‘Big shoes to fill’ – Christina Milian on taking over Naya Rivera’s Step Up role

The singer and actress said she wanted to be respectful to the late star’s memory.
The singer and actress said she wanted to be respectful to the late star’s memory.

Christina Milian has said there were “definitely big shoes to fill” when she took over Naya Rivera’s role in the Step Up TV series.

Rivera played Collette Jones on the show before she drowned, aged 33, in a boating accident at a lake in southern California in July 2020.

Milian, 41, who first found fame as a 19-year-old when she signed with the Def Jam record label and released her self-titled debut album, is taking over the role for the third series.

She told the PA news agency: “It was definitely big shoes to fill. I will say that, as a fan for years of her work, also just a fellow, I think, Latina, I feel like she always stood out for me.

“So when this opportunity came about I was familiar with this role.

“And knowing this was her last role that she played, and so the connection to me was, it was really important for me that if I was going to do this, to take it seriously, and to understand all the components, not only for the character, but the fans, and for her family, and to respect it, and how was I going to do this in a way that wasn’t trying to be her as Collette, but who was I going to become as Collette and how was Collette going to also continue to be the same Collette that she was and tell the same story.”

Milian said she hopes her version of the character is respectful to Rivera’s memory.

She added: “There were many elements that I, when you talk to yourself, and you’re figuring it out, it was like a puzzle, like Tetris, you know, the whole time.

“But eventually, it all landed with me. And I prayed on it, I did pray. And I just hope that, you know, I was doing the right thing and respecting her.

“And then I trusted it, you know, and it’s beautiful when you just trust yourself and trust the process and allow it to happen.

“It kind of just allows you to just, like, release that weight and actually just kind of become it, and the prayers also helped.”

Step Up, which will air on Lionsgate+ from October 16, is a reimagining of the film series and is set at a performing arts school in Atlanta, Georgia.

Hollywood stars Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan, who co-starred in the original Step Up film in 2006, are executive producers on the TV show.

Rivera, best known for playing cheerleader Santana Lopez on Glee, went missing during a boat trip with her then four-year-old son at Lake Piru.

Her body was found after a five-day search. Her son Josey was unharmed.