Interview | The Star Cast Of “Drumline: A New Beat” Talks About Movie + Character Challenges

With large success following the TLC biopic, CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, VH1 is on a roll with original films. I had the pleasure of catching up with a few cast members of new VH1 movie, “Drumline: A New Beat” while they were promoting at this year’s Howard University Homecoming game. Alexandra Shipp, Letoya Luckett and Jordan Calloway who are a few of the stars of the Drumline (2002) sequel, talked briefly with me about their character’s role in the movie, challenges they had to endure during the training phase and the meaning behind hashtag #PassTheBaton. Here’s what they had to say!

Charli: Hey guys! Thanks so much for this interview! I’m really excited about the sequel, but wanted to get some insight on who your characters are and what role that they play in the movie. Let’s talk!

Alexandra: Okay! So my character’s name is Danielle Raymond and she’s trying to be the first female section leader on her drumline. So it’s all about girl empowerment. She is a tomboy but is also very girly. She loves music, but then she meets this guy [laughter] and he kind of changes it up a little bit.

Letoya Luckett: My name is Letoya Luckett and I play Dr. Nia Phillips and basically I’m the Dean of the school. I play kind of a bunch of roles [laughter]. I play a mentor I would say. I also play the love interest to Leonard who you remember in the first film. In short, I’m kind of in a love triangle [laughter]! You’ll have to watch and see October 27th to find out what REALLY goes down!

Jordan Calloway: Hi there this is Jordan Calloway and I play Jayven. And my character is going to be the love interest to Dani Raymond which is played by Alex. My character comes from a background where he’s trying to find his identity — which is a great time in college where we often search for our identity. He’s really trying to come out of the shadows of his father who’s an actual talented musician. So he’s trying to figure out who he is while also escaping that shadow. It’s a great character for the audience to relate to especially for myself from being raised with 6 older siblings [laughter]. So yeah, he has a great story that I think the audience will love and fight for. 

Charli: Perfect! This is all very exciting. So a follow-up question, how does this story differ from the first story with Nick Cannon?

Alexandra: In the first story, it was centered around Devin Miles — you know he was a little too cocky without being able to play well around others. Whereas with Dani, it’s not about that at all. Everything is kosher! All she wants to do is be a female section leader. She’s good and she knows that she deserves it. Some shady stuff happens. Some love prevails and it’s a realization that women can do anything!

Charli: So obviously for you Alexandra and you Jordan, you guys had to go through some intense training for your characters right? I’m from the Southern region — attended Jackson State for undergraduate and I thoroughly remember the drumline there and the consistent late night practices for the members. Can you talk about your training?

Jordan: Yes! It was a very intense drum training that we had. We learned to do a lot of stick drills. We learned to do a lot of cadences. We also had to find more southern accents.

Alexandra: Marching! Learning how to march with a 35,000 drum kit on your neck.

Jordan: Yeah the uniform wasn’t bad enough [laughter].

Charli: Right! And it was during the summer months?

Alexandra: Yes! And we were in Atlanta. 

Letoya: 60% humidity.

Alexandra: So yeah we had to keep up with our bandmates because they were like, “Y’all think this is bad?” And we were like, “No… you’re right, no we’re fine!” [laughter] 

Jordan: It was great nonetheless. As actors in our craft, we take it seriously especially representing all drum members everywhere. 

Charli: Yes I can definitely tell that this is going to be a good thing. A movement for female drummers to unify and also for the younger, aspiring drummers alike. Is there anything else you would like to add Ms. Letoya? [laughter]

Letoya: Of course. Basically please support this film. The crew did a good job in bringing this project BACK! People need to see it. I think that people, especially in the HBCUs — it helps bring attention. They also need our financial support. #PASSTHEBATON! 

Charli: Yeah I’ve been seeing that hashtag! 

Letoya: Yes, it’s a promotion that we’re doing.

Alexandra: And it’s free! It’s something that we’re doing that we could donate to HBCUs and the UNCF (United Negro College Fund). So every time you post a video or every time you hashtag #PassTheBaton, they donate $1. 

Charli: Nice!

Alexandra: So it’s FREE FOR US! But it ain’t cheap for them. #PassTheBaton.

Charli: Got you! Well thanks so much you guys — this was great! Enjoy the rest of Howard Homecoming festivities!

Everyone: You too!

“Drumline: A New Beat” premiers on October 27th at 9pm EST/8pm CT on VH1!