Abigail Breslin on Nailing the "Terrifying" Lift in Dirty Dancing
Nobody puts Baby in the corner—and Abigail Breslin is determined to keep it that way. The 21-year-old actress took on the iconic role of Frances “Baby” Houseman for ABC’s Dirty Dancing remake, which premieres tonight at 8 p.m. ET. It was no easy feat for Breslin to put her own spin on the beloved character, who was first played by Jennifer Grey in the 1987 film. The biggest challenge? Nailing the classic scene in which dance instructor Johnny Castle (originally portrayed by Patrick Swayze, now by Colt Prattes) lifts Baby over his head during an impressively choreographed talent show routine.
“Doing the lift was terrifying,” Breslin recently told InStyle. “It was really difficult to get it right. To jump off of one foot into the air and expect a person to catch you at the perfect place on your hips is hard enough, but then they have to lift you all the way up and hold the form. And even if you feel like you’re dying, you can’t let that show on your face.” No matter how tricky it was, Breslin never considered using a body double for the stunt. “I knew that if I didn’t do it myself, I would be forever regretful,” she said.
VIDEO: Check Out the First Photos from the Dirty Dancing Remake
Much like dance lessons did for Baby in the film, for Breslin, practice made perfect. “It took months and months of rehearsal,” she said. “It was grueling, and I was so sore. Every day, I would hobble around and ice my hips. So by the time we actually did the lift, it was like I was home free. We did about five takes to get it right.” By the time they had to shoot the final scene, Breslin had complete trust in her co-star. “Colt’s the best,” she said. “I couldn’t have done it without him. I think he was more in fear for his life if he dropped me because there were no cushions around us. There was just floor!”
In addition to seamlessly recreating the lift, Breslin knew she had to accurately portray Baby’s evolution from dance novice to Mambo machine. And as the star’s real-life training reflected onscreen, she was able to do just that. “My awkwardness about dancing worked for the beginning of the movie, but it wouldn’t have worked if Baby didn’t actually end up being really good in the end,” she said. “Of course, that meant I had to get good, too. So there was the pressure of that, on top of knowing how many people love the original and not wanting to mess with it.”
One area that was purposefully tweaked, however, was the wardrobe. “We tried to keep the costumes pretty close to the original, but it’s definitely more true to the ‘60s than the movie,” said Breslin. “Fashion-wise, there were so many ‘80s crossovers in the original—especially when Baby wore the cropped sweatshirt with shorts. We did more of a ‘60s vibe, so I wear a lot of jeans and Keds.”
To see the revamped Dirty Dancing for yourself, tune in to ABC tonight at 8 p.m. ET.