On Friday, April 16th, Disney+ will premiere its new series Big Shot. The show follows a college basketball coach (John Stamos) who is a bit tempermental and gets fired. He then must take a coaching job at an elite all-girls private high school.
Starring alongside John Stamos is the wonderfully talented Jessalyn Gilsig. The name should sound familiar as she has built an impressive resume in the business. She starred as Lauren Davis in the series Boston Public. She played the unforgettable Gina Russo in Nip/Tuck as well as appearances in series such as Vikings, Heroes, Friday Night Lights and Prison Break to name a few.
Recently, Gilsig joined former Glee cast members as they paid tribute to Naya Rivera & Santana Lopez at the 32nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards. If you missed that tribute, you can watch it here.
We sat down with Gilsig to talk about her new show Big Shot, what it was like working with co-stars John Stamos and Yvette Nicole Brown and how important this show will be for the empowerment of young women around the world.
Pop Culture Principle – Originally, this part was cast with another actor, but they decided to change somethings about the character which led to a recasting. Can you talk a little bit about how this role ended up on your radar?
Jessalyn Gilsig – So, I worked with David E. Kelley many years ago. Working on his series Boston Public was my first big break and that show brought me out to L.A. Along the way, I met a producer that he works with a lot named Bill D’Elia. Bill has been very generous to me over the years and when he’s producing a show, I would come on and do an episode here and there. It is always nice when someone remembers you.
Last year, I did an episode of Grand Hotel, which Bill was a producer on with Eva Longoria. That was very lovely of him and I thanked him and then you just go on your way. He then told me about this particular role. I am assuming there was some kind of conversation between Bill and David E. Kelley. I had nothing to do with it. I just got the call and got the offer. Sometimes it swings your way and sometimes it swings someone else’s way. I am just very grateful and working on this show has been wonderful.
Jessalyn Gilsig – Holly is the assistant coach at this school. She has always been the assistant coach and she also is a teacher. She was a high school basketball player herself and she is very passionate about the sport and she’s passionate about the girls and passionate about being a teacher and all that comes with being an educator.
I think with the arrival of Coach Korn, his ambition really rubs off on her and he sort of starts to realize that she’s been complacent in her own life and it makes for a really interesting dynamic because in some ways he inspires her to be ambitious which actually then puts them slightly into conflict. Now Coach Korn has the job that maybe she should have fought for. It’s really interesting and it’s just been really fun to find it because it’s not about romance at this point and it’s not about any of those dynamics. I mean, I really think they do have chemistry, but the show is really about the sport and the opportunities within it. Holly suddenly realizes why am I here and why aren’t I there and what do I really want. He encourages her, but in doing that, they will come up against each other.
Pop Culture Principle – As the season progresses, will we get to learn more about her backstory?
Jessalyn Gilsig – Yes, you will. We learn about her experience in high school and how that impacted her life. We have a special guest star appearing on the show this season and she is a blast from Holly’s past and there will be conflict that will arise with her arrival.
Pop Culture Principle – In a recent interview John Stamos mentioned that he didn’t know much about basketball. In preparing for this role, did you know a lot about the sport and if not, did you do anything in particular to prepare for the role?
Jessalyn Gilsig – I think I was the only person on the show who loves sports and knows a lot about sports. I am literally the only one and I was constantly explaining it to people. I am passionate about sports and there isn’t a sport that I won’t watch, including basketball. I love basketball.
So yes, I am forever reminding people which is our basket, and which is their basket and what it is we are trying to accomplish. As an actor, to me, to watch a live sports game is the most relaxing thing that I could do. I love, love sports and I love sports for kids, teenagers and teenage girls. I think all of it is such a healthy outlet for all of us, so in many ways, I had to be the technical support for the show! 😊
Being a part of a sports team is humbling and motivating and it gives you such a deep sense of meaning. I think any parent would tell you that if your child were playing a sport, they are not on their phone. You know during those hours; they are engaged physically and mentally with their peers and it doesn’t involve social media and that’s a win these days.
Pop Culture Principle – You will be working alongside some fantastic actors with John Stamos and Yvette Nicole Brown. What was it like working with those two actors?
