‘Big Grrrls’ Creator Lizzo On Carrying The Flag For Plus-Size Dancers And How She Ensured “Everybody Felt Respected”

·6 min read

Lizzo may not want to show her face when doing an interview via Zoom but there’s no doubting the pop superstar is actually on the call. After all, who else would have a screensaver that says ‘100% That Bitch’? Here, the creator and host of Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrlsan unscripted series for Amazon in which the pop superstar searches for fly backup dancers—talks about the freshman show’s six Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Competition Program and Outstanding Directing for a Reality Program, and how she plans to prepare for the big night.

DEADLINE: How did you find out about the Emmy nominations?

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LIZZO: I had a flight, so I was up. I was in glam and was editing videos. I’m always editing some TikTok video or something for social media. My manager called me mid-edit and I was like, “What’s going on here?”
I ignored the call and kept editing. “I gotta finish this TikTok before I get on this plane.” Then he called my assistant, and he was like, “Put her on the phone now!” I found out that way. So that was pretty awesome. Great way to start the day.

DEADLINE: So, you not only created a hit TV show, but you have made a difference with that show. What does that feel like?

LIZZO: I’ve seen it within the group of girls that were featured on the show. I mean, it’s incredible to watch their careers take off and blossom. They’ve been dancing with me and performing on SNL and awards shows. I don’t know how the industry’s changed yet, but we’re definitely waiting to see that change, for sure.

DEADLINE: You’ve said in the past that you’ve had the idea for this show for a while. Was there a reality show that inspired you?

LIZZO: No. I was more inspired by needing dancers than a show. I wasn’t like, “Oh my gosh, I need to make a show.” It was more like it would be incredible to document this and have a platform to raise awareness. I had had open calls for dancers in the past that weren’t on a hit television show, and I didn’t get as many girls as I needed. I knew there was raw, untapped talent. I just needed to find it.

Lizzo performs on the Today show. - Credit: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images
Lizzo performs on the Today show. - Credit: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

DEADLINE: When you were casting, was it overwhelming? Were there way more talented gals than you could include in the series?

LIZZO: It was hard. There were so many talented girls, but eventually what it came down to was talent, their stories, and who they were as individuals. We were making a television show and it was important to me to tell stories that the world hadn’t seen or heard before.

DEADLINE: The women were very candid about the whole process, including their injuries and their insecurities. Did you encourage them to let it all hang out?

LIZZO: They were definitely down for the ride. They were very brave about being vulnerable and open. I think they all were very aware that this was their actual dream coming true, and they didn’t take that for granted.

DEADLINE: Reality shows can definitely veer in different directions because of onscreen drama. Were you worried it would devolve into that? Did you set down any rules?

LIZZO: I think when you put rules in place, it makes things kind of contrived. I didn’t want to over-produce the experience these girls had. I think we cast it very well, and the relationships these girls had were very authentic. They formed beautiful bonds. And no, there were no rules. Come as you are, act how you want. We did want people to treat each other with kindness and I think that everyone did.

DEADLINE: The athletic feats performed by some of the women were pretty awe-inspiring. Did any of them scare the bejesus out of you?

LIZZO: Well, we’re talking about dancers here. That is what they were on here to do, to be incredible and do incredible physical feats. There were a few moments where, you know, like Moesha slipped and fell when performing and Jayla did a flip off of the stage and tripped. I was worried, but this is an occupational hazard. Honestly, your job is so physical when you’re a dancer.

DEADLINE: This is your first TV show. What did you learn about the process and yourself?

LIZZO: I learned that relationships are very important. And not just the relationships on screen, but the ones with those who are working on set behind the scenes. It was important to me that everybody felt seen and heard, that everybody felt respected. When I make shows, especially from here on out, that’s a very important factor. This show has such an incredible feeling because people cared.

DEADLINE: Is there anything you would like to change about the show if there is a second season?

LIZZO: I’m definitely all about changing things up. It’s exciting to think about how far we could go with a Season 2. The sky is literally the limit.

DEADLINE: What’s it like juggling this with your music career? Is it spreading you too thin?

LIZZO: I created and produced and started this show. This isn’t, like, something that I was forced to do. I make time for the things I love and the things that I really want to do. So, no.

Read the digital edition of Deadline’s Emmy Nominees magazine here.
Read the digital edition of Deadline’s Emmy Nominees magazine here.

DEADLINE: So, you have your overall deal with Amazon. You have teased the potential of doing a scripted project. Is there anything more you can say about it?

LIZZO: Everything is just ideas right now. When things start to get greenlit and more concrete, I can talk about it then. But I don’t want to get people excited about something I haven’t pitched yet.

DEADLINE: Have you written your Emmy acceptance speech yet?

LIZZO: I don’t plan on things like that. I think I’m more excited about what I’m going to wear. Like it’s just a big deal to be there. This is going to be my first Emmys, my first Emmys carpet. I want to feel like the belle of the ball. So, I think I’m more excited about planning my look than a speech. I think I’m just going to drink champagne.

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