Christina Milian has been cast in the leading role of Collette for Starz’s “Step Up” TV series, a part originally played by the late Naya Rivera, the pay TV channel said Monday.
Rivera played the character in the former YouTube series’ first two seasons, and was set to continue on with the project when it was picked up at Starz for a third. Following Rivera’s tragic death at the age of 33 last July in a drowning accident, an individual with knowledge said the team decided to recast the role with the support of the cast, producers and Rivera’s family.
Showrunners considered a wide variety of factors, including the highly serialized nature of the show and the fact that Collette is so central to the storytelling before making the decision.
“Naya’s death was a terrible loss to our world that we will, frankly, never stop mourning,” “Step Up” series creator and executive producer Holly Sorensen said. “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.”
Millian added, “I am so excited to join the ‘Step Up’ family. 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.”
Along with Milian, the “Step Up” TV series will see Ne-Yo return 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.
“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,” Ne-Yo added. “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!”
The series, inspired by Lionsgate’s “Step Up” film franchise that grossed over $600 million at the worldwide box office, centers on Sage Odom (Ne-Yo) as the legendary founder of Atlanta’s famed High Water Performing Art School. The first two seasons of the series, which include Rivera’s performance, will begin airing Fridays on Starz at 8 p.m. on March 5. Season 3 of the show began filming in Atlanta this month.
Sorenson, Adam Shankman and Jennifer Gibgot will executive produce the series along with Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan, who both co-starred in the original “Step Up” film, and Erik Feig, Bill Brown and Dawn Wilkinson.