Big things are afoot for Raychel Diane Weiner.
The Ballet Arizona company dancer was recently cast in Flesh and Bone, an upcoming Starz dance drama created, written, and produced by Moira Walley-Beckett, who produced and wrote for Breaking Bad. Not much has been revealed about the show -- except that it'll be dark and gritty. And based on its creator's recent work, "gritty" could very much be an understatement.
Weiner recently talked with Jackalope Ranch about the show, which is set to première in 2015, her last dance with Ballet Arizona, and the one time she was on All That.
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"Moira has a really great topic to work with, because we really are pretty crazy," Weiner says of dancers serving as Walley-Beckett's inspiration. "We put ourselves through hell constantly. It takes a certain type of mental and emotional state to do this job."
Also behind the scenes of Flesh and Bone is Royal New Zealand Ballet artistic director and former American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Ethan Stiefel (whom you might recognize as Cooper from Center Stage), serving as a consultant and choreographer.
The show stars Sarah Hay (who portrayed a a member of the corps de ballet in Black Swan) as a troubled young woman joining an esteemed New York ballet company. Rounding out the cast are American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Irina Dvorovenko, ABT soloist Sascha Radetsky, Weiner, and Emily Tyra (who portrayed a dancer on Boardwalk Empire).
"One thing that I know that Moira was really adamant about was that she wanted it to be realistic. As a dancer seeing shows and movies that are kind of built around a ballet company, they're always very exaggerated. Really showing that competitive nature that is very real in the ballet world and the the ballet world on its own is a crazy mind--," she stops short of finishing and adds laughingly, "I think you know what I mean."
Walley-Beckett is a former dancer. Her fellow producer Kevin Kelly Brown comes from a family of dancers who served as the basis for the classic dance film The Turning Point.
"[Walley-Beckett will] focus not only on the costumes and galas," Weiner says. "It's definitely going to be a gritty look at what I consider to be my normal day-to-day."
Weiner will play Daphne, a character she describes as very grounded and confident.
"The way that she interacts with the other dancers made me think of my best friend at Ballet Arizona," she says. "For me it was an easy connection to make. Of course, there's a lot about the character that I don't know. Her undertone and her brief history that I know is very similar to my own personality. So it's exciting to play, perhaps, an exaggerated version of myself. The connection is there."
Filming the show, which begins production in New York this spring, means saying goodbye to Ballet Arizona and relocating to the East Coast.
"It's bittersweet," she says. "I'd be lying if i said I wasn't excited to start my new adventures."
She's anticipating a jam-packed schedule. "There'll be a lot of acting preparation, coaching, and lessons and things like that," Weiner says. "Then we'll do rehearsals. They'll be keeping us pretty busy."
She says she's excited and a little nervous. Apart from her dancing roles onstage, she doesn't have a ton of acting experience. Though her resume does include one Millennial gem.
"I did a walk-on role on All That 15-plus years ago. I pretty much just stood there and made a face," she says. "I don't know if you would call it acting, but it worked for the one skit they had me walk into."
The ballet opens Thursday, February 13, and runs through Sunday, February 16. It's an extravagant production that, Weiner says, usually requires a cast of 200. Ballet Arizona has nearly 40 dancers in its company.
"I can speak for all of us when I say we are so exhausted," she says of her current performance prep schedule. "We're very excited about La Bayadère. It's a very long ballet, very elaborate. So right now the day-to-day is complete exhaustion."
It's a dark ballet about a temple dancer who falls in love with a warrior, but their romance's end isn't pretty.
Sounds like it'll serve as the perfect inspiration for Flesh and Bone.
"With the show, you will see a lot of that reality . . . what's going on behind the dressing room doors."
Editor's note: This post has been modified from its original version.
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