Now past the mid-point of its first season, and fresh off its two Golden Globe nominations, Flesh and Bone has proven time and time again that it’s not afraid to shy away from the grotesque side of ballet or of life in general. As Claire falls further down the rabbit hole at the American Ballet Company and the club, the drama continues to get more and more intense.
One of the show’s most intriguing characters, Daphne, portrayed by Raychel Diane Weiner, recently stepped into the spotlight thanks to her secret dealings with club owner Sergei in order to get ahead at ABC. The TV Junkies had the opportunity to chat with Weiner about Daphne’s paternal relationships, her killer closet, and get the inside scoop on how realistic the show’s portrayal of professional ballet really is.
The TV Junkies: Flesh and Bone is a very dark portrayal of the ballet world. As a dancer yourself, how did you react to the script?
Raychel Diane Weiner: It did make me giggle a little bit when I first read the pilot, because we didn’t get scripts until one episode was finished, so all I had to base my initial opinion [was based] off of the pilot. It made me giggle because I was like, “Oh yeah, I remember when I was in the room and an artistic director did that.”
It was definitely a little bit scary to really dive that deeply into the dark side of the ballet world, just because you don’t want to ruffle too many feathers and upset too many people. But a lot of it is reality, so it was exciting to show what some have to deal with. It’s not a universal crazy in the ballet world, but there’s definitely those moments of reality that are in the show.
TTVJ: Have you personally experienced anything like what we’ve seen on the show?
RDW: I’ve witnessed a few things. I’ve witnessed some explosions from artistic directors, I’ve witnessed some inappropriate behaviour between a boss and an employee, but never to the extreme the show has. It’s television and larger than life. I’ve heard of other things happening, luckily it’s never happened directly to me or to any one of my dear friends, so I’m thankful for that. It does exist; it’s very rare, but some of those situations definitely exist.
TTVJ: Sex and sexuality is a big theme in Flesh and Bone, which is something we don’t always associate with ballerinas, so what was your take on the juxtaposition of that prim and proper ballerina and some of the more overt images of sex on the show?
RDW: I would say that, in general, and I guess I am speaking for myself, I think that as dancers we’re very sexual people. We spend our whole day half-naked, being partnered, touching each other, we don’t have much personal space. We are very tactile with one another, and I think that is a real reality of the dance world and being a ballerina in particular, because when you’re performing you’re postured and elegant and then in the studio as soon as your rehearsal’s over, you’re flopped over somebody’s lap and you’re just like, “Ugh, kill me.”
The show in particular is really exploring more of the female psyche, and it’s more human stories and then the ballet aspect is the connecting thread or the vein that introduces Claire to this cast of characters and puts her in these situations. My first thought was that there wasn’t a direct connection between ballet and sex. They were ballerinas, but you actually got to see their lives behind closed doors. It is a very sexy show, but it was a lot of fun.
TTVJ: On that subject of seeing their lives behind closed doors, obviously Daphne has a double life as a stripper, and we see how close she is with the club owner Sergei. How would you define their relationship?
RDW: I always viewed it as a paternal type of relationship. I think Daphne has always wanted the admiration for her art form that she receives from Sergei from her own father. I think that Daphne knows “this is not my dad,” so there is that flirtation that’s involved and that comfortability of being completely herself around Sergei, but at the end of the day I think that there is a very strong father and daughter type of relationship. At least that’s how I viewed it, so as me playing Daphne, that’s how I looked into it. He is so proud of the fact that Daphne and Claire are ballerinas and Daphne never got to have that approval from her father, so I think that’s what really draws Daphne to Sergei.
TTVJ: So do you think that was her motivation for going to Sergei for the money for the American Ballet Company instead of her father?
RDW: Absolutely. She doesn’t get any respect or acknowledgement from her father and at that point her relationship with her father is strictly financial, and she doesn’t want that. So then it’s like, “OK, do I continue to further prove that all I need him for is money and that’s all we’ll be is a bank account transaction type of relationship, or do I save that and ask somebody that I trust?”
Whether she should trust Sergei or not, every decision Daphne makes throughout the series is a business decision, which is something that I loved about her. She seems to have a good grip on the choices she made and in using Sergei to help her was definitely a conscious choice, I think.
TTVJ: She does seem have a confidence that many of the other dancers don’t. Even when she uses the money as leverage to become a soloist, she maintains that it would have happened regardless.
RDW: I think that she doesn’t have the same kind of struggle that [the other dancers] do in the sense that she’s not stressing about rent or the day to day stresses we all have. Daphne doesn’t seem to be bothered with them, so she gets the opportunity to take the extra time to really find who she is. The other dancers are not a threat to her, she knows she’s good and earned and deserved everything that she’s gotten. I think that she [thinks], “This is my world and you’re all just existing in it.” And that’s how she lives her life.
TTVJ: She certainly has one of the best TV closets I’ve ever seen.
RDW: I know, is that not ridiculous? I wanted to take it home. I don’t know where or how I could ever fit it in my tiny apartment, but that closet is ridiculous, it’s amazing.
TTVJ: Have you heard any news on Season 2?
RDW: As far as I know, the story has ended. Of course, I want more because I think Daphne has a lot more to say and I think that in general I think the show has the potential to go in any direction, but as of now I think we’ve taken our final bow.
Flesh and Bone airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Super Channel and Starz.
Associate Editor Kelly Townsend always had strong opinions on TV growing up, so it was only natural to evolve from couch musings to online journalism. She can't ever choose a favorite series, so please don't ask. Her writing has also appeared on IndieWire and Tribute.ca. You can find her on Twitter at @kellybtownsend.