Baby’s Back! The Faces of ABC’s ‘Dirty Dancing’ Remake

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Dirty Dancing - Abigail Breslin, Colt Prattes
Craig Sjodin/ABC

Flying High

To perfect the iconic lift that Swayze and Grey pulled off for the film’s last number, Prattes and Breslin started slow. And on the floor. “We began by playing airplane, just like you did when you were a kid,” the actress says with a laugh. “I’m a huge klutz, so getting me to be graceful in the air was a huge feat.”

Katey Sagal as Vivian Pressman in Dirty Dancing
Guy D'Alema/ABC

The Bungalow Bunny

Miranda Garrison’s “bungalow bunny”—a woman who spends her summer at a resort sans husband—did little more than shimmy in the original. Here, Katey Sagal does a sexy cover of Peggy Lee’s “Fever.” “It was terrifying at first,” says Sagal, who once sang backup for Bette Midler. “But ‘Fever’ is more jazz than musical, and that was up my alley.”

Dirty Dancing - Nicole Scherzinger and Colt Prattes
Guy D'Alema/ABC

That Line

Colt Prattes and Nicole Scherzinger easily slipped into Patrick Swayze’s and Cynthia Rhodes’s jazz shoes as Johnny and pal Penny. Prattes was more nervous about pulling off Swayze’s famed “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” and couldn’t even bring himself to rehearse it. “When I finally said it, Bruce laughed and said, ‘It’s out now! You’re chill!’”

Dirty Dancing - Debra Messing, Bruce Greenwood
Guy D'Alema/ABC

Meeting the Parents

In ABC’s update, Baby’s mom and dad, Marjorie and Jake (originally played by Gilmore Girl Kelly Bishop and Law & Order’s Jerry Orbach), are more troubled. “For years, she was a dutiful spouse and devoted mother,” says Debra Messing (with Bruce Greenwood). “Now she’s taking a closer look at her life. Every marriage goes through that, in any decade.”

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The three decades since Dirty Dancing premiered certainly haven’t done anything to diminish the movie’s popularity. Viewers still have the time of their lives watching (and rewatching) naive 17-year-old Baby (Jennifer Grey) fall for rebellious dance instructor Johnny (Patrick Swayze) while vacationing in the Catskills during the summer of 1963.

The producers of ABC’s reboot knew they couldn’t improve upon the classic (they’re big fans). Instead, they decided to make it sing a little more by adding musical numbers. After all, the original had lots of music, but it wasn’t really a musical.

“We were all weary of breaking its DNA,” says exec producer and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler (Hamilton). “But we could play with the fact that music and dancing is how these people express themselves, their angst and their need to be heard.”

So rather than just dance to Bill Medley and Jennifer Warren’s “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” in the finale, Baby (Abigail Breslin) and Johnny (Colt Prattes) sing it too. The TV movie also fleshes out some of the characters, including Baby’s mom (Debra Messing) and dad (Bruce Greenwood) and Johnny’s older lover, Vivian Pressman (Katey Sagal). We talked to the cast about re-creating the film’s iconic moments.

Dirty Dancing, Movie Premiere, Wednesday, May 24, 8/7c, ABC