Starz’s Step Up TV series is moving forward following last year’s tragic passing of its leading lady Naya Rivera.
The Lionsgate TV production, after consulting with the family of its late star, has enlisted Christina Milian to replace Rivera in the scripted series. The Soundtrack and The Oath alum will take over the part of Collette, previously played by Rivera in the first two seasons of the YouTube-turned-Starz update on the feature film of the same name.
“Naya’s death was a terrible loss to our world that we will, frankly, never stop mourning,” Step Up series creator and executive producer Holly Sorensen said in a statement Monday. “It was almost impossible to consider there could be someone so graceful and loving who could both help us honor our loss, while also bringing a deep reservoir of talent to our show, in so many areas. Christina is an exceptional human and a dazzling performer and we are so happy she has joined our family.”
Sources say executives at Starz, Lionsgate and producers on Step Up considered all their options when it came to ways with which the series could move forward following Rivera’s tragic death last summer. The Glee favorite drowned in a tragic accident in July after going boating with her young son in Lake Piru. Considering the highly serialized nature of Step Up, a decision was made — along with the cast, producers and Naya’s family — to recast her role.
Created by Sorensen and inspired by the film of the same name, Step Up moved from YouTube to Starz in May. The series revolves around on Sage Odom (Ne-Yo) as the legendary founder of Atlanta’s famed High Water Performing Art School. Collette (Milian) is the Queen of High Water and Sage Odom’s partner in art, business and love. Collette built and nurtured Sage’s visionary academy from the ground up. Grinding her way to the top with grit and resourcefulness, Collette earned a new role, manager of Sage Odom and his tour, all this while hiding a dark secret. As this secret comes crashing down on Sage, High Water, and the tour, Collette is tempted by an opportunity to step out of her role as the woman behind the man, to become the powerful woman in front of the man.
“There is no replacing Naya. Let’s get that straight. Her spirit lives on in our memories and every part of what this show is and will be,” said Ne-Yo. “Christina has big shoes to fill and she knows it, which speaks to her poise and respect as a person and an artist. I’m more than certain of her ability to bring an energy and light to this character that Naya’s fans as well as the rest of the world will love. We’ve welcomed Christina with absolute open arms and have rallied around her with love and support. I’m excited and can’t wait for the world to see this!”
Production on the new season began filming this month in Atlanta. Starz will marathon the first two seasons starting March 5. Tricia Helfer joins the cast in season three alongside Petrice Jones, Faizon Love, Marcus Mitchell, Jade Chynoweth, Carlito Olivero, Terrence Green, Eric Graise and Kendra Oyesanya. Adam Shankman and Jennifer Gibgot, who produced the original Step Up films, will return as exec producers alongside original stars Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan. Erik Feig, the Lionsgate executive who oversaw the franchise, also exec produces alongside Bill Brown.
“Step Up has been an indelible part of mine and my partner, Jennifer Gibgot’s life for 16 years and never did we think we would feel so much loss as we have with Naya’s passing,” said Shankman. “But speaking as her friend, colleague and forever fan, nothing makes us happier then being able to celebrate the continuation of this story with the extraordinary Christina Milian and the brilliant, boundary pushing team at Starz. We promise not to disappoint.”
Milian’s credits include Love Don’t Cost a Thing, Ghosts of Girlfriends Pasdt, Bring It On: Fight to the Finish, Snowglobe, Grandfathered and Fox’s take on The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Next up, she stars in an untitled Netflix feature from Alicia Keyes. The singer-songwriter has also earned two Grammy nominations during her career. She’s repped by UTA, LINK Entertainment and Goodman Genow.
“I am so excited to join the Step Up family,” said Milian. “I know I have massive shoes to fill. Naya was incredible. I hope to honor Naya, her family, friends and fans with a great performance.”
This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter.