The Step Up franchise has helped audiences discover the acting and dancing talent of young stars, including Channing Tatum, his future wife Jenna Dewan, Briana Evigan (from Step Up 2 The Streets), and even Adam G. Sevani, who has now appeared in three Step Up films as a character named "Moose."
In Step Up Revolution, the fourth film in the franchise, this story of star-crossed dancers takes audience members to Miami, where a flash dance group called "The Mob" (featuring Guzman & McCormick) are trying to stop evil corporate powers from destroying their community.
Guzman comes from a background of modeling and MMA fighting, and this is his first professional dance project. No stranger to the TV cameras, McCormick can be seen on "So You Think You Can Dance?" as a regular performer. Step Up Revolution marks their feature acting debuts.
I sat down with Guzman & McCormick to discuss their first-time acting gigs, sweating in a Hollywood film, their favorite scenes, and more.
Step Up Revolution is now playing in theaters.
Aside from Peter Gallagher's corporate villain, your biggest adversary in the movie are cats. What do you think makes cat videos so popular on the internet?
Ryan Guzman: Why do they gotta be so goddamn cute? McCormick: Have you ever seen the video "Kittens Inspired by Kittens"? It's so funny.
Do you have a favorite internet video, Ryan?
Guzman: I don't know what it's called. It's a guy in karate gear. He's doing nunchuks, and he tries to do a blackflip. When he does a backflip he hits his head on the ground, and when he comes back up he's still trying to do the nunchuks. It's hilarious.
Ryan, you hadn't danced professionally before this movie. But did your experience with MMA fighting prepare for the type of performance pressure you'd experience making this movie?
Guzman: It was a little different. Dancers get ready for their performances a lot different than I get ready for my fighting. I'm very calm, I like to stay tranquil. Dancers like to get pumped up. I can't be around them when getting ready. I'll be trying to meditate while they're doing push-ups and jumping jacks. And being so familiar with everyone, with the dancers becoming part of my family, you just become easy.
Kathryn, how do you prepare for a performance?
Kathryn McCormick: It depends on what style I'm doing. If I'm doing hip-hop, I don't have to think so much about getting my legs up, or stretching so deeply, but I have to get my body warmed up. When I do contemporary, I have to warm up really deeply, and take time by myself and meditate for a second, and make sure my mind is in the right place to tell whatever story, and then I go back and warm up.
Guzman: She does crunches, it's crazy. She stretches her legs above her head.
When Ryan first started to dance, was it like a scene from a Step Up movie?
Guzman: I'm still learning right now, and there's a lot of stuff I don't know about. She'll teach me.
What did you teach him first?
McCormick: He has more of a natural groove to him. I taught him more about partnering. He was already really aware of his body, and if anything I taught him to listen to his body and my body when we were dancing. I think when there would be a lot of time when we would first learn a duet, we were good. But when people came to watch, his mind would go elsewhere. With hip-hop, you're performing with everyone. But when you're doing a contemporary duet, it's you and that person, and you have to create that moment where no one else exists. So when we were first doing it, I'd tell him, "I got you. Just look at me."
Guzman: It's funny. In the movie, I'm teaching her. It's completely the opposite.
Were you guys learning acting together? Did it help to be in the first-time acting together?
Guzman: I'm not one to be very emotional and personal like, but acting gives you an excuse to be emotional. You get to go into depth you never really thought you could invest, and get to know yourself better. We had an amazing acting coach with us on set, who told us how to know our characters better, and to try certain things. To just be comfortable. We kept on learning throughout filming.
McCormick: It was just not really in our bodies first. But the closer we got with each other, we'd just be on it. That helped a lot to have someone to get feedback from.
Do you both feel like actors now?
Guzman: I don't think any actor ever feels like an actor. When I saw myself in the finished product, you're always critiquing yourself, and wanting to do better. I think that's just an artist. You're never truly satisfied with your true product. It will work out for the next couple of movies that we do, or whatever is in store for us next.
Do the Step Up films have a certain level of respect in the dance community?
McCormick: I know the first Step Up was one of my favorite dance movies growing up. That was before I was in the profession of dancing. But as Step Up has gone on, I have to give them credit for having some of the best dance scenes in any dance movie. Step Up always brings it higher and higher.
Guzman: Misha Gabriel, who toured with Michael Jackson, has got some extreme talent. As soon as I saw him act, at a table read, I looked at him and didn't realize it was my turn to speak. I was like, "This man came to play!"
Do you have a favorite Step Up dance sequence? One that really stands out to you?
McCormick: In the first one, I loved when Channing [Tatum] is dancing by the car, and Jenna [Dewan] is watching him, but pretending she's not.
Guzman: I think the finale in Step Up Revolution. It was the bee's knees for me.
Did you get to play with the parkour ropes seen in the finale?
