It wasn’t long ago that audiences fell in love with Kherington Payne’s performances on the hit dance series, “So You Think You Can Dance.” After an upsetting vote off toward the end of season four, many fans couldn’t help but wonder what would come next for the bright young dancer.
So perhaps it’s fitting that her emergence on the big screen would come in the remake of the classic film “Fame” a story of hard work and big dreams. Set in a New York school for performing arts, the original 80s musical gave audiences an eyeful into the competitive world of theater, dance and music.
In finding out more about the film, Blast spoke with Payne on her experience on the set as well as the dancer’s decision to take up acting.
BLAST: How did you land this chance in working on the film? What was the process?
KHERINGTON PAYNE: Being on the show, “So You Think You Can Dance” the filmmakers saw me on the show. They wanted dancers to audition, a bunch of dancers actually. So I ended up going for it, got a callback, and a week later I got the part. So it was very cool seeing how “So You Think You Can Dance” can open doors for you.
BLAST: What was the difference for you going from each week of “So You Think You Can Dance” to the film set of “Fame?”
KP: They were both stressful difference experiences, but both very relateable working with these great choreographers and then to these great actors.
BLAST: And were you familiar with the original movie “Fame” before doing this project?
KP: I’m familiar with the movie, but not a die hard fan because I wasn’t born in the 80s. I definitely love it. I went back and did my research once I got the part.
KP: Yes, it was really fun playing Alice. She’s not completely stuck-up even though she’s very upper class. But it was easy playing her because her dreams and goals, the hard work she puts into dancing is exactly like mine.
BLAST: And what was it like working with the different cast members in the film because it’s very much divided between acting, singing, and dance? How was integrating your time with each of them, was the transition fluid?
KP: It was very fluid, and we worked off of each others talents. And to watch some of them sing was amazing because I can’t sing, it’s amazing. We’re all very supportive of each other. And worked off each other very well.
BLAST: It must seem surreal, like life reflecting art, considering “Fame” is about achieving your dreams, and you’re kind of at that place right now.
KP: Yeah it’s very surreal. And all of us are very much like our characters, and have the same dreams. And we (the cast) all have wanted to be these great dancers, singers, and actors. Our characters are very much the same way. And it’s very surreal for me that I’m in this position right because it’s exactly how I went through it.
BLAST: And amongst your cast members, who did you bond most with while filming? I know that not all the different talents’ storylines overlap.
KP: Yeah, you can’t film with everyone. It’s not a film about ten best friends. (laughs) You’re filming with certain people throughout the film. Most of my scenes are with (actor) Walter Perez (“Victor Taveras” in the film. And I got really close with him, and mainly because he’s my love interest in the film. We became really good friends, I spent most of my days on the set with him. But everyone else, we all got along well.
BLAST: With a lot of different high profile names like Debbie Allen, in the film, was there ever a moment where you felt starstruck?
KP: Starstruck for sure. And all these great actors in the film, we all aspire to be as great as them. They were approachable, and sweet and an honor to work with these people.
BLAST: What are your favorite moments in the film?
KP: I definitely think “Black and Gold” It’s a dance I perform in the film, it’s kind of Alice’s big senior dance number. And it was so much fun to work on and film. It’s a really entertaining moment in the film.
BLAST: You grew up in southern California, and California is known for arts and entertainment. Were you as competitive growing up as your character Alice?
KP: I grew up in Orange County. The competition (there) in the dance world, there are so many talented dancers. It’s kind of like a small community of dancers, and there’s so many studios. You grow up with these kids, going to the same competitions and it’s very competitive. So I can definitely relate to the characters in “Fame”, how competitive it was to get into that school.
BLAST: In the previews there have shown you doing different kinds of dance. What is your favorite kind of dance?
KP: On the film, I felt more connected as a Jazz dancer than a contemporary dancer. But my strong points are both contemporary and jazz. In the movie, I felt like I was more of a strong jazz dancer.
BLAST: This is the first time people will get to see you do some acting. It must be somewhat of a challenge since it’s still new for you.
KP: Dancing is like acting, but it’s on a whole different level. It was challenging for me, but it was a great learning experience for me. It made me realize I have this new passion for something.
BLAST: And so with acting, is that something you’re going to be doing more of?
KP: Definitely. I’m nowhere near where I want to be in my acting career, but it gave me a start. It opened my eyes to see what else is out there. I’m definitely going to be taking acting classes, and getting a coach then buckle down.
BLAST: Any particular area of acting you feel drawn to?
KP: Honestly, because this is so new to me, I want to try everything. And I haven’t found what works for me, or what my favorite (type) is right now. With genres, I don’t know, I like romantic comedies and actresses like Cameron Diaz and Reese Witherspoon. I love them.
BLAST: “Fame” is about big dreams, and there are a lot of people out there who will watch this movie and hope to be where you are right now. Any advice for them?
KP: Do not get discouraged, if this is something you really want to do whether it’s in the performing arts or not. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. You have to really work hard at it. If it’s your passion. You have to put the effort towards it, and hard work. It’ll better your chances in the future.
“Fame” is in theaters now. It and also stars Kay Panabaker, Walter Perez, Debbie Allen, Kelsey Grammer, Naturi Naughton, Anna Maria Perez de Tagle, Bebe Neuwirth, Charles S. Dutton, Asher Book, Collins Pennie and Megan Mullally.