LEILA FADEL, HOST:
In the new Netflix movie "Work It," Quinn Ackerman is an overachieving teen with her heart set on attending Duke University. But she knows that perfect grades are not enough.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WORK IT")
SABRINA CARPENTER: (As Quinn Ackerman) Jas (ph), I need you to help me get on the dance team.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) You don't dance at all.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) The Work It competition is in five months, and I don't need you stinking up the place.
CARPENTER: (As Quinn Ackerman) Fine. I'll start my own damn team then.
FADEL: You probably can guess where this is going - the quintessential dance movie with a teen love story between the straight-A student and a choreographer, played by Jordan Fisher, whom she begs to coach her team of misfits.
You might know multitalented Jordan Fisher from Broadway. He was in "Hamilton." And he was in another teen rom-com, "To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You," and he joins us now. Welcome to the program.
JORDAN FISHER: Hi. Thanks for having me.
FADEL: It's great to have you. So, Jordan, why don't you start by just telling us a little bit about the character you play in this film?
FISHER: Well, it's interesting. Like, yes, it is the quintessential dance movie, right? I think the thing that I love most about it is that though dance is kind of the vehicle that takes you from point A to point Z, where the story is concerned, it's really - it's about people. It's about growth. And that's especially the main point of Jake Taylor - is the character that I play.
FISHER: He lived at the top of the world in the dance industry, right? He was a, you know, super respected, super renowned dancer, choreographer. And, you know, due to an ACL injury, all of that passion and that drive evaporated while he fell into a ditch of his own pity and sorrow. And we're all humans. I feel like we tend to need a purpose and need a reason. And oftentimes, due to whatever it is - our ego or, you know, just our frustration with ourselves or the world...
FISHER: ...Have a harder time kind of getting out of that storm. And Sabrina's character, Quinn, yanks him out of that, which is a really beautiful journey that you get to see morph in front of your eyes.
FADEL: Yeah. And definitely in this moment, where a lot of people are feeling more hopeless than usual with a pandemic, you know, your character, like you said, rediscovers his love for dance.
FISHER: A thousand percent. Well, I mean, and that was actually what really grabbed me and wanted me to - made me want to be a part of this project in general was, yes, again, dance film, 100%. We - a lot of people love them. I grew up on them - right? - like...
FADEL: Yeah (laughter).
FISHER: ..."You Got Served," "Save The Last Dance," even, you know, "Dirty Dancing."
FISHER: And they're all awesome. But the fact that it's - really, it's about people. And again, the messaging here is that we might all have plans in our life. You know, this is a prime example. You know, it's COVID. It's quarantine. I was supposed to get married last weekend, and we had to push our date to November due to the pandemic.
FISHER: But it's OK. You know, plans that we have in our lives, goals that we have in our life - it is absolutely OK and oftentimes even better for us if they change. You know, maybe that's provoked by a passion that you find a little bit later in your life, like Quinn does. You know, she was not a dancer. She couldn't even move. By the end of the film, she, you know, has found something new that, you know, has given her a different kind of passion for something that she had no clue that she enjoyed by any stretch of the imagination. It feels very, very different.
FADEL: What do you think makes it so different?
FISHER: The drive is the people.
FISHER: It's the building each other up. It's the diversity. It's the inclusivity. It's seemingly a massive cocktail of all of the things that we kind of need right now, things that we need to see in a film, especially for, you know, a streaming platform like Netflix, where a lot of the younger generation that'll be watching it haven't grown up with cable. It's so nice to have a piece of work that, A, makes you feel good, B...
FISHER: ...Where you can relate to somebody. There's somebody in this film that you can go, oh, that's me.
FADEL: You mentioned the diversity of the ensemble cast. And it seems like that's common in a lot of the projects that you work on.
FISHER: Yeah. I would say, for the most part, I'm seeing more projects in most recent years that have really focused on diversity, which is great. I think we have come a long way. I still think that we have a very long way to go.
FISHER: But as somebody that is mixed, that's of multiple ethnicities, I'm proud of all of them. I'm Black. I'm white. I'm Italian. I'm Greek. I'm Asian. I'm Pacific Islander. I'm proud of all of what I represent. You know, and to be a part of any project where - I think about that kid that is at home watching this thing, and they get to point at somebody on that screen and can say, that person looks like me.
FADEL: Yeah. And we're living in a moment where there are protests going on around the country for racial justice, for structural change. And I noticed on Twitter, after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, you wrote, I can no longer stay silent or I then become part of the problem. And you have a large following, especially...
FADEL: ...Among young people...
FADEL: ...Who are driving this. How have you used your platform since that day?
FISHER: Well, it's interesting. You know, speaking transparently, anybody that has a platform is careful about what they promote, what they say, how they portray and, you know, perpetuate goodness. But being somebody that is from the South, that is Black in the state's eyes, you know, even though I'm mixed of a whole bunch of different things, I've dealt with my own things, you know?
FISHER: I've dealt with very racially charged moments. You know, I worked retail at 16 years old and had people deny my service due to the color of my skin.
FISHER: I think at the end of the day, Black voices are the most inspirational voices out there, especially right now, but I also think that white voices are still the most powerful. Systematic oppression is a very real thing. This is not a myth. You know, (laughter) like, this is a real thing that has existed for far too long. And I've found catharsis in, you know, being able to let that voice that's just yelling in my head, you know, that's in my heart - to be able to let that out, I found a lot of catharsis in that, and I'm very grateful for that.
FADEL: Jordan Fisher stars in the Netflix movie "Work It," coming out Friday, August 7. Thanks so much for joining us.
FISHER: Thank you. Thank you for having me. This was wonderful.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GET ON YOUR FEET")
GLORIA ESTEFAN: (Singing) Get on your feet. Get up and make it happen. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.