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.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Ryan Guzman talked about how shocked he was when he was invited back for another Step Up film (he was in Step Up Revolution), why he liked the concept of being teamed up with Briana Evigan, the dynamic between Sean and Andie, how there are no special effects added to the dancing, his favorite dance sequence in the film, and just how much the fans love Moose (Adam Sevani). He also talked about his experience on Jem and the Holograms, his 15-minute vocal lesson to prepare him for the singing, having a look that doesn’t include Rio’s signature long purple hair and telling an origin story for the characters, as well as what it was like to work with Jennifer Lopez on The Boy Next Door.
RYAN GUZMAN: I was kind of in shock when they told me. It was (producer) Jennifer Gibgot who called me, and she said, “Hey, listen, we’ve got a new script for Step Up 5 and we’ve written it around your character. We want you to come back. Would you be open to it?” I was like, “So, you’ve written the script around my character?!” And she told me yes. I was just like, “Wow! Okay, yeah! Thank you!” I was honored. Being the first lead to be invited back as a lead in another Step Up movie, I was all smiles.
Is it extra cool because you are one of the only leads that doesn’t come from a background of dance training?
GUZMAN: Yeah, exactly! I know Robert Hoffman is a dancer and Channing [Tatum] is a dancer. It was cool that they believed in me so much that they wanted to do another movie with me. I fooled everyone enough to make them think I look like an actual professional dancer.
How did being teamed up with Briana Evigan compare, this time around?
GUZMAN: I thought it was a really cool concept. We wanted people to scratch their heads over how we were going to bring these characters together. Sean and Andie don’t really mesh that well. They’re both strong-headed, they’re both leaders, and they’re both doing what they think is right. Usually, it doesn’t work out, but they’re forced to learn. And of course, they have an attraction toward each other. It was cool to play that out, especially now that I’ve been acting for quite a while. In Step Up Revolution, me and Kathryn [McCormick] were learning on the go. That was my first acting gig. So, it was awesome to work with previous Step Up characters.
GUZMAN: Yeah. That was the whole concept. Sean is just very jaded because of what he’s been through in the past. His family has left and his girlfriend is no longer there, and he thought he was going to have the best life with her. He turns his back on everybody who he thought turned their back on him, so all he has in front of him is his work, and that’s what his focus is on. I can definitely relate to the work aspect of that. And then, for Andie, she lost being able to dance with the people she loves because of an injury. They both feel like they’re in the right, which adds to the storyline. They realize that neither of them are completely right, and they need both sides, in this industry.
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. Can you attest to the fact that the dancing is all real?
GUZMAN: There are no special effects in the movie. All of the stunts are done by us. Everything you see is completely real, aside from one trick. I am usually proud that I do my own stunts, but there’s a move towards the end of the film, between me and Briana, that I couldn’t do. There was no rehearsal time, and there was not enough time to actually go over that move. So, we hired people from Europe to come in and do that certain move, and they made it look amazing. But aside from that, everything was us. I actually tore my left tendon in my knee, doing my own stunts. I had to fight through it and keep on dancing on it, just because I wanted to do as much as I could for the movie.
Is the dancing easier, once you’ve already done a Step Up movie, or is it as big of a challenge each time?
GUZMAN: Each one shows a different style, but it was a little easier this time. Last time, I had no dance history. I was just seeing it, right in front of my eyes, and trying to learn from that. But this time, I knew how my body would react to certain moves, and what I could do and what I couldn’t do. The things I couldn’t do, I tried to learn, and the things I could do, I tried to embellish on. Luckily for me, I had a lot of great choreographers and a lot of dancers that I could learn from. It was so hard to film all of these dance numbers in three weeks. We only had three weeks. Last time, we had more than that and less dance numbers. It was intense. We had two dance numbers that not only dealt with hard choreography, but also a new environment and playing off of that environment.
GUZMAN: Yeah, it was the dance number I did with Briana. It’s just me and Briana, and we’re doing a throwback groove. It’s a good-feeling dance number with good music. In the choreography, there are a lot of dances that are late ‘80s/early ‘90s that everyone will recognize from doing them at a wedding or a celebration, of some sort. It was just a fun number. It wasn’t hard or anything, but it was just about having fun.
Moose has become one of the fan favorite characters from the films. What have you enjoyed about working with Adam Sevani?
GUZMAN: Adam is an interesting kid, that’s for sure. He comes with his fandom. I remember the very first scene we acted with each other, we were right next door to a middle school. They had just gotten out and we were doing our scene, and they saw that Adam Sevani was walking with me, towards them, and they just lost it. People were crying. He went over there and gave them a hug and took pictures. And then, Adam Shankman came over to me and said, “Go over there and take some pictures, too.” Literally everybody was looking at me like, “Who are you?!” It’s funny to see that his character, Moose, has such a huge affect on people. He’s loved by so many. It was cool to see that.
How fun is it to go from this big dance franchise to a big singing film, with Jem and the Holograms?
GUZMAN: It’s crazy! I’m so tripped out about it. I had to sing in that film. They gave us a 15-minute vocal lesson, and then we were told, “All right, you’re okay. You’re good enough. Go sing in the booth.” And I had never sung before! I was really, really nervous, and sweating a little bit. Actually, I was sweating a lot. I was just trying to do something new, and something I never thought I would be able to do. I want to show people that I’m still growing, as a person and an actor, with this film. Jem and the Holograms has no dancing for me, but I’m showing you a new side of me by singing.
I know who Jem is and I had the Jem dolls, when I was a kid, but did you have any idea who the characters were, before doing the film?
GUZMAN: I was more of a G.I. Joe guy. I got the audition and I told my girlfriend that I was going out for the film, and she flipped out. She was like, “That used to be one of my favorite cartoons, and my sister loves that.” With her reaction, I was like, “Wow, this must be big!” I was more of a G.I. Joe guy, so I never saw it. But seeing how we made the film new and relevant, and how we brought the ‘80s film and vibe to now, I’m so grateful to be a part of that project.
GUZMAN: No long purple hair for me. We did that because this is the story of the making of Jem and the making of Rio. Everybody is finding their way, and finding out who they want to become and how they want to become that. If they do a sequel, maybe I’ll throw on a purple wig, or have to grow my hair out and die it purple. We’ll see.
Just think, if Jem gets a sequel, you’ll be a part of both a dancing franchise and a singing franchise, when you were neither a dancer nor a singer.
GUZMAN: I know. It will be crazy! I’ll definitely feel blessed, that’s for sure.
What was it like to work with Jennifer Lopez for The Boy Next Door?
GUZMAN: It was really cool. With each new co-star that you act with, they have their own style and their own way of doing things, and playing around with our characters and just figuring out what we wanted to show was so interesting. Her character is a relatable mom who is trying to find herself after all of these adversities that she’s gone through in life. My character is just a lusting, love-filled, obsessed kid who sees this person that he lives next door to, and just becomes infatuated. It was amazing to have that dynamic and play off of each other, throughout the whole movie.
Step Up All In opens in theaters on August 8th.