‘The Big Leap’ makes a reality show the stuff of literal drama

Documentary about casting a ballet inspired new Fox series

Scott Foley stars in “The Big Leap,” premiering Monday on Fox.

The show’s title pretty much says it: An ensemble of actors, some familiar and others relative newcomers, are ready to take “The Big Leap.”

In a rare instance of a documentary (in this case, England’s “Big Ballet”) inspiring a drama series, the Fox offering that premieres Monday, Sept. 20, sees people from various backgrounds vie on an unscripted program for roles in a modern version of Tchaikovsky’s legendary “Swan Lake.” Scott Foley (“Scandal”) plays a producer trying to move past recent personal and professional setbacks as he and a choreographer (Mallory Jansen) tackle the project.

Among the contenders: a businesswoman (Piper Perabo, “Covert Affairs”); an ex-ballerina (Teri Polo, “The Fosters”); a once-aspiring dancer (Simone Recasner) and her former partner (Justin Reyes); a troubled pro football player (Ser’Darius Blain); and a ballroom dancer (Anna Grace Barlow) and her twin brother (Jon Rudnitsky). Kevin Daniels plays the ex-dancer who devises the contest, though in fact, “The Big Leap” includes executive producers Liz Heldens (“Friday Night Lights”) and Jason Winer (“Modern Family”) on its creative team.

“I’ve got my hand in all the storylines here,” Foley notes, “because playing the producer who’s putting the show together, I’m sort of the puppet master, the wizard behind the curtain. It’s really interesting for me to dip my toe into one story, then pop out and dip into another one.”

Perabo says she’s “really excited to be doing something with dance again” after the popular 2000 movie “Coyote Ugly.” “When this came up during a really difficult part of the pandemic, I was just so happy to read something positive about people supporting each other. Amid all of that, it was really the kind of story I wanted to tell next.”

Producers have been represented in everything from “A Chorus Line” to “The Morning Show,” but for “The Big Leap,” Foley had a specific role model: “Scrubs” mentor Bill Lawrence, with whom he made the series “Whiskey Cavalier.” The actor states that he “learned a ton from him. We’ve known each other for 20 years, but I had never seen him with that much depth in regard to producing. I modeled a lot of this character on how he conducts himself, not only on-set but off-set.”

Though her “Big Leap” character has to go through many tryouts, including each week she’s on the reality show, Perabo maintains, “I kind of like to audition. I know that’s a very controversial statement, since most actors dread it, but I like the opportunity to go in and show what I can do. I always wanted to be an actor when I was a kid and would have killed for an audition, so when I get one, I’m psyched.”

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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