Step Up All In takes one of the most popular dance franchises in film history to all new heights, following Miami street dancer Sean Asa (Ryan Guzman) as he tries to make it in Hollywood, only to discover the almost insurmountable odds of making it in the professional dance world. When he meets the headstrong Andie West (Briana Evigan), they form a new dance crew that reaches the final rounds of a high-stakes reality TV competition that will make their dreams come true.
At the film’s press day, actress Briana Evigan spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about how thrilled she was when she was invited to come back for the fifth film in the Step Up franchise, the experience of returning to a role that she first played six years ago in Step Up 2 the Streets, what Andie has been up to since we last saw her, that they use no stunt doubles, except for one trick that was too challenging to do in the timespan they had to do it in, why this story is so relatable, her favorite dance sequence, and what it’s meant to her to be a part of this highly successful franchise. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
Collider: How did you find out that they wanted to bring you back for another Step Up film, and what was your reaction?
BRIANA EVIGAN: When I did Step Up 2, I thought maybe, the next year, I’d come back for something, if it made sense, but that didn’t happen. So, I just assumed that Step Up was done for me. I wanted to really pursue the acting world, and step away from the dance world. But, I was absolutely thrilled when they called me and I got to come back and get back together with all of my homies.
Because you had been away from the character for a bit, did you have to do anything to get back into her headspace again?
EVIGAN: When I booked the role of Andie six years ago, she was a lot like me. I was a street hip-hop dancer. I have a different situation with the family thing. I’ve got a very close family that’s all together. I was not adopted into a black family. I showed up with the do-rag and had this attitude of, “Whatever,” and it was me, at the time. If anything, it was fun to be able to go back to being a little bit sloppier and chill and homied-out. That’s really the way it was. I’d hang out, go to dance classes and literally eat, breathe and live dance. So, I got to do that again for awhile.
What can you say about where Andie has been since we last saw her and what she’s been up to?
EVIGAN: When Step Up All In starts, they made it so that Andie has gone through a knee injury. That’s what starts the story with my character and brings a little of the drama between Andie and Sean. Andie is working at a runway fashion type of place with a normal job. She’s given up dancing and given up on the dream. When Sean and Moose come find me, we get our own crew together and she’s reminded how important family and love and friends are. That’s all that matters to her, throughout the movie. That’s the conflict between Andie and Sean. Sean is about winning and the competition, and Andie thinks dancing is great, but she just likes Sean. There are some cool real-life instances going on, which I think audiences will really relate to when they watch all of us. You can always gravitate towards one character.
The dancing in these movies is really awe-inspiring, gravity-defying and almost otherworldly, in a lot of ways, and because of that, people think there must be trickery and special effects involved. Is it easier once you’ve already done it, or is it just a huge challenge each time?
EVIGAN: I’d like to say it was easier. The other cool thing I had in the bag this time was that I’ve done a ton of films in the last six years. It’s the whole package now. It’s an entire performance, rather than just dancing. Now, I’m putting a character to it. Now, I’m adding sexy to it. Now, I’m putting all of these pieces on top of just dancing. I think that, at least in my case, my dancing has become even stronger, even though I haven’t danced in six years.
Can you attest to the fact that the dancing is all real, with no special effects or trickery?
EVIGAN: Yeah, there are literally no stunt doubles, except for the one trick that Ryan [Guzman] and I have. I think we’d both agree by saying that, if we had more time to actually learn the trick, and his knee was not doing so well, we would have absolutely done it ourselves. But we had no time, and we were still learning choreography on the day that we were filming. Obviously, it’s not worth getting hurt. So, for that one move that everybody will see, it’s amazing and looks phenomenal, but they did hire somebody else to do it. But, that was the only time. Everybody was flying on ropes. It’s all real. There are no special effects. It’s so much better that way.
Was it any different to have a male lead that doesn’t come from a dance background?
EVIGAN: No, there was no difference. Ryan held his own, every single day, even with an injury. He was just awesome. And the cool thing about Ryan and I is that we have such a good friendship, and we have a little bit of that brother-sister feeling, all the time. We were really there for each other when the hours got long, and we were always together, having a good time. He made it really easy for me.
Was it important to you that Andie and Sean really be able to stand toe-to-toe with each other, and that she’s as strong as he is?
EVIGAN: Yeah. The whole time, they’re butting heads and going toe-to-toe. Andie wants to let him be the man and hang onto whatever he’s hanging onto and show him, by example, and that maybe not having her is what he’s really missing out on. She’s just trying to show him the bigger picture, throughout the film.
This story is very relatable because the idea of having a dream that may be a little more difficult than you first thought is something that many people have experienced. Did you find yourself relating to that?
EVIGAN: Yeah, I think that there’s always a struggle in this job. But in a weird way, acting has chosen me. I didn’t really know that I wanted to do this, and then it happened and things have taken off. But now, it’s up to me to make the choices that I want to make and choose the right films. It took me a minute to figure out why I was doing this, and that I want to share stories and make people believe and have hope and create these worlds that, even if they’re not a part of me, they can become a part of me. I can do anything I want, by being an actor, and there are no consequences. It’s pretty cool. Even though there are a bunch of people judging you, that cannot be important. It is not in my head, what people are thinking about me, on a regular basis. The rejection has become so casual. But I chose this career, so I can’t expect any less. If anything, I like it. I’m like, “Give it to me! Tell me something! Bring it on!” I love the challenge. But I do think that it takes a specific person to be able to do it.
What was your favorite dance sequence to shoot?
EVIGAN: Most definitely the fire sequence. It was so cool and so much fun. I just felt like this sexy animal on stage. I felt so powerful. And I worked so hard for it. I only spent two hours actually playing with the fire, so there was that adrenaline rush of not really knowing what I was doing, but trusting myself. It was cool.
And that was something that you came up with the idea for, right?
EVIGAN: Yeah. I was at a luau in Hawaii with my family and I knew the people dancing. The Chief was actually his name. And I was so impressed that I took a video and sent it to the director. Sure enough, when I got home, they said, “Here’s your stick. In one month, there will be a bunch of fire on it.” I just believed that I could do it, and I got up there and did it. You just show up and do it.
Do you enjoy doing the big performance numbers?
EVIGAN: Yeah, I like the big show, for sure. The minute you turn on the music and you have 400 extras, and there’s fire and camera flying and everybody is screaming, that is the greatest feeling. After the fire sequence, I totally threw up. I was so overwhelmed with adrenaline, and the fumes and the people, and the risk of catching somebody on fire. That was pretty major, and very easy. There were a whole bunch of people in front of me, right where I was swinging it. They trusted me, I trusted the two girls behind me, and I had to trust myself. It made me ill.
What’s it meant to you to be a part of the Step Up franchise?
EVIGAN: It’s definitely a family that you create, and it’s just so cool. Not many franchises make it to movie five, and everybody is hyped and pumped. I’m so thrilled to be a part of it again. I feel lucky that this is the movie that started my career, six years ago. What a better way to set the standards for me. I’ll always be able to look back, when I was 20, on this as my first job. It’s such a great place to be comparing things to. It’s definitely been a piece of what’s shaped me, for sure.
Do you know what you’ll be doing next?
EVIGAN: I do, but because I haven’t signed the paperwork, I’m not going to say. But, I’m really excited about it.
Step Up All In opens in theaters on August 8th.