Tackling the rigorous world where dance and athletics clash in the world of competitive sports, the new VH1 drama series HIT THE FLOOR showcases the trials and tribulations of a dance squad in professional basketball. Just as fearless and full of energy as the character she portrays, star Kat Bailess embraces the challenge of bringing a fictional dancer’s life to the screen. In an exclusive interview, Kat shared what her new series is all about and how much fun she is having playing the notorious Kyle (pronounced like the masculine version).
How did you get involved with HIT THE FLOOR?
KAT: I first heard about the role when my agent called and said, “You might be perfect for this.” So I auditioned and I literally had like seven call-backs. No joke. There was a dance call, an actor call, and by the end of the 7 auditions, I was like, “Wow, this is my role,” and I feel like kind of invented her because she wasn’t supposed to be Southern at first. When I came in to my third call-back and they were like, “Where are you from?” and I said, “Mississippi.” I didn’t really have the accent at first, and they were like, “Can you come back and bring Kyle back as Southern?” and I was like, “Yeah!” And that’s how I kind of created her. I took this character, who could have been really bitchy and turned it around. That’s kind of my story in auditioning for Kyle.
What was the general description for the character of Kyle before you took on the role and made it your own?
KAT: As described on their website, she’s “sex on legs.” She’s confident. She’s smart. She’s out for herself. She’s honest about everything she does. She doesn’t lie. And even though she’s selfish in a way, she has a big heart. She’s not just all about herself. She does do other things for people. But by making her Southern it gives her a different edge. Like in my real life, because I’m from Mississippi, sometimes I say things and because I’m Southern, people just brush it off and laugh — even if it’s weird and quirky and maybe a little offensive. So when they found out I was Southern, the creator and producer of the show was like, “Ding, ding, ding! Oh my god, she’s likeable now. This girl is not just ‘sex on legs,’ stripper on the side, bitch.” And I’ve played a lot of bitches in my career, so it was kind of cool to go in and give her a twist, like I don’t think any of the other girls who auditioned for the role made her comedic.
So you’re bringing the comedy to HIT THE FLOOR?
KAT: (Laughs) It was originally a drama, and now is a dramedy because of me. I’m not joking. I swear, I say stuff and they’re laughing and saying, “Kat, you’re just too much.” I’m just a ball of energy in my real life. But this character brought out a new side of me as a person and as an actress. There’s nothing that Kyle will not do. I mean, nothing. Me, being a mover-and-a-shaker, I’ll give James LaRosa (the creator), a “Hey, I thought of something really cool to do,” and he’ll go, “oh god, here we go.” Then I’ll do it and ask, “you like it?” and he’ll say, “perfect, do it.” I’m talking about stretching-wise or kind of like move-wise. Like I’m very specific about how I dance for Kyle. There’s a specific kind of dancing on our show. So when I’m not acting, I’m dancing and that’s a dream come true for an actress/dancer. But when I’m performing a number with all 14 girls, I’m not just dancing, I’m acting. I have to be that girl. I have to be Kyle, which is hard. But it’s getting easier after filming all 10 episodes with 10 dances. There are huge dance numbers. Michael Rooney is our choreographer and he is brilliant. People are just going to be falling all over him.
Did you get a chance to ask the writers what was the thinking behind giving your character Kyle such a masculine name for a girl?
KAT: It’s funny. When I was auditioning for roles, I was talking with a friend of mine and she was like, “Oh, it’s K-Y-L-I-E,” and I was like, “No, no, no. It’s Kyle.” And she was like, “Really? But that’s a guy’s name” and I was like, “Exactly.” I think they chose that name because it’s strong and she’s strong. Kyle beats to her own drum. Like how girls that have guy’s names maybe have a tom-boyish-esque vibe. But that’s just me. That’s what I think.
How about your own name of Katherine?
