Flesh and Bone: Taking Center Stage in the 'Nutty, Nutty' World of Ballet

Aubry D'Arminio
Claire (Sarah Hay)
Patrick Harbron/Starz

Fall TV PreviewNo matter what your middle school bully might have told you, ballet isn’t for sissies. And neither is Flesh and Bone, Starz’s eight-episode miniseries set in New York City’s ultracompetitive professional ballet scene. (All episodes will be available via Starz On Demand the same day as the premiere.) Within the first 10 minutes, the lead character, young ingenue Claire (real-life ballerina Sarah Hay), pulls off her own toenail. And it just gets grittier from there.

“I like to think of the series as Breaking Bad: Ballet,” explains creator Moira Walley-Beckett, who earned an Emmy for her writing work on AMC’s iconic drama. “It’s a dark psychological journey set against the backdrop of dance’s underbelly. The ballet world is a nutty, nutty place.”

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Not that Claire is completely untroubled to begin with: She arrives at her first big audition after having just run away from her abusive Pittsburgh home. The role was very difficult to cast due to Walley-Beckett’s strict commandment that she be played by a dancer. “I didn’t want to fake it,” she says. “I didn’t want an actress who could dance a bit. I wanted a dancer who could act.” After a seven-month search, the showrunner and Starz were considering shelving the series when they found Hay all the way across the pond, dancing with the Semperoper Ballet in Dresden, Germany. “We put her through the ringer with auditions. Just like in the pilot,” Walley-Beckett says. “It became very clear that she was my Claire.”

Flesh and Bone, premieres Sunday, Nov. 8, 8/7c, Starz