In FLESH AND BONE we’re introduced to Claire, a young ballet dancer with a dark past who joins a prestigious ballet company in New York. This series is meant to chronicle the dysfunction and glamour of the professional ballet world. It’s a stunning show — dark, twisted and raw, with beautiful moments of art sprinkled throughout. With FLESH AND BONE (along with OUTLANDER and the upcoming GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE), Starz is positioning itself as a serious channel that isn’t afraid to shy away from difficult and adult subject matter.
The show is full of professional dancers, which makes it all the more authentic. “I didn’t want to fake it,” said Moira Walley-Beckett (Executive Producer). “I didn’t want to have body doubles. I didn’t want to have actors who could dance a little. I wanted dancers, and I wanted to be able to put the camera anywhere. I wanted to watch them sweat and bleed and suffer and soar. So we went on an exhaustive, seven month, international search for my main characters, and we got down to the wire. We found some remarkable dancers, including Sascha Radetsky (Ross) and Irina Dvorovenko (Kiira) but I couldn’t find my Claire. And then Ethan Stiefel, our choreographer, who is a former principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) remembered Sarah, who had studied at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis pre-professional school there. And we tracked her down, dancing for a company in Germany. The rest is history.”
According to Walley-Beckett, “She [Claire] just wants a normal life, but this may be an impossible goal. She’s struggling to be ordinary while doing something extraordinary. Claire is our eyes into this world, and it’s her journey we’re following. She is a very complicated character. She’s suffered a lot of adversity. And when we meet her, she’s making one last kinetic thrust out of her dysfunctional life and into a future, and the stakes are high. But anything is better than where she was, so, she’s going to try her hardest to capture this elusive dream. It’s a last ditch effort, because at 21, she’s old to be starting again in a company. This is her moment, and it’s all or nothing, and nothing is truly nothing.”
To help prepare you for the show, Starz has compiled some behind the scenes look at the show and the world of ballet, as well as helpful character descriptions to introduce you to the major players of the series.
Paul Grayson (Ben Daniels)
Paul is the bipolar, bisexual Artistic Director of the American Ballet Company. Having founded the company 12 years ago after a long career as an acclaimed dancer, Paul is determined to make ABC rank the highest among the best of the best. And he views Claire as the key to success. Paul believes himself to be a great nurturer of talent, and he requires his dancers’ abject devotion in return… to an extremely unhealthy degree. Paul is mercurial and prone to fits of ebullience and rage. No one ever knows what to expect. He’s a grenade with a loose pin.
Claire Robbins (Sarah Hay)
Claire is soulful, serious and profoundly emotionally wounded. Having escaped an abusive home life, she harbors self-destructive tendencies that conflict with her vaulting ambition, and a longing for the sexual autonomy of a normal young woman. She defies stereotype and expectation. She is a transcendent ballerina, capable of reaching the sublime, but her inner torment and aspirations drive her in compelling, unforeseeable ways. She is on a journey of self-discovery without a compass.
Mia (Emily Tyra)
Mia is a New Jersey native with an eating disorder and a penchant for casual sex. She is also Claire’s reluctant roommate. Mia has a dry, unfiltered sense of humor that masks a deep reserve of insecurity. She is desperate to ascend the ranks of the company and prove to her harshest critic, her mother, that she has merit as a person and a dancer. Mia finds herself facing a major life challenge with dire consequences that she’s unequipped to handle.
Bryan Robbins (Josh Helman)
Forced by his abusive, domineering father to enlist in the Marines and serve a three-year stint in Afghanistan where he experienced the horrors of war, Bryan is focused on returning to Pittsburgh. His sister, Claire, is his homing beacon. Bryan suffers from PTSD and is consumed by confusion in regards to his beloved sister – a storm of conflicting emotions clouding his judgment. Bryan is an odd and uncomfortable mix of strength and vulnerability. He’s sure of little in his life – all he knows is that he is utterly devoted to Claire and feels he can’t live without her.
Romeo (Damon Herriman)
Romeo is a homeless fellow who lives under Claire and Mia’s building. He considers himself the custodian and believes it’s his job to help and protect all the residents within. Romeo is engaging, guileless, smart and sensitive, with his own unique way of looking at the world. Like many who suffer from untreated schizophrenia, Romeo sees signs and omens in everything. Claire’s arrival fits neatly into the context of the book he’s writing – she is further proof of his prophecy. Any random occurrence may trigger his dormant psychotic impulses. Regardless, it is always Romeo’s intention to do the right thing… whatever that means to him.
Kiira (Irina Dvorovenko)
Kiira is a prima ballerina. A competitor. A survivor. Having emigrated from the Ukraine, Kiira was born and bred to overcome adversity. She is the reigning star of the company and Artistic Director Paul’s longtime muse. She is a complicated, emotional diva who prides herself on being the best no matter what it takes. Although she has planned ahead for life after ballet by marrying a wealthy man, she still hopes, unreasonably, that the future will never come. The start of this series finds us witnessing an intensely vulnerable time for Kiira. She is terrified of “aging out” as a ballerina and subjects herself to punishing circumstances in order to maintain her status. Claire is a direct threat to her position.
Daphne (Raychel Diane Weiner)
Daphne is a confident and inveterate “wild child” who plays by her own rules. She comes from old New York money, but what Daphne wants most of all is what money can’t buy: artistic excellence. Despite her family’s financial legacy (and disapproval), she’s driven and relentless. Daphne is one of the rare dancers in the company who can withstand Paul’s withering scrutiny, and she finds her outlet of release, her ballet antidote, at Anastasia, a high-end strip club.
Jessica Jordan (Tina Benko)
Jessica is a former American Ballet Company dancer. Several years ago she left ballet to marry and have a child. Now a recently divorced single mother in a contentious relationship with her ex, Jessica is back in the workforce out of necessity. Because she’s new at her job as the Company Manager (and living in the shadow of Paul’s deceased partner), Jessica is struggling to prove herself so that she can keep the ballet – and her own home life – financially afloat.
Ross (Sascha Radetsky)
Ross is the company’s leading man and Lothario. A principal dancer, he is Kiira’s longtime ballet partner and former lover (although he still carries a torch for her). Ross uses his boundless charm and talent to get what he wants, but his status at the company turns out to be more precarious than he could ever imagine when he finds himself caught in Paul’s web.
Trey (Karell Williams)
Trey is gay and proud of it. He’s snippy, bitchy and funny, and everybody loves and fears him. Trey can hang with the ballerinas like he’s one of them and is an excellent girlfriend, but he also maintains a close friendship with Ross. Trey is incredibly ambitious, ruthless, and always on the lookout for opportunity. He can be a formidable opponent and he’ll prove how far he’s willing to go to win.
Sergei Zelenkov (Patrick Page)
Gentleman. Balletomane. Mobster. Sergei is a very wealthy man due not only to his successful, high-end strip club, Anastasia, but also because of his other lucrative interests pertaining to underground businesses with the Russian mafia. He’s extremely savvy and hides all his profits in shell companies. He admires the ballerinas enormously, and runs a classy operation – the dancers feel safe under his protection. However, Sergei is a very dangerous man, and will not let anyone stand in the way of his aspirations to enter the echelon of elite patrons of the ballet world.
FLESH AND BONE will premiere on November 8 on Starz.