Alyson Stoner: “This Industry Can Be A Bit Of A Monster”

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Alyson Stoner is well-known for her roles on Disney’s Camp Rock, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, the Step Up franchise, and Cheaper By The Dozen. The talented actress, hip-hop dancer, and singer-songwriter is set to unveil her new music video, “Dragon (That’s What You Wanted)” on Friday, September 13th!

Celebrity Teen Scoop recently chatted with the Step Up actress about the music video and what sparked her interest in acting and hip-hop dancing. The self-proclaimed “introvert” also revealed that she’d love to one day recreate a Ryan Gosling and The Notebook type of love story!

CTS: Tell us about your new single, ‘Dragon (That’s What You Wanted.’ What is the inspiration behind the song?

Alyson: “Dragon is the first original single that I’ve made a music video for and will perform at live concerts. It reinvents the 90’s, which is an era I absolutely love. It has a Janet Jackson flavor and there is also a house dance element to it. As a dance choreographer, I wanted to infuse some of those qualities so I could move on stage. The lyricism is also very strong and empowering. In seven years of recording, I’ve never been so stoked about a song that I’ve been a part of. I am so excited to share it with the world! The video comes out Friday, September 13th, and the song is going to hit iTunes approximately 10 days later.

In regard to the inspiration behind the song, we were all bouncing ideas back and forth in the studio. There were three other song writers who accidentally showed up, and I didn’t know we were going to have a room full of writers. We were all looking for a common thread, and they had all just experienced a breakup where either the guy or the girl was giving them an ultimatum. All of the songwriters said, ‘Fine, I will take this space that you’re threatening me with and actually keep moving.’ At the time, I didn’t yet relate to that, but then it actually ended up happening to me almost a week later. In that sense, the song ended up becoming a sort of anthem for doing what is best for you. The concept of ‘Dragon’ is the strong female character that isn’t afraid to take the stage and move on with her life and handle business, which is who I am in a way.”

CTS: Tell us about the song’s music video! What was your favorite part about filming the music video?

Alyson: “The music video is great and features Hector David Jr., who’s known on East Los High and as the green Power Ranger. He’s my love interest, or lack thereof, in the music video. The video is produced by David Lehre, who did the cover remix I did of Bieber’s ‘Boyfriend.’

The music video has a really neat stage with three different setups. It features the whole ‘cat and mouse theme, where he tries to chase me and win me back and I disappear. There is the mystery and the allure. We also have this awesome dance setup featuring the best of the best b-boys from around the world. I had people from LXD (the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers) and different Step Up movies. They are the highest of the highest caliber of dancers. I am so fortunate to have had the chance to work with them.

In the video, there’s the setup where I finally come into my own skin, let loose, and let go. It’s choreographed by Sho-Tyme, who worked with Janet Jackson, TLC, and Mary J. Blige, and he also choreographed the Jay Z tour. He is also the So You Think You Can Dance Canada go-to hip-hop choreographer. We had top-notch, talented people. The music video is explosive and entertaining from start to finish.

My favorite part about filming the music video was the set. Someone said that the atmosphere and energy was so positive and collaborative. Every person was there for a purpose and was willing and open-minded to explore different and creative outlets with dance. When we did our free-style section, we had people exploring moves they had never done in their lives. We had people doing tricks and flips they had never even tried. It was so supportive, positive, and enthusiastic. There was no judgment, no comparison, and, for me, it was a testament to the growing confidence and belief in myself that I’ve been developing over the last several years. I finally decided that yes, I am the artist and I can handle this position. It ws time time for me to step into that area…it was really validating for me in that aspect.”

CTS: Who are your greatest musical inspirations? 

Janet Jackson, above all, and the nineties in general. I love India.Arie, and if Paula Abdul was trained in hip-hop as opposed to modern, some of the funk elements that I bring into my music are from her. I also can’t get over slap bass; I love live funk music and tribal music as well.” 

CTS: You were the star of Disney’s Camp Rock movie. What was that experience like?

“Obviously, looking back now, I am forever thankful for what Disney’s Camp Rock gave me the opportunity to do. I got to go on tour with the Jonas Brothers and met a lot of different people. It was really fun. At the time, the kids in the movie didn’t have a particularly large resume. Demi Lovato was relatively unknown at the time, and it was such a great camp-like experience for a bunch of acting kids. We really enjoyed ourselves and looking back, I have a lot of positive memories.” 

CTS: How did you get your start in acting?

“I started dancing first. I was three years old in Toledo, Ohio, and at age seven I attended the IMTA Convention in New York City and competed in various competitions. Somehow, I unexpectedly ended up being successful, and they recommended that I try it out in Los Angeles for nine months a year. Thankfully, my mom was willing. Once we flew out to L.A., I started booking things right away. We had to make the decision on whether or not we would stay, and we decided to stay. I continued auditioning and I guess the rest is history. I am here now and I’m not going anywhere.”

CTS: Which actors and actresses would you like to work with the most?