KAT: Nobody calls me Katherine. Everybody calls me Kat. It’s just catchier and a little bit sassier. So that’s why I like the name Kyle. It’s funny ‘cause I don’t mind when people call me Kyle – and they do. People cannot differentiate somehow between me and Kyle. I even told my mom, “I think they renamed me,” and she’s like, “Lord, please don’t become that character in your daily life!”
Has your mom been able to see any of the show yet?
KAT: She saw the promos. But she hasn’t seen any episodes. They have been so secretive. It took forever for me to see the pilot ‘cause they weren’t done. They weren’t ready to release it. But pretty soon we should be seeing trailers on VH1. I can’t wait! They showed us a few things on set, which is cool. But we haven’t seen any episodes. We just hear from people, “That scene was amazing, you’re hilarious.” And I’m like, “I just want to see it!”
Sounds like you’re the show’s biggest fan.
KAT: This show, there’s nothing like it. There’s sex. There’s drama. There’s heart. There’s dancing. It feels like it’s in a league of its own. When people ask me if we break into dance like on SMASH and GLEE, and I’m like, “Oh no. These dances have a purpose. We’re the number one dance team in America in basketball. That’s who the Devil Girls are.” Like we performed at the Santa Monica pier for a charity event, which was really cool ‘cause we had all these kids down there. They came out of school that day to watch us dance and we signed autographs. It was really fun.
In this journey of Kyle’s so far, what have you found that you most admire about her?
KAT: I admire Kyle because she is who she is. She is her own person and she’s not trying to be anyone else. And she’s smart. My mom gave me this quote, she said, “Southern women are as dumb as fox.” You may think that they are not that smart, but they are. They are sly, but they are all intelligence. They just don’t show all of it ‘cause they don’t want to give away their little gifts. But Kyle, she’s an opportunist. She sees money and she goes for it, and she does it in a very sweet and funny way, and she’s very direct and she’s never crude to anybody. I also like her ‘cause I get to go to work everyday and have fun. Like jump into splits out of nowhere and that’s just who Kyle is. Like she surprises everybody. I think people are really going to connect with her even though she’s an opportunist with guys and stuff like that, but there’s a reason for it and you’ll find that out at the end of the season. (Laughs) There’s a lot of cliffhangers in this show. I would get a script and go, “What the — you’re kidding me! That’s what you’re doing? Okay. Let’s do it.” That’s the thing about Kyle, she’s not afraid to do anything. So I guess, as an actress being Kyle, I can’t be afraid either. ‘Cause I’ll do pretty much anything. There wasn’t much time to think. You just kind of go with the flow. Like, “Okay, this is what I’m doing today in this scene. Let’s go for it.” A lot of hard work went into this show. I’ve never worked this hard in my life. But it’s a dream-come-true for me. I grew up dancing and now I’m acting and dancing. I have been a newbie before where I did acting and dance, but this is a whole new ballgame.
What did you find to be the biggest challenge working on this show?
KAT: The biggest challenge was the workload. Now I have empathy for those kids on GLEE, ‘cause we started dance rehearsal — and I was a dancer in New York City on scholarship and I’ve been a dancer my whole life, but I gave up dancing to come out here to act. So I concentrated on that for years. But the hardest part was getting back into the dance world, into my dance routine. I’m not even joking. It’s the hardest dance routines I’ve ever done in my entire life. Even the girls who are professional dancers on the squad, who dance every day, they were like, “This is the hardest dancing I’ve ever done in my life.” So the hardest part was dance rehearsals and then we had to start acting. That was a little bit of a challenge because I had to separate the two. By the end of the season, I was like, “How did I do all that?! Who am I? Am I Wonder Woman right now?” I mean I would learn my lines fast, go in and kill the scene, and then go and do a dance and do 10-hour dance rehearsals. There are three actresses on the show who are on the dance team: me, Logan Browning and Taylour Paige. We were rarely ever all together in rehearsals with the Devil Girls ‘cause they would be rehearsing all day. So we would have to learn it at different times. I think the dancers were pretty impressed with the actresses, ‘cause they would be like, “We don’t understand how you learned it all in one day? We just learned it 4 days ago.” But we had to. There was no, “I’m going to take my time with this.” We had to learn it fast ‘cause Michael Rooney will whoop your butt if you don’t learn fast and keep up.
