We would not have known it from his cool demeanor and charming personality, but before our interview with Josh Holloway, he was shooting an emotionally charged scene for Battle of the Year and needed to take some time to get out of character.
He walked in apologizing for being a little late and said “it’s been a hard day, but it’s good to be working!”
Best known for his role as Sawyer on “LOST,” Holloway talked to us about the transition from the hit show to film and why he’s ready to be the lead actor.
Q: Can you tell us about the scene you just shot and why your character had to get so angry?
Josh Holloway: It’s the beginning of this sports / dance story. At the beginning he has to come in a bit hard because he has to gain their [trust]. They’re not used to being coached. They’re B-boys. It’s a dance that originated in the streets and they make their own rules so they’re not used to taking any sort of direction. He’s got to establish that alpha situation from the get. They’re not listening and it’s the first day of practice. They’re not taking it seriously and I’m reminding them that if they don’t take it serious they’re on a bus.
Q: Do you have any previous coaching or dancing experience?
Holloway: Yes and no to those. I’m playing a coach in this. What I liked about it and what attracted me to is this film is to start with is that it is a coaching story. It’s more of a sports story like “Friday Night Lights.” It was established right off in the first scene by my character when my friend comes and asks me to coach them. I tell them what a stupid idiot idea that is, because I was never a dance coach. I was a basketball coach. So like that. I like that it’s addressed right away. My friend is like, “I don’t care. A coach is a coachdifferent venue, but same principal. I need your skills.” So we agree on the fact that I have no idea what I’m doing as a dance coach which is cool. Later we bring on a choreographer to help out because in the story I did have previous dance experience. Me and the other character Dante (Laz Alonso) grew up together in foster care. They chose different paths. Dante became like P Diddy and I raised a family and became a basketball coach. Then I lost my family in a car wreck two years before so he’s just a drunk. He doesn’t want to live anymore. So this is kinda his friend needing his skills but also trying to bring him back to life so that’s where it all begins. But me, I used to B-boy back in the ’80s. It’s so different than what’s happening now. Now it’s more like Cirque du Soleil. It’s insane what these guys can do. It was very impressive to see it’s going to be shocking I think for people to see. It’s such a different approach to it because most dance movies tend to be a little more poppy and about the romance. There’s always a girl and a guy and she’s always some ex ballerina- you now something like that. This is raw story which what I love because their lives are actually more raw. Generally speaking, B-boy came from the streets and kids who don’t have a lot. They found their way to express through dance on the streets so it’s more of a raw story connected to that.
Q: Were you aware that there was a B-boy culture since the years you stopped doing it?
Holloway: I knew that people still danced, but I had no idea that there was a competition or many competitions actually in different countries and all over the world. Then of course the big competition is the Battle of the Year. There were 22 different countries there this year. There is phenomenal dancing going on and you really get the flavor of country. They have to do a choreographed routine and then the top four get to battle which is a different thing. They face each other and they battle off then the top two go for the final. They bring what they’re about and that was beautiful to see. I enjoyed those 14,000 screaming fans. I was like this is big!’ What a following. It was an eye-opener for me and very inspiring because I have a secret dancer in there that wants to come out. I’ve gotten older and famous and [now there are] iPhones. What I’m going to bust a move in a club? No!
Q: Why did you stop dancing?
Holloway: I’ve always loved dancing and going out dancing, but I stopped mainly once I became in the public eye. I felt self-conscious and for good reason. That sh*t will be on the Internet. [Laughs] I’m like well unless I’m a pro, which I’m not, I should hang off the dance floor.
Q: So your character doesn’t dance at all in the movie?
Holloway: As of now no. We’ve talked about it maybe, but they’re at such a level that I feel personally that it would take away from the coaching story. It would almost invalidate him to dance unless he could dance on that level. They certainly didn’t give me any time or training.
Q: So no flashbacks or anything?
Holloway: That would be cool if they did it right, but I don’t think they’re going to take the time to do that. They established it so strongly that I was pissed off that he was asking me to coach dance and I don’t know what I’m doing so as long as that was established in the very beginning I’m ok. And it’s valid because I can only take them so far and then we hire a choreographer who can give us a shot at this so it makes sense. Would I like to dance? Sure, but not on this level. If I could I would.
Q: What about when the cameras weren’t rolling? Did you do any dancing?
Holloway: Sure, of course. I’m learning little tidbits here and there. I have to keep reminding myself – check yourself don’t wreck yourself! [Laughs] I’m over 40 now and I’m still very athletic, but like I said what they’re doing now is very Cirque du Soleil. They really do flips and spins, air flares and things you just want to do. I’m like, I can do thatoh wait that’s a compound fracture for me.
