STEP UP 2 THE STREETS
An Interview with Cassie Ventura
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STEP UP 2 THE STREETS
February 11, 2008
Modeling, movies and music...the three "M's" that very few people have the opportunity to dabble in, let alone succeed in simultaneously...all by the age of 21, to boot.
Cassie Ventura's character, Sophie, is also a triple-threat - seemingly good at everything from dance to you name it. However, Cassie assures me during our interview that the similarities between she and her character end there.
When Sophie catches her ex-boyfriend Chase getting a little too cozy with Andie, a rough-around-the-edges, hardheaded, gritty street dancer, the ice and daggers that Sophie shoots Andie's way are enough to chill the theater.
Yet the "triple-threat" part stands.
Juggling a modeling career, a blossoming music career and making her debut as Sophie in 'Step up 2 the Streets' is enough to cause anyone to do the math and observe the parallels between Cassie and her character in the film.
In speaking with blackfilm.com, Cassie discussed movies, music, nerdy guys and her first kissing scene on screen.
Are you the one person in the film that didn't have a dance background for this, or did you have a little dance background?
CV: I had a little bit, but not nearly as much as anyone else.
So was it fun to learn or hard?
CV: It was definitely fun. I actually got to work with my personal choreographer on some of the stuff, so it was definitely, definitely fun.
How was it making the transition from modeling to music and, now, the big screen?
CV: It's so crazy to me how quickly everything has happened. But I'm blessed and I'm excited for everything. I can't even believe it. I'm really excited for Monday. I haven't seen the film yet.
Which of those is your passion?
CV: True passion... Music, definitely making music. It's such a personal experience, so I think that's the easiest for me to relate to. I'm just getting into acting.
Is there anything that you're doing musically that you're working towards right now?
CV: I'm working on my second album right now. We just finished the first single and the album should be out in June.
Are you going to tour?
CV: I hope so. (laughs) We're definitely going to do a promo tour and then I'm going to go overseas.
How is this new album different from the last?
CV: On the last album, I worked with one producer, Ryan Leslie, and that experience was definitely a lot of fun. But I wanted to experience a lot of different people this time around. And last time I recorded my album in, like, a month or less and so far I've been working on the film for a year, so I've spent more time with it. I've gotten to work with some great people from Rodney Jerkins to Kanye West, Timbaland and Bryan-Michael Cox...just so many producers and writers on the project. It's going to be a different experience.
We just heard that there are two hours of deleted scenes from the movie, so we will see a lot more of your stuff on DVD. Did you have a lot cut out from the movie?
CV: Oh cool! I don't know because I haven't seen it yet. But even if it is on the DVD, that's cool.
You play Sophie in the film. Do you think in comparison to your sophomore album there's any connection between not being from the streets and your character?
CV: I think that, working with Jon Chu, I actually got to mold Sophie as a character Not around myself necessarily, because I'm not really like her at all. She's a triple threat. She's really focused and determined. I was like that in high school. But as far as it relating to the second album, I like to keep everything very separate.
Do you live in L.A. or New York?
CV: I live in New York right now.
In high school you were much more like your character, you were the best at singing and dancing?
CV: I tried to be the best at everything. I did musical theater, and I did dancing, for what it was at the performing arts high school that I went to. I went to a school where I was there on a scholarship. So I think when you're on a scholarship, you always work a tad harder, or you want to work a tad harder than the next person. But I was modeling in high school, so I was doing a little of everything. I was in New York three days a week.
You have a song called Thirsty on your second album. What is that about?
CV: I did that song, wow, it was one of the first songs I recorded last year with Eric Hudson and Corey Williams wrote it. Actually I found out, Kanye told me that it's slang in Chicago. Thirsty is like, awe, that guy's thirsty. I don't know what that means - aggressive? It's kind of a cuter version of what it's about. I wanted to go for a sound kind of like an old school Janet, when she was on her Janet self-titled album and Velvet Rope, that type of feel, so it kind of feels like that.
Did you have any input into which song would be on the soundtrack?
CV: I spent a month out here in L.A. recording. Because I had a year's time, I had taken my time with this album. I went to different places. I did L.A for a month, I spent two months in Miami and Atlanta and we just did a bunch of different places. And when they approached us and asked if we had anything to submit for the soundtrack, I said I have this perfect song. It's a completely different sound for me. It's very young for me, actually, but it's good.
What music artist has really inspired you?
CV: Janet is definitely a big inspiration for me. Aaliyah, her sound and her tone, is one of my favorites of all time.
When you read the part and you realized, she's kind of the bitchy one, and then she comes around...was that a challenge for you to play a girl who has a little chip on her shoulder?
CV: It was definitely a challenge. When Jon brought the character to me, there were a couple of characters that we were playing around with, and he was like, I think that you could really make this character your own and have fun with it. And I wanted to take the challenge. The turnaround actually happened while we were filming the movie. I didn't know if she was going to become the good guy in the end or not. But she did. So I'm glad that she did, because I didn't want kids to hate me in the end.
How did the movie come to you?
CV: Touchstone contacted my label and wanted me to audition, so I came out to L.A. and I auditioned with the director and the producers, which was really mind-blowing to me and nerve-wracking, and then I auditioned with Jamal Sims, the choreographer, and then I did a callback for that.
Do you have any plans to continue acting?
CV: I do. I definitely want to. I've been auditioning for a few movies here and there. I don't want anything to get in the way of the music any more than it has. It hasn't really gotten in the way, I've been doing two things at once. I am auditioning, so we'll see what happens.
