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The producers of new ‘Step Up Revolution’ had no doubt Kathryn McCormick, familiar to fans of the television show “So You Think You Can Dance,” would be able to handle the dance moves. But she had never acted before. “We knew she would ace the choreography,” says producer Jennifer Gibgot. “Whenever I saw her on the show, I was completely mesmerized. And she looks like a movie star. We took a chance and really worked with her on the acting. She stepped up to the challenge beautifully.”
Adds executive producer Matt Smith: “With acting, what it comes down to is whether or not you believe what they’re saying. Kathryn has that going for her naturally, even though she’d never acted before. And, like the character, she lives and breathes dance, so that passion is genuine.” When Emily steps outside her privileged existence to join The Mob, she begins to question everything she once accepted as true.
“Her world turns upside down,” says McCormick. “Everything she believes is twisted, and she had no idea it was coming. She doesn’t want to see her father hurt or embarrassed, but she’s stuck between him and Sean.” According to McCormick, acting forced her to learn to trust in a different way. As a dancer, she has always depended on herself. “As an actor, you definitely have to drop your ego,” she says. “You have to dive into the moment and listen to the person who’s talking to you. Scott [Speer] was an incredible director. I always trusted him to tell me the truth. I was really grateful to have someone who cared so much.”
“We had a lot of dance rehearsals, and then we had acting rehearsals on the side,” she continues. “At first, when I was in a dance rehearsal, I couldn’t focus on lines, and vice versa. But eventually I found myself in the dance rehearsals thinking, how would Emily do this? It added a different layer.”
In fact, McCormick and Ryan Guzman complemented each other’s natural skills, says Smith.
“It was actually an advantage that we didn’t have two experienced actors who didn’t know how to dance or two great dancers who didn’t know how to act as our leads. Kathryn and Ryan each brought a different skill set. They raised each other’s games.” A career in acting was not necessarily on McCormick’s radar before she got the call to star in the film. “This is something I never in a million years thought I would be doing,” she says. “It is definitely a step up from what I’ve been doing and it’s one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.”
Both she and Guzman have come into their own as rising stars in this film, says director Speer. “The sky’s the limit for them,” he adds. “I hope it was a great experience for them. For me, it was an absolute pleasure working with them.”
Sean’s budding romance with Emily creates a triangle within The Mob. The third and most troublesome point is Sean’s childhood friend Eddy. Mistrustful of the newcomer from the start, Eddy is enraged when he learns that Sean’s new girlfriend is the daughter of the powerful real‐estate developer threatening his home. Played by Misha Gabriel, Eddy is The Mob’s co-creator and computer genius, but he has dance skills to match anyone in the film. “Eddy is a hothead with a chip on his shoulder,” says Gabriel.
“He’s passionate, he’s loyal and he’s Sean’s best friend. They created The Mob to give these kids a voice and an identity. It’s a way to put their work out there and maybe be somebody. It becomes an outlet for artistic protest, a way for them to stand behind what they believe. But when this girl comes into Sean’s life, it throws Eddy off and all hell breaks loose.”
The son of a Russian ballet teacher, Gabriel was classically trained, but fell in love with hip‐hop in his teens. Moving from his Colorado home to Los Angeles at 17, he began working in commercials and music videos, eventually touring with top musical acts, including Janet Jackson, Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and, what he calls “the pinnacle” for a dancer, Michael Jackson.
“Misha is a very talented dancer,” says Gibgot. “He nailed his audition and he fit the description of Eddy to a T. Once we saw him and Ryan together, their chemistry was so perfect, we knew we had our guys.” This is Gabriel’s first major acting role. “I’d been primarily a dancer up to this point, but I have fallen in love with acting,” he says. “And I’ve wanted to work for Adam Shankman ever since I saw him on ‘So You Think You Can Dance?’ He’s a brilliant producer and director, and I’m really thankful to be doing this movie with him.”