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. This week, director Regina King walks us through the fourth episode, “The Break.”
As told to Chancellor Agard:
On how she almost missed her opportunity to direct Pitch:
[Executive producer and director] Paris Barclay has been such a huge champion of me for directing. He was the person that turned me onto a few directing programs when I first started being open about the fact that I was going to be a director. He gave me a lot of information on what to do for people to really take you seriously and for them not to take it as a vanity choice, but because I really wanted to do it.
He reached out to see if I would be interested in directing this show. It’s funny because his email went to spam for some reason. I was expecting another email from someone else. You know, when you’re expecting an email and you haven’t gotten it and you go, ‘Well let me check my spam.’ I checked it and there was his email and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ He had sent it like a month ago and my heart just dropped. I emailed him immediately [because], and this is the crazy part, every now and then I’ll just go online and look at trailers of upcoming shows to see what looks interesting and what doesn’t, and I happened to just see the trailer for Pitch. I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a unique show. It’s kind of hard to come up with something that hasn’t been done before. This looks really interesting.’ So, I had seen the trailer two days before, but I didn’t know Paris was the producing director on that show.
So, I got the email. I freaked out, my heart dropped to my stomach, and I emailed him back immediately and explained to him what happened. He was like, ‘Alright, let me see what I can do, what’s available. What is your schedule?’ By then, I only had a really small window to direct one of the episodes. So, it really was like a possibility of one or two episodes that I even could direct with my American Crime schedule. A couple days passed by, and I was so blessed and lucky that he emailed me back and he was like, ‘104 is available. These are the dates.’ I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. Call my agent!’ So it all worked out.
On what she wasn’t able to do with the “Put Her in the Game” viral video:
My niece helped me out with [the video], and we actually tried to bring more black people to do the video. It just turned out that we couldn’t coordinate times and days and because there are so many rules that come along with that. There were so many different rules that we can’t break or else it would cost us more money. We kind of did it as if it was a grassroots viral campaign that got really huge, and so we had posted some things where some people were FaceTiming from their computer, “Put her in the game,” and put graphics up, and a lot of the black people were in a lot of those shots. But, we ended up not being able to use those because of a new rule that I didn’t know about: it was going to be too hard to clear the graphics. When I say the graphics, I mean the font for “Put her in the game.” That font is owned by somebody and you have to figure out who owns that font. I didn’t know that. That’s why a lot of those shots ended up not being able to make it, but the intention was to have more of a black presence in that. So it ended up I was not able to have as many black people part of the “Put Her in the Game” campaign as I originally wanted.
On working with Mark-Paul Gosselaar:
I was just so impressed by how strong of an actor he has become. He makes such a great choices…and it was just really a joy every day to watch the little subtle things he would do. He really has this clear idea of who Mike Lawson is and he makes you fall in love with Mike Lawson, and it could easily be played another way. He has that bad boy feel, but he still has that heart that makes you fall in love with the character.
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There are two scenes [at the whiparound] and both of those scenes I thought were really great. The first one, he comes in and thinks he’s got it all going on and he really doesn’t. The discovery of that is a little heartbreaking for him, but he tries to keep a strong face, but he doesn’t quite do it. It’s really, really subtle, but it’s really spot-on and it makes you laugh. You’re not necessarily laughing at him, you’re laughing [with him].
Then, when he comes back to do the actual show after the rehearsal, he tries to take the notes that the guys have given him and he just kind of breaks and has an honest moment. He mentions Ginny [Kylie Bunbury] in it, but it felt like he was speaking on behalf of all-star athletes, and he delivered it where it didn’t feel speechy. He delivered it in a way that you really felt this cat was an all-star player that’s looking at the other side of his career and what that looks like. It’s only maybe a 30-second speech, but he just gives you so many moments and really gives enough emotion that gives the audience a little insight into what athletes on that level go through and have to deal with. We already knew he was great with the comedy, but he’s really exceptional with balancing the drama and the comedy, knowing when and where to give more of the other. That’s not easy and that really comes with having great timing and rhythm.
On finessing the final scene between Ginny and her mother with Kylie:
Originally, there was like a flashback moment that she has that brings her to the place of remembering why she shut her mother out. We just both felt like we wanted Ginny to have a moment of recollection that was believable even if the flashback didn’t play in that space. We just really kind of worked with that and did it a couple of different ways to make it believable without the flashback. I think that’s one of the things that’s really important, especially with this show where flashbacks are a big part of the storytelling. Some of the flashbacks are totally necessary, but some moments if the flashback was taken out, you want the audience to feel the weight of the moment. So, all three of us made sure that nothing was played too big or too small. That was a very delicate scene and I feel like Kylie nailed it.