Pitch explores the story of Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury), who is the first woman to play in the major leagues. Kevin Falls, the creator of the show, explains our thoughts on Pitch perfectly when he says, “It’s one of the best baseball movies I’ve ever seen. I would put all 44 minutes of the pilot up against any baseball movie.”
Talk Nerdy had the chance to participate in a roundtable with creators Kevin Falls, Rick Singer and actors Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Kylie Bunbury at this year’s ATX Television Festival to discuss the pilot episode of the show.
When we’re first introduced to your character, you are a female in this male world. When we first meet her, at what point in the story is she?
Kylie Bunbury: It’s her first day. You get to see her getting ready. You get to see her meeting her team for the first time, and you get to see her taking the mound for the first time.
Can you both describe your characters?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I play Mike Lawson, the all-star captain of the San Diego Padres. I’ll let you talk about your character; then I’ll explain mine more.
Kevin Falls: I don’t know where it says all-star, but okay, if you want to make it … (laughs)
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: All-star in every way, not just on the field.
Kylie Bunbury: Okay, well I play Ginny Baker, and I would describe her as incredibly strong. The thing that I really liked about this character is that she is not portrayed as a superhuman at all. She’s a regular human, just with a lot of focus. She’s strong, but she’s also really vulnerable just like all women are, so you’re getting to see a really complex female character that everyone can relate to. It’s me; I’m Ginny.
Do you have a wicked fast arm then?
Kylie Bunbury: (laughs) I can pitch. I wouldn’t say I have a wicked fast arm but I had two months to learn how to pitch, so I got the mechanics down …
You come from an athletic background, did that help in your preparation?
Kylie Bunbury: Most definitely. Watching my dad play professionally in soccer, and my brother currently plays professional soccer. Watching their work ethic and how they deal with things really lent itself to how I worked on this character.
Specifically, what kind of training did you have to do?
Kylie Bunbury: (to MP) Do you want to take that one?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I ate a lot.
Kylie Bunbury: You’re solid right now, holy shit.
That must have taken a lot of dedication
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Yeah, it’s been great for my marriage. (laughs)
Kylie Bunbury: The beard has really been a huge topic of discussion.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: It’s been amazing.
Kylie Bunbury: His wife hates it.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Yeah, I love bringing more attention to myself, but what are you going to do. Training wise, I think we all got about two months of training. Being a catcher is very specific. There’s a very complex position on the field, sort of like the on-field coach at the time. It’s really the only player besides the pitcher, that has the ball in their hand every play on the field. Really, the only player that will be there game after game. Her job as a pitcher is always up in the air as to how well you perform. Training was just going to the gym a little bit more and working with our baseball technical advisors, same people that did Money Ball. We worked with retired baseball players. Greg Olsen was a pitching coach. Royce Clayton was my batting coach.
Kylie Bunbury: It was so cool.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Talk about a dream job for an actor. What actor doesn’t want to be in sports? What sport doesn’t want to be on TV? It’s just a great combination of the two.
Kylie Bunbury: We really just started living our lives like professional athletes, eating like a professional athlete, working out like a professional athlete. Three days a week we’d work with our baseball trainers, and then also three days a week, I was working with a boxing trainer to do full body workout. Boxing’s great.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I became very demanding. Just like a professional player. I became very demanding. I started talking to myself in the third person.
Kylie Bunbury: You were difficult.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I became very difficult, because as an all-star player, I had to be that.
Kevin Falls: The writers have all started working out like professional athletes also. (laughs) I’ve worked with Mark-Paul before, as well as Kylie. They throw themselves into it. A lot of times, you have to pull actors to train. They call me like, “I want to keep working out.” We’ve already wrapped the pilot. “I want to keep in shape; I want to keep doing it. Where’s this guy? Where’s my equipment?” They immersed themselves in this role to such a degree that they just want to …
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Well we had to because of MLB.
Kylie Bunbury: Exactly
Rick Singer: We should talk about the relationship with that. There was a whole reason that we had to look the way we did. This is the first television show that’s every gotten the full participation of major league baseball, so one of the pennants of the agreement was it be as authentic as possible. They really allowed us to have access. We shot the entire pilot in Petco Park, home for the San Diego Padres. It was an amazing experience, and we had access to these professional athletes. The caveat was, we can’t have people who can’t throw. The first thing any baseball fan is going to look at and say is, “oh that person can’t play baseball.” We were very very clear that we want them to be as authentic as possible, and that’s why we cast them as early as we possibly could before filming, so we could get that training started.
