How Work It's Keiynan Lonsdale Danced His way to Queer Villainy

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through Mitchell Kuga

As he prepared to audition for the function of Jake Tailor, the straight love pastime in the coming-of-age dance comedy Work It, Keiynan Lonsdale did one thing surprising: He asked to learn for an element in the past written for a woman as a substitute. There was once something captivating about the queen bee of the wooden bright highschool dance team, who embodied a trope of imply women wickedness he needed to activate its head. “I’ve by no means considered a man play this role earlier than, a queer villain in this capacity,” says Lonsdale, noting that director Laura Terruso and the film’s producers (which incorporates Alicia Keys) had been “utterly open” to the exchange. a part of the attraction was once playing evil, a departure from the good-man roles he’d explored in movies like Love, Simon, by which Lonsdale played the sweet-confronted love hobby, or the superhero sidekick in CW’s The Flash. “I also generally try to be a nice dude in my existence,” says the 28-12 months-outdated Aussie over Zoom, every week prior to Work It’s August 8 Netflix unencumber. “So i wanted to unleash the dragon.”

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How Work It's Keiynan Lonsdale Danced His technique to Queer Villainy

About Keiynan

What emerged is Isaiah, the fire-respiratory leader of the Thunderbirds dance crew who goes through Juilliard now, a name-change he hopes will show up an acceptance letter to his dream school. performed through a red-haired Lonsdale with a pinch of camp expressed most pointedly thru a white feathered dance ensemble, he’s conniving and singular in his ambition to attend the distinguished performing arts conservatory — even though it method destroying the hopes of protagonist Quinn Ackerman, the overachieving do-gooder with two left toes, played by means of Sabrina wood worker. After Juilliard rejects her from the Thunderbirds, Quinn kinds her personal rival crew, a ragtag crew of highschool misfits, including Quinn’s sexy best buddy, Jasmine, played through YouTube celebrity Liza Koshy. Backstabbing, a budding romance, and schoolyard dance-offs occur, with all roads resulting in the Work It dance competitors.

Lonsdale spoke to MTV news from Sydney, where he’s been quarantining for the last two months. Creatively, he’s the usage of the time to work on visuals for Rainbow Boy, his debut LP that he launched in may. (On the horn-studded breakout single “homosexual boulevard Fighter,” he channels some of Julliard’s over-the-high bravado: “bet they wanna style the bussy so just right.”) but quarantine has mostly been a solution to recenter, the longest Lonsdale’s been house since he moved to the U.S. nearly seven years in the past to pursue appearing. “In a lot of ways, once I used to be dwelling [in Sydney] I wasn’t comfortable with who i am,” he says, describing the last two months as a means of “reconnection” —together with taking dance courses on the studio where he used to teach. To his shock, a lot of his college students at the moment are adults, pursuing their desires in ways that fill Lonsdale with pride. “it can be cool to see your mates go for what they want.”

How Work It's Keiynan Lonsdale Danced His technique to Queer Villainy

Elly Dassas / Netflix

MTV news: You studied dance at a performing arts high school and played a dance student in the Australian television drama Dance Academy; did enjoying Juilliard feel like déjà vu in many ways? 

Keiynan Lonsdale: It used to be beautiful to be in some other dance production and the camaraderie without a doubt mirrored that. there is one thing about constantly sweating with individuals, you kind a enjoyable bond. but in Dance Academy, my persona, Ollie, wasn’t very comedic. He used to be very serious. It was once my first tv function, and it used to be all ballet-targeted for the majority of it. both characters had large egos, however with Work It there was a lot more sass.

MTV information: was once Juilliard impressed via any individual you went to highschool with? 

Lonsdale: We never had one individual at my school who used to be the highest bully, but we had our fair proportion of drama and fun, and we had been all little divas by some means. So I pulled from totally different individuals; now and again academics, every now and then other people i might meet at dance competitions. not necessarily on the subject of the meanness Juilliard has, however simply that fireplace.

MTV news: used to be there space for you to inject your individual fashion or choreography into the dance numbers, or was once it beautiful set? 

Lonsdale: The routines had been slightly set but there have been a number of moments where Aakomon Jones, our choreographer (Pitch good, Black Panther), allowed Julliard to have his flair. they’d just permit me to freestyle or experiment, eager about whatever was once going to fit on my physique. but even in those moments, I did need to be sure that I wasn’t adding in Keiynan, that i’d nonetheless maintain it in the vein of what Juilliard would do, how Juilliard is dancing. It was fun to bounce as anyone else.

MTV news: i noticed some vogueing parts in the freestyle. 

