ABC(LOS ANGELES) — ABC’s TV-movie remake of Dirty Dancing arrives on the small screen tonight. The original film, starring Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze, was a generational touchstone, not just for fans but for actors like Debra Messing who stars in the remake.
“I remember being a kid when it came out and sitting in the movie theater and thinking, ‘This is the first time that I’ve actually seen a leading lady who isn’t perfect,’ and it’s like, ‘Oh, so there might be a place for me in Hollywood,'” Messing tells ABC Radio. “Like, it was a turning point for me.”
The movie, a coming-of-age period dance romance about a teenager nicknamed Baby in the early 1960s and a resort dance instructor, Johnny, offered Messing — who plays Baby’s mom, Marjorie, in the remake — a glimpse of herself on screen. “I thought, ‘Oh, I’m Jewish and I’m awkward,’ and I thought, ‘Oh, I’m Baby!'” she said. “And of course I realize now everyone who watches it thinks they’re Baby.”
The TV movie however is more than just a remake. It updates the story, exploring what happens to Baby and Johnny after that summer and delving into the relationship between Jake and Marjorie Houseman, as well as expanding the story of some of the original movie’s other characters.
“Every song that you love, every dance move, the leap, I mean, everything that’s iconic is still in it,” Messing explains, “but it’s, y’know, a little longer because it’s an event instead of just being a feature film.”
But updating a beloved classic is fraught with pitfalls, just as Abigail Breslin, who has the daunting task of following Jennifer Grey as Baby. “I, definitely…felt a lotta pressure, mostly from one of my best friends, Celine,” Breslin says. “She’s a huge fan of Dirty Dancing and she was like, ‘If you don’t do a good job I will kill you.'”
Dirty Dancing airs Wednesday at 8 p.m. on ABC.
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