In order to play a fictional TV producer on his new Fox drama “The Big Leap,” Scott Foley thought about some of the real-life figures that he’s worked with.
“I’ve been really fortunate to work with great producers, whether it’s J.J. Abrams — ‘Felicity’ was his first thing — or Bill Lawrence with ‘Scrubs,’ or Shonda Rhimes with ‘Scandal,’” Foley, 49, told The Post on the phone from Chicago, where he’s currently filming the show.
“But the freshest in my mind was the time I spent in Prague shooting ‘Whiskey Cavalier’ with Bill Lawrence,” he said of the short-lived ABC series. “I watched the way he dealt with talent and writers. [I noticed] his empathy, but also his drive of having the show be the focus without sort of hurting anybody, if that makes sense. Bill is nowhere near as callous as my character can be. But he was a big inspiration to me when I was developing the Nick character off the page and in my head.”
Premiering Monday (9 p.m.) “The Big Leap” follows a diverse cast of down-on-their-luck characters as they try to change their lives by appearing on a reality TV show that will culminate in a modern reimagining of “Swan Lake.”
Among others, there’s single mom Gabby (Simone Recasner) who gave up on dance dreams to raise her son, cancer survivor Paula (Piper Perabo), pro-athlete Reggie (Ser’Darius Blain) who’s gotten bad press, and laid-off autoworker Mike (Jon Rudnitsky) who’s now juggling several jobs to get by. It’s all overseen by fast-talking producer Nick Blackburn (Foley), who’s reeling from his own failures in his professional and personal life.
Foley is the biggest name in the cast, best known for “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal,” and “Scream 3,” among others. He’s surprised by which of his roles resonate, he said.
“I did ‘Felicity’ when I was 26. I’m 49 now, you never think people would still be telling me ‘Oh my god, Noel was my favorite!’ [But] I’ve heard more times than not that the reason they went to college in New York was because of ‘Felicity,’ or the reason they cut their hair.”
As much as he’s an industry veteran however, “The Big Leap” gave Foley something new.
“I’ve been doing this long enough that I can look at [a script] and know how it’s going to sound coming out of my mouth,” he said. “Certain writers don’t write in the way I speak. So, I look at the ease with which the words flow. And then I look for stories that interest me and stories I haven’t seen before. I don’t mind playing a similar character to something I’ve played before, as long as there’s a new challenge. But Nick is completely different than anything I’ve played before.”
“I’m not used to being such a directly dastardly character. Jake on ‘Scandal’ was a bad guy because that was part of his job, but Nick is actively looking to exploit people. And that is something that is hard for me to do. I sort of bristle every time I get a new script because I’m like, ‘I like this person, and I have to use them in this way!’ It can be difficult, but I’ve really embraced it. I had a conversation with the writer the other day where I say, ‘The meaner you can make Nick, the better he is.’ That’s the first challenge — getting over my nice-guy thing.”
Making the show was tricky, since like most other productions, “The Big Leap” was shut down on three separate occasions during the pandemic. It was worth it in the end, Foley said.
“I love making television, I love the process of being on set, and rarely do I get as much enjoyment out of watching the shows as I do making them. But this was different. You never know how it’s going to turn out. I was so proud when I saw the pilot. I felt like, ‘Oh, man, I chose OK!’ Everyone is going to see themselves represented one way or another in the characters. I’m sick of seeing people die on TV — and in real life. [This show] is full of heart.”
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