LeToya Luckett, Alexandra Shipp and Jordan Calloway Talk ‘Drumline: A New Beat’Posted by Toni Thai Sterrett
October 27, 2014
Premiering Monday, October 27th at 9PM ET/PT on VH1 is Drumline: A New Beat, the TV movie follow-up to Nick Cannon‘s 2002 feature film.
Directed by Bille Woodruff (Honey, Addicted),Drumline: A New Beat will focus on a new set of characters at Atlanta A&T University — the setting of the original movie. The story follows Dani Bolton (Alexandra Shipp), an upper-class Brooklyn girl who defies her parents in order to attend Atlanta A&T so she can join — and revitalize — its once-prominent drumline.
Dani’s quest to become the first female section leader of the drumline in the school’s history will be hampered by upperclassmen, including her cousin, Tyree (Jeff Pierre), her feelings for fellow bandmate Jayven (Jordan Calloway) and the school’s crosstown rivals.
Letoya Luckett will portray Dr. Nia Phillips, the intelligent and determined dean at Atlanta A&T with former romantic ties to Sean Taylor (Leonard Roberts), now a determined band director looking to make his mark at his alma mater while navigating the ghosts of his past. Cannon will executive produce and reprise his role as Devon Miles in a cameo.
Blackfilm.com recently attending a screening and participated in a Q & A with cast members LeToya Luckett, Alexandra Shipp and Jordan Calloway.
Drumline is such a classic for some folks, so was there any hesitation before signing on to do this?
Alexandra Shipp: For me, it wasn’t necessary about filling anyone’s shoes. I know that a lot of people will see it as Dani filling Nick’s shoes, but they are completely different people. I think that Dani is confident, but not necessarily over the top. She wants to be a female section leader and that’s her goal. It is a little nerve-wracking because Nick Cannon and Leonard Roberts did a great job on the first movie, but I don’t know. I think we came in pretty close.
For LeToya and Alexandra, the both of you did a lot of college tours for this film. What was the reception like?
LeToya Luckett: Not only on the college campuses, but on twitter. When they first made the announcement, people were like, “Drumline 2? That’s my movie. Don’t touch that!” We got a lot of those response and I, and my brother would tell you, was the biggest fan of the original film. I would watch it like two or three times a day. That’s how I was. So, I understand the pressure. I understand when people are so passionate about something, they don’t want to open their minds to something different. I feel you should. When you watch this, you have to open your mind. You have to be willing to accept the experience and let us in. It’s different and of course, the kids will have their things to say, but after they see it, they’ll see exactly what we’re talking about. It is a different experience.
Jordan, were you ready for this?
Jordan Calloway: Of course, but it was intense. Just going on the field, it definitely was nerve-wracking, especially when you have those who are in bands. Those that have done this and it’s their craft. As actors and musicians, this is our craft. This is what we have passion for. Even in the extensive two weeks of training, we were in the headlights and we had to get this right. Even we got onto the field and we were filming and the cameras were off, we were going over things as a matter of respect to them and their art and their craft.
Leonard Roberts said that during the first film, he immersed himself in a music academy to get prepared. Was this something any of you did?
Alexandra Shipp: In a sense. At the end of the movie when you saw all of the judges saying who won the final classic, those were all of our band coaches and it was sort of cool for them to do a cameo in the movie. A lot of them worked on the first movie and some of them were in it as well. It was a lot of fun. In the first movie, they had like four or five months of training whereas we had two weeks, so it was a crazy bootcamp drill, learning marching and the cadences. We were trying to make the moves as accurate as possible because that was our goal and we had really great coaches.
Jordan Calloway: If you had a camera to watch what was going on behind the camera when we were doing our performances on the field, you would see our coaches saying, “Remember that. Hit that move.”
Alex, when you look at black classic films throughout the 90s and 2000s, some films were keen on showing urban city youth and fighting the economic struggle to make it through. This film was slightly different. It slashed the stereotype in that not every black person has to go through economic struggle. Can you talk about that?
Alexandra Shipp: With my character Dani, her dad and mom were doctors and lawyers and they wanted her to do something like that and something “practical,” but for her, the practical thing was do something she loved. That’s what they always told her. Her parents love what they did and told her to find something that she love, she was like “Drumming,” and they were like, “Maybe not drumming.” She was like, “I’m going to do it because you told me I could do whatever I wanted in life and this is what I’m going to do.” When you instill that in your children, the sky is the limit. Not every African American that goes to these college are well off, but there is still pain. Dani loved what she did and couldn’t understand why her parents didn’t see that or her passion. In the end they do, but it takes a minute.
Can you talk about the energy that Nick Cannon brought on the set. He had a lot of roles on the film. Can you talk about the audition process?
LeToya Luckett: For me, it’s crazy because Nick and I have known each other since we were like 15-16 years old and he’s always been that funny guy; the one with great energy and great personality. To see him at work is something completely different. He would sit around and have fun with us but when he puts on that producer hat, it was something else. His energy would change, not in a negative way, but he was the boss. This is a businessman and I can do nothing but respect that. He’s a great actor and did a phenomenal job on the first movie and for him to say that people need to see more of that and took a stand and decided to come out with a new beat, that says a lot about him. That says a lot about his passion for HBCUs and for these marching bands and for these kids being on the field for hours sweating, whether it be cold or hot in these heavy suits.
Did he or Leonard offered any words of wisdom?
Jordan Calloway: On set was such a goldmine. It wasn’t even the things that they would explain to me. There was a point when we were rushing trying to get the next scene set up and I see Nick walking by and there a family nearby and a little kid is just looking at him, and Nick stops everything to greet him. That right there is something that sticks with you. Leonard is just humbled. He just continued to make himself available and being able to work with the two of them was a blessing.
Alexandra Shipp: It’s not that I’m new to this, but I’m new in being in a lead role, and Leonard told me that people are going to love this movie. It happened to him and all I can do is stay humbled and stay grounded and I was like, “Ok.” We’re doing press and Leonard’s hanging with us and it was really true and I was humbled by the entire experience. He’s like the king of humility. He’s just so sweet and so genuine and such a great actor and has such an amazing energy to be around with. That in itself was professional. That’s an actor. That’s someone who takes his craft seriously. He does his job and goes home. The Hollywood life is not his jam and you have to respect someone like that.
What’s next for each of you?
LeToya Luckett: I have a holiday film coming out this November called ‘Seasons of Love.’ Princess Monique directed it and it’s the film that Taraji P. Henson is producing. This is a great movie that will be on Lifetime TV. For Princess, it was her directorial debut. She did a wonderful job and inspired me in front and behind the camera. The film has myself, Taraji P. Henson, Gladys Knight and Method Man. I also have ‘Ballers’ on HBO where Mark Wahlberg teams up with The Rock and that’s coming up soon. My next album is coming out next year but something should drop before the end of the year.
Jordan Calloway: I have gone back to one of my new loves, which is writing. I’m doing that and working on a couple of projects. Writing, grinding and producing films.
Alexandra Shipp: I have “Aaliyah: Princess of R & B” coming out on November 15. I’m very excited about that and next year, I have “Straight Outta Compton.” I will be playing Ice Cube’s wife, Kim and it was a pleasure working with F. Gary Gray.