In 2006, "Step Up" didn't just jumpstart the career of Channing Tatum (who's having a banner year with
"The Vow," "21 Jump Street" and "Magic Mike") and introduce him to his wife, "Step Up" co-star Jenna Dewan. The film sparked a franchise whose fourth installment,"Step Up Revolution," opens Friday.
"Revolution" features"So You Think You Can Dance"standout Kathryn McCormick and Ryan Guzman (a commercial actor and print model) in their first major film roles. McCormick plays Emily, aspiring professional dancer and love interest of Sean (Guzman), a lowly staffer at Emily’s father’s hotel who dances with a local group called The Mob. They show off their skills through flash mobs around Miami; first, the pop-up performances are just to seek exposure, but they turn into a protest against a hotel development that would bulldoze the neighborhood Sean and his friends grew up in.
Before talking to the co-stars about filming in Miami, the variety of dance styles in the movie and whether Guzman intends to follow in Tatum's "Magic Mike" footsteps, we kicked off our recent interview at the Trump Hotel with a dance battle.
Well, sort of. Since Guzman, 24, and McCormick, 22, weren't permitted to dance for our camera, we asked them to choose who would win a faceoff between dance movie stars of the past, ranging from Ren McCormack in "Footloose" to Jody in "Center Stage." (Click on the video above to hear their picks. Spoiler: They don't always agree!)
The first three movies in the franchise rely on a school dance recital or a competition/battle to give a reason for the dancing. That's not the case in this movie, right?
Kathryn McCormick: The movie wouldn’t be possible without dance. It’s dancing for a greater purpose and standing up for something that you really believe in, knowing that dance is something that you can use to do that, and that’s completely different than all the other “Step Up”s that we’ve had.
Ryan Guzman: And I think the last dance, the one that actually ends the movie, it's actually a callout to speak out about what you believe in, so I don’t think they prepare for it really, during the whole movie and that’s what I love about it. It’s not just leading into this finale--it's actually what they felt at the moment.
I think when our readers think “flash mob,” they think of the kind that Oprah did on Michigan Avenue. What can you tell us about the difference?
RG: Our flash mobs are pumped up like a thousand times, so we’re jumping off of cars … we got every style of hip-hop, we got contemporary, we got salsa.
KM: It’s people that have trained their whole lives. And flash mobs, people will be like, “Another 'Step Up' and they have flash mobs? Come on?” And it’s like, no, flash mobs are actually really relevant in the sense that people do them all over the world and it brings people together. It unites people through dance. But on top of that, we have dancers who have trained their entire lives to do this in those flash mobs, so it’s not necessarily the ones where you’re like waving your hands, but we’re putting on full shows for people.
It’s also not just street dance in this “Step Up.” Can you tell us about the variety of dance people will see?
KM: We have a contemporary duet for the first time that you’ve never seen in a film before, which I love. Jazz, salsa, all forms of hip-hop. You have every single different style that you can imagine, and on top of that, it brings so much versatility to it. And the music, if you think about it, so many times you see battling and it’s always the same type of music throughout the entire movie, but this one has all different styles of music because it has all different styles of dancing.
Kathryn, I think a lot of our readers will remember you as a finalist on the sixth season of “So You Think You Can Dance,” and you’ve also come back to the show as an all-star. Who else from “SYTYCD” can our readers keep an eye out for in the cast?
KM: There are a lot, actually. Twitch has been a part for 3 and 4. Phillip Chbeeb, Tony Bellisimo. Billy Bell plays a small role in the contemporary [scene], so does Nick Lazzarini. Travis Wall was a choreographer on set, so was Chris Scott. Mia Michaels. Jamal Sims, who has choreographed on “SYTYCD,” Chuck Maldonado who has choreographed … everyone kind of choreographed on “SYTYCD!”
RG: And we’ve got a little secret: We’ve got one guy that’s on “So You Think” right now, that actually you can look out for: Brandon Mitchell. Yeah, he’s doing amazing on the show. We hope the best for him. We hope he does great on it, but he killed it in this movie.
