Kylie Shea, who performed in “Mac Finds His Pride,” tells us Rob McElhenney was one of “the most solid and trustworthy dance partners” she’s ever worked with.
What was your first reaction when you found out the dance was going to be part of Mac coming out to his father?
Kylie Shea: I didn’t find out the nature of the storyline until the first day of rehearsal. When I found out this piece was a "coming out" dance for Mac, I felt like this role was written for me in the stars. After Rob explained the storyline on the first day of rehearsal, I told him that my older brother, Scott Lewallen, is gay and the Co-Founder and original designer of Grindr. When Scott came out to my parents, especially Dad, it was one of the hardest things he’s done in his life. We are a family of five siblings, four girls and a boy. It took our father time to process the reality that his only son was gay. As a family, it was a time of growth and transformation, for we all knew the hardships my brother would have to face as an openly gay man. Rob didn’t know this when he selected me for the role. I think my family history enabled me to bring a deep level of empathy for the way my character was able to support Mac through his journey in the dance.
What were the rehearsals like, knowing the scene was going to be such a big moment for the series?
Rehearsals were physically demanding, emotionally draining, and absolutely magical…every single one. I come from a concert dance background and this project was the closest I’ve felt to being back in a company while working in the entertainment industry. We would run the piece multiple times to warm up and then dissect different steps and sections to refine the technique while discovering the intention behind the movement. I love the rehearsal process for it is where the real work is done. You must continuously push yourself beyond your comfort zone and in doing so realize that there is always more to learn and room to grow.
What was your experience like working with Rob, who has had no formal dance training?
His respect for the art we have dedicated our lives to was apparent from the very beginning and our appreciation for him and how he treated us is immeasurable. Dancers, particularly in the entertainment industry, are not always well taken care of. On this project, there was not a moment when I didn’t feel valued, cared for, and respected. Rob transformed from a man with no formal dance training to one of the most solid and trustworthy dance partners I’ve ever worked with. I can count on one hand the male dancers who have partnered me that I would trust my life with and Rob is one of them.
How you would describe the actual filming process of the dance scene?
I thought rehearsals were intense, but they paled in comparison to actually filming. We were able to film everything in one full day which, for me, was one of the most challenging and fulfilling days of dance I have ever experienced in my career. The physical challenges associated with dancing in water for hours on end certainly took their toll on my body, but my heart was so full it didn’t matter. Every single time the director called action I thought of my brother and the people around the world for whom this piece was created. Knowing how important this moment was for the LGBT community made any pain in my body quickly fade, for it was my character’s duty to be the light in Mac’s darkness.
Was there any particular moment in the dance sequence that stood out to you as a dancer?
I think the ending sequence hit me the most, quite literally and also figuratively. The final jump was one of the most challenging things for me to do physically and mentally as it required me to completely surrender myself to Rob and trust that he would catch me no matter what. I’ve had a few experiences throughout my career with other partners who didn’t always catch me, so it took my body time to catch up with my brain and realize that Rob was one of those rare partners who would catch me at all costs, even if it meant sacrificing himself. The final moment on the floor when I say, "It’s ok," was arguably the most intense part of the piece for me. We had to survive this tumultuous storm of a dance together in order for Mac to find peace within himself. I felt the weight of this moment in my soul and was in tears every single take.
Why do you think the audience reacted so passionately to the dance scene?
I think Rob’s fearless dedication and commitment to his vision set the tone for the dance to be received the way that it was. I am a big believer in energy and feel that the love and passion that went into creating this, by every single person involved, was able to transcend the television screen in ways we could have never imagined.
What are some behind the scenes stories from your experience filming you can share?
A fun fact is that we started using fight music in rehearsals to practice the ending jump. After we learned the initial mechanics, it was time to start pushing with more distance and intensity. It was Rob’s idea to play fight music to try and help me get a bit more bold and aggressive with my energy. For whatever reason, it worked.
Why do you think dancing was the avenue Rob chose for his character to come out to his dad?
When words fail, dance prevails. Dance enables us to articulate the soul without saying a word. It is the universal language and one of the most valuable forms of communication. I don’t know why Rob chose dance for Mac to come out to his dad, but I am eternally grateful that he did. It is my deepest hope this will be a moment of television that will provoke and inspire people for generations to come and help those in need know that they are not alone.
Kylie Shea is a Los Angeles native. At eight years old, she began her classical ballet training with Mrs. Patricia Stander and went on to become a principal artist with Donald Byrd’s Spectrum Dance Theatre in Seattle. After realizing her dreams in concert dance, she relocated back to Hollywood where she is currently pursuing her dreams in the entertainment industry. Kylie continues to pioneer her own path with a strong social media presence and her video series "Pointe Chronicles."