Kevin Falls: I was wrong about the dedication part. They just have to do that.
Rick Singer: That said, Kevin’s absolutely right. Even our coaches and everybody talk about “They’re animals.” They can’t get enough; they are constantly working.
Kylie Bunbury: Dan Fogelman called me and was like, “you need to chill out. You need to chill out.” (laughs)
Rick Singer: No it’s great, it’s a great problem for us. It’s like, alright, protect your arm. Don’t throw one now. We have a whole season to shoot.
Is there a reason why it was the Padres specifically? Were there a few teams that you contemplated it being?
Rick Singer: We started out with different things. Dan sat down with the commissioner at one point, and just in terms of it being a mid-market team that we felt would be really compelling for them to get this kind of media onslaught. Also, the proximity to LA was a big plus. The commissioner and the owner of the Padres are very close, so it was just a good mix for us.
Has the team had a chance to watch the pilot yet? Have you had any feedback from any baseball players?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: No, I was at a game on Wednesday, and I only met with one of the pitchers, and he had seen the trailer.
Kylie Bunbury: What did he say?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: He liked it. Oh actually …
Kylie Bunbury: Oh, that’s not very good. He liked it.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: … Because in the trailer, you can’t really …
Kylie Bunbury: You can’t tell, I know, yeah.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I got a good compliment from Derek Norris, who’s their catcher. He commented about my positioning, and he gave me a thumbs up. He said I still need a little work on the beard, but Derek has a Duck Dynasty beard going on.
Kylie Bunbury: How is that going to work for the second episode? When I was watching the trailer again, your beard’s significantly shorter.
Kevin Falls: We’ll have to do something because it takes place … The next episode’s from the same day.
Kylie Bunbury: Is it the same day?
Kevin Falls: Yeah, so we’ll have to trim it a little bit. …
Rick Singer: Your wife will be happier.
I read in the description that there’s maybe a little bit of a potential love interest thing going on between the two of you, what is it like to flirt, or potentially hook up with Zack Morris?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: You know that went through your mind while we were shooting. You totally know. You’re like oh my God I can’t believe I’m doing a scene with Zack Morris. (laughs)
Kylie Bunbury: 100%. I definitely had that moment; I’m not going to lie. I haven’t really thought about the whole love aspect really because we haven’t touched on that at all. You allude to it with the butt slapping.
Okay, what was it like having Zack Morris slap your butt?
Kylie Bunbury: He’s very, soft hands. (laughs)
Kevin Falls: I can tell he was fantastic.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: What was it like slapping my ass back, though?
Kylie Bunbury: You had a really hard butt and soft hands.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: There you go, there you go.
Rick Singer: Soft hands, hard butt. I just penned your epitaph.
Kylie Bunbury: You have a bubble butt, though, you do have a bubble butt.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Sounds like a creeper, put me on Dateline. He had soft hands and a hard butt … Next on Dateline.
Kylie Bunbury: That will be a really fun part of the show to explore, is our relationship and what happens with that.
Kevin Falls: There’s an undeniable chemistry between the two, so we can’t rush that …
Kylie Bunbury: Yeah, don’t force it.
Kevin Falls: … But it’s there, and the audience likes them together, so let them speculate.
Was that part of the decision when you were coming up with these characters, was having him play catcher necessary for their chemistry?
Rick Singer: I think it’s a unique relationship between … They’re called battery mates and in baseball particularly, there’s really no closer relationship on the field between … You almost have to get inside each other’s minds. The catcher’s giving signals to the pitcher as to what pitch to throw and there’s a communication, and he goes out to the mound and talks to her during … So yes, absolutely. It’s a great relationship because you can deal with issues between them over the long haul both on the field and off.
I have a question for Kevin and Mark-Paul. You guys have worked together before on a very different show. Can you talk just a little bit about what those differences were like when making the transition to Pitch, which is maybe slightly more serious?
Kevin Falls: It’s funny, we talked about this. Mark-Paul and I are good friends, and we’re almost neighbors.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: We are neighbors.