Q: Is a lot of the dancing still the same from your ’80s days?
Holloway: Sure, aspects are the same. It’s still expression. It’s street dancing with expression but it’s more free flow. The basis has not changed. It’s just more insane now and they’re expressing a lot. They don’t do a lot of what they call poppin and the moon walk and all that. They don’t do that anymore. They do it sometimes, but they say that’s a separate thing. I’m learning myself what the difference is.
Q: Did you have a chance to develop a rapport with the guys like your character has to in the film before you started shooting?
Holloway: No. Welcome to movie making. I did my best. I came to their rehearsals in the beginning when I wasn’t scheduled to be there. I just tried to make a connection somewhat because also the way movies are shot and the time constraints with the actual Battle of the Year which is where we filmed at, we had to shoot the script backwards, which means the whole resolve I had to do right away like as if we had already become a family. So we do the best we can and they guys have been great. We tried to connect on every level we could and we did. They were tiny moments, but they were big. What was really big I think was me going to their rehearsals because they were like Who is this guy going to coach us?’ You know I’m some white boy from Georgia. It’s like who is this cracker? Not really, but you know it’s that kind of thing. The rehearsal gave them confidence and gave me confidence. I gave some speeches and they took me seriously.
Q: The producer said earlier that you have the persona of the authoritative character so is the coaching role something you’ve wanted to tackle? Is it an iconic role for you?
Holloway: Yes, but I didn’t realize it was a coaching role. I just have been ready to lead a film and carry a show. I’ve been ready on that level for awhile. So any shot at that in a leader position was what I was ready for. And coachingwell I’m very interested now because I have a little girl and I can’t wait to coach soccer and basketball, but that’s awhile. She’s young. But all my friends have children and they’re coaching here and there so it’s come into my life now. It’s something I’m very familiar with since I’ve played sports all my life. I played basketball for 10 years and soccer for 10 years so I’ve had a lot of experiences with coaches and hard ass coaches too, which is great. I’m pulling from my experience there. Also I’m staying within the integrity of the character and that also what makes him a bit of a hard ass because every breath he takes right now is painful. He doesn’t want to be alive. He lost his family he’s just been a drunk in hole not living anymore so coming back alive is painful. He’s not clean yethe’s still hitting the bottle, but slowly as the movie goes on they bring him back to life. He’s teaching them about changing the way they think, changing their life. It’s affecting him so he gives up his drinking and he comes back to life and gets rid of that, but it’s a process. This is early on in the process so he’s a bit salty.
Q: Can you talk about transiting from a TV show like “LOST” that was an ensemble cast to being the lead in a feature?
Holloway: It’s difficult. I’m used to having to do very difficult scenesa lot of dialogue. “LOST” really trained me in many different ways. My God I did everything on that show so I’m unafraid so I was clearly ready with that. I’m enjoying it because I realize I’m actually trained which is always a shocker for an actor. It’s like oh sh*t do I know what I’m doing? So to get back into something with this much weight has opened has opened my eyes. I know what I’m doing. At least I’m scratching the surface of what I want to grow to so that’s great for me. It’s a confidence builder and also validation that I’m ready to do this. Let’s hope. Everyone seems happy but I haven’t seen anything yet. I love it. It’s a lot more work because you’re in every other scene and because it’s a condensed shooting schedule so it’s constant. I basically work all day, go home and study, go to bed, get up work all day, study. I don’t have time for anything except to be immersed in this.
Q: When you say study what do you mean?
Holloway: Well prepare for the next day. Also with a condensed shooting schedule things change at such a pace so you have to stay agile especially being the lead. Scenes are changing, lines are changing, days are changing. You can’t go on what you thought the order of preparation was. It’s not. It gets changed everyday so that’s just it. I’ve had to remain very agile so that’s good training too. It’s so far so good.
Q: Do you see yourself doing more films now that “LOST” is over or do you see yourself going back to a TV series?
Holloway: I’m open. For me, it’s really about the material. I am focusing more on movies but I’m still open if some great material came through a TV I don’t have any judgments towards that. It’s really can I perform that and be fulfilled by that and give something to that and get something from that then I’m in. So we’ll see, it’s hard to say. It’s a tricky business.
Q: What do you hope people take away from this movie?
Holloway: I hope they’re inspired to go dance in their own way. We all have this dancer in us. We’re rhythmic beings. It’s in us all so I hope people are inspired even if they don’t go out to a club to just dance in their living room. Living room dancing is a blast. Also to take away these life stories of these B-boys and understand that dance is an expression. It’s something we all have and we can do it on any level. You can express yourself through dance. Anyone can, so I hope people take that away.