Q&A with “Bunheads” star Julia Goldani Telles (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)
February 22, 2013 by Dennis Amith
Actress and ballet dancer Julia Goldani Telles made her television debut on ABC Family’s “Bunheads” as the talented dancer, Sasha Torres.
Trained at the School of American Ballet, an injury led the ballet dancer to television. With no resume or head-shot, her experience in dancing in ballet performances such as “Nutcracker”, “Don Quixote”, “Sleeping Beauty” and “Swan Lake” was enough for Julia to get the character role in “Bunheads”.
The drama series revolves around the character Michelle Simms (as portrayed by Tony-award winning actress Sutton Foster), a Las Vegas showgirl who quickly marries a man and moves to his coastal hometown where she works alongside his mother-in-law at her dance school.
In “Bunheads”, Julia plays the role of Sasha Torres, one of the best dancers at Paradise Dance Academy. She has a cold attitude, primarily because her mother doesn’t pay attention to her and her father is gay, which everyone in the area pretty much knows. While a talented dancer, she is often distracted by her family problems and it’s taking her passion away from dancing and making her more rebellious and possibly leading her into trouble.
Recently, Julia took part in a media Q&A for the promotion of ABC Family’s “Bunheads”, which is currently airing the second half of season one. Here is a transcript from the media Q&A:
Moderator How much time do you have to practice every week dancing?
Julia We take private lessons so we get about 2.5 hours of dance classes per week, and that’s on top of our rehearsals for the weekly numbers. We just work really, really hard for like three to five hours on the weekend, and then we shoot during the week.
Moderator Do you take any other kinds of lessons?
Julia No I don’t. Really we’re so encompassed by our intense shooting schedule and by rehearsals and dance classes that during my free time I just sleep and talk a lot.
Moderator Fans are really, really loving Roman and Sasha together. Why do you think they work so well as a couple, and can you tell us a little bit about what’s coming up for them?
Julia One thing that I really admire that Roman does with Sasha is that he tells it to her like it is, which she doesn’t get from a lot of other people in her life. He understands her and he understands her insecurities and how she’s scared to be vulnerable, and he sees through her facade. I think he’s one of the few people that she’s really let in so he can be real with her and she can be real with him.
And that’s very rare for Sasha to have a relationship like that, and throughout this season we’ve seen their relationship sort of intensifying, and in this last episode especially she’ becoming more emotionally attached to him. With that comes wondering what comes next physically, which is why in this episode she starts obsessively researching about sex. But I think they’re friends first and foremost, which is super important.
Moderator Do you have a favorite dance performance from Bunheads?
Julia I think my favorite one, just because it was so impulsive and fun, was the ‘Istanbul (Not Constantinople)’ one because we learned it in three hours, and then we shot it the next day and none of us knew if it was going to be good or not and people like that. That was fun.
Moderator So do you get any input in to the choreography or is it all set before you start? And who are the dancers in the background? Are they sisters, twins? And what’s it like dancing to a camera rather than an audience?
Julia They’re not sisters. They’re professional dancers (Note: In reference to Mallauri Esquibel and Colleen Craig). But no they’re not twins. They’re professionals.
Our choreographer Marguerite Derricks is really flexible about altering things to fit the way we move, and so with that particular number at the end the choreography had originally been all of us would just stop and freeze in those poses. I said to Marguerite, “I really just want to jump out because I feel like that’s a Sasha thing to do.” Like she had her five minutes and now she’s leaving, she’s not going to take anybody’s B.S.
I really felt like that was such a Sasha thing to do and Marguerite said, “Okay. Walk out.” When we filmed that on every take I would walk out and slam the door. I got to put that in to that. I got to shake my hips a little bit more than the original choreography on that because I thought that was a way for Sasha to rebel against her traditional ballet training.
And how is it different dancing for a camera than for an audience? On this show it’s not so different in that Amy, our executive producer, really likes to do things in one shot. That dance number was done in one shot so it was like it was live. If we messed one thing up it ruined the whole thing and we had to start over so there were no cuts. When we do dance numbers that cut to different sections it does make it easier to make mistakes because we know we can just do it again.
Moderator In the Coal Miners routine who came up with the lighting and how long did that take to work out, and did it present any problems with the lights flashing in your eyes, et cetera?
Julia I think it was Amy’s idea because in the script it said \ that the hats come from the fact that the girls had done a dance number about Billy Elliot and we’d all gotten black lung at the end because Fanny’s so twisted so that’s where the hats came from.. I think it was Amy’s idea.