Kevin Falls: Yeah, we are neighbors. I don’t know what neighbors are.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I drop by his house and throw shit out my window. “I don’t need this coffee cup.”
Kevin Falls: I remember when we were starting to cast, I came in late. I’m a showrunner to deal with Fox; Dan is dealing with Fox; I came in … forced marriage, right? I loved the script; I was really excited. I remember kind of going; everyone’s chasing the same actors. I remember thinking, Mark-Paul would be perfect for this. I don’t want to come in a go, “hey I want my guy.” Do you know what I mean? I remember we put the name on the list, and we talked about it, and I kind of mentioned we’d put him on the list. We went through actors, went through actors, and it was still there. It was still there. We would do to dinner and be like, what are you working on? I’m working on this baseball … What are you working on? I’m looking at this … We’d talk about things, but both of us never talked about the elephant in the room. (laughs)
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: You talked about it, but, I wasn’t even thinking of it because I hadn’t read the script.
Kevin Falls: Oh, that’s the reason.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I remember this, because we went out to dinner and we went with Breck (Meyer), and we went with some of the writers from Franklin & Bash. We’re all a tight group, and he’d said he was doing this thing, Pitch, and I was like, “oh what’s that about?” It’s about this woman who makes it to the majors. In my head, I was like … Oh, good luck with that … Because if you just see it on paper … A woman makes it to the majors. You’re thinking what gimmick are they going to use? Is it going to be a knuckleball, what’s the angle here?
Kevin Falls: You’re lucky I didn’t say that in the car.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: We drove together, and I remember you saying … I asked you, I said, “can she pitch?” How legitimate is she as an athlete? He says, “she’s great.” He goes, “yep, she looks like the real deal.” I was like great, great, great. Cut to a week later, I got the script, read it and I remember I texted him immediately. I called him, and I said, “this is really fucking good. Why didn’t you tell me? I want this. This is what I want to do this season.” (laughs) He’s like, “well come in and read” and I’m like, “well yeah, I’m going to come in and read.” Cut to … I go in and read with him and …
Kevin Falls: Dan Fogelman said, “you know, I think Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s going to crush this. I don’t know what it is.”
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: He said that?
Kevin Falls: Yeah, it was a couple of days before. It was working the whole idea was … He came to it on his own and then he talked about “let’s reinvent him. Let’s grow a beard and cut his hair short, and make him look like a ballplayer.” To Dan’s credit, he was the one who said, “let’s make the move.”
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I thought I had a guy in the hole that would fight for me, and he never said a word. Never said a word … (laughs)
Kevin Falls: That was the whole thing …
Kylie Bunbury: You really earned it …
Kevin Falls: Once you say it, Dan is like, “well why? Where are you coming from?”
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Yeah yeah yeah
Kevin Falls: It was great, it worked out.
Rick Singer: I was just going to say from my perspective, with both parts … They’re really difficult parts to cast because you have to buy both the athletes, and they both are unique characters that you really have to embody fully. I genuinely got to the point with both parts where I really felt like we’re not going to find this person. We’re just not going to, because weeks and weeks and weeks went by on both of them. Then in each case, they walked in, they did the audition, and it was just one of those “thank you, God.” Both of them were just like, “Okay, that’s Ginny. Great, we’re done. Oh, okay this is Mike. We’re good.” They just claimed the part the second they walked in the room. They walked in the room as those people, as if they’d been those people. It was fantastic.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I feel that way about the whole cast.
Kevin Falls: The one thing I’ve getting tired of hearing is, I go to these meetings at Fox, and they go “God, Mark-Paul?” Everyone’s kind of … But always with Mark-Paul they go, “my God, he’s never been better!” I’m like, I worked with him for four years, he was fantastic.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I did some of my best work on that show.
Part of what makes Ginny, Ginny, is her dad, are we going to see more flashbacks?
Kylie Bunbury: Yeah, I definitely think this is something you guys can talk about because, akin to West Wing, they loved doing flashbacks in that show and I know that they want to do flashbacks with this show, to show us the relationship between Ali and me, me and my father, I don’t know … You guys want to do flashbacks right?
Kevin Falls: Yes, kind of like margin stories, like you figure out how they all met, little clues. Not necessarily every episode, certainly the second episode will be flashbacks.
