due to positive Covid-19 cases. Because of the pending holidays and the big winter wave of infections that swept the country, production on the pilot did not resume until February.
There was talk after the December shutdown about possibly delivering a partial pilot cut with the existing scenes but the producers and the lead studio, 20th Television, ultimately opted to finance the additional shoot as key scenes, including the pilot’s big dance number, had not been completed.
Heldens executive produces with Naegle and Winer who made his drama pilot debut with The Big Leap after directing 16 comedy pilots for 20th TV, including the pilot for Modern Family. The project is a co-production between 20th Television and Fox Entertainment.
The British reality series, which had a brief run on Channel 4 in 2014 and was carried by Ovation in the U.S., featured 18 plus-size amateur dancers, many of whom were told they were too fat to dance when they were young, as they are recruited to put together over 20 weekends a production of Swan Lake under the tutelage of a former Royal Ballet principal and an artistic director.
Deception and Mercy creator Heldens and Naegle originally teamed to develop a U.S. scripted adaptation of Big Ballet in 2015 through Sony Pictures TV’s TriStar Television label — run at the time by Suzanne Patmore-Gibbs — as part of Heldens’ overall deal at Sony TV. In a competitive situation, the dramedy landed at ABC for the 2015-16 development season. Fox pursued the pitch heavily at the time and remained high on the premise and the auspices.
Sony TV’s option on the underlining IP since had expired and picked up by 20th TV after Heldens signed an overall deal there, with Sony TV retaining small passive participation. Heldens went on to develop and executive produce The Passage, 20th TV’s vampire drama series for Fox, but The Big Leap remained a passion project for her and Naegle, as well as for Fox, leading to the pilot and today’s series order.