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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Enter the World of the Knicks City Dancers with 2 of Their Newest Rookies

Auditions rarely fail to deliver on suspense. But this? This was the nail-biter to end all nail-biters. Hayoung Roh and Chelsea McCloskey, both professional dancers based in NYC, had made it through what felt like endless rounds of cuts, both on Zoom and in person. Out of the nearly 500 dancers (from 30 states and nine countries) who'd answered the Knicks City Dancers' open call for video submissions, just 20 remained—McCloskey and Roh among them. "We were separated into six holding rooms, where we kept trying to figure out the math," Roh recalls. "How many girls are there in total? Who was called back?"

Finally, the women returned to the audition room to dance one last time—or so they were told. Instead, KCD head coach Alyssa Quezada dropped her bombshell: All 20 women had made the final cut. They would be 2021–22 Knicks City Dancers: the latest and greatest edition of one of the most prestigious NBA dance teams. "It was the biggest celebration and the coolest moment of my dance career so far," says McCloskey now. And that was just the oh-so-perfectly-dramatic beginning.

Chelsea McCloskey stands on her left leg while kicking her right leg up with her arms crossed, a smile on her face. She is auditioning for KCD. Chelsea McCloskey Photo by Tess Mayer


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