Lonsdale: Yeah, in the fight scene. That used to be in truth great because i haven’t achieved various vogueing. in class, we had it from time to time, and i was once exposed to a lot of it over the route of my existence, but it surely used to be the primary time in individual having some of these strikes and intentions broken down for me. I needless to say feeling stopped in my tracks as a result of, energetically, I was once like, I get it. I really get it. now not on the subject of getting good strains — there was once a lot of work I needed to do — but in the case of the attitude and the intention. it can be a special art kind.

MTV information: i like that you principally created this queer persona for your self out of a feminine function. seeing that coming out, do you find yourself either pursuing totally different characters or being offered completely different roles than sooner than? 

Lonsdale: i think it is opened issues up, evidently. but i believe like i have been very lucky so that you could go for an array of different characters. It hasn’t been limiting in any respect — or possibly in many ways it has and i don’t know about it. i am now not all for that. Our stories have long gone untold for goodbye. it can be really exciting to peer all the totally different places we get to head now. that’s going to continue to grow, and it’s just cool to be part of that.

Courtesy Netflix

MTV news: Is there a queer persona you are hungering to play that doesn’t exist yet? 

Lonsdale: it might be great, one day, to look at or be part of a queer superhero team. similar to, you recognize, one of the crucial largest and baddest players in the sport. that would be actually enjoyable. i’d also prefer to make my own characters, whether that’s in my song or my lifestyles. the rest with the ability to wreck stereotypes while now not taking away from the character’s authenticity is cool with me. also, anything that’s going to shock a couple of individuals, as a result of a lot of people haven’t been exposed to what queer culture really is, and i believe they have lots to study from it. they’d be one of the vital easiest roles ever, some of the highest tales ever. there’s going to be a wealth of them.

MTV information: Coming from Australia, has the Black Lives topic movement changed the best way you take into accounts your work or the industry, on the whole?

Lonsdale: I first came to the us in 2014 and it was the primary time I had heard of it. I was once in Atlanta so, coming from Australia, it was once the primary time I was surrounded by using so many individuals that appeared like me in my life. the whole lot started altering for me then. Even engaged on The Flash and having my solid family, Jessie Martin and Candice Patton, that become this kind of hub of an education for me — a Black training, and an African-American one, extra particularly. For me, growing up in Australia, it was once just totally different. I hear individuals in the us say they weren’t taught quite a bit about the fact and i think, smartly, we failed to even get 1 / 4 of that information in Australia. So, for my tune, I made very aware decisions with the lyrics I chose, working with the categories of people who have the precise intentions. It’s within the selections I’ve made with movie and tv. it’s on the forefront.

MTV news: When did you understand you had been enthusiastic about dancing?

Lonsdale: Dancing will always be my first passion. I was once born into it, you realize? I began in the living room as quickly as I may stand. I was, like, two years old, the youngest of six, and tried to head to dance classes, however I used to be too shy. I failed to return unless I was four and used to be on stage on the grounds that I was 5. I simply wanted to be on stage dancing, constantly. I failed to in point of fact recognize the way to keep in touch with individuals, I just knew find out how to dance. so that was it. I was born loving it.

MTV news: so that you had been the sort who used to be tremendous shy behind the curtain but, while you got on stage, it was a completely different Keiynan?

Lonsdale: I didn’t know the best way to appear individuals within the eye after I was a child. I walked around like this for years [places face down] just terrified, however then i would get on stage in my sparkly jacket, like, [raises arms within the air triumphantly]. i might provide it my all and then i would change into terrified again after I bought off stage. ultimately, my mom had to determine a tactic to get me over my fears, so she was like, “You won’t be able to dance anymore if you happen to don’t begin speaking to individuals and looking at individuals.” And so I stop dancing for a few months because i might relatively just no longer look at somebody. I was once also getting bullied at school as a result of I used to be a boy dancing and all that stuff. and then, sooner or later, i couldn’t face up to. I went again to [dancing] and made the deal. started speaking to people. began having a look up more. So thank you, mother.

MTV information: Circling back to Work It: Is there any one message you need audiences to remove from this film? 

Lonsdale: i want folks to bounce, you recognize? This existence is crazy. i need individuals to bop. Dance is the object that brings me back to a way of normality, a sense of energy that I continuously fail to remember i’ve, and clarity. despite the fact that you don’t think you are the best, even though you do not suppose you have got any rhythm, everybody has rhythm. it can be in human nature. You just have to search out that space where it’s simply you and your favorite tracks. it’s just a subject of connecting to it. i think like this movie will do that for folk. i believe dancing changes your life and it creates a community, as you see in the film, of misfits. however actually i think dancers are the one sane individuals on the planet.