On May 11, the cast of Sneakerella (along with Disney executives) attended the world premiere at Pier 17 in NYC.
The blue carpet arrivals included stars Chosen Jacobs who plays El, Lexi Underwood (Kira King), John Salley and more who celebrated the theme by walking the carpet in their favorite kicks.
The rooftop was transformed into a giant outdoor screening space with many Instagrammable photo opps along its perimeter. Next to the bar and food area was a 3-D photo fixture where guests could capture their “Sneakerella moment” in the air, showcasing their festive kicks, along with a graffiti wall and plenty of sneaker displays throughout, including the iconic kicks from the movie!
We spoke with Chosen Jacobs, Lexi Underwood, John Salley, Bryan Terrell Clark, and more about their role in the movie and their modern spin on the classic Cinderella story, Sneakerella.
This story is so much about confidence and going after what you’re passionate about. Can you tell me about a time you went after something and failed? How did you regain the confidence to keep going?
Bryan Terrell Clark: “This week! I was a part of probably one of the most important Broadway shows in my life, Thoughts of a Colored Man—we made history in the first show on Broadway with director, writer, producer, designers, and actors, all people of color. And we didn’t get one Tony nomination. And it was a moment where I had to look at myself and thank God for the village that was around me to say that the work itself in who we are is worthy and enough. And I think that that’s what [Sneakerella] tells us. You know, at the end of this, our protagonist, lets everybody know, be yourself. You know, all you have to do is be yourself and that’s enough. And so sometimes we’re shooting for the stars and we don’t feel recognized. We feel overlooked. But what’s important is not that you get the validation outside of yourself, what’s important is that you learn how to validate yourself from within. You have to be able to tell yourself that you’re worthy to tell yourself that you are enough.”
Tell me about your character and what your character embodies on screen.
Lexi Underwood: “The fact that for the first time in ever or quite a while, you get to see a princess who’s not a damsel in distress waiting for a man to rescue her. She knows what she wants, and it’s also that imagery of seeing a young black girl going out and setting after what she wants and not allowing anybody to distract her or to get her off the lane. That kind of imagery is really important, especially seeing her thrive in a space that women have oftentimes really been left out of when it comes to the sneaker industry. I feel really grateful for the fact that I was able to bring her to life and I’m really excited for young girls, especially to see the role because I think that it’s really inspiring. There’s some really beautiful messages.”
Chosen Jacobs: “I think it just reflects our world. You know, we have such a diverse world with so many different characters, and ideas and mindsets, and I think our film should reflect that. I’m just appreciative to be a part of such a beautiful story like Cinderella with our own spin and our own sauce.”
John Salley: “My character embodies black excellence and it shows power and it shows a concerned family and it shows a loving family. It shows a family that doesn’t believe in lack, doesn’t believe in second class. It believes in first class and believes respect. That’s an important thing.”
Kolton Stewart: I think in this movie, Zelly and Stacy play the evil step siblings, which, obviously in history have been the evil siblings. But I think we all did a really great job in this movie crafting these characters in a way that they don’t actually come across as super villains. I think they also have a bit of heart and they have their own goals and ambitions and maybe they get a bit blinded. They obviously do some things that are not great and they are the evil step siblings, but they also have a bit of heart as well and a lot of comedy. …When you read the script. It’s like, Zelly’s not a bad guy, he wants what he wants. He wants to go back to New Jersey. So it really was the proof in the pudding in that way. And then we worked really hard, me and Hayward as a team, and Director Liz and all of us really chatted a lot about making these roles with the perfect amount of evilness and also comedy and fun. Yeah, so it was a really great role. I’m really, really honored to play the role.”
Hayward Leach: “Stacy embodies ambition and perfectionism in all of us that can drive us to places that we didn’t intend to go. But if we had a good friend by our side, we would not end up [in those bad places]. But you know, can we fault him for just wanting something really, really bad? So yeah, Stacy is just somebody who’s trying to get back to his community in Jersey, trying to live his life, trying to not be in the streets of New York. [He’s saying] what is this place? I want my suburbs. I want my school, my friends. Yeah, I wish Stacy had a friend that said, New York City is big. You can find a lot of life here. It’s not that deep. You’re probably gonna go off to college in a couple of years anyways. But no, he’s driven. He’s gonna get what he wants.”
So, you’ve just finished an amazing run on Broadway, what has the transition to TV/film been like for you?
Bryan Terrell Clark: “It’s interesting. I’m a little bit of a theater baby and a television and film baby. I remember growing up, bouncing in front of television, so I think TV was my first love. But I’m a theater baby to my core. So Motown the Musical was my first show in 2012. And now we’re doing way more TV and film. What’s great about doing something for Disney, and a piece like this is that it’s a little bit of a hybrid. I’m a Broadway baby, but I don’t really sing a lot in this, maybe in part two. But I do feel like the musical element of it, the fairytale element of it is perfect for a Broadway actor to transition into a piece like this.”
And what about this Cinderella story makes it perfect for this generation? We’ve heard the classic Cinderella story many times.
Bryan Terrell Clark: “We have heard the Cinderella story, but I think that’s why it’s time to change the storytellers. I work with this amazing company called Real Works. And they’re a nonprofit here in New York City, working with young people to tell their stories and their slogan is when you change the storytellers, you change the world. And I think what’s different about watching Sneakerella is you’re watching it being told through a different lens. The moment you change these genders, the moment you make these people of color, we bring with us a history and a story that cannot be told any other way but by us and so I’m excited that on Friday, my little niece is going to get to see a princess that’s not begging for you know, the prince’s attention, but has agency and is fly, and if anything, she can offer something to her potential friends you know… It’s watching an empowered young woman of color. That’s what I’m excited for my niece to see. And that’s why I’m excited to be a part of something like this.”
Director Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum: “Well for me, I grew up on Cinderella and I love it. But the fact is the character was passive and there was a fairy godmother who, like, waved her wand and suddenly she had a cool dress and a prince. And in our case, because I feel like it’s a chance to create something new for the next generation, we kind of turn that on its head a bit. And it’s really about finding it from within and being proactive and trusting your creative instincts and really getting up the guts to pursue your dreams.”
The original movie Sneakerella launches May 13, exclusively on Disney+.