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Ne-Yo Joins Cast of ‘Step Up’ Drama Series on YouTube Red

Variety logo Variety 6/28/2017 Todd Spangler
© Provided by Variety

Ne-Yo will be among the headliners in “Step Up: High Water,” the drama series based on the dance-movie franchise coming to YouTube Red this fall.

Production on the 10-episode original series from Lionsgate for YouTube Red is currently under way in Atlanta. Ne-Yo, the singer-songwriter-dancer-actor-producer whose credits include “The Wiz” and “World of Dance,” joins series regulars Naya Rivera (“Glee”) and Faizon Love (“Couples Retreat,” “Elf”) to headline the series.

The show is based on the “Step Up” films, which have grossed around $650 million at the box office worldwide. The last three films of the series were released by Lionsgate’s Summit Entertainment label.

YouTube hasn’t disclosed a release date for “Step Up: High Water” but says it will hit YouTube Red this fall (after originally being slated to debut in the summer of 2017). The Google-owned video service first announced plans for the show at last year’s VidCon.

It’s the first scripted drama for YouTube Red, the $10 monthly subscription service that includes access to original TV shows and movies, ad-free access to YouTube and unlimited streaming music. YouTube has not revealed subscriber numbers but at VidCon last week announced that YouTube Red originals have generated nearly 250 million views since the first batch debuted in early 2016. YouTube overall now has 1.5 billion monthly viewers, and whether or not YouTube Red has gotten the traction execs had hoped for, the video giant is continuing to invest in the strategy.

“Step Up: High Water” is created and executive produced by showrunner Holly Sorenson (“Recovery Road,” “Make It or Break It”). Also executive producing are Adam Shankman, Jennifer Gibgot and Meredith Milton — all producers of the original “Step Up” films — along with Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan Tatum, who co-starred in the original “Step Up” film.

Original songs for the series will be created by Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jason “PooBear” Boyd and “Jingle” Jared Gutstadt, president and chief creative officer of Jingle Punks. Following his work on the films, Jamal Sims returns as choreographer for the first episode. Subsequent episodes will be choreographed by Jamaica Craft. Shankman also directed the pilot.

“Step Up: High Water” focuses on a group of ambitious young dancers at Atlanta’s famed High Water Performing Arts School, led by Sage Odom (Ne-Yo). In the series, Rivera plays Collette, (a former dancer turned administrator whose passion for her students is only matched by her history with Sage — and secrets of her own.

Lauryn McClain (Tyler Perry’s “Daddy’s Little Girls,” “Spider-Man” animated series) plays Janelle, an ambitious dancer navigating the Atlanta hip-hop scene after she and her twin brother Tal, played by Petrice Jones (“iBoy,” “Play The Devil”) are uprooted from suburban Ohio to live with their Uncle Al (Faizon Love). As the pair settle into their new home, new school, and new life they meet Dondre, played by Marcus Mitchell (“High Strung,” “Odious”), who introduces them to Atlanta’s party scene where they learn that High Water is auditioning dancers.

The show’s cast also includes Jade Chynoweth (“The Last Ship,” “300: Rise of an Empire”), Carlito Olivero (“Bad Samaritan,” “Blood Heist”), Terrence Green (“Being Mary Jane,” “America’s Best Dance Crew”), R. Marcos Taylor (“Baby Driver,” “Straight Outta Compton”), and newcomers Eric Graise and Kendra Oyesanya.

The original “Step Up,” released in 2006, was followed by four more films – “Step Up 2: The Streets,” “Step Up: 3D,” “Step Up: Revolution” and “Step Up: All In.”

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