‘Pitch’: Kylie Bunbury on the Pressures of Leading Such an Empowering, Inspiring Story
From creator Dan Fogelman (who also created NBC’s This is Us), the new Fox drama series Pitch tells the highly inspirational story of a young pitcher who becomes the first woman to play Major League Baseball. Gifted athlete Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury), who has been groomed for this moment by her demanding father (Michael Beach), finds herself instantly famous when she’s called up by the San Diego Padres to make her Major League debut. Like any rookie, Ginny must prove herself to her teammates, and while some of them are rooting for her to succeed, some are less than thrilled about it all.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, actress Kylie Bunbury (who is undoubtedly one of the break-out stars of the new fall TV season) talked about how empowering and inspiring this story is, the pressures of being the lead of a TV series, why she found the premise so intriguing, shooting the pilot in Petco Park in San Diego, being in constant training for this role, and the importance of being a dreamer.
Collider: I have to tell you that I’ve watched this pilot twice now and it had me in tears, both times.
KYLIE BUNBURY: Isn’t it so moving?! I know! That’s how I felt reading it, as well. I was empowered reading it, I was inspired, I was moved and I was touched. That’s how TV and film should make you feel, and that’ a large part of the reason why I wanted to be a part of this so much. It makes you feel good. With everything that’s going on in the world right now, I think that’s so important. We want to feel good. We want to feel things. We want to get back to our humanity. It’s a unique and riveting show. It’s so different. It has a powerful message. And the coolest part for me is the fact that I, as a woman of color, gets to play a strong, complex character with so many dimensions. That was really intriguing. I really feel like the proper representation of women, in TV and film, is really important and vital. We’re strong, we’re vulnerable, we’re flawed, we’re beautiful, and we’re all of these things. That’s what we need to see on screen, and this show is pretty good with that.
As an actor, it’s exciting to get to lead a TV series, but what’s been the most challenging thing about being #1 on the call sheet, every day?
BUNBURY: I think the most challenging thing has been balancing all of it and staying sane, at the same time, because I care about every aspect of being in this industry and being the lead. I have to work on the baseball, work on my acting, and making sure I’m promoting the show well and doing press, but also saving a bit of myself for myself. I think balancing all of those things has been the most challenging. It’s a lot. I feel this enormous amount of pressure, but I think pressure is good. There are a lot of parallels going on with Ginny and me, as myself. I’m still figuring out who I am and learning things about myself, and so is Ginny. And we’re both on the cusp of something that’s different. Obviously, Ginny’s is on a whole other scale, but this is different. I have to be a leader now. I’m like, “I’m too young for this shit!” But, I’m loving it. It’s been such a dream.
When you auditioned for this, there wasn’t a script, so what was it that appealed to you and what made you feel you could trust in what this would become?
BUNBURY: First off, the premise was extremely intriguing to me. I’ve always wanted to know what it’s like to be the first to do something. I think we all would love that experience, and that was really interesting to me. But then, also finding out that Dan Fogelman was attached to it, he’s pretty incredible. There is this through-line in all of his TV shows and films, which is that they have a lot of heart. That is what attracted me. I knew that this show would have a lot of heart, if he was attached to it, just seeing all the stuff that he’s created. Also, I do believe in energy, the universe and God, and I think there was something within me that just said, “This is right.” It just felt right.
What was it like to get to shoot the pilot at Petco Park in San Diego?
BUNBURY: It was incredible! Walking out there, knowing how many people would die to just experience throwing on that field, I never took one moment for granted. It’s a powerful field. It’s so ominous and amazing! My reaction when I’m walking out to the mound was my real reaction.
Even though he was so hard on her, do you think Ginny’s father is proud of everything she’s accomplished?
BUNBURY: Definitely! You can feel when your parents are proud. It’s nice to hear it sometimes, and he never does that, but she can feel how proud he is. He just has a certain way that he handles her. It’s interesting because that’s a lot like how my father was with my brother. My brother plays professional soccer, and my dad played. My dad is very hard on him and pushed him a lot, but my brother also wouldn’t be where he is, if my father didn’t push him, so I understand it.
Does Ginny wish that her father handled things differently with her, growing up, or can she appreciate how tough he was on her?
BUNBURY: I think some days, she probably wished, “Man, couldn’t he just be a dad?!” But other days, it was probably like, “Wow, I’m so grateful!”
By the end of the pilot, Ginny is able to win some people over who seemed to doubt her abilities. Will we start to see more team loyalty, going forward?
BUNBURY: Yeah. I think any player, as a rookie coming into any sport, has to prove themselves. The team is trying to treat her just like any other player, but it’s difficult because she’s a girl. There’s always the one jerk, but the thing with Tommy is that Ginny took over his spot, so it’s a little bit more understandable that he has more of a prickly disposition towards her. But you do see Ginny warming up and you do see the team warming up, and both of those things come together a little bit more, which is really great. You’ll see her finding herself more, becoming more confident, and finding her voice. In the third episode, she really proves herself to the team, in a way that no one really thought that she would. So, you will see her prove herself. Ginny just wants to be a ball player. That’s what she’s there for. She loves baseball and she’s worked really hard at it. All of the other stuff is just stuff. Baseball is her livelihood and her passion. You’re going to see her prove herself to the team, which is great.
Because you weren’t a baseball player yourself, before being cast in this role, is this something you think you’ll always have to train for?
BUNBURY: Yeah. What’s interesting about that is, before I took an acting class, I was just acting on instinct, but natural ability can only take you so far. I remember talking to my brother on the phone one day, and he said, “Kylie, when I turned pro, I didn’t stop training. I trained, every day.” That’s when I was like, “I need to learn how to act, and I need to keep at it, for the rest of my life.” So, I’m still going to class. Just because I’m booking things does not mean I should not be sharpening my craft, so I’m going to continue to go to acting class. And as long as this show goes, I’m going to continue to do my baseball lessons. I have to. I can’t be lackadaisical with this. Baseball fans don’t play. They’ll tell you if your shit is wack.
Have you found the baseball aspect of this easier or harder than you thought it would be?
BUNBURY: I was really nervous, obviously, but I’m really athletic. It’s the mechanics of it and the technical aspect, so I just thought of it like dance. I thought, “Okay, if I get the rhythm down, I’ll be good.” I’m pretty proud of myself that I can pitch and that it’s actually me pitching in the show. I just feel like everything came together and I’m in the right place in my life, right now. I just feel so blessed and so grateful. What an opportunity this is!
How do you feel about just how much of a role model and an inspiration this character is going to be, for so many people?
BUNBURY: It’s mind-boggling. I just want to bring back good-hearted shows, and this is a good-hearted show. People are going to get really inspired by this. Ginny is a dreamer, and we’re all dreamers. As time goes on, we suppress our dreams, which really makes me sad. Even right now, I’m getting emotional thinking about it because we shouldn’t. Our happiness matters and our dreams matter. I’ve found a lot of happiness in my dream, and this show is going to inspire and empower a lot of people. Just because it hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean that it can’t be done.
Pitch airs on Thursday nights on Fox.