Ziah Colon Talks Footloose

Ziah Colon takes over the Sarah Jessica Parker role of Rusty, offering insight into Craig Brewer's dance-charged remake

On October 14th, the iconic 1984 high school dance drama with the hit soundtrack Footloose is returning to theaters in a new remake from director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow; Black Snake Moan). In the film, up and coming actress Ziah Colon takes over the role of Rusty Rodriguez, as played by Sarah Jessica Parker in the original.

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We recently caught up with Ziah Colon to chat about this new take on an old classic, which she claims to love, having already seen it a total of four times. Here is our conversation about 2011's Footloose.

The idea of certain remakes has irked me on occasion. There is a disappointment there, as though Hollywood is destroying something that is beloved. But, despite the fact that I grew up in the 80s, and that I am a film fan, I have never seen the original Footloose. That makes it a little less precious too me. It makes me realize that the teens who've never seen it either, feel the same way I do...Who cares if they remake that old movie! They have no preconceived notions about what this is suppose to be, which in turn makes it a viable cinematic resource for them in particular...

Ziah Colon: (Laughs) Yeah, I felt like that with True Grit. I didn't really know about the original. I hadn't seen it. But I wanted to see the new one. To me, it stands as the better movie. I know that Footloose is going to be that for this next generation. They weren't born when the original came out. I have met people at the screenings who've thought the same way. They had never seen the original. Some people were offended. "Why on earth would you ever remake Footloose!?!" But on the other hand, the people who have never seen the original, or never even heard of it, aren't going to care.

You say Footloose different than I have ever heard anyone say it. You say Foot...Loose. Its kind of funny...

Ziah Colon: (Laughs) I'm southern...

Well, then, you know that this story is based in truth. Back in 1984, when the original came out, people were like, "No dancing allowed? That's ridiculous!" And now, here in 2011, they think the idea is even more ludicrous. Those people have obviously never been back south. My girlfriend's brother goes to school in Dierks, Arkansas. They are not allowed to have dances on school property. They have to travel a few towns over for prom. This idea of 'no dancing allowed' is very real. It's a law that dates way back, that has never been changed in some of these small schools peppered throughout the south.

Ziah Colon: Absolutely. When we were filming Footloose in the Midwest, we ran into the same thing. There was a school out there, and dancing was banned. They correlated it to what we were filming at the moment. Some people thing it is a stretch. That this would never happen in these times. But it does! It happens all the time. I have a friend back south, who went to a Christian high school. They weren't allowed to dance. They played only Christian music, and you weren't allowed to dance to that music. It does happen today. I guess these people just don't realize that, necessarily. These people are from big towns. That doesn't happen where they are from.

It does sound ridiculous. But, we must note, in some of these small towns, and Christian high schools, they do allow the ripping in half of phone books at assemblies. Which is as odd to me as not having dancing.

Ziah Colon: Yeah, I know! All you have to do is watch CNN, and all of this crazy stuff comes out. You see these schools and churches that are acting this way. It just goes to show that our story in Footloose isn't so far fetched.

I haven't seen the new Footloose yet. But in these small town schools, texting is becoming a huge problem. Did you guys touch on that aspect of high school with this remake? That certainly would be a new element that wasn't around back in 1984...

Ziah Colon: No, actually, we do not. They wanted to keep that small town feel. Willard does have a line. Ren comes from a big town to this very small town, where he thinks everything is backwards. One of Willard's lines is, "We're not so far off the map that we actually don't have cell phones." He lists off a couple other things. But we don't dive into that topic, which I do think is important. It has taken over classrooms. I think it reaches beyond this new generation. It has taken everyone over. Everyone is plugged into their phones. They don't even watch what is going on when they cross the street because of these phones...

They aren't dancing anymore. They are too busy looking at their phones. Who cares if there is no school dance. They should just set up a couple of chairs in the gym and let them text dance on twitter...

Ziah Colon: (Laughs) Yeah. I know. I try very hard not to get sucked into it!

Is this new Footloose a true callback to the original Footloose? Or is it more in line with the new generation of Dance flicks we see coming out two or three times a year, like Step Up and Stomp the Yard?

Ziah Colon: It is a hugely popular genre. I have seen Footloose four times, by the way, and I wouldn't compare it to those newer dance movies. There is dancing in it. But we don't focus on a big dance number that includes everyone. In the original, Ren and Willard are best friends. Ren teaches Willard how to dance. There are a couple of dance sequences. But there is so much to this new story. Everything does not hinge on one last big choreographed dance. It is not from this new generation of dance movies. This is a lot like the original Footloose. We celebrate the original. We don't try to compete with the original. But we definitely pay homage to it. Our Footloose has the essence of the original Footloose.

So here, with this remake, the story takes precedence over everything else.

Ziah Colon: Yes! That's what I was trying to say. Those dance movies have their own style. They're fun. But we definitely focus more on the story, and some dancing just happens to take place. It's a really fun movie...

It must be a fun movie if you've seen it four times.

