Emily Tyra plays Mia Bialy on STARZ Network’s, ‘Flesh & Bone’ which debuted in Fall 2015 as a limited series. Within seconds of the first episode viewers are introduced to her character who is a part of the fictional American Ballet Company. The series looks at the grit and glamour that takes place in the ballet world within the dance company, rehearsals and the lives of talent and management.
On the day of our shoot at Loft Twenty in Flatiron in NYC, our entire creative team enjoyed getting to know Emily, who is like hanging out with your favorite girlfriend.
FEB COVER STORY
Photographed at Loft Twenty in Flatiron, NYC
ATHLEISURE MAG: When did you begin ballet and acting?
EMILY TYRA: I started dancing when I was about 4 years old. I was a really shy kid, so my mom put me in dance classes to bring me out of my shell. I would never let her watch me dance! I started acting classes and singing lessons in middle school. Once I got to highschool, I was a complete artsy kid. I anchored the school news, lettered in choir (of course), did the plays and musicals and was in our extracurricular improv troupe. The serious ballet came later when I had a growth spurt and it was clear I was built for it. My teachers started encouraging me to train more intensely
around age 14. That is when I started getting scholarships to study at places like American Ballet Theatre, here in NYC.
AM: Did you begin your career thinking that you would do both?
ET: I really wanted to find a way to do both. Ballet had a shorter timeline and an immediacy. You have to do it while you are able physically and emotionally. I had decided against college and after a few big ballet company cattle calls, I moved to the east coast to dance with Boston Ballet. I got it out of my system and now I don’t wonder “what if?” Also, it keeps reappearing in my life as an actor, like with Flesh & Bone. It’s something that makes me a little special. There are a lot of actors out there. I have a vivid memory of a former mentor of mine telling me “You’ll always be a dancer.” When I am trying to be something else, I hate that. But he was right. That part of me will always be important in some way.
AM: When you heard about Flesh & Bone what drew you to the show and the character?
ET: I was excited to see a ballet show finally cast real dancers and not glamourize the whole thing. My personal experience in the ballet world left me with a lot of complexities and I was excited about the idea of contributing to this kind of authentic drama. I wanted it to be done right, just like our creative team, the network and the rest of the cast.
I was also up for the challenge of getting back into “ballet” shape. I hadn’t danced in a company or taken regular ballet classes for about 6 years. It scared me, so I knew I needed to do it. It was hard! But so worth it.
AM: During the episodes we see you and the cast during rehearsals. How many hours did you prepare for these scenes?
ET: The cast operated on a schedule almost like a real ballet company. We would train together in the mornings when we weren’t shooting ballet scenes. Next, we’d take class and warm up together and then have various rehearsals throughout the day. The dancers in the final performance worked with our choreographer, Ethan Steifel, almost every day as he created the original piece for the show. Long hours on set and off. Some of the shoot days in the studio set were 15 or 16 hour days, especially in the beginning when our production team was figuring out how to tackle the beast of shooting ballet.
AM: What do you love about playing Mia?
ET: She’s no nonsense. Blunt. Honest. Sexy. Manipulative. But deeply insecure. I love her darkness. Some would call her a mean girl. I hope most
people would say she’s not like me. It is hard to understand why people behave that way until you figure out their vulnerability. Mia’s arc was a slow burn. She started out as this one thing and became something else as the story unfolded. Also, she had some pretty good one-liners. I love a good comeback. Especially when it’s written for me. I can never seem to come up with them quickly enough in real life.
AM: What similarities and differences exist between you and the character?
ET: I think we posses a similar fire. I am pretty passionate about stuff. I have an extreme personality. If I’m into something, I am SUPER into it. And if I dislike something it is dead to me. I also like to think I infused her with a little pluckiness. I’m a true goofball. Someone on twitter recently called me a ‘glamorous clown’. I will no longer go by any other title.
AM: What was your favorite part of the show?
ET: I loved all of the milestones, such as our first table read when we were all trying to figure out our characters; the first class together as a company; watching the sun come up over the East River on a Saturday morning after wrapping the final scene for the entire show; watching the pilot episode at the network in LA with my agent and manager; and reuniting with the cast for our premiere in NYC.
AM: What can you tell us about next season?
ET: Unfortunately we are not doing a 2nd season!:( Flesh and Bone was released as a limited series to stand on its own!
AM: Athleisure includes styles that reflects looks worn throughout your lifestyle, what are your go to looks?
ET: I love a printed legging. Lululemon or Bandier. I like funky colors and prints with a neutral oversized top and boots. Gauzy white t-shirt, a blazer and a beanie or my MN Twins cap. :) All things cashmere - all of the time. Nikes with everything, I love comfy footwear. Ballet did a number on my feet, so if at all possible I will wear flats or athletic wear. Harem pants or high-waisted/pleated/tapered pants of any kind. Smartwool socks. Always.
AM: How do you stay in shape?
ET: I have a Crunch membership. I am a cardio junkie, but i dont love group fitness. If at all possible, I prefer to be outside. I run almost everyday. Outside, I’ll run a mix of terrain, and on the treadmill I like to do sprint and hill intervals. In the summertme, I ride my bike everywhere. I also use studio space at the gym to do my own ballet and yoga exercises. I listen to my body and ballet gave me a good self discipline. I will never decline the invitation to take a fun dance class with friends, though.
AM: In your free time what are 3 things that you enjoy doing?
ET: I love to cook. I wish my kitchen were bigger. I live in a tiny studio. Maybe someday I’ll have the luxury of counterspace in a NYC kitchen.
I frequently take myself to the movies. I sneak a beer in my purse, get a popcorn, and turn my phone off. It is an awesome escape from the mayhem of the city.
Traveling has become a favorite and often impulsive activity. If i have time off and an opportunity to go anywhere, I’ll do it. Currently on the wanderlust list: Thailand, Spain, Croatia and Ireland.
AM: How do you maintain your balance between work, friends and more?
ET: I try to take enough time for myself. As long as I can have an evening to myself once a week to have a good workout, cook a meal, get a manicure, read, etc, I’m in balance. This is a tricky business as we are often living out of a suitcase, the inbox is full, you have 3 scripts to read, and you owe your mom a phonecall. Adulting and living in NYC is hard, in showbiz or not!
AM: What kind of role do you see yourself playing next?
ET: I can’t say what is up next for me yet! Flesh and Bone was such an intense project, I’m thinking about swinging in the opposite direction with something really hilarious. I’m enjoying being in the TV world, as a lot of incredible people are writing and working in Television right now. The scripts I am reading just keep getting better. Long term, I’d like to do more film. I like changing things up and TV tends to be a long term commitment.