Every week, a member of the cast or crew of FOX’s Pitch — the fictional story of the first woman to play Major League Baseball — is taking EW behind the scenes. For each episode, a cast or crew member is sharing thoughts on what went down, what’s coming up, and walking us through the ins and outs of the show. First at bat is director Paris Barclay, whose impressive and varied credits also include Glee, Sons of Anarchy, and NYPD Blue.
As told to Breanne L. Heldman:
What a trip! I hope that people find the journey they take with Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury) in this first day to be as involving as I did. When I first read the script, I was already consumed with her struggle and her heroism and the depths of what she had to go through to get to where she was. For me, as a guy who doesn’t play a lot of baseball, I thought that was pretty unusual. The writers had taken me on a journey that I hadn’t been on before, and I thought they made me see the world through her eyes in a way that I found really thrilling. So I’m hoping that when people are done with the pilot, they feel like they have seen a really major accomplishment, as well as all the pain and all of the struggle and the difficulty — both emotional and physical — that went into it. It’s really about hard work, passion, grit, and best of all, it’s evidence that in this world of today, a woman can take on a job that has long been a man’s job and succeed.
On the use of flashbacks…
Flashbacks are going to be a part of the series, not just for Ginny but for many of the other characters as well. The series is going to be structured in such a way that you’ll go through different events, largely through Ginny’s eyes, but you’ll also see how Amelia (Ali Larter) came to sign her, you’ll see how Mike (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) became a catcher and what his backstory is. We’re going to use them as a way to deepen and infuse the series with more complicated stories than we were able to do in those first 45 minutes. You’ll even see the return of Ginny’s dad in flashback, and you’ll see what happened when her father basically took her away from her mother and turned her into the ballplayer that she’s become. (Read more about Ginny’s dead dad twist here.)
On that butt-slapping scene…
I love Mike Lawson’s retort to her: “I am an ass slapper, and I slap his ass and I slap his ass, and I will slap your ass, because I will treat you…” What he’s saying in that brilliant, comic Mike Lawson way is that I am going to look at you as another player. I’m not going to look at you as a woman taking the mound and treat you differently. If you want to be here, this is how I want to treat you and this is how you should be treated. Which I think is really interesting because he could have taken a number of different approaches, but he says from the get-go, No. You are going to be one of the team and I’m going to treat you the same way, and if you find it sexist and if you are affronted by it, that’s going to be a problem.
She really learns something valuable there, too. I think it’s something that a lot of women who have struggled in various male-dominated occupations — let’s say, for instance, directing a television series — have had to learn. You can’t just use the card that you’re a woman and therefore things should be different. You’re a director, or, in this case, you’re a major league baseball player, so that’s what you’re expected to do and you should be able to do it as well as a man and under the same conditions. I found it very honorable that Mike Lawson brought that up immediately and explained it in an amusing way, but in a way that I think she understands. By the time she turns it into the Leonardo DiCaprio riff, you know she’s gotten the message.
On making Ginny a San Diego Padre and the Glee connection…
If Ginny were on the Yankees or on this year’s Cubs or the Dodgers, there would be a whole different kind of story to tell. But here she’s with a team that is struggling, that’s trying to get into play, and she can be an asset but she can also be a detrimental force to that team. It can cut both ways…. [The Padres] are in just the place that the kids in Glee were in season 1. Before money became no object and they could put on any kind of show in their theater, they were this struggling, misfit, outcast group that just needed to believe in themselves and also have some talent that could be exposed. Our story has a little bit of that underdog feeling because of our San Diego Padres connection.
On the feeling of shooting in Petco Park in San Diego…
There are ghosts there and there’s a feeling that we have to honor the tradition of baseball, which is bigger than this show and has been a part of America for a really long time. When we’re on the mound at Petco thinking about all the players that have been there, we’re also thinking we want to do this right, we want to do this well. You really feel like you’re in the major leagues. I think when Kylie Bunbury actually stepped on that mound for the first time, she had the same sort of butterflies that Ginny Baker must’ve had.
A favorite moment…
When Joe Buck says, “A woman has taken the mound for the first time in a Major League Baseball game,” I’m thinking how awesome that is. Then it’s bookended with when she walks off after her win, he says, “Ginny, we’ve been waiting for you.” I’m getting moved now just thinking about it. I love when those words are said by Joe Buck and it’s actually Joe Buck saying it. It really just lands for me. Our hope is that by presenting this possibility — that a woman could play Major League Baseball under these very particular circumstances — we’re also just telling a story about gender equality in the modern world. And that’s sort of the bigger issue of the whole show: Can a woman do everything a man can? And our answer right now is yes… under certain circumstances.
Pitch airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.