Abigail Breslin and Colt Prattes, who are leading the star-studded cast of ABC’s remake of the 1987 classic “Dirty Dancing,” said it took them months of training to nail the iconic “lift” scene.
The climactic lift scene in the original is one of the most memorable moments in film history. It called for Jennifer Grey, who played Frances “Baby” Houseman, to run and leap into Patrick Swayze’s arms as he lifted her over his head in front of a ballroom full of people, set to the song “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” recorded by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes.
Prattes, who takes on Swayze’s original role of Johnny Castle in the three-hour ABC remake, and like Swayze was a trained dancer before he picked up acting, whereas Breslin, who plays Baby, was a dance novice. "Dirty Dancing" will air on May 24 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
“I don't think I could have done this with anybody else in the world, because [of] the amount of trust that it takes to literally just jump into somebody's arms and hope that they catch you,” said Breslin.
Prattes said he and Breslin started off practicing with him lying on the floor, holding Breslin’s hands and lifting her up with his feet.
“I would lay on the ground and I'd just put my arms up, and she'd put her hips right here [on my feet],” Prattes said.
“And even just lifting my hand off of the floor, you would think that I was bungee jumping out of an airplane,” added Breslin.
Breslin, known for her role in “Little Miss Sunshine” and TV’s “Scream Queens,” said she was not acting in the scenes where her character is being taught how to dance.
“I'm not a dancer, I'm not graceful, I can't even walk in a straight line,” she said. “I couldn't be the furthest thing from somebody who would be seen as, like, ‘Wow, she's so poised.’ Like, nobody's ever said that about me.”
This was one of the most physically challenging roles Breslin said she ever done, because aside from dancing, “You have to also act, and sing, and be in '60s wardrobe and wearing heels … when it all comes together it's kind of a lot of pressure,” she continued.
Breslin said she even toyed with the idea of turning down the role at first because she wasn’t confident in her dancing skills.
“I would have never not taken it, because that would be really dumb,” she said. “But I did think about it, and I thought like, ‘Am I going to embarrass myself in front of the world? Like, what if I'm not capable of doing these things? Like, that's possible, right?’ And thankfully I was working with the best people in the world.”
Prattes, known for appearing in the sensual music video alongside Pink for her hit song “Try,” said he used to watch the original film over and over growing up.
“I became a Patrick Swayze super fan before I ever started dancing,” Prattes said. “When I found out that he had been a dancer before, because he was a dancer before he was an actor, and I was like, ‘Wait a second, I can do this? Like, this is a real thing? I can be a dancer and, like, then I can also act?’ It changed everything, and that was a huge part of why I started dancing in the first place. So this is beyond full circle.”
Debra Messing plays Baby’s mother Marjorie Houseman in the remake and said “Dirty Dancing” is more than just its iconic story.
“It’s the movie that you love, it’s the music that you love, it’s the iconic lines that everyone can repeat but it’s just more,” Messing said. “It’s richer, it’s more music and I think it has this new undercurrent of feminism.”
Breslin agreed that the character Baby is a “pretty strong feminist,” which will continue to ring true with this new generation of viewers.
“Even though she really is infatuated with Johnny and, you know, clearly has a crush in the beginning that soon develops into love -- she doesn't take anything from him,” Breslin said. “She shuts him down when he's getting out of line, and I think that that's important … just because you like somebody doesn't mean you can let them treat you badly.”
Breslin said she heard from the original Baby herself -- Grey -- when she was filming “Scream Queens” season 2. Katey Sagal, who plays Vivian Pressman in the remake, said she thinks Swayze would have been “thrilled” with the new movie. Swayze died in 2009.
“I think he would have a cameo,” Sagal said. “He’d be some hot counselor.”
Breslin said she has watched the “Dirty Dancing” remake and was happy with the way it came out.
“We had such a fun time making it,” she said. “I think that for three hours to be able to watch something where you can just have fun and see dancing … hear great music and see two people falling in love, I think that that's kind of necessary sometimes to just have something that makes you feel good.”