Jane Seymour Interview: "I Was Told They Could Pretty Much Guarantee 'Dr. Quinn' Would Never Make It as a Series"
Image attributed to Jane Seymour
Jane Seymour is known for the CBS drama series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993-1998), and has won an Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards. She was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2000.
Film roles include Live and Let Die, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, Somewhere in Time, Jack the Ripper, The New Swiss Family Robinson, Wedding Crashers, The Family Tree, About Scout and Fifty Shades of Black.
"I was 17 years old, and I injured my knees. In those days, they didn’t have a surgery that would work, so I had to quit becoming a dancer. Anyway, I was never built right for ballet, not for classical ballet, so I segued into musical comedy."
High Strung, directed by Michael Damian, stars Seymour, Keenan Kampa and Nicholas Galitzine. The film, released in theaters April 8, 2016, follows the artistically charged lives of a hip-hop violinist, a classical dancer and an innovative dance crew in New York City.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Jane, how did you become involved in High Strung?
Jane Seymour: Michael and Janeen Damian told me about it. I’d just done two movies with them, and they told me about their passion project. They knew that I had been a dancer when I first started out, and that dance had been my passion, so they asked me if I would like to play a teacher and also help them in executive producing.
I also used to play the violin, so I really responded to the material. I thought it was wonderful. I wanted to help them champion it. I knew it was their passion project. When I heard about the cast they got, it was just something I couldn’t miss being a part of. I love this movie.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is it a love story that involves dance, or a dance story that involves love?
Jane Seymour: It’s a love story that involves dance. Basically, there’s a young girl called Ruby who has a scholarship as a classical ballerina to the Manhattan Conservatory of the Arts, and we see her come to the school. Meanwhile, we see this young, beautiful boy, played by Nicholas Galitzine, who is playing the violin in his loft, and then plays in the subway for money.
Somehow, the two of them connect at a time when a hip-hop battle happens in the subway. One of the guys tries to snatch her purse. Nicholas, who’s playing the violin, goes from classic to suddenly hip-hop violin. It’s just a wonderful sequence. He tries to stop that from happening, and his violin is stolen. Then the story goes that Ruby tells him about a strings-and-dance competition. We see what life is like for our violinist who’s living above a whole bunch of kids who are hip-hop dancers that are incredibly talented.
Somehow during the film, what happens is there’s a love story. We see what goes on in the world of learning how to dance and perform in competition, which will save our hero and heroine. We see, during the course of the movie, extraordinary dance sequences with classical ballet, modern dance, tap, hip-hop, even Irish dance and tango.
I can’t even describe the movie to you, but it’s something that no one’s ever seen before. It’s really wonderful. The choreography’s amazing, and all the dancers are the actors as well, so there’s no doubling.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Keenan (Kampa) is a professional dancer?
Jane Seymour: Oh yes. Well, they all are. They’re all the best dancers in the world. We picked them from many different countries. But Keenan’s the only American invited to train and perform at the Mariinsky in Russia. She’s the real deal. She’s an extraordinary major ballerina.
We felt lucky to have her because she had never acted before and would never normally be available because she’d be starring in her company there in Russia. But she came back having had surgery on her hip. She was recuperating, and she was just finished recuperating well enough to be able to play the role and do the ballet.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did Keenan enjoy her first acting role?
Jane Seymour: Oh very much so, yeah. She is fantastic. Everyone loved her. I think it was Nicholas’ first or second role. He’s brand new to this, too. I’m not sure how much acting the dancers had done, but they were wonderful.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You studied dance at an early age?
Jane Seymour: Yes. Like all little girls, I went to dance school. Actually I had flat feet, and that was supposed to help with my flat feet. I got carried away and decided that I wanted to be a prima ballerina. I ended up at a major dance academy in England. Mercifully, they taught, like they do in this movie, all the types of dance. I learned a little tap, classical ballet (Martha Graham technique), jazz, a little bit of country dancing and stuff like national dancing.
I never did ballroom, which is what I did on Dancing with the Stars, so that was brand new to me. I also did theater, acting, singing, improvisation, all kinds of stuff.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What happened to your dancing career?
Jane Seymour: It was cut short by injury. I was 17 years old, and I injured my knees. In those days, they didn’t have a surgery that would work, so I had to quit becoming a dancer. Anyway, I was never built right for ballet, not for classical ballet, so I segued into musical comedy.
