Grammy-nominated actress and singer Christina Milian (The Oath, Soundtrack) has been tapped for the lead role originated by the late Naya Rivera in the new installment of Starz’s Step Up drama series. Milian will portray Collette in the series, which hails from creator and executive producer Holly Sorensen, Starz and Lionsgate Television. The series began filming in Atlanta this month. Starz will air the first two seasons of the series, which originally aired on YouTube with Rivera as Collette, beginning Friday, March 5 across all platforms.
In addition to Milian, Ne-Yo returns in his co-starring role as Sage Odom, along with returning series regulars Faizon Love (Uncle Al), Jade Chynoweth (Odalie), Carlito Olivero (Davis), Terrence Green (Rigo), Eric Graise (King), and Kendra Oyesanya (Poppy) and previously announced Tricia Helfer (Erin) who joins the cast in a series regular role.
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“I am so excited to join the Step Up family,” said Milian. “I know I have massive shoes to fill. Naya was incredible. I hope to honor Naya, her family, friends and fans with a great performance.”
Starz had announced a new season of Step Up a little over a month after Rivera lost her life in Lake Piru. She had gone missing on July 8, 2020, while swimming with her son at the Ventura County, CA lake. Her body was discovered five days later. She was 33.
The decision was made to recast her role along with the support of the cast, producers and Naya’s family, after careful consideration of several factors, including the highly serialized nature of the show and the fact that Naya’s character is so central to the storytelling, according to Starz.
“Naya’s death was a terrible loss to our world that we will, frankly, never stop mourning,” added creator and executive producer Sorensen. “It was almost impossible to consider there could be someone so graceful and loving who could both help us honor our loss, while also bringing a deep reservoir of talent to our show, in so many areas. Christina is an exceptional human and a dazzling performer and we are so happy she has joined our family.”
Inspired by the Step Up Lionsgate film franchise that grossed over $600 million at the worldwide box office, the original series centers on Sage Odom (Ne-Yo) as the legendary founder of Atlanta’s famed High Water Performing Art School. Collette is the Queen of High Water and Sage Odom’s partner in art, business, and love. Collette built and nurtured Sage’s visionary academy from the ground up. Grinding her way to the top with grit and resourcefulness, Collette earned a new role, manager of Sage Odom and his tour, all this while hiding a dark secret. As this secret comes crashing down on Sage, High Water, and the tour, Collette is tempted by an opportunity to step out of her role as the woman behind the man, to become the powerful woman in front of the man.
“There is no replacing Naya. Let’s get that straight. Her spirit lives on in our memories and every part of what this show is and will be,” said Ne-Yo. “Christina has big shoes to fill and she knows it, which speaks to her poise and respect as a person and an artist. I’m more than certain of her ability to bring an energy and light to this character that Naya’s fans as well as the rest of the world will love. We’ve welcomed Christina with absolute open arms and have rallied around her with love and support. I’m excited and can’t wait for the world to see this!”
Along with Sorenson, Adam Shankman and Jennifer Gibgot, who served as producers on the original Step Up films, will executive produce on this latest chapter of the franchise through their Offspring Entertainment banner.
“Step Up has been an indelible part of mine and my partner, Jennifer Gibgot’s life for 16 years and never did we think we would feel so much loss as we have with Naya’s passing,” said Shankman. “But speaking as her friend, colleague and forever fan, nothing makes us happier then being able to celebrate the continuation of this story with the extraordinary Christina Milian and the brilliant, boundary pushing team at Starz. We promise not to disappoint.”
Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan, who both co-starred in the original Step Up film, will also executive produce through Free Association production company and Everheart Productions, Inc., respectively. Erik Feig, who served as producer on all the films and oversaw the franchise while an executive at Lionsgate, is executive producing via his production shingle Picturestart. Bill Brown also serves as writer and executive producer, and Dawn Wilkinson will serve as director and executive producer.
The series is inspired by the Lionsgate franchise spanning five films: Step Up, Step Up 2: The Streets, Step Up: 3D, Step Up: Revolution and Step Up: All In. The film series also inspired the live music and dance show Step Up Dubai, All In! at Motiongate Dubai theme park.
The new Step Up series will air on Starz in the U.S. and Canada and on its international streaming platform Starzplay across Europe, Latin America and Japan.