Ne-Yo, Chris Brown Open Up About Stepping Up For ‘Stomp The Yard’

Young R&B sensations say acting is a priority, but music comes first; new LPs in the works.

Whether they’re invading your ear canals, setting girls’ hearts aflutter or racking up awards nominations, it’s becoming increasingly hard to drown out the buzz surrounding fast-rising kings of R&B Chris Brown and Ne-Yo.

Now Hollywood is taking notice, casting the friends and touring partners in starring roles in next month’s “Stomp the Yard.” While giving us a sneak preview of the flick, the chart-topping chick-magnets talked about kicking down Hollywood’s door, the battle between their acting and singing careers and recording tracks together for their upcoming albums.

MTV: Can you give us a quick rundown of your characters?

Ne-Yo: The character I play in the movie is Rich Brown, the guy who eventually becomes the friend of the main character in the movie, whose name is DJ. Rich is from Atlanta, and he’s a very loud, very energetic guy — he’s kind of the comic relief for the film. And that tapped into me personally, because the role is fairly silly and it’s never really been difficult for me to be silly — but you’ll see as the movie progresses through the fellowship he has that Rich actually starts to take some things seriously.

Chris Brown: And I play DJ … oh wait … I play Duron [He laughs.]. DJ is the older brother, and Duron is the younger dude. I’m not the knucklehead, but I’m the sensible one out of all the knuckleheads — the one that tries to be older to my brother, trying to make him think about his choices and the obstacles that he got to go through.

MTV: And is your character like you?

Brown: With my personal life, I’m like Ne-Yo — I’m hyped-up, I’m goofy all the time. I would be more of a Rich Brown type of dude, but Duron is actually a part of me, because I put my style and flavor into it. I think about my different choices sometimes, and I make smart decisions and sometimes dumb decisions. But I’m a teenager.

MTV: While trying to get into Hollywood, some musicians seek out movies with “musical” characters for them, and others do the total opposite. What were your thoughts?

Brown: I want to stay away from the singing and the dancing roles, because [people] can see that in my other talents — the music videos and on TV. As far as acting, I really want to show people that I can act, and [it] is a part of something I want to do.

MTV: Do either of you have any other offers for acting roles lined up yet?

Brown: Yep.

Ne-Yo: Yep.

MTV: Can you elaborate?

Ne-Yo: No — that’s going to give it away. We don’t want to count our chickens before they hatch, but yeah, they’re there. There have been different scripts that have been tossed in both of our directions, but nothing set in stone yet.

MTV: This is a movie about fraternity stepping — so why do we see street-style dance in the trailer?

Ne-Yo: Well, the stepping in the movie is definitely a factor, but the movie isn’t so much about the dancing as it is about the characters. DJ [actor/choreographer Columbus Short] is a street dancer from L.A. who winds up moving to Atlanta and enrolling in this college, then joining a fraternity. It was just to add conflict, why DJ is trying to add the street dancing to the traditional stepping, versus the rest of the cast who does the traditional stuff. It was in no way trying to disrespect the tradition of stepping, not at all.

MTV: What makes this movie different from “Take the Lead” and “You Got Served” and all the other movies we’ve seen about dancing?

Brown: Because it’s a movie first. … It’s not like those other movies that’s dance, dance, dance, a little bit of dialogue and more dance. It’s all a movie. It’s not something that’s a regular cliché movie, where you end up going, “OK, we just want to fast forward to see them dance.”

Ne-Yo: Plus, this is the first movie to touch on the history of stepping, what it’s about, the tradition of the dance and what’s really going on with it.

MTV: Was the choreography here any harder than the moves you do for your normal performances?

Ne-Yo: Stepping itself takes a lot of hand-eye coordination that I didn’t have before this movie, I’ll say that much. So yeah, it was a little difficult to capture the moves. Then again, it’s more than just the moves — there’s a whole essence and vibe to what stepping is. You can’t just get onstage and clap your hands and stomp your feet. There’s a whole attitude that goes with it that we had to learn; there were a lot of actual Greeks on set that showed us what it was, and how it’s supposed to look.

MTV: Was it nice having each other around for both of your first real movie roles?

Brown: We really didn’t, actually. I was on a promotional tour and I was still doing an album, so our schedules were so hectic that we didn’t really get to see each other on set. Like, I’d come in and shoot my part, and then was out. Then, he’d come in and shoot his part; we was back and forth. But we both went on tour together right after that. So we advised each other on tour.

MTV: Compare and contrast your acting styles a bit.

Brown: I think in both of us, it’s a raw, untapped well. Neither of us has done any acting before, so I honestly think you’ll be able to see that we’re new to it. But I also really feel, after seeing the advanced screening, that we really pulled it off. I think people will be pleasantly surprised.

MTV: Ne-Yo, what differences did you find in shooting “Save the Last Dance 2″ and this film?

Ne-Yo: There was a lot more to it. In “Save the Last Dance 2,” I probably had the smallest part in the history of movies! I had a good five lines, and that was about it. So it definitely didn’t take as long, and it wasn’t as challenging. In “Save the Last Dance 2,” I basically played a guy that was myself, whereas in this movie I had guidelines and direction. I actually had to learn how to act a little bit in order to play this role.

MTV: If you had to make a permanent choice between acting or music, which one would you take?

Ne-Yo: Music.

Brown: I would have to say that acting is something, definitely, that I want to venture into. It’s not my number-one passion; my passion is music. So, music will always be in the driver’s seat, and acting is just another avenue of art.

MTV: What’s happening next for both of you guys, musically?

Ne-Yo: We’re both in the process of starting our new albums. I’m gonna do some stuff for Chris for his new album. Hopefully, I’m going to get him to do some stuff for me too, so be looking for those real soon in the upcoming year. I’m still writing for a bunch of people too.

MTV: What can we expect from this new album that will be different from your previous ones?

Ne-Yo: Well, we wouldn’t be ourselves if we were to do the same album that we already did, again. You should expect to hear some growth from both of our parts — just over this past year we’ve both done a lot of growing up.

MTV: Did either of you write any songs for the movie?

Ne-Yo: I don’t want to give away no secrets or surprises, but who knows? You might hear one from me and Chris on there. We’ll see what happens.

Check out everything we’ve got on “Stomp the Yard.”

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