EXCLUSIVE: Naya Rivera Talks New Show 'Step Up: High Water'

YouTube Red

The Step Up movie, starring Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan, was so wildly successful—making a whopping $650 million at the global box office—that three more movies in the franchise followed suit. Dancers and wannabe dancers were hooked. 

And now YouTube Red and Lionsgate are attracting a new generation of super fans with Step Up: High Water, starring Naya Rivera and Ne-Yo. High Water debuts January 31. (YouTube Red is a paid membership service that gives users access to YouTube Red Movies and this series.) The show is executive produced by Tatum and Dewan, and the first four episodes are available for free. Check out the first one here.



The sexy music-filled 10-episode drama follows several talented dancers at the super-cool High Water Performing Arts School founded by Sade Odom (Ne-Yo). Rivera’s Collete Jones is a former dancer turned High Water administrator—with a few juicy secrets. Faizon Love (Couples Retreat) is Uncle Al is to dancers and transplants Janelle (Lauryn McClain from Daddy’s Little Girls) and her twin brother Tal (Petrice Jones from Play the Devil).

Back in July, Latina caught up with Rivera in Atlanta to talk motherhood, working with Ne-Yo, and finally being cast as an adult, instead of a teen.

The Step Up movies were a global success. Were you already a fan of the franchise before joining the Step Up: High Water cast?

I’m a big fan of dance in general, and yeah, I watched the first two. Then, I got so busy working that I didn’t get to see the rest. But I have always been close to [Step Up: High Water executive producer] Adam Shankman, which is how all of this came about.

You were on Glee from 2009 to 2015, how did you feel about returning to singing and dancing?

I love the idea. I took some time off and wanted to pick the right role and jump back into full-time work. I got blessed that this show combines all three things within the same show—that’s my sweet spot.

This time around you are a mom to two-year-old Josey. How has the transition been now that you’ve added mom to your “résumé”?

It is working out better and smoother than I thought, probably because I took some time off. I wanted to wait until Josey was older and be a stay-at-home mom, so I could set the foundation for him. Because when you are shooting there are 12 to 15 hours days and I might not see him that much during the week. He is loving Atlanta, and I’ve found great stuff for us to do on the weekends and my days off.

Good. I wondered if you had a chance to check out this bomb city.

Yeah, I have actually. When I got here, I had to find a place to live, so I drove all around and got a lay of the land and been to a couple great restaurants and parks with Josey. I’ve been here before for work, but this is the most integrated I’ve been to the city.

The powers that be finally let you grow up—Collette is an administrator and not a student.

[Laughs] I know! I’ve been in the business 25 years, and this is the first time I’m playing an adult. Collette is awesome. I have been having a blast She runs and owns High Water with Sage, and this was their pipe dream to build this school. Sage is an artist, so he’s busy doing that half of the time and Collette is the one who holds down the fort. Collette is a former dancer and an Atlanta native, and she has a bit of sordid past, and that plays a part in how she works with Sage and the kids.

From the scenes that I saw with Ne-Yo, Sage is passionate and a bit of hard ass. How does Collette’s personality fit into the mix?

Collette is Sage’s rock. They’ve known each other for a very long time, but not romantically. She knows Sage and is the only one that he trusts. They have that bond, and she can calm him down, but she also knows how to put him in his place too.

How do Sage and Collette know each other?

It’s from the dance community. Collette used to dance for Sage on his tours.

I know Collette runs the school, but do you get to flex your singing and dancing skills?

Yes, I sing in an early episode, and there’s some dancing in the episode that you’ll see today. I’m teaching choreo. Collette's definitely trying to get back into that mix. 

The High Water set is pretty poppin’. There’s a café and beautiful, huge, rehearsal rooms and everything. Would this be your dream high school?

I’ve been saying that since day one. Every day I find something new and cool about this place that I wish I had when I was growing up. I wanna go to High Water! [Laughs] They really serve coffee at that café. If I had that, I would have been in school more. When I was growing up, school didn’t make to me because I had this other life as a performer. But I would have loved to integrate the two.

RELATED: Naya Rivera’s Younger Sister Is Hot AF

Would you encourage Josey to pursue the arts?

This kid! Yes! He loves to sing and dance, so I found a dance class out here for him. I think he got that from me. He’s such an extrovert. He loves to perform and make people laugh. I expose him to cooking, art, and music classes, anything and everything that I can.

Does Josey speak Spanish?

He does. Between me and his babysitter, she’s from Chile, we speak to him in Spanish, and he knows certain words. It’s so crazy to watch him know two languages. He loves when I speak Spanish. His eyes get so big, and he stops and smiles, like did you just…? And he gives me this face like I know what you said!

Follow me: @TaiiaSmartYoung