By PETERSON GONZAGA
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—When Christopher Scott was in high school, he refused to take dance class as part of the performing arts curriculum at Hollywood High School. His attitude towards dance eventually did a 180, wherein now dancing has become not only his profession but also his passion. The Emmy-nominated choreographer has racked up a resume peppered with dance and choreography projects including the “Step Up” film franchise, “So You Think You Can Dance” and most recently, “In the Heights.” He also began producing projects when he was an associate producer and choreographer of “The LXD: The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers” web series in 2010-11. He most recently helped produce the upcoming film, “Sneakerella,” a Cinderella story set in New York’s sneaker culture.
Scott is now in it for the long haul as he was tapped to co-choreographer the new Fox scripted series, “The Big Leap.” Created by Liz Heldens and directed by Jason Winer. The series spotlights a group of individuals who audition for a reality show that will bring those selected together to perform in a special number for the show’s finale.
Scott also brought on actress and dancer Comfort Fedoke as part of the choreography team and as a recurring character on the series.
During a recent evening, the dynamic duo shared their thoughts and their own big leap of faith in their life.
“The Big Leap” premieres on Fox Monday Sept. 20, at 9 p.m., 8 p.m. central.
Peterson Gonzaga: Tell us how did “The Big Leap” leap into your lap?
Christopher Scott: It’s one of those where my agents heard about this show coming out and asked if I was interested. I said, “Absolutely.” I read the pilot and this is, like, for me. This show is for me whether I get to choreograph it or not. It’s a show I get to watch on television that is for me.
I prepped and put a lot of thought into it. I went to a meeting with the creator, Liz Heldens, our director of the director of the pilot, Jason Winer and the (executive) producer Sue Naegle and when I got in that room, I tell you, the thing felt right. It wasn’t like every time you go in and pitch for a job. I felt the care from these people and I said to myself, “Now I have to be part of this because it felt special.” I felt these people were going to be the ones who would make this special. With dance, it’s sensitive because a lot of people want to make a show about dance, but it’s a culture. There’s a culture within the culture. There’s so many different dance cultures. It’s precious to us because it’s our lifestyle. So, you’re always curious on who is going to be in charge of it and accountable for it. It couldn’t be in better hands than those people.
Gonzaga: What was that one moment when you said to yourself, “I’ve got to get Comfort (Fedoke) on this show?”
Scott: I always picture Comfort in all the things I do. She’s one of those people who is such a one, a star on screen, and two, the energy that she brings to a creative process is invaluable. Once you have the privilege of working with her, you just want her around. You see her track record constantly working with the same people because they want her around. Let me make sure I grab her first before somebody else grabs her for this long haul.
For me, it was part of the amount of style she had in this show. If you know Comfort and her range in Hip Hop styles and the authenticity, she knows her stuff. She’s valuable to this show because we need that element to make sure any style we do is authentic. For example, there’s an element of vogue-ing in the show, and Comfort can vogue. She always downplays herself. She said, “There’s this guy Stanley Glover who we got to get involved who is from Chicago then I’ll train.” Sure enough, when I tell you, it looks like she’s been vogue-ing for years. But she always brings that authenticity with Stanley because she knows what she’s talking about. It’s always very important me. If’ we’re going to do a show about dance, we owe it to take care of the styles that it portrays. She’s very valuable to that.
Comfort Fedoke: Thank you, Chris. It means the world. I’ve known Chris from “So You Think You Can Dance,” and seeing his process in how he works and seeing how his brain works is so amazing to be a part of the process. We just carried on with that relationship up until now. I was absolutely floored when he asked me to be a part of this. I was working on something else and, honestly, I was like, “I won’t do that other job and I’ll do this,” because I was so sold on anything Chris does. With anything he does, it turns into gold. He understands dance, culture and collaboration, and how important it is. He understands the right amount of people to bring on the team because we have an incredible team he’s brought together with Lance and Danielle, who also are part of the co-choreographer team. When he asked me to be a part of it, couldn’t obviously say no.
We’re now learning so much more about each other as we go through this process because we literally live together in that sense every day. Also, (it was exciting) to be asked to be part of the cast only after coming on board as a choreographer because of his good grace. Liz and Jason asked me to part of the cast and wrote me in. I’m now on this new journey. I’m thankful for everyone.
Scott: How do we keep Comfort on camera? Let’s be real. We were all going, “Something’s not right. Oh, Comfort needs to be on camera,” and here we are.
Gonzaga: Chris, do you see her storyline being bigger and intertwined with the main cast members?
Scott: She doesn’t know her character dies in the next episode.
Fedoke: Yeah, ha-ha.
Scott: Oh wait. I’m not supposed to… No, no. I’m joking. I’m joking. What I love about this show is that the (producers) are dedicated to developing as many characters as they can because they really have a desire to. Liz, and her whole writing team and Jason, our executive producer, they really want to create a show that everyone can relate to. There are going to be people who will relate to Simone (Recasner, “Gabby”). There are going to be people who will relate to Scott Foley’s character (“Nick”). There are going to be people who relate to Comfort’s character. It’s really beautiful to see them put the time and care in as we go because the work is hard. There’s not a lot of time but there’s a lot of characters and that’s impressive.
Gonzaga: To have so many characters, the storyline could go so many different ways as the show goes on, couldn’t it?
Fedoke: Absolutely. There’s so many ways it can go. Everyone’s character as you see like (Jon Rudnitsky’s) “Mike” character. Like (Ser’Darius Blain’s) “Reggie” character as a football player. They set it up so perfectly that each episode is going to be like, “Oh, snap, we’re following someone. Oh, snap, this is happening. Oh, snap, they’re interconnected.” You’re always going to be on a ride and it will take you anywhere. Honestly, you’re just going to have to watch every episode to see who you get to follow next or who do you feel like you relate to in some type of way.
