Bonnie Lythgoe is the director and producer of Lythgoe Family Productions but you may be more familiar with her from her work on So You Think You Can Dance!
In addition to being in the entertainment industry, Bonnie has another important role in life – being a mother and grandmother.
I recently spoke to Bonnie about her family life and her answers were open and honest…
How do you successfully juggle a busy career and family life?
I guess I try to spend the important moments with my family, and even though I might talk about my work, I try to let them do the talking and me the listening. Children are fine with busy parents as long as they know you love them and support them and you take them with you when you can!!
How many children do you have?
I have two grown up sons who are also Producers.
What is it like working so closely with ex-husband Nigel?
Hmmm, it has its moments. I use to be one of his dancers, which was frustrating because sometimes I wanted to change the steps and of course I couldn’t. We started doing So You Think you Can Dance USA both as judges, but we clashed really badly and I had to switch to Producer. I think we are very similar people and both like success, but in Nigel’s eyes there is only room for one Lythgoe in a series, which is a shame as I would always give it another try as I believe we are great as a TV couple.
Was the split difficult for your adult children?
Yes the split was awful for Kristopher and Simon, more than I realized. I think they thought it would sort itself out, but sadly it didn’t. When you have been married for 30 years your children believe it will last for life and neither of them wanted the break up , even worse Nigel and I kept going back to each other so the boys raised their hopes only for them to be destroyed again. But now Nigel and I do see each other and go out with the boys so time is healing the wounds.
(Bonnie and her two sons)
In addition to being a mother, you are also a grandmother – what does being a grandmother mean to you?
It means I have a grand daughter and a very talented one who at 9 years old has been accepted into The Australian Ballet Company as a junior. It also means my sons are fathers themselves and our family will carry on for years and years. I take one of my grandkids to tennis when I am in Australia and it’s beautiful to see how much he loves being with me, it is just like having your sons all over again.
What was it like working on So You Think You Can Dance?
Working on Dance was life changing. I needed to find me again and do this series without Nigel leaning on my shoulder and to be able to give my heart and experience to all the young dancers. I was so impressed with the talent I wanted the series to go on forever. I think it gave me a new life, new friends and a greater understanding of Australian Dancers. I was and am so proud of the Australian series and all the people that were involved. I think we all came out winners.
You are currently working closely with your son Kristopher, what can you tell us about that?
Interesting! He has as much enthusiasm as I have but sometimes it is overwhelming. He is one of the producers and I am very proud of him, but it is tricky sometimes. He is a Taurus and stubborn, so I fight that battle with him. It’s usually to do with rehearsal time or who we want for the show. We just disagree, but I know we both want the best in the end so I wait my time until he sees things my way or not!!
I think he despairs sometimes when I dig my heels in, but he gets through. He is strong though with his own vision and I love that. He really is very creative and a today man, I am so happy he loves working with his mum, it makes me very proud.
(Bonnie and grand daughter Dominie)
What has been the most important lesson you have learnt from being a mother?
That it will never change. You have to be strong , you often have to be the tough one, the loving one, the decision maker. It’s one hell of a responsibility being a mum and no one realizes that until those children are born. But it’s so rewarding and it brings so much joy to your life – their first day at school, the feelings you have when you leave them behind, the first bad injury (the need for you), the first girlfriend (the tears you have to dry when she leaves), so many things and then the first car where you worry all night imagining they have had an accident, then the happiness you feel when they walk through the front door.
Being a Mother is learning about challenges you would never expect to face and always being there, it is the greatest job on Earth.
How did you spend Mother’s Day this year?
I had the best mother’s day this year, I had two days. One with Kristopher and his girlfriend Becky in a chic French Restaurant in Los Angeles and then the next day with my other son Simon in Mr Chow’s in Beverly Hills. I had flowers from both of them and it was a lovely surprise .
Casting the Cast is one of your newest projects, can you explain a little bit about the show and when it might appear on Aussie television?
Casting the Cast is a series for Ovation TV, which is about behind the scenes of a musical. I am the On-camera Director and Stage Director, and I have a camera on me all the time.
It is reality behind the scenes – How we make a musical , the casting, the ups the downs, the technical day and the dress rehearsal, as well as the opening night. It shows how hard the dancers work, how we make changes to the show all the time, the moments of despair, the frustrations of the actors, the tiredness of me.. You get to see it all .. It is the real deal and no frills! It will be on air in the USA in November, so should be reaching Australia soon after that.
A challenge! Describe your family in 3 words….
Unpredictable, talented, loving.
What’s next for Bonnie Lythgoe?
Back to Los Angeles, directing Snow White the Musical at the Pasadena Playhouse. Picking up a second series of Casting the Cast, but with a different angle. And time in the UK where I get to see the rest of my family.