Last week Hypable got the chance to attend Paleyfest and interview the cast and creators of Fox’s Pitch on the red carpet before the pilot’s screening and panel discussion.
From its start, Pitch’s pilot promises a cinematic television experience that isn’t afraid to dive deep into the social issues surrounding sexism today. From its overt Jackie Robinson comparisons, to its more subtle nods to trailblazing (and often divisive) women like Ellen DeGeneres, Hillary Clinton, and even Kim Kardashian, this is a show that hinges on the question: what is it like having the weight of an entire generation’s hopes on your shoulders?
Originally conceived as a film, it took 10 years to finally get Pitch off the ground, and its unique partnership with the MLB has brought an authentic, grounded feel to the show that’s unlike anything that’s ever been done on television before. The actors endured extensive, grueling training so they could learn to look like professional athletes while playing baseball, and Pitch’s partnership with the MLB has meant they’ve been able to blend fiction with reality by using real-life baseball stadiums and uniforms, even participating in an All-Star Game storyline when it was conveniently hosted in San Diego this year.
Mo McRae, who plays Blip, told us, “Working with the MLB is like a dream come true. We have their support and they’ve opened up the doors of their stadiums and we’re wearing their uniforms. Former players have given us advice and guidance and consulted us along the way. It’s been an incredible partnership.”
What makes Pitch remarkable, though, is the way it transcends baseball with its provocative storytelling and compelling characters. Chief among these standout characters is our heroine, Ginny Baker, who becomes the first woman to play Major League Baseball when she’s drafted to pitch for the San Diego Padres. The search to find the perfect person to play Ginny was an arduous, seven month-long process because the creators were looking for someone who not only had the acting chops, but whom they felt the audience could believably see as a baseball player.
Kylie Bunbury landed the part because “she walked in with the essence of an athlete,” but she’s sure to become a household name for what she brings emotionally to the screen. The director of the pilot, Paris Barclay, talked about how Kylie uniquely brings to Ginny the ability to make her interesting even when she’s silent. She brings a three-dimensionality to the character that goes beyond the words written in the script, so that from the opening scene when we first meet her, we understand who this woman is.
Kylie Bunbury is not only the star of the show, but she was the star of Paleyfest as well. A brilliant, beautiful, and socially aware actress, she shone on the red carpet while talking to us about her hopes for what young women — especially young women of color — can get from watching Pitch. “The biggest thing I hope girls get from this is for them to know that they are enough. For them to know that they’re capable. That they’re worthy. And to stay dreaming and believing in themselves. It’s a powerful story, and I think it’s really going to inspire and empower people.”
Kylie was drawn to the role of Ginny Baker because she is a fully-realized, three-dimensional character allowed to not only be strong, but complex and vulnerable, too. Her vulnerabilities are most clearly defined by her relationship with her father and first coach, who is not only her biggest champion, but also often her biggest obstacle.
As the ultimate underdog story, it’s amazing that this kind of high concept plotline hasn’t been seen on screen before. But in terms of what’s happening in the political and social climate in 2016, there’s no better time to delve into the implications of what it means to suddenly be thrust onto the national stage as the most famous woman in the country, while also living through the 24-hour news cycle.
Director Paris Barclay explained to us why Pitch was so important and relevant in 2016 by saying, “There couldn’t be a better time for Pitch. I think we’re just at the tipping point when people are finally getting to understand the fact that women can do anything a man can do — they may have to find a different way to do it, but they can get it done. So I think that this show coming to fruition now is very fortuitous because I want my kids, who are two young boys, to imagine a world where a woman can be on the mound in any business.”
Agreed, sir. We could all do with some girl power inspiration.
Pitch premieres tonight, Thursday, September 22 at 9 p.m. EST on Fox.