Finding Her Footing in the Sci-Fi World

Since her breakout role in Center Stage, former San Francisco Ballet dancer Amanda Schull has been steadily beefing up her acting resumé—and not only in dancing parts. Yes, she sautéed on screen in Mao’s Last Dancer. But her recent credits also include non-dancing characters on “Suits” and “Pretty Little Liars.” And this month, Schull stars as Dr. Cassandra Railly in “12 Monkeys,” a new show on the Syfy network loosely based on the 1995 film of the same name. Dance Spirit caught up with Schull to talk about her latest role and making the switch from stage to screen. —Jenny Dalzell

(Photo by Marty Sohl, courtesy Amanda Schull)

Dance Spirit: What’s “12 Monkeys” about?

Amanda Schull: My character, Dr. Railly, is a virologist who specializes in the containment of viruses and plagues. I meet James Cole, played by Aaron Stanford, who comes back to the present day from the year 2033. He tries to enlist my help for a mission: saving the world from a plague that’s about to be unleashed on the population. Of course,

I don’t believe him at first—I mean, time traveling? But I eventually come around and try to help him.

DS: That sounds kind of scary.

AS: I’d say it’s more thrilling, though it does have some scary moments. There are a few scenes that are a little graphic, but it’s more exciting than gruesome.

DS: Will we get to see you dance on the show?

AS: I do a little bit of ballroom dancing, but it’s really basic. There have been talks about the possibility of my character having grown up as a dancer, but that idea hasn’t gone anywhere yet. It would be so fun to explore—I’d definitely be interested!

DS: Has your dance training influenced your work as an actress?

AS: I’ve spoken to directors who’ve said my dance background was a huge bonus when casting me, and one of the reasons they initially looked at me more seriously. Dancers are dedicated, and our strong work ethic comes in handy when we’re learning a script or working on dialogue. When you’re creating a character, embodying his or her physicality is something we, as dancers, grasp much better than non-dancers. Dancers also understand timing and landing on their marks—that’s extremely helpful in acting, too.

DS: Are you still involved in dance?

AS: I am! I occasionally teach ballet classes when I go home to Hawaii,

and last year I performed as the mother in the party scene of Ballet Hawaii’s The Nutcracker. I actually got a colleague from “Suits,” Rick Hoffman, to be in the show, too. He played the grandfather. He’d never even seen a ballet before!

DS: What’s been your favorite role so far?

AS: Every role is my favorite when I’m in it. I know it sounds cheesy, but I’ve loved all my opportunities. That being said, playing Jody Sawyer in Center Stage was pretty special.

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