Jessalyn Gilsig – John Stamos is great. He’s wonderful to work with and he’s kind of what you hope he is with a little bit of spice. He is the perfect number one and has been such a delight. He will not stop working until we’ve got it. The man will stay all night for us to find it and make sure it is honest and entertaining. He’s been fantastic. Both John and Yvette are hilarious together.
Yvette is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. She’s a phenomenal and formattable woman and she’s an incredible talent. She brings so much to the show that is entertaining. I have never been on a show with this many women in my life and it is just so exciting. I have found so much joy in getting to do scenes with Yvette which are not about either one of us having a crush on somebody. We are talking about our jobs, our careers, our ambition and the girls, but not talking about is he going to call me back and that’s sadly kind of new for both of us.
Pop Culture Principle – The basketball team is made up of a group of talented young actors. Did you feel like a mentor to the young ladies while on set and what excited you about working with them?
Jessalyn Gilsig – I resisted being the “mentor” in the beginning because I didn’t’ want to come in and say hey, I’m the old lady with all the experience and tell you how it’s done. But, as the show evolved and especially because I was playing their coach, I think they did come to see me as the coach that they could trust.
The fun thing about working with actors who are just starting out is that there is a lot of your experiences that you can share, but you can also learn a lot from them as well. They haven’t learned any tricks yet and they aren’t jaded, and they really believe in all the possibilities of life and its infectious to be around that and it keeps you honest. It kind of went both ways if I am being honest. I think that they influenced me, and I hope I influenced them in positive ways.
Pop Culture Principle – We’ve seen a more positive push towards more empowering roles for women and girls in Hollywood, but there is still work that needs to be done. Do you feel Big Shots is a show that shows there are more layers to young women than just being cruel to each other or who is dating who?
Jessalyn Gilsig – I think what is frustrating as an audience member is that there are so many things that young women are passionate about. Young women are telling us what they want to be when they grow up and this is what I am passionate about and this is the issue that I am invested in. I don’t know that the reality of what girls are dealing with is reflected in today’s entertainment. It’s such an unfair guide for them and for all of us to be made to assume that girls are not pre-occupied with all the things that matter in life.
You see once a girl get to the early teens, they are not as assertive or confident or as vocal as say a nine your old girl would be. I think sports is such a great outlet for girls to be able to stay engaged with their power and sense of self. I have come to believe that there are forces in our culture that are deliberately trying to minimize their voices. It is really fascinating to be able to call this stuff out now.
Pop Culture Principle – Yvette Nicole Brown made a comment about the show being about second chances and not just for the main character, but all of the characters. Would you agree?
Jessalyn Gilsig – Yes. I think that is a really good point. I think it’s the idea of not being defined by a single choice. If you recognize that if you do the work, you can redirect yourself and you can affect change. A lot of the show will go into John’s relationship with his daughter, and I think there is a lot in there that is very important. You might walk down a certain path and you might actually do damage, but if you recognize it and try to heal it, there is opportunity within that. I think that is something we kind of owe each other in life.
One of the things that is really fun about this kind of work is that you take all these characters and you put them in an environment and then you see how they interact. Just how it is written on the page is not necessarily an indication of what will happen when people’s souls interact. It is really interesting to see how the adults are challenged by the perspectives of the kids which are so different from the assumptions that we make about them.
Pop Culture Principle – During filming, where you allowed any improvisation or were you told to stick strictly to the script?
Jessalyn Gilsig – We got to improvise a little bit. John is from sitcoms and working with people from sitcoms is like working live theater with them. He’s not about making it perfect; he’s about making it honest. Yvette and I had a really great scene where she improvised something so beautiful, and she just made the scene so much more incredible. There are some things that the Dean Lorey really wants, and we give them to him, but he was really open to the idea that the scene will evolve once you bring the actors in and once they find the connection between them, so it’s a combination.
Pop Culture Principle – During the TCA event for Big Shot, Stamos made the statement that “Discord is at an all-time high and decency is at an all-time low and we need shows like Big Shot.” Would you agree with that statement?
Jessalyn Gilsig – Wow, that is so well said. There is a lot of love in this show. It’s not safe, it’s not easy and it’s Disney, so it’s for the family. I think it’s very real, but I think that the idea of the characters being willing to grow and willing to be challenged is not always comfortable, but I think decent is a really good word and description.
As a reminder, Big Shot will premiere on Disney+ starting Friday, April 16th!
**All Big Shot photos courtesy of Disney+”