One Of The Most Inspiring Women In TV Offers Up Some Serious Career Advice



We've been pretty huge fans of Gilmore Girls for as long as we can remember. Not one, but two enchanting heroines, pretty clothes (at least in the later years), and zippy dialogue that would give Aaron Sorkin a run for his money — what's not to love?

So, when the show's creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, launched a new series, Bunheads, earlier this summer, we were on board by default (although, if Newsroom has taught us anything, it's that maybe that kind of blind loyalty isn't a great idea). But fortunately, in this case, we were pleasantly surprised...because it was pretty good. After being thoroughly charmed by Sutton Foster and an endless string of Gilmore Girls cameos — and ahead of tonight's finale (and Friday's announcement that the show is coming back for a second season this winter) — we tracked down Sherman-Palladino and picked her brain on all things TV and dance, the reality of being a woman in Hollywood, and why movies, well, blow. Read on for some of the best working-woman advice we've ever received.

bunheads-sutton-foster

You grew up doing ballet and then were a dancer at the start of your career. Do you have a love-hate relationship with dance? And does that factor into the show?
"Honestly, there's no better feeling than dancing. It's physical, it's freeing, it's musical, it's emotional. It's a wonderful thing. But as a life, it's so hard. You have to close yourself off to so many other things to focus, focus, focus. And your career could be over by the time you're 25 years old. And also, there aren't that many jobs. And in the States, the arts aren't supported, so there's nothing poorer than a ballet company. So, you've got these people who are devoting themselves, morning, noon, and night, to this wonderful art form, who are getting paid nothing. It's just a hard, hard life. Plus, on the show, we touch on this, but if you have a girl like Boo, who doesn't have a 'ballet body,' that could knock her out of contention before anyone's ever seen her dance. So, the reality of it, it's just very hard."

The way the show addressed the idea of body type and the pressure to be thin and look a certain way, as a ballerina, felt both jarring and honest. Is that something you want to bring to the forefront as things progress?
"I never wanted to write a show that was an issue show, because I don't believe that people should learn their lessons on TV. Because, TV is entertainment, and God forbid you're walking around thinking, 'Dawson's Creek taught me everything...' because then you're f-ed. But you have to be true to the world you're creating, and this is a part of that. Life is not fair; it's not all equal, and you have to be true to that. I'm not trying to tell anybody anything, but if it's honest to the story line, we're going to pursue it."

As huge Gilmore Girls fans, we're loving all the cast cameos. And we have to ask: Is Chris Eigeman coming back?
"We love Chris Eigeman so much that we would build a monument to him and carry him around and feed him grapes, if that's what he wants. But he's writing and directing his own movies now, so he's a very fancy, fancy guy. So, we were so deliciously lucky to have him come home with us for a while. I think he's so great. He actually lives right down the street from us in Brooklyn."

Speaking of that place in Brooklyn Heights, what do you love about being out there? Particularly since you're filming in L.A. on a pretty hectic schedule.
"I have the unfortunate karmic disastrous joke of being born in L.A. And L.A. and I, we don't understand each other. We've called a truce, and have coexisted for a number of years now, but my husband and I, we run back here every chance we get. People always have somewhere they need to be, here. In L.A., they just sorta get in their cars, and then they're just in their cars. We're stuck out in L.A., but we fly out here every chance we get — it's the only way to get your brain working!"

Click through to see the career advice that gave us a serious moment's pause (in a good way).

Photo: Courtesy of ABCFamily
bunheads-on-set

You told Hollywood Life that the biggest boosts you've gotten through your career have been from men. And that felt so disheartening to read — what's the culprit there, and what's the solution?
"It's very simple. Women have to hire women. Women have to trust women. Women have to stop competing with women. This whole business is about competing. And women have made great strides, but there is still a boys' club feeling of 'we're all on the same team' that women don't subscribe to, quite yet. And, I think it's getting better, but it's twofold: First, women need to sit around not talking about being women. If you have to be better than the men to get ahead, just be better. Work harder, get it, succeed, and then be in the position to do that for other people. Because that's what men did."

Is that what you're doing on Bunheads?
"When I was going to shoot this pilot, they gave me a couple of names for DPs (director of photography), and they were wonderful guys, talented, and they were all awesome. But I said, 'You know what, this is such a chick show. Are there no chick DPs out there? Because I really want this to have a chick at the helm — that position is so important.' And, because I asked the question, suddenly I met with a couple of female DPs who were just not presented to me. And I ended up going with Anette Haellmigk, and she's so unbelievable, and she made the show look so gorgeous. And she's so awesome and crazy, and then I turn around and she has a tutu on her head. I mean, she's a serious German chick, and when a serious German chick tells you to do something, you do it; but, when a German chick with a tutu on her head tells you to do something and you still do it, well, that just rocks the world. But it really is a matter of asking the questions, otherwise you'll never get what you want."

But do you think that's a particularly female trait, in the workplace, to put your head down and work harder? And do you think that's enough to really get ahead?
"When I say be better, I just mean, there's a lot of coasting that happens — people get a note and they take it, because they want to keep the job. When I say be better than that, I mean you have to fight harder for something that's special, you have to take more risks, and if you're the underdog, as women have been in the past — although, I think they're catching up — you have to be even more special than that. So, if women are the underdogs, they're going to have to work harder and fight more, and they have to worry less about, 'Oh, I'm a woman; how's this going to look; how's this going to paint me?'. They have to be a little bit more like, 'Well, my shit's better than that guy's shit, and I'm just going to stand here and scream in a dress until you hear it.'

"This whole business can be better. TV should be better. TV is accessible in people's living rooms. Audiences are smaller and budgets are smaller, but there are more worlds to explore because of all the cable networks. And movies blow. They universally blow. There's much less opportunity in movies to do constant storytelling and get under people's skin. People get emotionally attached to TV shows, so it should be better. We have a duty to make TV better for people. Because people will watch it, and they will invest in it, and they will stay with you, but you have to do the goddamned work."

Photo: Courtesy of ABCFamily