From the team behind You Got Served comes a young Hip-Hop battle movie for a new generation of dance. Battlefield America takes a steady look at the underbelly of the youth battle dance culture in Long Beach, California. Sean Lewis (Marques Houston), a young, charismatic, successful businessman finds himself in the mix with a bunch of disheveled misfits Bad Boys, who have virtually no dance talent. Realizing his dilemma, Sean brings aboard a professional dance instructor to ease his responsibilities to these kids. Meanwhile, he finds himself falling for Sara (Mekia Cox), who runs the community center where the kids hangout and practice their moves. With Sean motivating them, The Bad Boys find the confidence to be contenders.
Battlefield America is available now on Blu-ray + DVD Combo pack. To celebrate this release, we caught up with the one and only Marques Houston, who also stared in the dance movie that started it all, You Got Served.
Here is our conversation, about the legacy and the future of the dance genre in cinema.
You guys really kicked off the dance movie craze of the 2000s with You Got Served! Why did you decide now was a good time for you to return to the genre?
Marques Houston: I felt it was important to get out there and see this new generation of fans. We have a lot of kids out there. Back then; I was nineteen, when we shot the first film. It was all teenagers. But now you have these kids who are from ages 8 to 12 that watched the movie when they were little. They don't know about Breakin', they are a new generation of kids looking for the same thing. So Chris Stokes and I felt we needed to bring this new generation into the world.
There are a lot of young dancers in the movie. Did you serve as their mentor? Did they look up to you as a role model?
Marques Houston: Yeah, actually, they did. You Got Served is what got them dancing. It was amazing to have that in my hands. The parents were all like, "You don't understand. I had to play this movie over, and over, and over!" They all know that movie, so its kind of cool to know that You Got Served played such a big important part in getting these kids interested in how to dance. That was the coolest thing in the world to me. It was amazing to watch these kids be as good, or better than we were when we did that movie.
Were you able to teach them anything new? Or did these kids come into this knowing exactly what they could bring to the table? I mean, did they school you at all?
Marques Houston: We had them choreographed. We spent about three weeks teaching them the choreography. Then we went across the world, and across the country, grabbing the actors that we best felt suited each role, as best as possible. Finding kids that could act and dance was pretty tough. Surprisingly, these kids were super professional. They knew how to hit their mark. They were like little robots. They were normal kids on the playground, running around. But they were professional. They were tuned into what they were doing as far as acting and dancing.
Let's talk about your character and some of the troubles he is experiencing at the beginning of the movie. How did you first find this guy, and how did you discover who and what he should be?
Marques Houston: Playing Sean Lewis was one of the biggest challenges for me. We are so far apart as individuals, it was almost like speaking a different language. The character of Sean Lewis is 350 degrees different from who I am as a person, so finding a connection between Sean and myself was very difficult. But Chris Stokes helped me a lot with the script. He is a visual director, but he knows exactly what he wants out of his actors. So he helped me a lot. Living with the character helped me a lot. As an actor, it was really about that vibe. It was almost like being a method actor. With Chris' help, I found the inside of me that felt like there was a little bit of Sean Lewis in there. I felt I could pull that out, and show that on the screen. It was definitely a big challenge.
I want to go back to what you said about flying around the world. Do you do that often? Looking for new talent, and finding new ways to move the human body that will astonish an audience?
Marques Houston: I've been around the world, and I've seen what is happening worldwide. Everybody around the world has seen You Got Served, so its amazing for me to watch how far these dance moves have come. Its different than what we were doing at first. Dancing has evolved so heavily. It's incredible to go around the world and find these new guys. Even just going on Youtube, and you see all of these new dancers who are 8 and 9 years old, break dancing like grown men. All of that? That's what we wanted in this movie.
What have you seen on stage recently that has really blown your mind?
Marques Houston: Umm...Its hard to wow me. Because I have seen so much...But, I think it's the bone-breaking thing. We have a little kid in the movie, he does it. He looks like he is breaking his bones, because he is double jointed. Its moves like that. That amazes me. To see a body move like that, that is unnatural. That brings the wow moment in the movie. It's incredible to see these young kids doing some of this stuff. But nothing amazes me. Because I know what can be done.
You had a hand in writing the script for Battlefield America, right?
Marques Houston: I didn't actually write this one. I produced it. But I had a hand in the overall story, and the way I wanted my character to be portrayed. Stuff like that. Film writing is something I want to get into, after doing this movie. Being in the production end of it? I am more interested in writing. I have a couple of scripts I am actually working on right now. And Chris Stokes and I have our own production company. We will definitely be doing more movies. I'm really excited about that.
So many dance movies came out after You Got Served. Is it hard to find an in now, in creating a story that works and actually services the dancing?
Marques Houston: I think You Got Served was the kick off...I'm not being biased, because I was in it...But I think it will go down in history as one of the greatest dance movies ever done. That was the first time that people had seen dancing like that. It was intense, in this battle situation. The original is always the best. That is just my personal opinion. It will be hard to top that movie. You know? Maybe one day it will happen. It is hard to hang a story on it, because you get so locked into the dance. You don't want to see anything else. That's what I think is great about Battlefield America. Because the story is so rich, and great, and it was something that needed to be told. I feel that it is more story than it is dance. That's what makes it different. The story is emotional. You have all these kids that come from broken homes. The lead kid, Eric, he doesn't know his father, his mother is doing her thing. So then you have this character that comes in, and is able to make that father and son connection. Its not just dance. It's a family movie, and its fun. It covers all the angles. That's what I really like about it. There is one thing that is true about Chris Stokes as a director. He likes to tell stories. If you go to an action movie, you don't want to just see things blow up. You want to fall in love with the characters. You want to feel you are a part of the movie, and then the action draws you in as well. Movies are the tent pole. I was talking to Will Smith, because he is my mentor...He was telling me one day, "The best movie is the one with a love story. You can have an action movie, but if it doesn't have a love story, it's not going to be a great movie." The greatest movies are the ones with the greatest stories, and when you think about it, its true. If you think about Avatar, it was the biggest movie in history. The love story in that movie is incredible. Even though it was action, and it was special effects, and it was amazing, you really fell in love with the characters. To have a great movie, you have to have a great story as well.