After building a career off romantic hits like “Closer” and “Sexy Love,” Ne-Yo is channeling a guy with no heart. The singer, 36, is playing the Tin Man in NBC’s live remake of The Wiz, airing Dec. 3 and co-starring Mary J. Blige and Queen Latifah.
How is this remake different from the classic 1978 film version?
It’s a hybrid of the Broadway play and the movie. It’s not based in the ’70s; it’s based in 2015. That has been everybody’s challenge, above the dancing, the singing, the lines: getting into who these characters would be in 2015. Today’s Tin Man is heartfelt, but he wouldn’t be soft. Today’s Dorothy would be sassy. Our hope is you’ll look at it as something completely new.
The remake features a new song you wrote. What can you say about it?
The name of the song is “We Got It.” It’s one of the only songs all four friends [Dorothy, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow] sing together. The feeling of it is us being right at the door of having our dreams come true; it rallies the troops and makes everyone realize we can do this if we do it together.
Director Kenny Leon reportedly makes actors do push-ups when they mess up. Have you had to do any?
Oh, yeah. (Laughs.) My issue when we started rehearsals was just getting there on time. I was late, walked in the room, and it was just, “Hit the floor. Getcha 10 on.” But the cool thing is when someone messes up, he makes everybody do push-ups. If one person f—ed up, we all f—ed up. You can do nothing but respect that.