8 Things We Learned About Center Stage from Amanda Schull (AKA Jody Sawyer)
Before Step Up, Save the Last Dance and Honey, there was Center Stage (a.k.a. the best dance movie of all time). I mean, how could you not fall in love with the storyline, the gorgeous dancers, and the mind-blowing routines. And then there were the characters: our favourite being Jody, obviously, played by none other than actress Amanda Schull.
Over the years we’ve seen Schull play multiple roles, including the brilliant virologist Cassandra Railly in 12 Monkeys, and the sassy law associate Katrina Bennett in Suits. However, our fondest memory of her was Jody Sawyer, the young and struggling ballerina in 2000’s Center Stage (her first professional acting job, btw). As she gears up to reprise her role in 12 Monkeys (the third season will premiere in 2017!), we caught up with the actress to talk all things Center Stage for nostalgia’s sake.
Schull was basically Jody IRL.
“There is this idea of a perfect dance body – which I don’t have. I’m lucky that I’m not the exact opposite of the ideal, but I don’t have amazing feet, perfect hyperextension or really flexible legs. When the casting director came to San Francisco Ballet to find a Jody, she saw me getting a lot of the same corrections in the hall from one of my instructors – so there were definitely similarities.”
She wasn’t the first choice for Jody.
“The casting director had been instructed to only find company members for this role. They wanted a professional dancer for this part and I wasn’t in a company yet. She had gone across the country to various companies, starting in New York. Since she hadn’t found anyone, she had asked permission to come to the San Francisco Ballet School. When she saw me in rehearsal, she asked me to audition for the role.”
Schull spent more time rehearsing than the other cast members.
“We started rehearsing the dance scenes before we started filming, so I was there I’d say at least a few weeks. I met the guys, Sascha [Radetsky] and Ethan [Stiefel] and we started rehearsals with Susan, who choreographed most of our dance sequences. Since the guys were still dancing with American Ballet Theatre at the time, they would come in during their breaks to rehearse and perform and then go back to rehearsal. ABT was really generous about letting them get away. I would usually have to stay longer and rehearse more. I wasn’t as prepared as they were and I also needed a lot more work than they did.”
Cooper and Charlie (aka Stiefel and Radetsky, respectively) didn’t always stick to the choreography.
“I didn’t stray from the choreography at all. I don’t think I was brave enough to put my own spin on Susan Stroman’s genius. But Ethan and Sascha were granted some freedom when it came to the classical choreography because they needed to cater to their strengths. This was especially the case with a couple of scenes where they were trying to one up each other.”
The cast was actually really tight.
“We were actually having more fun than it looked on screen – to the point where they were wrangling us at times to get us to do the work. It was very much real.”
She’d still choose Charlie over Cooper.
“He’s the sweeter one, and the more mature choice.”
That famous fouetté in the last dance routine was filmed in one take.
“It was all one take, but we did several takes of that one take. I think it was maybe four or five in the morning after having filmed [and danced] for more than 15 hours. I kept doing the fouettés over and over and because I was so tired. Whenever I pulled in for the final pirouettes, my leg gave out on me and I fell a few times. I was aiming to finish with a triple, and my body just wouldn’t obey me.”
She still keeps in touch with Zoe Saldana (sort of).
“I haven’t seen Zoe in a long time, but we have a few mutual friends and every once in awhile, I’ll hear a hello or a little something from her and I pass it back. The last time I saw her was maybe five or six years ago, when she was being honoured by Vanity Fair. I was saying to my husband I hope she recognizes me I haven’t seen her in so long. When we filmed the movie email wasn’t a thing, so it was really hard to keep in touch. It’s really easy to keep in touch through social media now, but that wasn’t a thing back then. She came down and was being honoured so she was the host of the whole little celebration, and people were surrounding her and through the crowd her eyes met mine, and she just started to cry. It was really sweet. She’s a beautiful beautiful women.”