(Warning: This post contains spoilers for Monday’s series premiere of Fox’s “The Big Leap.”)
“The Big Leap” took a big risk in the closing moments of its first episode Monday, when suspended Detroit Lions player Reggie Sadler (Ser’Darius Blain) lifted aspiring dancer Gabby Lewis (Simone Recasner) over his head in her second-chance audition for “The Big Leap,” the Fox drama’s reality-dance-show-within-a-show that follows contestants putting on a modern reimagining of “Swan Lake.”
A lot was at stake for Gabby and Reggie as she taught him the choreography for the audition in hopes they would both land a slot on the show. For Gabby, this is her second chance at a dance career after her original plan to attend NYU was derailed when she got pregnant right out of high school. Reggie, meanwhile, is bleeding money and desperate to change his image after multiple NFL suspensions due to DUIs — and now producer Nick Blackburn (Scott Foley) is offering him a $2 million payday to audition for the cameras and be the “star power” on the competition.
Gabby had specifically told Reggie that she did not want to do the lift, since her plus-size status meant she’s not the kind of dancer who is traditionally picked for that move. But Reggie did it anyway, perfectly nailing the lift with Gabby and bringing her to tears of joy and a round of applause that earned them slots on the show.
“It’s a multipurpose reason,” Blain told TheWrap when we asked why Reggie went through with the lift against Gabby’s wishes. “First of all, he’s a showman. He’s a football player. The NFL is a big stage and they’re entertainers at the end of the day, which is why you see the touchdown celebrations and the dances for the crowd and stuff like that. So he’s a showman and I think he knows that this will put him over the top and they’ll get a chance to kind of win in this first step and not be cut.”
“But also, I think a big reason is that he wants Gabby to know that she is beautiful, that she is dainty, that she is a lady, and that she deserves that kind of support, both literally and figuratively,” he continued. “Initially he gets in trouble, again, with the guys outside of the burger joint because he’s defending her honor. So I think that it’s a big testament to the idea that she deserves to be fought for, she deserves to be supported and she deserves to feel beautiful. And also, if we’re going to go and play this game and try this dance thing, we’re going to win. That’s what Reggie is all about.”
Following that lift, Nick realizes Gabby and Reggie are going to be the “stars” of the “Big Leap” reality series, as the chemistry between the pair has given him the idea to make them fall in love for the cameras — and then have Reggie break Gabby’s heart.
Blain isn’t revealing what Reggie is actually feeling for Gabby just yet, but said their ability to make each other “feel seen” is going to be “really” important moving forward in Season 1 of the series.
“I have plenty of lady friends in my life that I want to know that they’re beautiful and it’s completely platonic… So I think that level of friendship and connection is important,” he said. “That’s a big part of the show and that relationship for me. Are there sparks? I don’t know. That remains to be seen. Maybe. But she definitely makes him feel like more than just a piece of meat and more than just an athlete. And I think that he makes her feel seen as well. We both see each other. So that’s a really, really important dynamic in our relationship.”
As for whether or not Nick will pull off his plan to make Reggie and Gabby’s reality TV romance end in tears, Blain said everyone on “The Big Leap” will be “manipulated and pitted against each other” in different ways.
“I love that we get an inside scope to the reality world and what that level of manipulation can look like when you’re putting all these diametrically opposing personalities together in the same kind of tub,” Blain said. “It’s fun to see how Scott is this lovable but mean-spirited guy who wants to see drama and is like, ‘Hey, if I put this magnifying glass over this ant, what’s going to happen?’ I think Reggie is just wild enough and just wide-eyed and bushy-tailed enough to maybe fall for that kind of stuff. So we will see, we will see. He’s not mal-intended in any way. But people make mistakes sometimes. People hurt people without trying. And that happens on the show here and there with a bunch of different characters. I think we’re all kind of manipulated and pitted against each other at times.”
“The Big Leap” airs Mondays at 9/8c on Fox.