Step Up just kicked off its third explosive season—now on Starz—and you may have noticed a new face in the mix. Singer-actress Christina Milian has joined the cast as Collette Jones, the wife of Sage Odom (Ne-Yo), who is "stepping up" when it comes to running High Water, an incubator for the next generation of superstars.
EBONY chatted with Milian about taking on this latest role, how she's balancing motherhood with her professional life and the surprise she is hiding in every dance scene you watch this season.
EBONY: Tell us a little bit about your character, Collette Jones.
Christina Milian: Collette comes with a love and passion for the arts, and for Sage. He has become this huge megastar and she's been the girl that was left behind. She has also become the girl that helps run his business, High Water, a dance school where the biggest stars are developed because that's how big Sage is. Collette is a nurturer and a teacher, and she really believes in what she knows. And in this season, she's finally living her dream.
What does that entail?
She’s become Sage’s fiancée and his manager. She's no longer in the shadows. She also has to put out some fires. So my character is strong and very empowered. She's sexy and smart, and she believes in her gut feeling. And when it all goes down, this girl has to pick up the pieces. I love this character. She was a lot of fun to play. Not to mention, she's got a dark past and has to withhold a big secret. Playing the role is unlike anything I've done before.
This is a very physically demanding part. Are you super militant about working out or are you doing a special regimen for the show?
In life, I just enjoy working out just for my own mental space. That's part of my self-care; working out and making sure that I have the energy and the stamina to do everything that I do as a mom and an actress. But interestingly enough, I was pregnant when I shot the show. They literally put all of my scenes into three months of shooting. So really, it was just coming to the set ready and having the energy and the stamina to film and then learn choreography. I have some great scenes that happen in the series where I dance, but you have no idea that I'm actually with a belly out to there. The cameramen did a fantastic job of shooting around it.
For a lot of your cast members, this is their very first role. Have you had some mentoring moments helping them navigate all of this?
It's funny, in the beginning, I thought they were just being really shy with me, and someone was like, “No, girl, you've been around for a while. They grew up watching you.” In some cases, it could be intimidating seeing this actor you grew up with. But I'm a big old ball of mush. I just love people and I'm glad I was able to connect with them. Terrence Green (who plays Rigo) was someone I talked with often because we had some really great scenes together and we were able to connect.
What were the conversations about?
We talked about staying humble. To me, that’s what has led me to longevity in this career, always just being good when you come on set, being on time. By the way, he is that: Terrence comes to set on time. And this guy practices his lines in between scenes. I’ve never seen somebody actually be so dedicated to playing a role. It made me proud to see that, and it was a reminder for me because I like to learn again, too. I told him to continue that because it's so impressive.
You are juggling a lot. What advice do you have for working moms?
My advice is to do what you can handle. As a working mom, I think it's important to not fall into seeing Instagram and social media and thinking you're not doing enough. I think we always feel like we're not doing enough, whether it's at home or for work. But don't be hard on yourself. We all have our own stories to tell. When it comes to social media, of course, it always looks shiny and sparkly and everybody makes everything look so good. But we all know that there's a process that goes behind all of that. So take your time. Follow your dreams. Your dream is not over. If you're a new mom or becoming a mom, it's probably your strength right now. And now is the time to use that sense of wonder that a child has and relearn things through your children. You will find a balance.
Now that you have two young children, is your teenage daughter, Violet, helping to babysit her younger siblings?
Absolutely. She wanted this, believe me. She's been asking me forever for a younger sibling. She has a couple on her dad's side, so it was my turn.
Catch Milian, Ne-Yo and the whole cast of Step Up Sundays at 10 p.m. on Starz.