I could sing at that time, and I sang and danced and acted in the chorus of a musical called Oh! What a Lovely War, which was a film by Sir Richard Attenborough. He picked me out of the chorus. His agent picked me out and said, “We’d like to represent you. We think you’re going to make it as a big star.” I got picked out of the chorus pretty early on, thank God.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): And almost 50 years later, you’re still a successful actor.
Jane Seymour: And the first thing I did was play a ballerina in a film called The Only Way. If you actually watched the James Bond film I did, Live and Let Die, there’s a sequence where, if I wasn’t a dancer, I couldn’t have been carried the way I was into the air. Pretty much almost every movie I’ve been in, especially the period movies, there’s always a dance segment of some sort in there. But I never kept up dance.
I didn’t dance again until Dancing with the Stars, and that was a rude awakening to my body after all those years. It reminded me that spiritually and in my soul, I love dance more than anything in the world. Even though I wasn’t able to do a lot of the moves I would’ve liked to have done, I did quite well, and I had a great time on Dancing with the Stars.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): One of my favorite films was Somewhere in Time (1980).
Jane Seymour: I know. It’s a wonderful movie. I loved that. Christopher Reeve and I because very close friends on that one.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman is still so popular with fans. Was that because it was considered family drama?
Jane Seymour: No, actually. I was told they could pretty much guarantee Dr. Quinn would never make it as a series. They guaranteed that to me even though I signed for five years. They said, “It’s a woman in the lead. That doesn’t work.” Now, we know women in lead roles on television is wonderful. They said a medical show wouldn’t work. Well after that, they had George Clooney in a medical show. That said that “family values” or anything spiritual wouldn’t work. After me, they got Touched by an Angel and 7th Heaven.
We broke all the barriers. It was almost like they were trying to make a television show a movie of the week that nobody would want because people didn’t want a period piece and didn’t want a western. They didn’t want family values. Of course, that’s what the network saw. The people saw it and said, “Wait a minute! We love this.”
I’m very proud of it because even when you watch it today, it hasn’t aged at all and stands up. Of course, it was set back in the 1870s anyway, so it doesn’t age at all. The subject matter that we were discussing each week is still relevant today. Everything from pollution of the water to different medical practices, being tolerant of other religions, people who are faith healers and people who don’t understand minorities or are bigoted.
It’s still incredibly relevant. I can’t think of a single episode that can’t be shown today. If you were studying social studies at school or just reading the newspaper, you would go, “That’s the subject we were talking about today!” I think it was more intelligent even than Little House on the Prairie, but Little House on the Prairie was lovely.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You did Fifty Shades of Black with Marlon Wayans.
Jane Seymour: I did. Did you see it?
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Very funny!
Jane Seymour: I thought it was funny, but I guess some people who reviewed it didn’t realize it was meant to be a parody. Anyway, I thought it was a parody of many movies including Fifty Shades of Grey. I just thought that the part he had written for me was so wrong (laughs). It was hilarious!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Any plans to return to Jane the Virgin?
Jane Seymour: You know, I was supposed to do one more episode, but I haven’t heard from them about that. I suppose it depends on whether they have a script where that character works out. Meanwhile, I’ve been doing a lot of other movies. I’ve just finished a movie called Mistrust, which is a great independent film about a woman who can only be a mistress. I thought that was interesting. William Shockley, from Dr. Quinn, is in that film.
I’m going to England to finish up a series I’m doing for British television. I’m sure it’ll end up here. It’s called Hooten & the Lady. Then I’m going back into the theatre. I’m going to do Noel Coward’s The Vortex with the British Theatre Playhouse and taking it to Singapore.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You are co-founder of the Open Hearts Foundation that celebrates those who have overcome adversity and strife to make a positive difference in the world. Are you currently honoring organizations that embody this spirit?
Jane Seymour: This is something we’ve never done before. We asked the public to submit foundations and organizations that have epitomized the Open Heart message, and we got 1,300 amazing submissions, which we had to narrow down to four. I just came back from all four states where I met the people concerned, were told the stories, and we’re going to edit that together and put it up on the web April 7. People can vote on it until April 23.
We’ll announce the winner, and they’ll receive an even bigger check. It has been really cool to see what people are doing. In two of the cases, the organizations were started by 12-year-olds. It’s wonderful and exciting.
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