Which kinds of movies do you go to see?
CV: I just saw 27 Dresses (laughs). I like fun movies like that but I also... No Country for Old Men was a great movie. I was in the middle of seeing that movie but I didn't see the whole thing. I like movies like that. I just saw Juno, which was a great film. I like those types of movies.
You were talking about how you like to keep your career separate. So does that mean when you're pursuing acting roles, you would prefer not to do something like playing a singer or playing someone who sings in a movie?
CV: Yeah, I don't think the scene made it where I was singing the song off the soundtrack into the film (Is it You?), I think by piano, and we tried to make it so it wasn't like Cassie the artist doing it and I think they took it out. And I'm kinda happy about that because it's hard to differentiate, especially when there are young kids watching it and they're gonna always think that's Cassie on the screen. But I don't want it to always be like that, so I'd rather not take the part of being the singer on screen.
Do you incorporate any Latin elements into your music?
CV: Um, haven't yet, but I'd love to.
Why do you think this new generation likes musical movies so much?
CV: I think just because they're fun and there's always a message that's good and relatable for kids and their parents aren't mad when they're watching it because there are some values and morals.
Will you have time to relax while you're here in L.A.?
CV: No, I won't. Every time I take time out when I'm here, I'm taking time from recording the album. I'm still recording and I'm going back to Miami in March. We have the first single...I think we have the first single, and I'm working on the rest of the album still.
How far along is it?
CV: It's probably 75% done.
When you kick back and listen to music, what do you listen to?
CV: Lupe Fiasco's album, his new album, is really, really good. That's my new favorite album. The Dream has a great album. I always listen to old school Janet... Shiny Toy Guns... I like some more alternative music, too.
What's your family background?
CV: I'm from Connecticut. My Mom is an army brat and my Dad is a navy brat. My childhood was fun. My parents are still together. My childhood was pretty carefree. I tried a little of everything when I was little. I tried karate, I tried ballet, I tried piano lessons and singing lessons... I was a pretty normal kid, for the most part (laughs).
At what age did you start singing?
CV: I started singing when I was pretty young. And I never really took it seriously until high school, when I started doing musical theater and I had the opportunity to meet with some producers in New York through an agent I had through modeling... I was probably around 15 or 16.
What sort of musicals did you appear in at school?
CV: We did compilation stuff. We never did full-on musicals, because nobody really wanted to be part of the group...there were only like five of us.
Did this film inspire you to incorporate more choreography into your music videos in the future?
CV: Definitely. Definitely has. I only saw the movie so far from being on set. The dancing is incredible and I want everybody to be in my videos. Everybody that was in the movie, I want them to be in my videos because it was a lot of fun being on set! But it definitely inspired me to want to do more dancing.
In the movie, you play the jealous ex-girlfriend. Have you ever been the jealous ex-girlfriend, or have you had a boyfriend who had a jealous ex-girlfriend?
CV: Both. I think everybody's been the jealous ex-girlfriend before. I've never wanted to sabotage. But I've had a jealous ex-boyfriend, too. I think everybody experiences that.
Would you ever go for a guy like Moose (from the film) in real life?
CV: Yeah, I like the nerdy guys. Well, I'm 21 and he's 15 in real life, so it's a little weird.
How embarrassing was the kissing scene then?
CV: There was so much going on, and it was raining...there was so much going on that it didn't really faze us too much. I was more nervous than Adam (Sevani) probably was. It was my first kissing scene, and I think it was his first kissing scene, too.
Did you do a lot of takes for that part?
CV: We did a few takes. I think he messed up a few times on purpose, but I don't know (laughs)
Other than your performing arts, what do you do in life really well and what do you do badly?
CV: I'm really bad at board games. I'm really good at the piano, but I don't play as often as I probably should.
What do you do in your spare time when you're not involved in your entertainment career?
CV: I'm probably sleeping (laughs). Any time that I get time to hang out with my friends...I don't have very many - I have two best friends that live in New York who are models, and when they get time off, it's just great that we can all hang out with each other so we spend time and take little vacations to Las Vegas.
Sometimes do you feel like you're secluded because you have the spotlight on you and you can't be as social with strangers now as before?
CV: The funny thing is that I've met more people now than I ever did before. But it's definitely hard. I was fortunate to find the friends that I have now before everything actually happened. It's hard to make friends in the industry, it definitely is.
What's your idea of the perfect thing to do on a date? What do you like to do?
CV: Shopping...on my credit card (laughs)! I like to do like weird fun stuff, like paintball and laser tag. Something that takes the seriousness off of a "date" date.
How would you compare the streets of Baltimore to the streets of Connecticut?
CV: Oh, they're much different. See, I had never seen the show The Wire, and the makeup and hair was actually from the set and so they were always talking about it and then I just started watching the new season, and it's really gritty Baltimore, like the REAL Baltimore. Some parts of Connecticut can be like that, but they're different.
What is your ethnicity?
CV: My Dad is Filipino and my Mom is Mexican, Black and West Indian.
Is there any role that you would love to play?
CV: I definitely want to try...eventually, it may take a few years when I get more acting experience or take courses and work with an acting coach...I want to do indie film really badly. I want to do something a little grittier with an edge when the time is appropriate. Right now, I have so many young fans, I don't want to divert the attention away from what they're excited about. But I definitely would like to try an indie film.
STEP UP 2 THE STREETS opens on February 14, 2008
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