Guzman: I did. I got to play with a lot of stuff that I shouldn't have, and I got in trouble. Scott [Speer, director] would always reprimand me. I ran over to those trampolines, and do a front flip and land on the pad. Scott saw me, and all I would hear is, "Ryan!" It was like, "Oh crap, I'm in trouble. Dad caught me."
Was it really hard to choreograph the escalator scene?
Guzman: I had to pass by Twitch, and Twitch is a big man. I had to squeeze by him. But it's one of my favorite scenes. The musicality in it is unbelievable, mashing every move to every tiny beat.
What sequence did you most enjoy filming, Kathryn?
McCormick: I loved the restaurant scene; Emily's initiation. It's hard because in the film you don't get to see the full scene, and what we did. We spent a whole day just filming that scene. The contemporary that Emily does, she's intimidated and nervous until the finale. But this was a time in which I could just throw myself anywhere - guys would catch me, I could jump around, I was walking on people's hands. I don't think I even touched the ground. And it was really cool to do with the other dancers, because most of them had done only hip-hop before.
What was the first sequence you shot?
Guzman: It's not in the movie. It was really, really hot. We were sweating during this whole thing, but we're not supposed to be sweating. I'm looking cool. I was dressed like a Cabana boy type. Short white shorts, with this white shirt on, and sunglasses. It was fun.
When shooting the beach and sand private duet sequence, did you guys get sand in your eyes?
McCormick: That scene was fun. We just got to play in the ocean. We were falling everywhere, and just laughing and throwing water at each other.
Guzman: That was the fun part. The not fun part was when Scott made us do this routine full-out, and it's fun for her, because she's getting lifted everywhere. But I have to do the lifting, while trying to balance on sand and water. We do it three or four times in a row, and I'd be out of breath.
Were you more comfortable with the finale when you shot it?
Guzman: Some sequences I learned the day of shooting, a couple of numbers the week before. We had gotten down the contemporary piece after the finale even before shooting the movie. But the worst thing for me, is that you're working with all of these dancers, and they always have creative, new, amazing ideas. But since I'm not a professional dancer, it would take me a lot of time to pick it up. They'd teach me something, and I would have to work non-stop to perfect it. It's an amazing learning experience. You are always open to new things, and that just helps develop a character more for the movie.
An important aspect of the film is the usage of Miami. What did you take away from that location more than anything else?
Guzman: I loved Miami. I always say this. I come from a Latin family, and going to Miami has a Latin vibe. Aside from the heat, I thought it was my second home. The people were amazing. It has its own vibe.
McCormick: It was such a different energy for me. I just let myself experience what I was doing, and enjoy what happened naturally. I think part of that was being in that freedom, that environment.
Guzman: If you ask anybody from our movie if they'd do Step Up 5 if it was in Miami again, they'd all say yes.
It's funny about sweating and looking good in movies. You want to look good, but you also can't sweat.
Guzman: The wardrobe [department] had it worse. My wardrobe would have 5-10 shirts of the same shirt ready for me, because I would sweat through them. The hair and make-up would always be coming on and powdering me up, doing my hair again, and blow-drying me. At the same time Scott is directing.
McCormick: It would take you away from your focus. You're like, "I need to focus on one thing." But they're like, "We need to straighten your hair!" I have curly hair, so they need to do that for continuity.
Guzman: There's a couple times where you might catch us sweating when we are not supposed to be.
What makes the Step Up films so viable as a franchise, to different generations?
Guzman: I like that they are re-inventing themselves. With [the first] Step Up, it was more storyline based, and you had a little bit of dancing with Channing doing his b-boy moves, and Jenna doing contemporary. And the second and third movies were more battle oriented. And this one is about a flash mob. They are always outdoing themselves.
McCormick: I think it's really relevant. They always keep the moves new and fresh, and it makes sense, and it's always relatable. I think it's really cool that this film has so many different styles. It doesn't matter if you're a dancer, you can still relate to it.
Guzman: What's awesome though, like what we heard from Kathryn, is that when she saw the first Step Up, she was inspired to continue to dance. Just to hear that, that makes me think, "What if some little girl comes to our movie and gets inspired?" That's what I'd hope for.
Quick Questions with Ryan Guzman and Kathryn McCormick
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Guzman: Eggs on toast. McCormick: A green smoothie with wheatgrass, broccoli, and spinach, and some granola.
What is something you can't wait to do?
Guzman: Skydive. McCormick: I was just thinking that. I'm so scared of it, but I think that's why I want to do it too. But I'm really excited about lunch.
Favorite pop song growing on?
Guzman: "Ain't no lie, baby, bye, bye, bye." McCormick: Shania Twain's "Honey I'm Home."
Age of first kiss?
Guzman: 13. Eighth grade. I bit her lip. I was walking her home, and we had already been dating for two months. I was like, "I gotta do it." But it's like hopscotch, you don't know when to go in there. McCormick: 14.