Kylie Bunbury: The flashbacks are nice, aren’t they?
What’s it like working with Mike (Beach)?
Kylie Bunbury: Gosh, he’s fantastic. He has so much gravitas and is just such a professional. Our chemistry was really good, because there were some difficult scenes that we had to do together and that he had to do with the young Ginny as well. He just brought a lot of heart to it, because sometimes it’s difficult. You think with some of those scenes, “woah, I don’t really like this guy” when you’re reading it in the script. Michael brought heart and warmth to some difficult scenes. It was such a … We have some really cool actors on this show.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: We have a great cast.
Kylie Bunbury: Dan Lauria, I mean …
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Ali Larter
Kylie Bunbury: Ali Larter, Mo McRae, just …
Kevin Falls: Bob Balaban
Kylie Bunbury: Bob Balaban
Rick Singer: Michael Beach was amazing.
Kylie Bunbury: Yeah, he’s amazing.
Is Ginny where she wants to be, or is this something that she was just always told from a young age that she had to do?
Kylie Bunbury: I think it’s both because I even asked my brother, Teal, this question because my father was very hard on him as well. I remember asking him, “Hey is this something you really want to do, or did Dad force you?” He said, “it’s both.” I think Ginny, and just like for me as an actress, your purpose is instilled in it. She knows that she’s supposed to.
Rick Singer: I would say the father’s back story was that he was a former minor league pitcher who never made it to the major leagues, and he felt as though if his father had taken an interest and worked with him every day, he would have made it to the major leagues. He was determined that his son, he would work with … It just so happened that his son had none of those genes and his daughter did. When he discovers this, he realizes, he just goes “oooh” and laser focuses and decides, she’s going to be the first female major league pitcher. Part …
Kylie Bunbury: He would discover your talents and then sort of capitalize on them.
Rick Singer: Part of Ginny’s journey in the pilot is to realize that this wasn’t just her father’s dream, that this is also her dream.
We were talking earlier about how the trailer and the pilot kind of felt like a movie, what can you tease about this season of Pitch?
Kevin Falls: That’s a great question because it’s so satisfying. It’s one of the best baseball movies I’ve ever seen. I would put all 44 minutes of the pilot up against any baseball movie.
Kylie Bunbury: Even Bull Durham?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: By the way, we kicked Bull Durham’s ass in terms of authenticity
Kylie Bunbury: No, 100%. You’re right, you’re right, you’re right.
Kevin Falls: That’s Mark-Paul Gosselaar …
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I’m saying like … You against Tim Robbins pitching.
Kylie Bunbury: Oh Tim Robbins was the worst.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: We win, right there. We win.
Kevin Falls: Right, there’s no question. It is as a sense of closure, so it’s Rick, and I are with the writers. Writer’s are working today; we’re here. It’s very important … The second episode, goes further with telling you who the characters are and what they’re looking for besides just the managers being fired, and how these two are going to end up, whatever they’re going to do. That’s something that’s a challenge for us. We want to make sure that everyone knows that it isn’t just a one-off, that there’s a whole season to look forward to. It really is. There’s a lot of inherent stakes in a baseball season that are human stakes, players get traded, people want to get into all-star games. There’s a lot of pressure on marriages because they’re on the road so much. We want to be able to tell those stories as we go forward, but I guarantee you there’s … We’ll have a full season now.
Rick Singer: I’ll also say that this is just the beginning. We always looked at it as though this is the beginning because she’s just made the team, and in any normal situation, if she was just a guy making the major leagues might be a period at the end of a sentence, but she’s also the first female player. She just got shot out of a cannon into wonderland. She’s the most famous person in the country overnight. What is it to try and keep your place on the team and thrive in the major leagues, which is hard enough in and of itself, much less at the same time being the face of a gender and having to carry that torch at the same time, and all of the attention, the media spotlight. Like Jackie Robinson with real-time social media, and what he would have had to have gone through and what that journey would be like. Put the gender element on top of it; it’s just … To me, that’s the story as you’re going forward through the years. This young woman, who’s really had blinders on for most of her life, also coming into her own as a woman and starting to have all the elements of an adult life. All of those aspects, much less the teammates and all of the rest of the team.
Kylie Bunbury: Good answer.
Make sure to catch Pitch on Fox, Thursdays @ 9 pm EST.