“I would love to work with Meryl Streep, of course, and Denzel Washington. I am a huge Joseph Gordon-Levitt fan, and I also really admire Anne Hathaway and respect Natalie Portman for being so educated and informed as a human being as well as an actress. It would also be neat to recreate a Ryan Gosling and The Notebook type of love story that touches my generation. I am not sure who that person is yet, but we’re going to find him and I’m going to write the script.”

CTS: You starred in many of Missy Elliott’s renowned music videos. Do you still get recognized for this?

“Yes, I was actually just recognized for this yesterday. I was at Sports Authority and the guy working said to me, ‘Don’t you dance?’ He didn’t recognize me from Step Up; he recognized me from Missy Elliot’s music videos. I always get so surprised and taken aback when people recognize me from the videos. Well, I guess my face hasn’t changed much. [laughs] Just like Disney, Missy elevated that level of opportunity and the platform in which I could reach people. I was just talking yesterday about trying to collaborate with Missy for my music, as a way to say ‘thank you’ and bring back what we created ten years ago.

The VMA’s just happened several weeks ago, and I remembered that I was there exactly ten years ago, on-stage with Missy Elliott when she accepted her award for Video of the Year. The funny thing is that I almost didn’t go to the audition, because my sister had a dance convention and my other sister had a basketball tournament. My mom said, ‘We’ve been on enough auditions, Alyson, don’t worry about it. We’ll skip this one.’ Then something in us said, ‘Nah, we can go.’ It was great!

A lot of people asked me if Missy was looking for a token ‘white girl dancer’ for her video, because I obviously stood out because of that. However, this is not the case. In the audition, there were hundreds of kids of all races, sizes, and levels of training. It just so happens that we were who they casted. I am so thankful that they took a chance on me.”

CTSWhat sparked your interest in hip-hop dancing?

“Sho-Tyme, my choreographer, is also my dance mentor. He comes from street dancing in New York, and he knows all about house dancing and what used to happen in the clubs on the dance floor. It’s amazing how he understands music and how it sits in his body, under the skin. He dances from the inside out. There is such a power and passion in his eyes and in every bone. I am continually inspired and have been training under him for two years. We go to the gym from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. to just listen and let the music take over. That’s what dance is in general. Hip hop has been my specialty because it is the genre I’ve focused on. I am currently diversifying myself by taking popping classes, locking classes, house classes, as well as just experimenting with the art of dance because it is so beautiful transformative and healing for me.”

CTS: What do you like to do for fun, when you aren’t performing, writing songs, or acting?

“I am in college studying neuroscience, and I actually really love learning; it’s so fascinating! I am such a nerd and love anything that involves reading. I also love traveling and I get to go to Japan in a couple of days just to experience different cultures and learn about people. I’ve never been, so I’m very excited for that. For the most part, because I am so busy, I have learned the value of just being at home in the off time and catching up with friends. I have the same friends that I’ve had since I was nine and ten years old and first moved out here. They are so special and important to me. They are also in college and whenever they are back home, it’s all about getting together and vibing out. It’s so nice and relaxing. I am an introvert, so I don’t need much.”

CTS: What advice do you have for young people thinking of getting into the entertainment industry? 

Alyson: “Don’t! Just kidding. [laughs] First, check your motives. If you are attracted to the glittery and shiny things, know that the fame is not guaranteed and the fortune is surely not guaranteed. Make sure your passion is pure and that you have a strong sense of your identity, because plenty of people will try to redefine you as you audition for different characters and are pressured to step outside of your comfort zone for different roles and meetings.

I would say, continue training and building your craft in your own process. It is not a standard one-way ticket from A to B for everyone. I’ve never taken an acting class, and, yet, I’m able to work because I do my other forms of training. I know I sound like a cautious mother, but just be very careful. I feel like that’s the better route, because this industry can be a bit of a monster that’s very extreme. It’s also so worthwhile when you get to do what you love. Be willing to work very hard!”

CTS: What is up next for you?

Alyson: “I have four films, two shows, a music video, and a video game. The first film, Hoovey, is a family drama by Echo Life Studios that features Cody Linley, Lauren Holly from Dumb and Dumber, and Patrick Warburton from Seinfeld. It’s a family movie about basketball. The second film is The A List, which is an independent comedy that is kind of like a more endearing Mean Girls, It also features Hudson Thames, who was on Malibu Country. I am not sure when that is coming out, but hopefully soon. I play Lacey, who is an over-spiritual and comical high school student.

The third movie is Super Buddies, and I am voicing the character of a horse, which I have never done before. It is the next installment of the Air Bud franchise, and I believe that comes out in a week or two. The fourth film is Step Up 5, which I am actually signing the contact for today! I am heading back to reprise my role of Camille.

The two shows I am working on are animated. I am doing Disney Channels’ Phineas and Ferb, which I have been doing for seven and a half years, and now I am on Nickelodeon’s Legend of Korra.

The music video comes out September 13th, and I am not allowed to talk about the video game, because it is a surprise.”

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