Tonight is the Los Angeles premiere of Step Up 3D, the very first 3D dance movie. Last night, I was able to chat a bit by phone with tWitch Boss, So You Think You Can Dance all-star and now soon to be movie star as well! We spoke about his work in the film, how he prepared for it, how it was different from his work on SYTYCD, and what he envisions for his future.
HuffPo: Hi, how are you?
TwitchBoss: I'm very good, things are all right.
HP: So, your new movie Step Up 3D comes out this week. What is your role?
TB: Well, my character's name is Jason. He's a comic book nerd and he's a fool for gadgets and stuff like that. He has his own lab. He's pretty beef in there; he's a very excitable guy. He loves kicking it with his crew and to battle in dance. And that's something I can totally relate to. He's a freestyler.
HP: And this is an acting part right?
TB: Yes, it is.
HP: Oh cool.
TB: Very exciting. I'm very excited.
HP: It's your first acting part, right?
TB: Right. Absolutely.
HP: I mean, you were in Blades of Glory and Hairspray but those weren't acting roles. Just dancing.
TB: Laughs. Yeah, just dancing. In Blades of Glory, I was running around in a tutu. Laughs some more.
HP: Oh how funny, I'll have to see that!
TB: No, no, I mean, you really don't have to! More laughter.
HP: Well, okay. More laughter. And so you auditioned twice for Step Up 3D? Once for the dance part and once for the acting part?
TB: Yes, I did. The dance audition was first. I went in and did that. I had a blast doing that. That was one of the most high energy auditions. There's a couple of auditions that pass through LA a couple times a year where you get a lot of dancers that go out and sometimes get a little pushy and competitive. But this time everybody was just amped and ready to dance and ready to go. It was a great, great dance experience.
Afterward I asked (producer) Adam Shankman and (director) Jon Chu if maybe somehow I could come in and read for a part or something like that. I kind of hounded them, my manager kind of got on the ground. We came up with ways to keep kind of putting it in their ear to see if I could at least come in and read. And I finally got that opportunity, and I guess it worked out, you know.
HP: Did you find the acting part stressful?
TB: You know, I don't want to say stressful, it was just new. Acting is very different than dancing. Of course I felt so much more comfortable with dancing at first. But the whole process of acting is absolutely incredible. It's a process I respect and love, actually. So, you know, it wasn't stressful, it was work, and it was a learning experience.
HP: How did you train for the acting part?
TB: I had an acting coach, named Mary Kegley. She worked with me very closely.
HP: Had you taken any acting classes in school? Didn't you go to a dance school for college?
TB: I mean, I went to a university that had a dance program, yes. But it wasn't specifically a dance school. So, I did go to college and major in dance. But acting is fairly new to me. I had an introduction to acting class for dancers there, I've had those classes here and there throughout my life. So it wasn't something that was completely foreign to me, you know, learning lines and stuff like that. But actually doing it the real deal, doing it on film, that was the new part.
HP: So you've now worked in film, TV and on stage. Which do you like best?
TB: You know what? I kind of have my favorite part of each one. TV happens so quickly, you get to see the results and study them and learn from what you did on TV a lot quicker than you will on film. But I mean film, I love the quality of film, and the anticipation of it, the building it up to seeing the finished product is amazing. Because after the editing and the music are put in and all that stuff, it's just a whole new monster.
HP: How was the dance training for the movie in comparison to the dance training for SYTYCD?
TB: Oh, the hours are way, way different. For So You Think they had you rehearsing for hours for a number you'd have to do in a couple of days, as opposed to rehearsing for a couple of days for a number that you'd have to do in a couple of months. So, the schedule's just very different.
HP: Have you seen the movie yet?
TB: I have not seen it, not yet. I'm seeing it for the first time tomorrow.
HP: In LA? Is the premiere tomorrow?
TB: Yep, the premiere's tomorrow, in LA. My family's in, my mom, my brother came down. But one of my brothers is actually in the Army and he's wasn't able to make it down for the premiere. But man, just sending love out to him because he's out there holding down the country.
HP: Is he in Iraq?
