Lifetime's "Let's Get Physical" Explores a Serious Moral Issue with Levity

By Behind the Scenes in Hollywood Archives
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Lifetime takes a reprieve of sorts from the mostly serious tone of its true-life movies with Let's Get Physical  which, although ripped from the headlines, approaches its subject matter in a lighthearted and highly entertaining manner. Physical chronicles the real-life experiences of Sadie Smith (Jenna Dewan), who breezes into a small town to open her Dazzle & Spin, Fitness & Massage Center. Initially embraced by the town she raises a few eyebrows with the fact her clientele can take "poleates" dance aerobics classes (yes, they involve a stripper pole) in addition to enjoying massages. While her nose might be to the grindpole in public, behind closed doors the extra massage service goes one step beyond -- and mostly accommodates the town's high-profile businessmen. While her wellness advice actually helps customers, as her clientele increases, so does her public profile, which eventually leads to her downfall.

The film is the brainchild of Live with Kelly & Ryan host Kelly Ripa, who also executive produced the project (along with her husband Mark Consuelos, as well as Dewan). She first heard about the Sadie Smith story 15 years ago while appearing as a guest on Late Night with David Letterman.Letterman had addressed the events of the film in his monologue, and so began Ripa's quest to bring it to the screen.

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Co-starring with Dewan (pictured below right) is Jennifer Irwin (below left), who steps out from being Beverly Goldberg's long-suffering friend Virginia Kremp on ABC's The Goldbergs to portray town hairdresser April Macintosh, soon-to-become Sadie's suffering friend, and the one to uncover the secret that becomes her downfall. It's a role Irwin was (mostly) very comfortable doing. "I loved the character I got to play," she said with a smile while promoting the film. "I've gotten to play a lot of best friends in my career, but this best friend was interesting to me, because she was someone trying to stay open-minded, but at the same time she was very loyal to her old friendships, and steadfast and loyal to this new friendship she has with this woman who kind of breezed into town. I thought that was an interesting thing to play."

However, when it came to pole dancing, it was a different story. "I read the script quite quickly," she recalled. "I thought it was really funny and fresh, but somehow I missed the part that said that I had to [pole dance]. I have an unnatural fear of pole dancing, no word of a lie, and I thought it'll be fine -- I won't have to pole dance. They'll leave all that to Jenna, the professional dancer. Then when I showed up, we right into rehearsals for pole dancing!

"I don't want to harp on the pole dancing," she continued. "But physically, it was the hardest job for me. I get motion sickness and I pulled my back out, so I wasn't able to walk after a couple of rehearsals. However, the rest of it was just a dream and really, really fun. Everyone got along, and we shared a lot of laughter and the rest of it was pure joy. One version of the script ended with everyone taking Sadie's class and I was included in the scene. I thank my lucky stars that the script got changed because I really did not want to pole dance."

Making his Lifetime debut in the project is Michael Consuelos (pictured at top), who recently spoke out about not wanting the role of nerdy muffinista/barista Petey on his mom's talk show. However, in retrospect, his decision to put any nepotism aside was the right one. "Entertainment has been at the forefront of my life for all of my life," he shared. "It just seemed natural to me to follow in that path. Obviously, there are shoes to fill, and there's a high standard I guess I grew up with. But I didn't really pay it any mind.

"I also work as a producer," he added. "I'm writing my own side projects, but entertainment is very, very important to me. My parents do what they do, and I want to do what they do. Petey is kind of like the comic relief character. He's kind of down on his luck for most of it and I guess his struggles taught me to better appreciate what I have going for me, take chances, and apply myself."

Both actors concurred that working with Dewan was a dream. And when it comes to the moral dilemma the film raises -- someone breaking the law to do good -- both agreed that if the events of the film happened today in a larger town, things might go a little differently. "I was familiar with this story," Irwin said. "In a big town, I believe this would have unfolded differently. I've spent some time in small towns and everyone's up in everyone's business. A lot of people were hurt, and a lot of marriages and friendships exploded. Everyone knew about it. But it made the whole town sort of question who they were."

"The way we see [this] story has changed in the last couple of years," added Consuelos. "The way we look at sex work has changed in the last couple of years. We're allowing for a little more broader angles and taking maybe a different look [at this story]. If this movie had been made ten years ago the [Sadie] character would have been 100% villainized. But now it's like, 'Oh well,' maybe other people can share responsibility for what happened, too."

Let's Get Physical will be telecast on Saturday, October 15 at 8 p.m. on Lifetime.

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