Hot bodies, sports and scandal- the three perfect ingredients that have made VH1’s “Hit The Floor” a primetime winner. The new original series follows Ahsha Hayes (Taylor Paige) who joins the red-hot Devil Girls cheerleading team, and is quickly thrown into a world filled with treachery and temptation. Ahsha makes an enemy in the Devil Girls team leader Jelena (Taylor Browning), who refuses to share the spotlight with the newbie dancer. Kimberly Elise plays Sloan Hayes, Ahsha’s mom and a former Devil Girls herself, who worries her daughter is getting in way over her head.
The Urban Daily caught up with series creator James LaRosa to find out what makes “Hit The Floor” such a success, his support for Black women’s natural hair and what’s in store for the season finale.
Congrats on “Hit The Floor” being renewed for a second season. How does it feel?
I’m thrilled! We’re like one big happy family, so I knew it was great news for all of us and we got together to celebrate. I love telling these twisted tales and now I have another season to get wild and perverted.
TV critics have said the show has a lot of nighttime soap elements of “Dallas” or “Dynasty.” We’re witnessing a resurgence of primetime soaps with shows like “Hit The Floor” and “Scandal.” Why do you think that is?
I think primetime soaps in the 80’s were like fashion, they were the “in” thing during their day, but when you think of shows like “Dallas” now, you think they’re corny. Now we’re in the age to create a more contemporary version. I mean if you tried to recreate “Dynasty” from the 80’s it would be corny and weird. But to be able to do a VH1 version of “Melrose Place” and place it in the world of sports with epic dance sequences in every episode is just great!
Every episode of Hit The Floor has been directed by a woman. Was that a specific agenda you set out to achieve or was it just a coincidence?
I think it was a mixture of both. I would never go to only one type of person to do a job- the person most qualified should get it. We happened to hire a female director for the pilot and it was an education for me in how different the atmosphere was with a woman director as opposed to a man. Especially with a show like this where one could exploit these women, but having a female director gave a lot of freedom to our cast to do the kind of sexy they were comfortable with. I can guarantee we will have male directors for our second season but we’ve really benefited from having these female directors getting the show off the ground.
All of the Devil Girls, including two of the female leads, Paige Taylor (Ahsha) and Logan Browning (Jelena) are trained dancers. Some cheerleader movies like “Bring It On” tend to use dance doubles – was that something you wanted to avoid?
There are no dance doubles on our show. All of the dancers featured are dancers and all the ball players are ball players. You can tell when you’re watching a dance sequence and suddenly you spot a dance double, some guy in a wig. Our audition process is brutal – we auditioned hundreds of dancers and they had to be able to dance and look the part. Taylor trained with Debbie Allen since she was 10, Kat Bailess (Kyle) has danced on Broadway and it helps in the performances because we don’t have to say “Ok we’ve done this scene with the actors, now let’s bring out the dancers.”
One of your characters, Kyle is a former stripper turned Devil Girl. Quite a few strippers have defended their profession saying that their routines are just as rigorous as a choreographed dance routine. Do you agree or disagree? And would you ever consider casting an actual stripper if they wanted to audition for your show?
Well I can’t really answer that as I am not a pole dancer myself. That’s not to say that I would ever turn that down as a career choice (laughs). I do know that we will be featuring a little bit of the pole on our show and one of the actresses took a class and said “Holy Sh*t! This is a workout.”
Would I ever audition a stripper for the show? All I can say is that the dancers we see, need to know it all. If they are able to dance ballet and contemporary, I’d be open to it.
Kimberly Elise is known to audiences for her more intense roles on the big screen. Can you tell us how she came to be attached to this project?
Kim is someone who would never need to audition for me, she is a force of nature. She’s actually the very first person we cast for “Hit The Floor.” When you hear what the show is about you can have preconceived notions – young girls doing dumb things. But I knew our show was so much more complicated than that. Kim is someone who has so many crayons in her coloring box, she can do it all. So having someone with her talent was sending a message to everyone was “Bring your best.” Everyone we cast afterwards, the requirement was “Can this person go toe to toe with Kim in a scene?” She’s not just a mom on the show, she’s getting her swerve on with Dean Cain!
What was Kimberly’s reaction when she found out she’d have to share some steamy love scenes with Dean?
They are very professional and will do everything within their power to make it look at real as possible. For the past five episodes they’ve been watching everyone else hook up, so when it was their turn they were like ‘We are not going to be the forty-something couple that just looks into each other’s eyes and the camera pans away.” Twitter exploded when their sex scene in the “Lights Out’ episode aired. I mean everyone dreams of having sex with Superman!
It’s great to see a Black actress with natural hair on primetime television who is as sexy and vibrant as Sloan. Was there ever a discussion on how Kimberly should style her hair for the show?
It’s funny how it evolved but I know Kim didn’t want to do the weave, she wanted to do something more realistic. There was never a meeting about “Oh what should we do about Kimberly’s hair?” It really sucks that it’s this revolutionary thing about Black women’s natural hair. I mean that’s Kim’s hair, that’s how it grows out of her head!
The Dream and Akon have guest starred on your show. Who elso do you have on your celebrity wish-list?
I would love to have Beyonce or Rihanna on the show. I’m all about divas, so getting strong women on the show. Janet Jackson would be another choice. Just having that bad ass chick coming on the show.
Jenji Kohan, creator of the new Netflix series “Orange Is The New Black” stated in an interview that if she had cast a Black or Latina actress in the lead role, the show would have been harder to sell. Since you have three Black actresses in lead roles of ‘Hit The Floor’ do you agree or disagree with her statement?
I think her show is a different animal. If you’re putting a Black actress in the lead role that’s one thing, but when it’s set in a prison that adds a whole other level. I will say that VH1 is a network that’s representative of the real world, and the real world has black folk. The audience wants to see themselves represented. This isn’t a White show or a Black show, it’s just a real life show.
What can we expect in the next two episodes of Hit The Floor?
You can expect the kitchen sink. I wrote the final two episodes and they’re Part One and Part Two of our final shebang. We’re not “Lost” – we don’t ask a hundred questions and only answer one of them. Everything will be answered by the season finale. There’s something in tonight’s episode that I’ve never seen before and it’s pretty racy. You will learn a lot about certain characters like Kyle. We have experienced a mega-bitch in Jelena and you’re gonna see another side to her that ‘s just fabulous. If you love cliffhangers, the final moments of our season finale will leave you saying “WHAT?” It’s gorgeous people doing shady sh*t with a hot dance number thrown in, so how can you say no?
You can follow James LaRosa on Twitter: @jameslarosa
“Hit The Floor” airs Monday nights on Vh1 9PM EST
Visit the show’s homepage HERE
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