‘The Big Leap’: Mallory Jansen on Monica’s Risky Move, Relationship With Nick & More
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for The Big Leap Episode 3 “The White Swan Lives.”]
Monica Sullivan (Mallory Jansen) has been serving as the choreographer of the show-within-a-show of The Big Leap, but in the October 4 episode, we see her take the stage in a flashback (leading to her career-ending injury) and she takes a step forward to possibly dance again.
In “The White Swan Lives,” a visit to her old ballet company brings up the past for Monica, so is it any surprise that after that (and seeing her former understudy), she’s willing to do whatever it takes to dance again? But as her doctor warns, she’s still injured even if it doesn’t hurt anymore. But after one injection to her knee, rather than taking it easy, as he recommends, she immediately begins dancing again.
Jansen teases what’s next for Monica and dance, her relationship with Nick (Scott Foley), and more.
The White Swan lives! And you were a ballet dancer, right? So how much are we going to see you dancing going forward?
Mallory Jansen: You will see a lot of dancing. I certainly have been doing a lot of bar classes with our choreography team and a lot of choreography. I have a background in dance. I grew up doing ballet from about the age of 5 to 16. So it’s been a minute, but a lot does stay with you, and I’m so grateful that I had that bit of training going into this role.
The dance portion is such a beautiful thing for me. It’s such a lovely way to tell the story. In Episode 3, we see Monica onstage for the first time in her former life as a principal dancer and she’s the White Swan. It was one of the most special things for me to film and really got me connected with the character in a way. I started to understand what Monica was missing out on after her career. She loved being on stage and there’s really no feeling like it. And filming the dance is amazing. I never thought I’d be playing a White Swan onstage and back to my ballet roots, but I just loved every minute of it.
There’s no way Monica’s going to take it easy. How soon before something goes wrong?
She’s not done with dancing. She needs to continue because it’s all she’s ever known and she just loves it with a passion. In Episode 4, we see more of her dealing with her injury in not the most healthy way. But we’re also going to see another spectacular dance number between Monica and Justin [Raymond Cham, Jr.]. And we just get a sense of how much this means to her and how willing she is to do anything to continue dancing because that’s where she feels herself. It’s where she’s her happiest.
Now that Monica lost Claude (Fabrice Calmels), she’s focusing on Justin as the best of the bunch that’s left.
Yeah, she’s really honing in on Justin. She sees part of herself in Justin and he has so much potential that she’s definitely singling him out from the beginning and not in the most healthy way. It’s unfortunate, but in the dance world sometimes teachers think that you need to break someone down to build them up, and she’s definitely doing that with Justin. She sees that he has so much talent and he’s not trying to meet that potential. She’s doing everything she can to make that happen because she knows that it’s probably not gonna happen for her again. In that really beautiful dance number between Monica and Justin in Episode 4, we’ll get a sense of that pure love of dance that they both have, and it’s really special.
She’s warming up to Gabby (Simone Recasner) just a little bit. Are we going to see more of that?
Yeah, I definitely think so. Monica started off so guarded and so against this whole competition — it was really her only option, she couldn’t be on stage — but over time, she’s starting to understand that these amateur dancers have their own stories and they have their own talents. It’s going to take her a while to fully understand that and fully connect with these people, but yeah, Gabby is one of them. She sees Gabby has a lot of drive, and Monica respects that. In Episode 3, she’s definitely not the nicest and perhaps excludes Gabby from performing in Swan Lake, but that’s only because she really believes in Justin so much that she wants to push him to the top.
But she will learn over time that everything she learned in her career, she can now pass on to these dancers and do something positive with [that]. … She’s certainly softening to a lot of people in the competition. She’ll never be sweet, innocent Monica, but this is such a learning experience for her as it is for all the contestants.
I like the contrast between Monica and Wayne (Kevin Daniels). The show needs both characters.
I agree. I absolutely love that relationship. Kevin Daniels is such a lovely guy. He’s full of energy. He’s so warm and he has this hearty laugh. There’s such a difference between Monica and Wayne. He is so positive and she is not, but somehow they just work together. They have a mutual understanding of each other’s lives because they both come from the dance world and they both know what each other has gone through. Both have a past that they’ve been a part of and have tried to help each other through, so it’s a beautiful friendship. The first time I met Kevin was on my first day of filming at the judges table when we were watching all the performances in Episode 1, and we just had this instant connection. It’s just a weird dynamic we have, but it’s also kind of beautiful.
Then there’s Monica and Nick’s relationship. What’s coming up there? More of the same or will we see a change?
That’s something that no one really expected in Episode 2. [Laughs] They’re both very intense people and they both have stuff going on in their private lives and maybe this is just an escape for now and a bit of fun and, and certainly for Monica in the beginning, it’s trying to get her control of the situation back. Because she feels like Nick is certainly trying to take over her department, which is dance. That’s her control in the show, but he’s sort of encroaching on that and saying, “Well, no, it’s not about dance. It’s about fistfights and things going wrong and I just need the ratings,” and that’s not what Monica signed up for. So her way of getting control back is what you see in Episode 2.
But I think people will be quite surprised at where things go from here with the two of them. I genuinely think there’s an attraction between Monica and Nick and it’s a little obscure and bizarre in the beginning and she has all these rules that she sets up for him. But hey, Monica is a woman who knows what she wants, and I respect her for that. [Laughs]
I love that. And he’s following the rules. I like how in this episode, he’s like, “oh, this is happening again.”
Oh yeah, exactly. And it’s so funny because the power dynamic just shifts. In the beginning, Nick is in control of the entire show and he has this power over everyone, but then Monica starts off this relationship and things shift there. I think people will be so interested to see where this goes from here and how it’s going to change – change things in the show and everything.
And I like Wayne’s reaction to them.
[Laughs] “You pet the snake, didn’t you?” That’s one of my favorite lines. A lot of my friends texted me after they watched that episode just in caps: “You pet the snake.” We have incredible writers on this show and they write the funniest lines, and I’m very blessed because Wayne and I get some of the best one-liners. Given Monica and Wayne have this long friendship that has spanned over many years, they just know what’s going on, and that’s lovely and funny to watch.
Monica has the best lines. What’s your favorite?
The one that comes to mind straight away is “shut your mouth, no” when she overhears Raven saying they should have stripper poles on stage. I think that was just so funny. But also there was a lot of stuff that Liz Heldens and Jason Winer were throwing at me in the pilot just to put out there when we were at the judges’ table. And one of them was, “if I was in a car accident, do you think I could get out of my contract?” [Laughs] Or “that just gave me a UTI.”
I just love working with this material. They really know how to make the show so heartwarming and relatable, but then at the same time, it has this wicked sense of humor, especially when it comes to Monica. It’s not your typical sense of humor. It’s very dry but they know how to cater to that.
The Big Leap, Mondays, 9/8c, Fox