ATX Television Festival 2016: Pitch

ATX Television Festival 2016: Pitch

Fox’s upcoming fall series Pitch inspires with authenticity, excites with quality drama, and proves the impossible, possible.

Those of us who believe in equality may have been wondering why there is a lack of gender diversity in professional sports. Of course, we can pin it on biology, citing the natural physical differences between men and women, but surely there are exceptions to that rule. Undoubtably there has been a women that was faster, stronger, harder working then some of the men in Major League Baseball, yet here we stand in the year 2016 without even a glimpse into what it would be like. In Pitch, Fox explores not the possibility, but the inevitable, and does it with class and dignity. We were able to gain access to the pilot of this upcoming series, as well as an interview with two of the main cast members, Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Kylie Bunbury. Fair warning, there may be a bit of spoilers in this article, so leave now or too damn bad. 

First, lets talk about the show. Pitch was originally written as a TV movie, and the pilot plays as such. We begin the show at the same time that Ginny Baker (Bunbury) has been called up to the Major Leagues, to make her major league debut wth the San Diego Padres. With the media madness that would occur if and when a woman played professional baseball, Ginny finds herself having difficulty focusing. We’re shown flashbacks of how her upbringing was, and the dedication of her father to which Ginny owes her ability. To make matters even more difficult, the Padres happen to have a bit of a diva as their star player, catcher Mike Lawson (Gosselaar). Lawson isn’t necessarily against the idea of Baker pitching in the majors, but he is also too consumed with himself to aide her in any way. He also appears hesitant to rally around Baker, mainly because as captain of the team, he fears losing respect from others. It’s important to note that characters like Lawson appear to be relatively common in the majors, and Pitch had plenty of counsel from former players that lent authenticity to the show. 

As the pilot progresses, you expect Baker to come out and flourish, proving everyone wrong in the process. However, this dream does not come to fruition, as Ginny fails miserably, and gets removed from the game before even getting a single out. A tragic way to begin a career for any player, even more so for a women trying to make history. Now, to many, she’s nothing more than a joke, or a marketing scheme. It becomes quite clear that if Ginny wants to make history, and more importantly be the player she and her father always wanted her to be, she would have to be quite resilient.

For a show that could be written off ridiculous by many, Fox did an impeccable job with the writing (at least of the pilot), casting, and execution. Bunbury was just the actress to play Baker, as was Gosselaar to play Lawson, with both actors personifying their characters. Bunbury comes from a very athletic background, with her father having played professional soccer, and her brother a current professional soccer player; and Gosselaar has a lot of experience playing a dreamy egomaniac, with many years playing Zach from saved by the bell. Solid writing is really what sells this pilot as a possible successful series, so a credit to Rick Singer and Dan Fogelman for that as the writers of the show. I fell in love with this concept, and believe the authenticity they’ve proved to have in the pilot bodes well for the future of the show.

I sat down with Bunbury, Gosselaar, Singer, Kevin Falls, a producer on the show, to get their thoughts on the show, and give us a bit of insight into the process of making this series:

Question: Can you both describe your characters in Pitch?

Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I play Mike Lawson, the All-Star captain of the San Diego Padres.

Kylie Bunbury: I play Ginny Baker, and I would describe her as incredibly strong. The thing I really liked about this character is she’s not portrayed as a super human at all, she’s just a regular person, just with a lot of focus. So she’s strong but she’s also very vulnerable just like all women are. So you’re getting to see a really complex female character that everyone can relate to.

Q: So do you have a wicked fastball?

KB: I wouldn’t say I have a wicked fastball, but I definitely can pitch. I had two months to learn, so I got the mechanics down, and what you see in the show is me pitching.

Q: And you come from an athletic background, so did that help in preparing you for this role?

KB: I do, yeah. Most definitely, my dad played professional soccer, and my brother currently plays professional soccer, so watching their work ethic and how they deal with things really lent itself to how I prepared for this role.

Q: So specifically what type of training did you have to do?

MPG: I ate a lot.

KB: Yeah, your solid right now.

MPG: It’s really helped with my marriage. Training wise we had two months to train, and being a catcher is a very complex position to play. Sort of like the on field coach, and the only player that has the ball in his hand in every play. Training was going to the gym a bit more and working with our baseball technical advisors. We worked with retired baseball players, Gregg Olson and Royce Clayton. Talk about a dream role for an actor.

KB: I think we really just started living our lives like professional athletes. Eating like an athlete and working out like professional athletes.

MPG: I became very demanding like a professional player, talking to myself in the third person, I became very difficult because as an all-star player I had to be that. We had to because of MLB, there was a whole reason that we had to look the way we did.

Rick Singer: Well, this is the first television show that has gotten the full participation of Major League Baseball, so as part of the agreement was it be as authentic as possible. So they really allowed us to have full access, we shot in Petco park, and we had access to professional athletes. The caveat was that we can’t have people who can’t throw, we can’t have people who any baseball fan can look at and say “That person can’t play baseball”.

Q: Is there a reason why you chose the Padres specifically?

RS: We started out with a few teams, we felt that it being a mid-market team and they had this media onslaught, and also the proximity to Los Angeles was nice, so it was really a good fit.

Q: I understand there may be a love interest between your two characters, so Kylie, was was it like to flirt or potentially hook up with Zach Morris?

MPG: You know that went through your mind while we were shooting.

KB:  100%. I definitely had that moment, but I haven’t really thought of that love aspect, because we haven’t touched on that at all. We allude to it, because of the butt slapping. That will be a really fun part to explore.

Q: Kevin, you and Mark-Paul have worked together before, can you talk about how he came onto this project?

Kevin Falls: Well, it’s funny, because we are kind of like neighbors, so I remember when we were starting to cast, I’m thinking Mark Paul would be great for this. But I didn’t want to come in and say “I want my guy”. So we put him on the list, and we went through actor after actor, and we’d both go to dinner but we wouldn’t really talk about it.

MPG: I hadn’t read the script, and I remember we went out to dinner once with the writers from Franklin & Bash, and he talked about what he was working on, about a women making it to the majors, and I remember thinking in my head, “good luck with that”. Well if you see it on paper it you think to yourself, what is the gimmick here?

KF: You’re lucky you didn’t say that in the car.

MPG: Haha. But we drove together and I asked you “Can she pitch, is she a legitimate athlete? A week later I read the script and was immediately, I immediately called him and said “This is fucking great, I want to read for this.”

Q: Is this a life Ginny would have chosen for herself, or is this a life she was forced into?

KB: I think it is both. I asked my brother that same question, and he said it is both. I think she realizes this is what she is meant to do, but she also wants to do it.

RS: Well the backstory with her father is that he was a minor league pitcher, and he always felt if his father would have been harder on him, he would have made it. So he is definitely trying to be hard on Ginny, but I think she realizes over time this isn’t only her father’s dream for her, it’s her dream as well.

Q: The pilot almost feels like a TV movie, can we talk about what we can see for the rest of the season?

KF: Well the second episode goes more in depth in the characters lives, and we want to make sure everyone knows that it isn’t just a one off, there’s a lot of dynamic stories going forward.

RS: I’ll also say that this is the beginning, as she’s just made the team, and in a normal situation a man making the team might be the end of the story, but she is also the first women in MLB, so she’s the most famous person in the country overnight, so we explore what it looks like to continue her career whist being the face of a gender. The idea of sort of Jackie Robinson, but with social media and what he would have gone through.

 

As you can see, the cast seems stoked for the future of this show, one of a few Fox is rolling out this fall, along with Lethal Weapon and Exorcist. Be sure to keep an eye our for it’s season premier coming soon!

 

 

 

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