Jamilah Bishop (Megalyn Echikunwoke) seems to excel at everything: She’s president of her sorority, captain of the step dance crew, liaison to the college dean and a star student who is on her way to Harvard Law School.
But when Jamilah is asked to teach a misbehaving, mostly white sorority how to step, success seems impossible. Without telling her own sorority sisters, Jamilah begins training rivals Sigma Beta Beta (SBB) for the “Steptacular” competitive dance competition.
The film stars Megalyn Echikunwoke, Matt McGorry, Naturi Naughton, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Marque Richardson, Eden Sher, Lyndon Smith, Gage Golightly, Nia Jervier and Alessandra Torresani.
Directed by Charles Stone III (Drumline, Paid in Full) and written by Chuck Hayward (Dear White People), who also serves as an executive producer, Step Sisters is produced by Emmy Award® winner Lena Waithe (“Master of None”), Ben Cory Jones (“Insecure”) and Matt Alvarez (Straight Outta Compton). Jeffrey Soros and Simon Horsman also serve as producers, and Patrick Murray and Josh Reinhold are executive producers on the film.
The Knockturnal: So congrats on the movie by the way! I actually loved it; it’s one of my favorites. Seriously though, it’s kinda crazy because although it’s different because it’s light and comical, yet it does touch on really heavy topics and one being cultural appropriation. I just wanted to know, how do you keep the balance Chuck, this is mostly for you, between fun and then bringing up these sensitive topics?
Chuck Hayward: Right, well I think comedy is the best way to bring up any difficult topic because once people laugh, their walls are broken down a little bit and they’re more apt to hear another point of view because they’re already disarmed and it just allows us to be in closer proximity. The same way Bring it On brought up race issues but in a really fun and light way but you walk away from it being like, oh I didn’t know that was going on and it’s starting conversations, that’s what we wanted from this movie.
The Knockturnal: Being biracial would you say that it was easier to understand the inner struggle your character was going through with not being “black enough?”
Megalyn Echikunwoke: Absolutely, yeah I definitely identified with the character in that way and that was one of the things that drew me to the character and made me so excited to be able to explore those things because I feel like people try to simplify, people often try to simplify this sort of racial identity and feel like you have to choose an identity in order to be, to match the color of your skin or something like that and for me it’s been a journey trying to find my own identity, still be black but still be mixed and am I black enough, what does black mean if I’m not black, who’s black, I don’t know, I’m just me!
The Knockturnal: In this movie, you guys were actually able to unite two very different groups of people through stepping, how did you guys choose stepping to be this glue?
Chuck Hayward: It was something that I experienced in college. I’m an Alpha so I stepped in college and I was just messing around on the internet, procrastinating from writing one day and I saw the white sorority had actually won a regional step show and then I started looking for other stuff online and I saw a lot of examples of black fraternities and sororities teaching white organizations to stroll to step and it was seen as like a cultural exchange. It was seen as something that brought together two groups that never really have any interaction with each other and I think that’s, especially these days is something that we need a little bit more of because it sort of highlights that we have as many similarities as we do differences.
The Knockturnal: Were you actually stepping in the movie?
Megalyn Echikunwoke: Yeah, absolutely! Did all my own stepping, I did all my own stepping!
The Knockturnal: So how long did it take you to actually learn all that choreography?
Megalyn Echikunwoke: A couple of weeks. We had a really great choreographer who customized all the dances and all the routines for us and luckily everyone sort of knew how to dance which is interesting because no one asked any of us if we knew how to dance or if we had a dance background. They casted actors to act and then hoped they could dance and I think just lucked out. I mean, and I think it’s important to do that and it doesn’t always happen where sometimes they would cast dancers and try to get them to act which I think is very uh bad move, would’ve been a really bad move so we just got lucky.