Simone Recasner may be a new name in Hollywood, but one you won't soon forget. In Fox's new dance drama, The Big Leap, Recasner anchors the series as Gabby—whose dreams of becoming a professional dancer were put on pause when she got pregnant. Now, a few years later, she has the chance to revisit her life as a dancer on a reality dance show.
For Recasner, this role tugs at her heartstrings more than any other she's done. Through Gabby, viewers are taken on an emotional journey of self-acceptance, empowerment, and body positivity. While Gabby exists under different circumstances, there were many parts of her Recasner immediately connected with, like being a curvy woman. Those similarities allowed her to bring an unmatched level of authenticity and vibrance to the character, making viewers invested in the show from the first episode. Ahead, Recasner opens up about the importance of body type diversity in media, embracing her curls, and cherishing alone time.
The show recently premiered. How do you feel?
I've had a little over a year and a half of excitement about this job. So, it's been a very long process of continually being on the precipice of excitement. And now that it's finally happening, I don't think my brain has been able to process it. I'm excited to the point I can't even put words to it.
I read that your dad and sister are actors. But despite having insider access to the industry, you decided to invest in your education before diving into your career. Why did you decide to go that route?
Well, it was for various reasons. But the main reason is I was sort of denied from the industry at a young age. I grew up in LA. My father and sister are in the industry. And when I was 12, I knew this was what I was meant to do. My parents were very supportive, but they weren't necessarily overly enthusiastic about it. But they got me in touch with a few agents, I met with one, and it didn't work out. The second one I met with was actually my first "audition." She gave me some [parts of a script] to cold read. And while reading it, she told me, "You're not right for this business. Please leave."
I felt so disheartened by that. I had never experienced somebody blatantly telling me no before, so I left that experience traumatized a little bit. So, I told my folks, "You're right. Let me focus on my education." My father went to Yale School of Drama, so I always had a sense of what grad school and higher education in the arts can give you—not just the certificate itself, but the confidence you can have in your career and your ability.
Tell me about your role in The Big Leap. Who is Gabby? Were there parts of her that you immediately connected with when you read the script?
I've learned we have more similarities than I initially saw on the page. Gabby is incredibly brave, strong, and leads with kindness. She sometimes falls literally and figuratively. But she always mindmaps her way to getting back up. She sometimes demeans herself a little or demeans others a tad bit. But she always finds a way to reframe something in her brain. She has an immense amount of empathy. She's an incredibly full person. It feels like she's a real person.
The creator of the show, Liz Heldens, wrote her as an incredibly verbose, loud, beautiful, quiet, soft, and big person. She's just such a powerful human being who encompasses so much, and that's what drew me to her. And it's very rare, in my experience, to find somebody who's specifically written as curvy to be in a centralized position within a story.
What does it mean to you to celebrate body positivity and body type diversity in dance in this role? So often, we see one type of beauty celebrated in dance, but you’re challenging all of those things in The Big Leap?
It means more to me than any other part of this experience has meant. I'm somebody who did not physically see myself represented in TV and film growing up. It's certainly gotten a little better, but I had to push through so many mental and physical blocks on my journey. People told me, "You'll work when you're older," which is coded language that says you can't exist now. And so I know, from my own experience, how much it would have meant to me to have somebody like this to look up to. The fact that [this show] will be out there, I could cry for how much it means to me. I want to hug every single person who will be touched by [Gabby].
There are so many messages you can take away from the show. What’s one thing you hope viewers think about after watching the show?
Liz Heldens said the show exists in a world where hope is able to exist at a little higher vibration. Even though the show has drama and flawed characters, you will see that everybody is fighting their own circumstance throughout the season. Each of these characters is so incredibly relatable.
With Gabby, she's been a curvy dancer her whole life and had to overcome an industry that didn't welcome her in addition to being a single mom. Then, there are characters like Mike, who has lost his identity because of having his job shipped somewhere else and automated. Julia, played by the incredible Teri Polo, is a woman facing a midlife crisis and feels unloved by the people around her. I'm most excited that even though there are bad people, there are no real bad people in the show. The "bad people" are the world outside and the framework in your brain that says that you're not enough.
Your curls are gorgeous, and I love that you get to show them off in the show. What products do you use to keep them hydrated and defined?
First of all, I want to say I'm incredibly proud of the fact that we decided to keep my hair natural. For me, that's a huge step in my hair journey. I used to put chemicals in my hair to make it look like anything but what it was. It wasn't until I was around the age of 18 when I decided to embrace it fully. So on set, my amazing hair person Tyler mixes the Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Heat and Humidity Gel ($75) with water. Then, she sprays on the Mizani Miracle Milk Leave-In Conditioner ($23).
What are some of your skincare staples?
With my skincare routine, it's an ever-evolving journey. I've pretty much had generally pretty clear skin my whole life. And then, a few years ago, I started to develop redness around my skin. I come from the school of not putting too many products on your face. But the challenge with doing a show like this is the amount of product they put on your face and the fact that I have to wear it all day.
I do have to put quite a bit of a barrier between my skin and the product. So every day, I apply the Image Skincare Balancing Bio-Peptide Creme ($75), a vitamin C serum, and sunscreen. I use the Drunk Elephant Shaba Complex Eye Serum ($60) around my eyes at night. I started to experience quite a bit of burning on set from a product that was being put on my skin. So the makeup team started putting La Mer Crème de la Mer ($350) on my skin, and that stuff works great.
Do you have any favorite makeup products?
If I'm honest, I never wear makeup unless it's for an audition or I'm going out. I prefer a very natural look. I'll apply a bronzer to warm up my face, mascara, and a bright red lip if I wear makeup. That's a very signature look for me.
When you're not on set, how are you recharging and prioritizing mental health?
I'm so happy you're asking me that. I really value my recharge time. I generally spend my days off alone. I like to be quiet and let my brain meander. I like to go for walks, or I'll work out. Yesterday, I went and got a lymphatic drainage massage for the first time. I read about all its health benefits, like flushing out your toxins. It was very relaxing. I've had to go through a switch in my brain where I don't view treating yourself to massages or getting your nails done as something you do on a rare occasion. Doing these things really helps reset me for the week.
What are you looking forward to the remainder of the year?
It's so wild that the end of the year is coming. But, my job makes me so happy. I work with some of the nicest, most supportive people who have become very dear friends of mine. I'm looking forward to sharing The Big Leap with people. I'm also looking forward to relaxing. I'm thinking of driving cross country on my own since I enjoy my alone time. I've driven cross country once, and I'm feeling the bug to do it again on my own.