It was hard to figure out the lights because the hats weren’t tailored special for the dancer or anything so we had to keep hitting the buttons a certain number of times to get the right light setting. I had the stomach flu when we shot that. We shoot one episode every seven days, and so they let me take two days off, and then a day after I came back we shot that. It was particularly difficult for me because I hadn’t eaten in a really long time because I had this virus.
Moderator What was it about Sasha that made you interested in wanting to play her?
Julia Amy Sherman-Palladino is famous for writing these idiosyncratic female characters. I mean nobody writes chicks like Amy does and Sasha is so complicated because you look at her and she’s talented, and she has this perfect ballet body, but she doesn’t realize the worth of it, and if she does she doesn’t care. With ballet she’s sort of like this beautiful disaster, and I think the intricacy of her persona and her home life and how all of that ties in to her friendships—she’s just an intricate character, which I love about her, and also the fact that she’s rebellious and that’s just really fun to play. It’s fun to make trouble. It’s not fun to be a goody two-shoes I think. I’m a goody two-shoes in real life.
Moderator How are you similar and how are you different to Sasha other than the ballet obviously and the dancing?
Julia We’re similar in that I think we share sort of similar dry humor and sarcasm, and also in the last episode of the season you see that Sasha’s really a planner and an over analyzer. I compulsively research everything before I do anything. I’m not impulsive at all, and she’s like that in that she’s thinking about having sex so she buys every book about sex ever written, and she’s on every website, and she’s asking everyone to talk to her about it. Whenever I make decisions about anything I do research like that.
We’re different in that she has terrible parents, and I have great parents. I think she’s a little bit more blunt than I am, although I’ve started noticing that if I play her for too long I start saying things that I wouldn’t otherwise, like I start losing my filter.
Moderator Seeing how Sasha is so different from you in certain ways how do you relate to her? What ways do you find to relate to her to be able to play her?
Julia I find her honesty very relatable, she has her façade of just being cool and not caring but she really feels things deeply. She’s very sensitive, and I think the people who are closest to her can sort of see through her façade, and see that she’s sort of just really, really hurting. I think that’s what I admire about her is that there’s really no intended pretension. She’s just trying to figure out who she is and she’s really, really alone.
I think that she does a great job of taking care of herself in a situation where a lot of people would crack and turn to hardcore drugs and she’s not. She’s doing well for herself, and I admire that she’s maturing, and I really love that she’s honest with her friends. She genuinely cares for people. She’s bonded with Michelle. They take care of each other. I remember in Episode 4 she bought new pointe shoes when Boo couldn’t get new ones because she couldn’t afford them. It’s just the little things that Sasha does that makes me love her.
Moderator What’s it like to be on a show where you can meld both your love for acting and your love for dance?
Julia It’s really great. It’s such a unique opportunity. I didn’t realize that I’d get to do both at once. It’s double the work but I’m definitely not complaining. I will do this forever. I’m in love with it.
Moderator What is it like working with Sutton Foster and what do you think about the relationship between those characters?
Julia I love the relationship between those characters. I always knew it would evolve but I didn’t really know how, and I think the way that it’s played out is really beautiful and honest and very touching. I’ve grown closer with Sutton as we’ve worked together more and more. I look up to her so much. She’s an incredible role model. She’s a great person, and I think she’s really a great example of how you can be successful and professional but you can also not lose your sense of humor and your quirkiness and you can still be relatable. She’s really a great role model.
Moderator How do you think Sasha has grown since that very first episode we met her?
Julia Oh my gosh she’s grown a lot. It actually surprised me how much. I thought she’d grow a little slower, but I’m glad that it’s happening so fast. When you first met Sasha she was very in the middle of this terrible marriage that her parents had, and she was incredibly unhappy. She didn’t know how to have a human connection that didn’t make her feel vulnerable and exposed. I think she tried a bunch of different things to try and find herself. She tried to rebel, and she tried to steal, and she tried to just be mean to everyone, and then she tried to cry, and I think she’s finally kind of finding her footing a little bit more.
I think it’s great that her parents you know peaced out and she’s living by herself because they’re terrible influences on her, and that Michelle is acting as this mother figure. She’s really learning how to take care of herself and how to take care of other people. The Sasha we met in the pilot would never cook for her friends. She’d never be able to have an honest conversation with a boy about how she felt, and she’d never be able to give Michelle a hug and cry on her shoulder so I think she’s come a long way.