Ryan, you’re not a dancer by trade, but you have a background in mixed martial arts and sports. Did that help you in learning to dance for this film?
RG: It helps you out just enough. You’re very body aware in martial arts, and I did about seven, eight years of it … you have to have good footwork, and just your body placement and everything like that. It brings you to the ball game, but it doesn’t like get you in the ball game. What got me in was the dancers around me, having that much talent to pull from, whether it be Kathryn or The Mob or the choreographers. I had to learn in three weeks, which is very slim to learn all these combos, and not only that, but to match the skill of those around me. But everyone was so cool, so kind, and to have Tight Eyes, the inventor of krump, come to me and teach me how to dance, I couldn’t ask for anything better.
Did your competitive nature come into play at all?
RG: Very. Yeah, 'cause I heard that they wanted to dance double me in the beginning. So I said, all right, I’m going to stay quiet. I’m going to just learn it, try my best, and hopefully prove them wrong. And when I say try my best, we trained nine hours every single day and I would go home and train for another three or four hours. I’d go back and at the end of three weeks, the director and the producers came in and saw all the combos put together. And I went in and did all the combos and after they saw me do it, they were like, “Ah, well, we’ll just use you!” No dance doubles, no stunt doubles. I wanted to give my all in this movie.
It’s pretty hot in Chicago today, but you filmed the movie in Miami. How much hotter was it filming dance scenes outdoors?
RG: It was rough. It was so rough. For the guys, we always had some kind of hooded jacket or something like that; you had to look cool while you’re dancing obviously. Luckily for Sean, my character that I play, he doesn’t really like clothes, so he always ended up showing his abs or whatever … There’s no escaping the heat in Miami. It’s humid, it’s hot. When we were doing the Ocean Drive scene, it was 105 or something like that. When you’re dancing on the cars, it’s radiating off the cars and I actually fell off of the car 'cause it was so hot. My legs kind of gave out and I just fell.
KM: In the finale scene, when you see Twitch on the bungee cords or any of the B-boys breaking, the ground was so hot, they ended up having to put gloves on for most of it. And the contemporary [routine] that we do, I was barefoot and at first you could barely walk on the ground and we had to dance on it. So they’d have to put a pad on it for a good 30 minutes so it could cool down, and then we’d film a little bit, and when it started getting hot again we had to take a break and do it again. It affected everything around us.
RG: One of the B-boys actually burnt his hand. He had to wrap his hand because he was doing all the tricks on the ground and I guess it was so hot that the skin burned.
You’re both new actors, but Kathryn I heard that this was your first big acting audition. What was that like?
KM: It was so intimidating, to be honest. [Producer] Jennifer Gibgot was a fan of “So You Think You Can Dance” because Adam Shankman was a judge and they’re brother and sister, and from there she was interested in seeing me for the role. But I didn’t know that, so I just came in like every other girl and I had no idea I would make it so far; I was just trying to find the most authentic way to do a scene with someone.
But you’ve actually had a little part in a different movie as one of your first gigs, right?
KM: So moving out to California, my first audition was for the remake of "Fame." So that’s what brought me to L.A. because I auditioned and I was still living in Georgia and they were like, 'You have to live here for three to four months and film the movie.' So I ended up moving out, and by the time I had got there, they had cast too many dancers and I only had one day of work, so I was like of like, 'Ahh! What am I doing here?' But that’s kind of what got me to L.A. and I play a part as an auditioning dancer in the film.
Ryan, you were cast in shoes filled by Channing Tatum in the original "Step Up." Is your career destined for “Magic Mike” levels of fame?
RG: [Laughs] I mean, I’ll take it if it comes, I don’t know if I’ll be doing “Magic Mike 2.” We’ll see. If people want to see it, I’m down to do it. I love acting. Acting’s very new to me, but it’s a new love of mine and I’ll continue with it.
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