EXCLUSIVE Interviews With Rise's Ashley Leggat And Izaak Smith
Angela McLean, The Magazine
January 20, 2014
Get ready to rise out of your seats! Shaftesbury's latest powerful digital special, RISE, recently released online exclusively to ABC Spark Canada and it will have you wanting to get up and dance. RISE, which is about the joy and heartbreak of competitive dance, stars Izaak Smith as Cary, a young street dancer from Toronto who enters a TV dance competition to pursue his dream and help support his Grandma. He struggles with balancing the two but must ultimately find a way to make himself and those around him happy.
THE MAGAZINE caught up with Ashley Leggat, who plays one of the competition's judges, and Izaak Smith to chat about RISE, working with friends and Britney Spears.
RISE is a new 10-minute digital special on ABC Spark. Tell us about your character.
Ashley: Nikki is a former pop star who is trying to cling on to that last bit of fame. She's now a host on this new show where she's going to find the best talent in all of the dancers in hopes that maybe she'll find somebody that she can bring on her next tour with her.
Izaak: Cary is a young guy living in Toronto who has the responsibility of taking care of his Grandma. Meanwhile he's trying to step out and live his life as a dancer. He has to struggle to make all those things work together - pursuing his dream and taking care of his family at the same time. As a dancer yourself, how do you relate to the story of RISE and your character?
Ashley: It didn't even feel like I really had to act because I was just watching the dancing. It's something that was my first passion. It was amazing to see dancers like Amanda Cleghorn [who plays Lila], Izaak Smith and Miles Faber [who plays Tyler] because I know them from my dance days. A lot of work and passion goes into being a dancer and this story really relates to that.
Izaak: I relate in a lot of ways to the character since we're both dancers and we're both very good-looking. (laughs) I kind of faced a similar situation when I was first moving out of my house. My Dad was very sick at the time. It's very difficult managing starting your own life but also being there for your family. I related to his dilemma of being so young and trying to figure it all out.
Ashley, what sparked your interest in dance and why did you decide to pursue it?
Ashley: My Grandma used to say that I never walked anywhere - I always danced everywhere. I think at about two and a half, I started my first ballet lesson. I always wanted to be a dancer. I don't ever remember a time where it was something that I had to think about. It was just a for sure yes. Anytime there was music on, I would be moving around and dancing.
Izaak, I read that you and co-star Miles Faber, who plays your rival Tyler, have a great friendship outside of the show. How was it working with him and the rest of the RISE cast?
Izaak: Working with him is really great. I get to hang with my friend all day and we get to do what we normally do, which is act and dance, except we get paid for it! Knowing Miles before starting the project was a huge blessing. Everybody else was great. I already know Amanda Cleghorn and a bunch of the dancers, so it was a big family situation.
Dancing and acting go hand in hand - a great dance tells a great story. How do you get into character since you have to dance and act at the same time?
Izaak: You do have to get into the character when you dance, especially when you want to convey a story and get behind the emotions of the dance. Getting into character for me was about putting myself into a position in life where I have to make this all work because there's no home for me to go home to. If I don't convince these people to get me to the next stage of the competition then everything's just gonna blow up and I'll have nothing.
Do you have a favourite moment from RISE?
Ashley: Getting to watch the dancing. To actually watch three people who live and breathe dance and who have had such success with things like SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE is amazing. It's amazing to see people like that in their element because they're just so incredible at what they do. It was magical watching them perform. You could see me dancing around in my chair.
Izaak: I think the audition was a lot of fun. From the moment I walked into the room, everybody was joking and laughing and having a great time and that really set the tone for the rest of the series. I loved that moment more so because normally auditions are super scary. You're freaking out, trying to get your lines together and you're trying to just do a good job and not have everyone hate you. It was one of the best auditions I've ever done.
What kind of music best gets you in the mood to dance?
Ashley: Any Britney Spears songs! My husband always laughs because I will have dance parties myself all day, every day. He just catches me dancing around the kitchen.
Izaak: I love dancing to all types of music. Any music that moves you, that's the music and you never know what it's going to be. There have been times I've been standing in Forever 21 with my girlfriend and a song comes on and I'll start dancing and embarrassing her. You can't help it! I guess thatís why I'm a dancer.
Tell THE MAGAZINE readers why they have to watch RISE.
Ashley: You're going to be seeing some of the most incredible dancers. It's inspiring to see the journey that people go on and the journey people take to follow their passion. That's what RISE is about, and it might inspire you to follow your passion. Check it out and get into it and follow the journey. If my fans watch RISE, I know they'll love it.
Izaak: We get to see the really human side of dancers. We also see him being challenged by this dance competition and stepping out into a new light. With the dance competition there's a bunch of really cool dancing, so I think it's entertaining in that we get to see some pretty cool and spectacular dancing.
What message do you hope RISE sends to young dancers?
Ashley: I hope it pushes them to really follow through because it's a great career and if you want to go full force and put all your heart and soul and energy into it, you can really go huge places. There's a lot of options, especially now a days with all the reality shows and TV shows that feature dancers.
Izaak: I hope it will show them what to expect when they walk into dance competitions and give them a character that inspires them to stay committed to themselves and stay solid. I hope it helps young dancers with their anxieties of going to dance competitions and shows them what it takes to get through a competition. I hope they can watch the show and take with it lessons they can apply to their auditions.
What advice would you give to someone who is a rising dancer?
Ashley: I would just say keep at it 100 per cent. That's what I did until I was 18 and I got LIFE WITH DEREK. I was still dancing full time, seven days a week. There was times when I was a little bit younger when I thought, "Oh, all my friends are going to the movies and I have to go and take six hours of dance." Some days it's kind of a struggle to make your mind up that you're going to put everything you have into an art or into something like dance. I couldn't be more glad that I did because it's something that not only opened up a lot of doors for me in both the acting and dancing world, but I think also made me a better person.
Izaak: Know why you dance and never lose sight of that. Staying solid in that is really what's gonna help you through the tough times when you don't really know why you're dancing anymore, why you're getting up at 6 a.m., or why you're listening to a choreographer yell at you.
What's next for RISE? Do you think fans will see more of the show?
Ashley: Definitely! I've been thinking, "Okay, well they're going to go to New York, then we're going to see who makes it and then they're gonna go on tour..." There's so many possibilities and options. We all want to see what's going to happen with them. You wanna follow the emotional journey and you wanna see what happens to Cary's Grandma. It's definitely something where everyone's going to be waiting to see what happens next. It ends at such a perfect time and you're like, "NO! I need to know what happens."
Izaak: I hope so! Right now there's a possibility of it going forward. Nothing's kind of confirmed yet, but I know a lot of people are wondering what's going to happen with Cary and his Grandma. I hope we get to tell that side of the story and I hope we get to show more of Tyler (Miles Faber) being a jerk and the relationships with everyone. I hope to see a series!