Moderator Did you have to audition before Marguerite Derricks, the choreographer, to get on the show, and in general what was the audition process like?
Julia I didn’t audition for Marguerite for the pilot. I auditioned for Amy Sherman-Palladino who is a dancer herself. She got up and she demonstrated the combination for us at my third audition, and I was so intimidated and so impressed because Amy can really, really dance. She’s not just writing a show about dance; she really understands every single little thing she’s talking about from an injury to knowing every scene of a Sleeping Beauty ballet. She knows it all.
The process was I went in once and I read and I danced for a little bit for a casting director, and then I went in twice for Amy Sherman-Palladino, and I had a dance call with the other Sasha’s and the other girls that I was competing with. We were all dancing together, which was just awful because I saw my competition. So after my third audition with Amy they called me and they said, “We’re going to fly you to L.A. and you’re going to screen test.” I was really excited, and then they called the next day and they said, “Oh never mind” and I was like, “What?! What do you mean never mind?” So I thought, “Okay. Great. They found some blonde girl in L.A. who is going to play Sasha now.” No offense to the blondes. I was really upset, and then they called the day after and they said, “Oh we just met with the network. We want her.” So it was good. I didn’t have to fly out to L.A. and screen test, but the process was a month long and it was a lot of calling back and forth. It was my first audition so I didn’t really know what to expect, and I harassed my agent more than he deserved.
Moderator Has there been any talk about doing a dance tour?
Julia We always joke that we could do a dance tour because we have so many dance numbers, but there really hasn’t been talk about it. I think that would have to come from Amy. I’d love to though.
Moderator How it was that you got involved with dancing and acting in your life.
Julia I started dancing when I was five in Brazil, and kept dancing when I moved to the U.S., and all I wanted to do was be a professional ballerina, and then I got injured. I got labral tears, which is like an old lady injury for your hips, not super beautiful, and I went to a bunch of doctors and they said, “You will never dance again” and it was this very dramatic thing. I finally went to a sane doctor and he said, “Just take a year off or it’s not going to be good for you” so I took a year off, and I was really depressed. I didn’t know what to do with myself and I took a year to be a normal teenager basically because before all I would do was dance for six hours every day after school, but I was really, really bored.
I always wanted to act but I used to live in L.A. The injuries were happening when I lived here in New York, but I grew up in L.A. I always wanted to act when I lived out there and my parents never wanted me to because they don’t want me to be one of those actor kids, and they wanted me to get an education. And so they never let me, and then finally I somehow got them to let me take acting lessons on the year I took off, which was in 10th grade and now I’m in 12th grade.
So I took an acting class, and the acting teacher was said, “I want to send you to an agent” and my parents were like, “No!” and I was like, “Yes.” They sent me to an agent and the agent said, “Okay. I’m going to send you on this. It’s for a pilot called Bunheads which you’ll be able to dance. Don’t worry if you’ve never read a script before” and I’d never read a script before so I was freaking out. And then I went in and I read and I danced, and I really think that part of the reason it worked out was because I really had no idea what I was doing. I think maybe deep down I thought like I had a shot because I didn’t realize how many other girls were going against me. And so that’s how it happened.
Moderator Do you have a behind-the- scenes favorite memory or playing or shenanigans or something that you think our readers might like to learn about what goes on in Bunheads when the cameras aren’t rolling?
Julia When I first met Garret who plays Roman I had eaten a lot of sugar, and sugar does not do good things to me, and so I was throwing those little booties we wear on the show at him from a balcony in the dance studio. He was just sitting there reading his lines and I was throwing the booties at him, and we hadn’t even met so that was incredibly awkward.
I have this one memory of shooting the mid-season finale, which is when Michelle leaves as we do a tribute to Walt Whitman. The entire season we all wanted to do a prank and we said, “Okay. We’re going to do a prank” but we all chickened out every single time, and then when we were getting up to do ‘Oh Captain, My Captain’ we decided that on the fourth take we were all going to start dancing because that’s harmless. So I guess I forgot how to count, and I did it on the third take and we got up and it was this really serious scene where everybody is supposed to be crying and I started dancing and nobody else did it with me because I counted the takes wrong. Amy was directing and she’s like, “What the hell.” It was incredibly awkward.
“Bunheads” airs on Mondays on ABC Family, 9/8c
Images courtesy of ABC Family
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