Christina Milian On What Step Up Fans Can Expect From Season 3 - Exclusive Interview

"Step Up" is returning for Season 3 now on STARZ. Just like the past two seasons, this one tells the story of the ambitious performers at High Water, an incubator for artistic talent. But the stakes are higher than ever as the founder, Sage Odom (Ne-Yo), faces murder charges, and his partner, Collette Jones, manages a nationwide tour while trying to maintain their public image.

This season, Collette is being played by Christina Milian. The pivotal character was originated by Naya Rivera, who sadly died in a boating accident in July 2020 after filming the first two seasons of the show. Milian sat down for an exclusive interview with The List to discuss the upcoming season and what it was like stepping into the role. During the interview, the actress opened up about her concerns when first taking the part, how she hopes to honor Naya Rivera, and some of the exciting elements of the show to look forward to this season.

Taking over Naya Rivera's role and honoring her memory

You're playing Collette this season — a role that was originated by Naya Rivera. What's that been like for you taking over that role?

It's actually been quite incredible. It taught me a lot about myself and trusting myself, because considering the situation and knowing Naya played such a ... She did such a good job playing that role ... In exploring this storyline prior to when I started to play it, she really went there. I wanted to make sure that I was respectful, and also that I honor her memory and continue this storyline for the fans of "Step Up" in a way that's not disruptive, but it's great and still exciting and [in a way] that they still want to follow this.

At the beginning, I went through definite transitions in my head about how to do this, and I also had to come to terms with the situation. I did a lot of praying. Over time, I was able to develop connections and chemistry with the actual characters and the scripts. Each episode became so good that when you read this storyline and you get into it, you really become this character.

I was able to become this character and understand where she's coming from. It's dark, it's sexy, it's powerful, there's a fight for all this, it's drama, it's talent. Everything that I've ever dreamed of embodying in a character I was receiving, so I was like, "You know what, girl? Be confident; you've got this. It's okay. Trust the process."

What it was like being the new girl on set

You're also joining the cast when most of them have been around for two seasons. What was that like coming in as the new person for the third season?

As the new girl coming onto the set, it's so crazy. I never had been in a situation like this where this series, the two seasons, were so established, so coming in and playing Collette and meeting everybody at the time was step by step. It was like baby steps, because I think they were like, "Okay, we're here for you, but you've got to do your thing too." 

The memory of everything was weighing on them at the moment too, so I was very respectful and did the baby steps and connected to them slowly through each episode. I already know Ne-Yo — I've known Ne-Yo for years — so luckily, he was a friend that was already on set. Being with him and the choreographer, Jamaica Craft, and Kiki Ely — I had those kinds of friendly connections through the years, so it didn't feel like I was alone on my little island. I was like, "Okay, some familiar faces," and they helped me with building that confidence.

The best choreography and scenes this season

The choreography and the performances are also such a huge part of the show. What was that like putting those together this season?

It's amazing what they did, and this is a dance show, so people want to see that. They want to see great choreography. They want to see great sets and lighting. We want to be entertained, and Jamaica Craft and Kiki Ely did such a good job of that. 

I did this amazing scene — it's crazy. It's this dark tango, and not only did I have to learn the choreography, but I had to keep in mind what the scene was about. There's passion and there's emotion as well as choreography. It's an awesome scene, and there's more than that. There's even music and original music that's on the show too. It's fun because this is what I love to do. I was like, "Wow, I get to do this on a TV show."

Were there any elements or scenes this season that you enjoyed making or are looking forward to coming out?

Without giving anything away ... There's that dance scene, but I have some great emotional scenes that happen between two characters quite often. I'll start with Sage because it might give away if I say anybody else. But Ne-Yo and I, considering we have been friends and in this show are in a relationship — these characters have known each other for so long, and there's so much passion.

She's had his back for so long. It's time for her to support him but also step out of the shadows. There are some good emotional scenes that commonly happen in relationships and when women come to terms with knowing themselves and not always being on the sideline. Collette steps her game up, and Ne-Yo and I have some really good scenes together that feel like a couple that is dealing with some stuff.

How Season 3 of Step Up raises the quality

Do you feel like this season is different in any way from the past two seasons?

I didn't shoot the first two seasons, but from what I saw of the first two seasons, the actors over time have gotten better and better from Season 1 to Season 2. It's a lot of young actors and dancers — I can see in their art and as people how much they grew up. Now that [it's] Season 3 they brought talent — whether they're rapping or dancing, they really brought it on.

Holly Sorensen, the creator, jokes and said the budget helped, so there's crazy sets and there's crazy lights. There's a giant stage, and there's a lot of performances on this stage that happen. You're going to see a lot more of that in this season.

"Step Up" premieres Sunday, October 16 at midnight on the STARZ app, all STARZ streaming and on-demand platforms, and internationally on the STARZPLAY premium streaming platform across all territories.

This interview has been edited for clarity.