SANTA MONICA, California — They say the best dancers are the ones who dance like nobody is watching. Twenty-five-year-old singer/songwriter Ne-Yo can’t go anywhere these days without all eyes turning his way. The R&B jack-of-all-trades makes his film debut next week in “Save the Last Dance 2,” the sequel to the hit 2001 flick starring Julia Stiles. Ne-Yo recently spoke to MTV News about the movie, why he’s excited to “attempt” acting and how dancing is all about feeling the rhythm.
MTV: Tell us about your role in “Save the Last Dance 2.”
Ne-Yo: I play Mix, and Mix owns the hottest club, pretty much, in the city. And his story is that he’s the youngest club owner in the city. He was a producer and had, like, four #1 hits before his 18th birthday, which gave him the money to open this club. This club is, like, the spot to go to get your dance on.
MTV: What can your fans expect to see from you in this movie that they haven’t seen before?
Ne-Yo: Well, nobody’s ever seen me attempt to act before. I think that’s going to be the biggest shock — just seeing me on the big screen, period. Music has always been my first love, but this was me venturing out, trying something else.
MTV: Is there a scene in the movie you’re particularly excited about seeing?
Ne-Yo: My major scene in the film is the first time that the major female character goes to my club and actually battles one of the girl dancers. And it was just a really, really energetic scene.
MTV: Is it a natural transition from music to acting?
Ne-Yo: Not exactly. In music you write about emotion, whereas in acting you have to actually be able to control your emotion. I won’t say this role was super-difficult because basically they let me do whatever I wanted to with the character, but acting itself — I give so much respect to those people that can actually call themselves actors, and I can’t, because I don’t have those skills yet and the ability to control those emotions like they do. I just recently did another movie, and some of those actors are amazing. You know, you’re sitting there having a general conversation with them, and then as soon as the director yells “action” it’s like, they turn the tears on, it’s just that easy. And I can’t do that yet, but it’s one of the things that acting requires. Maybe in the future I’ll take some classes and be able to truly call myself an actor. But in this one, I’m definitely an R&B singer attempting to act.
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MTV: What do you think you learned about acting from this movie?
Ne-Yo: Patience, patience, patience. The first two takes, everything was cool, but by take 70 I was like, ‘OK, am I doing something wrong? What’s wrong with you?’ So above all, patience, and like I said, it was a new experience, it was me stepping out on a limb and trying something that I hadn’t tried before. I will definitely be doing it again.
MTV: You also star in “Stomp the Yard,” which is another sort of dance flick.
Why do you think so many dance-centered films are coming out right now?
Ne-Yo: I mean, who doesn’t like to dance? Who doesn’t like to see a person who has that kind of control over their body? I just think that dancing is fun and the day’s new and innovative ways of dance are just beyond anything else. It’s incredibly, incredibly entertaining to watch. It’s struck a chord.
MTV: What is the secret to dancing well?
Ne-Yo: In my personal opinion, the secret to dancing well would just be learning and having control over your body and actually really feeling the music. Rhythm comes from really feeling the music, not just listening.
MTV: Fair or not, a lot of fans see a movie that comes out direct-to-DVD and conclude, “Oh, this isn’t good because otherwise it would be given a theatrical release.”
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Ne-Yo: That’s not fair. I would say that a lot of people don’t realize why certain things go straight-to-DVD and why certain things get a theatrical release. I’m pretty sure we’ve all gone to a theater and sat through an hour and a half of crap, that can’t be how you dictate whether or not a movie is good, because it was in a theater. I can name seven movies this year just off the top of my head that absolutely sucked and should have gone straight-to-DVD. I just think that people should give a movie a chance. I don’t think that it would be fair to judge it that way. I think you should go and see it and dictate like that.
MTV: There’s a line in the movie trailer, “Everything you need to know about hip-hop can be distilled into the following phrase: I am here.” What is hip-hop to you and does that phrase ring true to you?
Ne-Yo: Yeah it does. What is hip-hop to me? Hip-hop to me is basically modern culture, you know what I mean? It went from being something that people thought would be just a fad, “It’s only gonna be around for a couple years,” and now you find that there’s hip-hop in everything from children’s books to yogurt commercials to whatever. There’s a hip-hop element being included in everything because it’s not just music, it’s a way of life.
See Ne-Yo’s acting skills for yourself as “Save the Last Dance 2″ premieres October 7 at 1 p.m., only on MTV.
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