DWTS Alum Stepping Into Naya Rivera’s Role on ‘Step Up’

Actress Naya Rivera poses for a portrait session at the 2013 Giffoni Film Festival

Getty Actress Naya Rivera poses for a portrait session at the 2013 Giffoni Film Festival

Starz announced this spring that Grammy-nominated actress/singer Christina Milian has been cast to take over the role originated by the late Naya Rivera on their dance drama Step Up, a re-imagining of the series based on the film franchise of the same name.

Here is what Milian said about taking over for the young woman whose life was tragically lost last summer.

Milian Knows She Has ‘Massive Shoes’ To Fill

In a press release from Starz announcing Milian’s casting, the dancer, who competed on Dancing With the Stars season 17 alongside her professional partner Mark Ballas, said that she hopes to honor the late star and that she knows she’s stepping into “massive shoes” that Rivera left behind.

“I am so excited to join the Step Up family,” said Milian. “I know I have massive shoes to fill. Naya was incredible. I hope to honor Naya, her family, friends and fans with a great performance.”

In the world of the Step Up TV show, which originated on YouTube and was later picked up by Starz, Rivera played Collette, a woman who helped Sage Odom (Ne-Yo) build Atlanta’s High Water Performing Art School from the ground up. When the news of Milian’s casting was announced, Ne-Yo said that there is “no replacing Naya” but he’s ready to embrace Milian.

“There is no replacing Naya. Let’s get that straight. Her spirit lives on in our memories and every part of what this show is and will be,” said Ne-Yo. “Christina has big shoes to fill and she knows it, which speaks to her poise and respect as a person and an artist. I’m more than certain of her ability to bring an energy and light to this character that Naya’s fans as well as the rest of the world will love. We’ve welcomed Christina with absolute open arms and have rallied around her with love and support. I’m excited and can’t wait for the world to see this!”

The ‘Step Up’ Creator Said That The Show Will ‘Never Stop Mourning’ Rivera

Rivera died in July 2020 after she saved her four-year-old son during a boating excursion. He was found alone on the pontoon boat they had rented earlier that day. Her body was recovered five days later. On January 12, Rivera would have turned 34 years old. Her Glee co-star and Milian’s Dancing With the Stars co-competitor honored her late friend with an Instagram tribute on her “heavenly birthday,” writing, “I miss you so very much and I wish you were here. There hasn’t been a day where you don’t cross my mind, and when you do, I take a moment of silence to remember all the beautiful moments we got to spend together.”

Creator and executive producer Holly Sorensen said in a statement that the cast and crew of Step Up will “never stop mourning” Rivera.

“Naya’s death was a terrible loss to our world that we will, frankly, never stop mourning. It was almost impossible to consider there could be someone so graceful and loving who could both help us honor our loss, while also bringing a deep reservoir of talent to our show, in so many areas. Christina is an exceptional human and a dazzling performer and we are so happy she has joined our family,” said Sorensen.

Before Milian can begin filming, however, she’ll be busy welcoming baby No. 2. She recently revealed to her fans via an Instagram post that she is pregnant. Milian and partner M. Pokora, a French singer, welcomed their son Isaiah in January 2020.

The first two seasons of Step Up will begin airing across all Starz platforms in March. There is no premiere date for season three as of yet.

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