Scott: It’s really crazy because people ask me, “Once the finale happens…” They’re assuming the show ends after the finale of the group’s performance. “How do you go from there?” I’m like, “Where can’t you go from there?” It’s really about the creativity in these writing rooms. I got to be careful from spoiling everything. I go like, “Who thought of this? The writers.”
Gonzaga: Chris, you’ve been a choreographer on “So You Think You Can Dance” and you Comfort, you’ve actually been a contestant. Do you see this show emulates that in the process you both went through?
Scott: Absolutely, there are a lot of parallels. Somebody asked us if this show is a spoof of the show and Comfort answered beautifully that it feels like an homage, like a tribute to those shows that tell these beautiful stories of everyday people through dance. There’s always a way it connects to these dancers and I’m excited. With “So You Think You Can Dance” not happening this season with COVID and all, I’m really proud that Fox is continuing just the legacy of dance as it’s been such a big part of dance on national television. I’m glad it’s on this network. I think if you’re a fan of “So You Think You Can Dance,” you’re going to love this show.
Gonzaga: Comfort, you want to chime in?
Fedoke: It’s true. Like he said, it’s just one of those things where it is parallel in the connection of anyone who misses seeing and watching someone’s journey. The reason people love “So You Think You Can Dance” and the reason why I loved “So You Think You Can Dance” as a contestant and then as an All-Star and eventually as a choreographer on the show, is that people have got to follow a particular story along with anyone else’s dance show where it’s a group, a team and get to know a group of people and maybe one or two stand out.
On a show like this, you get to follow and really connect with their story, and see how it connects with you. You’ll be able to live vicariously through them and through the moments and maybe it will change your life because this person’s been through a lot. It’s just that all these stories, you get to find a way to relate to and that’s how “So You Think” made you feel and that’s how this show is going to make the world feel again because we miss that connection to an individual.
Gonzaga: With the storylines, do you think that the general public will like this show if they’re not a dance fan and see past that and see that this show is about the human spirit. It’s about taking second chances or taking that big leap?
Scott: One hundred percent. I keep finding a different connection to the characters within myself personally. I can connect to the whole show because of my life. But then again, I connect to other people’s relationships, like their parents. I then see the other story of this or that and I’m like, “Oh my God, that’s my life.” They really tapped into something. That’s the reality of the platform of dance. There are all types of people who dance. What I get a lot of times from people is, “Oh. I’m not a dancer,” and I’m like, “But are you though?” I feel like there’s a little dancer in all of us because it’s a way to express ourselves and have a voice. It’s a way to show we’re happy, when that song comes on. Everybody’s been at a wedding where you’ve danced. I think that person is what this show is all about. It’s not about the professional dancer, which is what’s so amazing. That would be hard to relate to. It’s about that person who goes to a wedding or that person who wakes up in the morning who drinks their coffee and has a little dance on the way out the door, and it’s the person driving who can’t sit still listening to the radio who has to dance.
Fedoke: It’s also about self-acceptance and about body positivity. It doesn’t matter what age you are. You don’t have to be young because you’re like, “Oh. I’m too old to dance.” You watch the show and you can take that away that you’re not too old to do anything and if you don’t want to put dance in that category, you can say, “I’m not too old to do anything I want or any dream that I’ve been putting myself towards. It has no boundaries.” The show gets to illustrate that.
Gonzaga: What was your first big leap and your second chance?
Fedoke: My first big leap was up and moving to Los Angeles from Dallas after auditioning for (“So You Think You Can Dance”) in Dallas. I had nothing to lose. Nothing ever comes to Dallas. Taking that step and getting on the show and wondering what do I do from here, and then taking the leap and moving to Los Angeles to see where my life takes me. The second chance happened in the midst of doing (the show). I got kicked off in the Top 12 and then got brought back for the next episode because unfortunately, someone got hurt. A got the chance to show something I wasn’t able to show (before) because I was getting down in the dumps and always at the bottom. Literally, I was always at the bottom and my spirit started getting taken away a little bit, and then, all of sudden, I got back on the show and made it all the way to Top 8, and then made it as one of the main persons for the tour. It helps me get a little change in my pocket so I was able to move to Los Angeles, which was my dream. Being able to say, “Don’t have any expectations. Always put your best foot forward because you never know what’s on the other side.” That’s what I did and here I am now in a show within a show from a show that I was on.
Scott: My big leap moment was like getting into dance. I was anti-dance when I was in high school. My mom moved me and my sister from Wheaton, Maryland to L.A. I went to Hollywood High School. They were like, “So what dance class do you want to take.” I was like, “I’m not taking dance.” And they were like, “Chris, it’s a performing arts magnet (school). You have to take dance.” I kept saying I’m not doing it, so they put me on a track team instead. I couldn’t compete. because I didn’t have my physical so I started ditching every day. Don’t do this, kids; stay in class. But, this was a very special circumstance.
I started going to play rehearsals because my sister’s boyfriend at the time was appearing in “West Side Story.” I started ditching with him because he was the coolest kid at school. I would sit there and watch. I started learning the dances and the songs, and then at a point, he said, “Chris. You should be in it.” I was like, “I’m not even in this class.” He brought me up to the teacher and said, “Can Chris be in it?”
And they were like, “Can you sing?” I was like, “I don’t know.” They said, “Try.” I sang “Happy Birthday.” Terrible. That was my big fail. They then said, “Do you know the dances?” I did a little bit of it. “Cool, you’re in the play.” I did it and I performed. They have a huge theater like 3,000 people, and it changed my life. Doing the performance at that point, I was like, “I’m going to do this for the rest of my life.” I can’t believe I was fighting it. I found out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I failed track, by the way.