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‘Flesh and Bone’ showrunner: ‘We rip the Band-Aid off’ the ballet world

Actors Sarah Hay, Ben Daniels, Sascha Radetsky and Josh Helman speak onstage during the "Flesh and Bone" panel discussion at the Starz portion of the 2015 Summer TCA Tour.

Actors Sarah Hay, Ben Daniels, Sascha Radetsky and Josh Helman speak onstage during the “Flesh and Bone” panel discussion at the Starz portion of the 2015 Summer TCA Tour.

(Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

There’s no “faking it” on “Flesh and Bone.”

When it came time to cast the upcoming limited series from Starz that is set in the cutthroat world of ballet, pains were taken to ensure its talent could twirl and glide without help from editing, said executive producer Moira Walley-Beckett.

“It was a daunting challenge,” Walley-Beckett said during the show’s panel Friday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Beverly Hills. “Chris Albrecht and the team at Starz and I decided that it would be greenlight contingent. The verisimilitude was really important to me. I didn’t want to fake it. I didn’t want to have body doubles. I didn’t want to have actors who could dance a little. I wanted dancers. I wanted to be able to put the camera anywhere.”

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Walley-Beckett, whose prior TV credit was serving as a writer and executive producer on AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” said the team embarked on an “exhaustive” seven-month international search for its core cast. But the show’s lead dancer — self-destructive Claire — took the longest to cast.

And then the drama’s choreographer, Ethan Stiefel, a former artistic director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet and a former American Ballet Theatre principal dancer, remembered a former ABT student, Sarah Hay. She was, by then, dancing for a company in Germany.

“We tracked her down ... the rest is history,” Walley-Beckett said. “But, yeah, it was quite an exploit to cast this show.”

Rounding out the cast are former American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Irina Dvorovenko, ABT soloist Sascha Radetsky (who many will recall from the film “Center Stage”), Ballet Arizona company dancer Raychel Diane Weiner and “Boardwalk Empire’s” Emily Tyra.

Full coverage: Television Crtitics Association press tour 2015

In discussing how “Flesh and Bone” sets itself apart from other ballet-set dramas that have emerged in TV and film over the years (i.e. “Center Stage” and “Black Swan”), Walley-Beckett and the cast said the Starz drama goes beyond the superficial.

“This is the first time we’ve really seen the underbelly of a ballet company,” Walley-Beckett said. “And I feel like a lot of those movies have catered to the very glossy, ephemeral optical illusion that is ballet. And we rip the Band-Aid off.”

Hay added that past entertainment glimpses into the world “either stay on the surface or they dive too deep into the drama. This particular story has reality to its fullest as a dancer. It’s completely authentic. There’s no frills to it.”

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And Starz expects the inherent high-stakes drama of it all will compel viewers to watch more than one episode in one sitting. Starz CEO Chris Albrecht announced earlier on Friday that “Flesh and Bone” (along with “Da Vinci’s Demons”) would make all episodes of the limited series available for Starz subscribers on its Starz Play app and Starz On Demand, corresponding with the show’s first episode premiere on Nov. 8.

Releasing all episodes at once, to allow for binge-watching, is a model that seems to be catching on in the wake of Netflix’s success with the strategy. NBC recently experimented with the tactic, releasing all episodes of its summer drama “Aquarius” via various on-demand platforms immediately after the show’s series premiere.

“The fourth quarter is so heavy this year, so rather than tease it out, we’re just going to drop them,” Albrecht told reporters. “It’s fun to run a premium network and do different things with programming, and this is an experiment for us.”

Walley-Beckett, meanwhile, just hopes viewers have a “voracious appetite.”

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“And I hope it’s going to cause a sensation,” she said. “I’m excited. I’m excited about the binge because that’s how I would watch it.”

I tweet about TV (and other things) here: @villarrealy

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