Essence: Congratulations on having the number one movie in America!
Columbus Short: Thank you. Thank you.
Essence: How did you get involved with Stomp the Yard?
CS: A good friend of mine, choreographer Dave Scott, called me and said `We’re doing this film and we’d loved for you to be a part of it.’ Then Dave called the president of Sony Screen Gems [Clint Culpepper] and told him I’ve got the perfect kid for you. I met with Clint and the rest is history.
Essence: You’re a choreographer too, right?
CS: I was a choreographer. I was an actor first, but I wasn’t getting any theatrical work. All my friends were dancers, so I started dancing to make money. I learned how to dance at 19 and then started choreographing at 20.
Essence: In the film, there’s a combination of krumping and stepping. Was this the goal of the movie, to mix the genres?
CS: The creators of the krump movement are close friends of mine: Lil C, Tight Eyez, and Miss Prissy. We shot the film for two months, then we had a break because we were waiting for Lil C’s schedule to open up so we could shoot the opening sequence of Stomp the Yard. For a week, we were in the lab with those guys—working on the krump, understanding the language—so I could portray it correctly. We’d wanted the film to stay authentic and to stay true to the history of the step movement and fraternal orders.
Essence: Some Greek organizations released statements about the authenticity of the film. Was this criticism a surprise?
CS: You have to understand there’s a history behind fraternities and sororities and they hold true to those values. It’s so serious. When I went to Atlanta to work on the film, I was ignorant but the veil got removed from my eyes. I didn’t understand what it was really all about. These organizations forged a brotherhood dating back to 1906. It’s not about stepping at all. They do so much community service and youth outreach programs; they are some of the most powerful Black orgazinations we have. The backlash came before many saw the film. But two of the producers were Alphas (members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.) and they were meticulous about staying true to their purpose. For example, there were scenes that weren’t in the script that were added, such as the death march and the one in Heritage Hall, which is a photo montage of people, such as Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s a heartwarming part of the film that gives it some depth.
Essence: And now the success at the box office, how does that feel?
CS: To go number one the first week was overwhelming. But the second week, it was like, whoa. At this point I can’t even ask for anything more. God is good. When we were shooting, I felt that God’s favor was on this film. It’s this favor that made it number one two weeks in a row—period. Now, Hollywood is like, we have to pay attention because they won’t pay attention unless you make money. What’s great is that this film is revealing a whole new side of us, our culture, in a positive light.
Columbus Short also appears on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and he’s currently filming This Christmas with Loretta Devine and Regina King.
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