Ziah Colon: Yes. I was one of those people that never liked to watch myself. The first day we saw it, it was a surprise. The cast got together, and they screened it for us. I was all, "No! I don't know if I want to watch it!" But then I got really involved in the story, and how much fun it is. Every time they screen it, they invite me. I'm like, "Yes! I'll go!" I have really been enjoying it. But, yeah. I definitely thought I was always going to be one of those actors who was all, "I hate to watch myself back!" But this story is so lovely, I am not even concerned with myself.

I've hear many different takes on how an actor likes to approach an iconic role that has already been embodied by someone else. Some actors watch the previous movie, and try to capture the spirit and essence of the original in the remake. Some actors, on the other hand, stay far away from that initial performance, so as not to taint their take on the material. In the original Footloose, Sarah Jessica Parker famously played Rusty. How did you approach her performance in that first movie, if at all?

Ziah Colon: Well...I'd already seen Footloose about a billion and a half times. Before even auditioning for this new version. I was aware of who Rusty was. I knew she was this funky, smart girl. I knew that going in. I kept that. I kept her essence, I think. But the way Craig Brewer wrote it? We got to see a little bit more of her. I got a chance to develop the character more. I didn't bleed out the character Sarah Jessica Parker created. Though, I also never went back to watch the movie at any point during the shoot. I was already aware of it.

I like this trend I am starting to see in some remakes, like the recent Fright Night. The writers are taking the original, and giving us some of the back-story we missed the first time around. They are staying true to the original characters by giving us moments that could have happened in the original. It almost plays as a companion piece more than a remake...

Ziah Colon: Absolutely. She still has that essence of the original Rusty. She is cute and spunky, and she is a lot smarter than the rest of the girls in school. She is okay with being in this small town. That's who she was in the original. But Craig has given her more to work with this time. We get to see more of her personality. We are getting other sides of Rusty, where she can prove to be a tough girl. That is something we didn't see before.

How involved with the choreography were you? Is Rusty dancing a lot in this movie? Did you have to learn a lot of new moves? Or were you already well versed at hitting the dance floor?

Ziah Colon: Let me tell you! In my audition, the casting director was absolutely wonderful. As I was leaving, she asks me, in a very 'by the way' tone, "Do you dance?" As any actor would, I said, "Yes!" And then I walked out before the conversation could go anywhere else. I am not a professional dancer. I have never taken a dance class. I have rhythm by default. I didn't hear anything of it. I thought, "Wow, these people are really trusting." Because they didn't have me come in and audition with a dance number, or anything. I was cast. We started rehearsal. The first day, it comes up. They told me I had a rehearsal with the choreographer at the end of the day. I was like, "Ahhhhhhh! Oh, my gosh! I do have a dance number!" I started to freak out. Because I knew that everyone around me was a professional dancer. I didn't want to be the one to drop the ball. It wall worked out though. The choreographer was patient. Just so wonderful to me. I am a hard worker, so I worked very hard on my one dance. Which was a country line dance. I literally worked it to death the days before we shot it. I literally had only one real dance scene where I had to learn choreography. Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough get to show off. They had other dance scenes. They are absolutely amazing. But, no...I am not a dancer.

Having been a fan of the original movie, I want to get your take on this new soundtrack. The original is one of the most iconic soundtracks of all time, and this new one is all covers...

Ziah Colon: Even if you haven't seen the original Footloose, you know the music. We do have the Kenny Loggins version of Footloose in there. In the beginning. We close it with the Blake Shelton version, there at the end. Craig Brewer really wanted to celebrate the original, so he incorporates both. We do get some new music in there. Because in true Craig Brewer fashion, he adds that grit, and that sexiness, to anything that he does. We have Three 6 Mafia, and some David Banner in there. But then, we do get to hear "Let's Hear It For the Boy". It is an amazing soundtrack. It makes the movie come alive. It makes you want to jump out of your seat.

Did you see Hot Rod? With Andy Samberg?

Ziah Colon: I didn't finish watching it! (Laughs)

Did you at least get to the Footloose scene? Does Kenny Wormald bring it back, and own it? Does he put it back in its rightful place?

Ziah Colon: (Laughs) You probably won't be able to sit through this new scene and not laugh, because of that...But yes, he does bring it back! And he does own it! He is an amazing dancer. He has been a professional dancer his whole life. That is such an iconic scene in the original, and Kevin Bacon did his thing. But Kenny Wormald killed it. That is all I can really say. It is really good. We do get to see why he is angry. He is taking out his frustrations in dancing. It is done really well. Like I said, I really like this movie!

Craig Brewer has made two classic music-centric movies that aren't musicals. Its easy to see why he would want to attempt this remake. Were you a fan of Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan?

Ziah Colon: Yes. Absolutely. I think I had the same reaction the rest of the world had when they heard about this, "Wait? Craig Brewer is doing Footloose? What?" Because his movies are so gritty. They are sexy and dark. To think of him doing something so mainstream? What? But then I read the script, and it was so amazing. He was totally excited. He was such a fan of the original. It was contagious. And we all got really hyped before our table read. It was just so much fun. He is so amazing. He is any actor's dream, because he knows how to speak to an actor. Its not vague at all. He knows what he wants, and he paints this picture so vividly. Its fun. He also let us add any natural tenancies that we wanted to add to these characters, as long as it was in line with who they are, of course. He handpicked us. We got along so well, and it brought so much love and fun into the movie, an I really think you can see all of it on screen.