Kendra Oyesanya, Marcus Mitchell, and Carlito Olivero (courtesy YouTube/Lionsgate)

The "Step Up: High Water" Cast Dishes on Set Life, Audition Advice, and More

Happy "Step Up: High Water" eve, y'all! Everyone's favorite internet dance show makes its triumphant Season 2 return tomorrow, March 20th, on YouTube. In anticipation of the premiere, we turned to Kendra Oyesanya (Poppy), Marcus Mitchell (Dondre), and Carlito Olivero (Davis) for the scoop on all things "Step Up"—from on-set shenanigans, to embarrassing stories, to scenes to watch out for this season (hint: Episode 2's dance battle, and the season finale's final number!).

Kendra Oyesanya


Dance Spirit: What's the energy like on set?

Kendra Oyesanya: It's always so amazing. It's the best job I've ever been on. Everyone cares about your well-being, because we're all acting and dancing—there's a lot going on. They make sure you stay hydrated, happy, and positive.

DS: What's it like to play Poppy?

KO: Poppy is fiery and sassy, so getting into character was a little harder for me the first season. But I know her now and I can just tap into it. This season, she's on a mission to prove to everyone that dancing isn't just a hobby—she's good enough and she knows it.

DS: What's the coolest part about being on the show?

KO: It's a completely new take compared to the movies. The concept is the same, but the drama and energy are totally different, so it's like being part of something all its own. There's also so much culture in Atlanta, where we shoot, and that definitely translates on the show.

DS: What advice do you have for people trying to break into the L.A. industry?

KO: You need to be fully, truly yourself. In order to do that, you have to believe in yourself. Pretty much everyone who moves to L.A. is talented. So you have to ask yourself, "What makes me different? What do I bring to the table?" Find your inner "thing," so that when you walk into a room, it captures the attention of the directors, the choreographers. It will get you far. And just try to be chill, cool, and easy to work with—that's what gets you jobs.

Marcus Mitchell


Dance Spirit: What's the energy like on set?

Marcus Mitchell: It's nonstop fun. I've known a lot of the cast members for years, including Carlito and Kendra, so we're all really comfortable together. We're constantly pranking each other, laughing, making jokes. It feels like home, not like we're at work. Not to mention, the directors, producers, and everyone behind the scenes all work so hard to make it a warm atmosphere.

DS: What's it like to play Dondre?

MM: He's the big brother of the show. He sort of represents a mirror in that he shows each character what they need to see in themselves for confidence, because he sees that in each of them and helps them realize it. He can do this because he stays true to himself. I was happy to get back into character for Season 2. Dondre goes through a period of self-doubt this season, which was an interesting new aspect. When you're acting, you think about stripping or adding humanity to your character. Dondre has lots of humanity thanks to his family and friends, but Season 2 presents him with lots of conflict—he has to do things he doesn't want to do, because it'll help his loved ones in the end. He has to go against his own beliefs and wants. It's really great to watch his character expand.

DS: What was it like working with all the different choreographers this season?

MM: It was amazing. I've followed Travis Wall since I was 19 and just starting out in the industry. I watched JaQuel become the JaQuel Knight, and Luther Brown has always been someone I've wanted to work with. When he showed up on set, it was like, "Finally! This is happening!" I love his movement, how he hears music, and especially how he treats dancers. A big takeaway for me was that it was the first time he saw me truly dance. His choreo is so intricate, and requires total concentration. His presence this season really filled me up as an artist.

DS: What advice do you have for people trying to break into the L.A. industry?

MM: If you don't love it, don't do it. You're going to hear "no" way more than "yes" in this industry. You have to fall in love with auditioning because then it doesn't feel like work. If it feels like a job, then you're in the wrong business. I've had many of those moments, but I just remind myself that I could be doing something I don't like. When you finally do get the job, adjust yourself in a way where, if you're the lead or in the back, you treat everyone the same—with respect. Nobody is less than you, and everyone is important. There is no show without them, don't forget that. Be grateful and remember that you can lose the job just as easily as you got it.

Carlito Olivero


Dance Spirit: What's the energy like on set?

Carlito Olivero: Everyone is dancing all the time, even when we don't have any dance scenes! We're dancing at lunch, we're dancing in the trailer, we're doing dance battles between takes. And if we're not dancing, then you better believe we're watching dance videos. That and pranking each other, of course.

DS: What's the most embarrassing thing that's happened to you on set?

CO: Season 1, Episode 1 had tons of dancing. We ran it all day, and finally made it to the last dance scene. It was super intense, with lots of jumping. We did eight different takes, and I ended up passing out and—BOOM—hit the floor!

DS: What's it like to play Davis?

CO: It's tough because his role is very emotional. He's always dealing with some tough stuff, always coasting through life while getting dealt back-to-back bad events, and because he's used to it, he just wears a smile on his face. You have to be emotionally on to play him. But this season, he finally gets his way—so stay tuned for that!

DS: What advice do you have for people trying to break into the L.A. industry?

CO: First of all, take acting classes. Trust me, even if you think you're fine without them, I can promise you you're not—if I had a nickel for everyone who told me they thought this, I'd have, like, $20. Make sure you find a good agency and get good headshots. At the end of the day, though, it's not about the job you book. It's about the job you don't book. Use those feelings to your advantage and bring them with you to your next audition. Things will start to go your way, and soon enough, you'll look back and smile.

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