How would you describe the type of dance that you performed as the Devil Girls on the show?
KAT: The Devil Girls are special. Each and every one of them is special. The Devil Girls have technique and that’s what everyone is going to see. We’re not dancing for a normal professional basketball team. We don’t compare to any other type of dance team. In reality, these are SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE dancers, the ones that close to winning, they are on our show. So we have people who are just fierce. They have tons of followers. But back to the dances, we do fun dances, tumbling, ones with ballet in them, then there’s hip-hop, Marilyn Monroe, 1940’s, and we even dance on a pool. We literally dance on top of a plexiglass covering a pool. That’s probably one of the best dances I’ve ever done in my life. I don’t think anyone has seen anything like it before. It’s so cool. They showed us a clip the other night at the wrap party and we were freaking out. We were a few inches under water dancing on top of the water. That was really, really neat. When I saw it visually, I was like, “Wow!”
So what kinds of storylines do the girls get involved with? The show is clearly not just about the dancing. What kinds of struggles do they encounter that they deal with?
KAT: Oh my gosh, in Kyle’s world, every single episode she’s after another guy and every episode she is giving advice. A lot goes on with Kyle. She grows. In the pilot you get to know her. You find out that she’s a stripper, and she’s got a little attitude and she’s funny. Then she grows into this person where you understand why she is who she is. You finally understand where she’s from, who her parents are, and you’ll find out later in the season – which is so great for me as an actress ‘cause it gives me a history and not just playing this girl and making up my own things. The writers actually gave me the history and background for Kyle. She gets an opportunity to come out of her shell and show her other talents – and I can’t give away anything – but as an actress it was challenging. But I did the work and I think I lived up to their standards. ‘Cause they wrote some episodes before we even started. We shot in blocks. We shot 2 episodes at a time. Like one day I’m shooting Episode 6 and 7 back-to-back. So you had to wrap your head around it.
Who is Kyle underneath it all? What drives her?
KAT: As you’ll see in the pilot, she’s there to dance for the front row. She’s driven to succeed. She’s not a stripper anymore and she’s there to succeed as herself. She just wants to be a star. That’s Kyle. She wants to rise to the top. She comes from a small town and she’s trying to prove something to herself and the people she grew up with. That’s kind of like me in a way. I’m from a small town in Mississippi, a dancer and moved to New York on a scholarship. Though low and behold, I didn’t think I’d be an actress in L.A. living the dream. I’m the type to get in there and give 150% and I think that’s Kyle’s personality too. I think she does her research.
What do you think the audience will really be hooked by as they watch the pilot episode?
KAT: I think they are going to be hooked by the fact this is not your normal TV series or nighttime soap. It’s wrapped around the professional basketball world and we’ve got Dean Cain as the coach and Kimberly Elise as the mother of Taylor’s character, along with Charlotte Ross and Don Stark from THAT 70’S SHOW. We’ve got all these veterans and we’ve got these new kids that are “keeping up with the Joneses.” I think people are going to enjoy the heart of it, the sexiness of it, and the cliffhangers. It’s not every episode, but there’s not one episode where you don’t go, “What?!” The writing is incredible. The creator of the show is probably one of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with. He was there every day all day making sure this show was what it needs to be – and I think it’s going to reflect that. It was beautifully filmed. And the lighting — the camera guy, Chris Baffa was from GLEE, which was cool. So he got our show. If I wasn’t on this show, I would be dying to be on this show. It just so much fun.
To see Kat as the daring and audacious Kyle, as well as their stunning dance routines, be sure to tune in for the premiere of HIT THE FLOOR on Monday, May 27th at 9:00 p.m. on VH1.
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