TB: No, actually he's training in New Mexico before he's deployed.
HP: Oh wow.
I also wanted to ask about the choreography in this, in Step Up 3D. I read that it was choreographed specifically to be shown in 3D. So I was wondering if it was a lot different in that way from what you've done.
TB: Right, certain aspects. I mean, you know, not the entire thing. There were definitely a couple of different eight counts that were made specifically for a 3D effect, but the dancing was still definitely raw, still battle style, battle mentality. But there were some shots where we definitely had to hit our mark for that 3D effect.
HP: Oh cool. I can't wait to see it.
TB: Me too. Laughs.
HP: Do you want to do more acting? Even pure acting, non-dance parts?
TB: Oh absolutely. That's actually what I'm striving for. I will do more acting but away from dance parts. As far as the dancing goes, I love to perform, I love to get down, but my passion lies in education and in teaching. I teach hip hop to kids, and I teach hip hop workshops and stuff like that. So in the near future, I will still teach and stuff like that. But I'm definitely striving for and trying to make a name for myself in acting.
HP: Are there any filmmakers or directors you really want to work with?
TB: Ah, let's see. Laughs. There's a bunch actually. I'd love love love to work with M. Night Shyamalan because his entire mind, is just ridiculous. Just ridiculous! And I'd love to be in some action movies. I want to be a superhero and I want to run and jump from building to building. More laughing.
HP: So, back to dance for a minute. What initially made you fall in love with dance?
TB: Oh I mean, looking back on it, I think I've always really been in love with it. I was the kid that during spare time at home with friends, I was always like, 'let's make up a dance routine real quick.' Laughs. I don't even know why, but I just would. I'd see my family just dancing around the house, not professional-like, just dancing around house. We always loved to just jam out to music. I tried out for my high school dance team my senior year, and that's when I really fell in love with the entire idea of making a career out of show business.
HP: Did you ever foresee that you would become a professional dancer or was it just like for fun at first?
TB: Yeah, of course. I mean it was definitely fun. As a kid there were a couple of theater workshops that they'd do during the summer. I'm from Montgomery, Alabama, and so the arts aren't that heavy there. So during the summer, they have the summer arts program where the kids will come for a month, and learn all kinds of different performing arts, you know, like acting and singing. From that program I realized I loved to be onstage. So the dancing kind of came afterward. It was something that I really did pick up naturally and that I really loved to do.
HP: And what do you love about hip hop in particular?
TB: Oh, it's just the lifestyle. Hip hop is more than just a style of dance. It's an entire lifestyle, you know, an entire history, and an entire culture.
HP: Are there other choreographers you'd like to work with?
TB: I haven't worked with Kenny Ortega yet, but he's more into directing now than choreographing. But yeah, Kenny Ortega, that would be amazing. And though you know, even though he's passed on, it would be so amazing to work with Gene Kelly. Awwww. He's just, he's the man.
HP: Which dancers have inspired you?
TB: Oh all the classics. Bob Fosse, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire. And on up a generation: Michael Jackson. And some of the guys in - I don't know if you've heard of these movies - but Breakin', Breakgin' 2 Electric Boogaloo. There are these movies that happened in the 80s and I happened to run upon those in the rental store and I promise you I probably rented them every week when I was a kid. Laughs.
HP: I read that you have your own production company now.
TB: Yes, ExperiMENTAL Industries. It's for producing movies and shows. It's a whole production company. It's a good time.
HP: So, would you want to work behind the camera too?- As a filmmaker?
TB: Not so much filmmaking. I really enjoy the creative process, but I'll leave it to filmmakers to make the films. But being behind it, putting on the shows and producing - absolutely. To get involved conceptually - absolutely. But I mean, to get behind the camera and actually set up the shots - naaa, I don't think that's really up my alley. Laughs.
HP: Well, thank you so much for chatting. Good luck and I can't wait to see the movie!
TB: Awesome. It was great talking to you.
Step Up 3D opens nationwide on August 6th. Look for other SYTYCD alum, like Joshua Allen and Katee Shean, who appear in dance roles.
Follow Tonya Plank on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TonyaPlank