JoJo Siwa and the Cast of The J Team Dish on Their Epic New Dance Movie
The long wait is over! Today, Sep. 3, JoJo Siwa's epic dance musical The J Team hits Paramount+, and fans around the world are rejoicing.
The film revolves around a fictional version of JoJo, who finds herself struggling when her dance teacher retires and is replaced by a tough, no-nonsense teacher who insists that JoJo dulls her sparkle. Together, JoJo and her best dance friends must decide whether opportunities in the dance world are worth sacrificing their unique identities, managing to find out what really matters in the process.
Ahead of today's premiere, Sweety High's own Sienna Leone got the chance to chat with the film's stars to learn even more about the film. Keep reading for what she discovered from actors Laura Soltis, Tisha Campbell, Martin, Julia Marley, Kerrynton Jones, Kiara T. Romero and—of course—JoJo Siwa herself.
Sienna Leone: First off, congratulations on this movie! I had the pleasure of watching it and it was so sweet. I am originally from Vancouver, Canada, where The J Team was filmed. What was your favorite thing about Vancouver?
Laura Soltis: Well, I'm living here now, and I love it. It's the most beautiful, scenic place in the world. I mean, it's gorgeous. Gotta get used to the rain, though.
Tisha Campbell-Martin: While I was there, I didn't mind the rain. I had it in my head that there was going to be rain. The food was amazing and the people were really, really cool. I loved being there and enjoying the people. One thing that I had to get used to was how they line themselves up to get on a bus. Like they were so nice about it! I was like, why is everybody in a line? I liked Vancouver a lot. The people are really nice.
JoJo Siwa: When we shot the movie, we were in a place called Langley, and Langley is very different than Vancouver. For the first movie I did in Canada, we shot in the heart of Vancouver. We actually stayed downtown and I went on a seaplane and that was so fun. This time, I didn't want to get COVID, so I did not go exploring at all—because if I would have gotten COVID, not only would it have been a danger for everybody else around me, but it also would have shut down the film. I was like, I am not leaving my room. I'm going to set and coming home—that's it.
Sienna Leone: Tisha, did you harness your inner Dance Moms/Abby Lee Miller for this role?
Tisha Campbell-Martin: I think it was more like demon Debbie Allen. That's who I harnessed. I love me some Debbie Allen—she's my mentor and I love her to death—but I wanted to take it up like 20,000 notches. What would Debbie be like if she was a witch? I had so much fun. This is the first time I've been able to play a character like this—someone who's narcissistic and kind of cruel. The kids were loving it. The crueler I was, the more they would laugh at me, so I knew I was on the right track when I would make them break in the scene.
Sienna Leone: What was your favorite memory being on set with JoJo Siwa?
Kerrynton Jones: I think one of my favorite memories was just watching her work, watching all of us work together, and watching Tisha work. You learn a lot when you sit back and watch people—watching how Tisha approaches scenes and watching how JoJo does. I think we were all learning a lot from each other in that environment and it was a lot of fun to work together that way.
Julia Marley: JoJo is incredibly professional, but she also knows how to have fun. And she had so much energy on set, even if it was literally five in the morning. Some of our call times were pretty early, but she was in that hair trailer and she was jamming out to music and she was saying good morning to everyone. She also knew every single person's name on set from the first day! I really, really admire that in her.
Kiara T. Romero: JoJo just brought such good energy to set every single day. Even on those really long days, we still managed to joke around and have fun with each other. That's definitely something I want to carry on into the future—just to always be positive and keep good energy. It rubs off on the people around you.
Sienna Leone: How would you say your characters brought you out of your norm? How did they challenge you?
Laura Soltis: For me, this was really exciting. It was my first time playing a dance teacher. My mother was my dance teacher in Chicago. She had her own company and everything, so I grew up in the dance studio. I danced every day of the week. For me, I felt at home that I got to finally play a dance teacher.
Tisha Campbell-Martin: It was just a lot of fun being able to lead these girls. Most people haven't seen me play a character like this, so being the Cruella de Vil of it all was just a lot of fun for me. It was completely out of my comfort zone. I told JoJo, "People are not going to like me because I'm so mean to you!"
Sienna Leone: What was it like to film this musical movie?
Julia Marley: It was incredible. It was in the thick of the pandemic, so there were face shields and masks every second unless we were literally on camera. If we stepped off-camera, that PPE was back on. Besides that, everything kind of went as normal. We learned all of the dance numbers in quarantine, so once we got out of quarantine, we had two weeks of in-person rehearsal and 20 days of filming. It was pretty quick.
Kerrynton Jones: It was super exciting filming this musical because we had lots of dance numbers and lots of props and lots of fun things to work with in our set environment. I think having all the props and all the different numbers and bringing it all together was really fun, and dancing to JoJo's music was obviously even more fun because the songs and the dances matched perfectly. Heather [Laura Gray, choreographer] and Joe [Tuliao, assistant choreographer] did such a great job making sure that all meshed really well.
Kiara T. Romero: Yeah, from when we landed, we actually had two weeks of quarantine in our hotels, and that's where we learned every single dance. Shout out to our amazing choreographers, Heather and Joe. Everything you saw in the movie we actually learned in our little living room, and then we were plugged right into rehearsal. To see it all come to life in the 20 days we had to film was so awesome. The dancers, the cast and the crew all became family. It was just a great work environment.
JoJo Siwa: It was really fun. I learned so much while filming this film—random camera equipment that I've seen for years, I actually messed around with on set. One time, I was controlling the focus while they were filming a scene that I wasn't in just for the fun of it. I also learned how it works while filming a musical. You literally film an entire number, and then if there's dialogue right after that, you end the number and you go into dialogue. You're thinking about the number, then you've got to think about your lines. It was really cool.
Sienna Leone: What were your favorite scenes to film?
Laura Soltis: I got to actually be in a few dance numbers with these amazing, talented youngsters and it was really fun to be in the numbers and just have a hoot of a time. I loved it.
Tisha Campbell-Martin: For me, it was every time I got to yell at the kids! I was living some kind of fantasy. It was fun.
Sienna Leone: What would you say makes the perfect A team—or in this case, the perfect J Team?
JoJo Siwa: The perfect J Team would be made up of the exact same people the movie is made up of—people wanting to be themselves, and people who maybe don't fit in or who aren't stereotypically "normal."
Sienna Leone: What would be your advice to young girls who may have been told to turn off that sparkle switch?
Kerrynton Jones: I would say don't listen to those people. Turn it on, keep it on, let that light shine. A lot of people are will tell you that you shouldn't be doing this or ask you why you do that. I say don't listen to those people, because when you're being yourself, you can't really go wrong. And all of those unique qualities that we have that make us special are something that we should celebrate rather than try to hide.
Kiara T. Romero: Definitely do not listen, because you're unique and beautiful and there's only one of you in the whole entire world. Ultimately, you'll know who your true friends are. They'll always stick by you.
Julia Marley: Your sparkle switch is what makes you you, and if you're genuinely happy and living your truth, the people around you will feel that too and be inspired.
JoJo Siwa: Don't! Don't turn it off. Always leave it on. If you want something, you have to go full force to get it. You have to get it, you have to go for it, you have to run—you can't just jog. The sparkle switch represents that in my world. Gotta have that on.
Sienna Leone: What would you say J Team taught you throughout this movie?
Tisha Campbell-Martin: That we still have some amazingly talented young people who really are committed—we talk about the craft, we talk about the arts, but the arts really can save people's lives and change mindsets. You have these little beings who are so committed and so wonderful about it. It was just nice to be around and nice to see that a younger generation is just as committed to the arts and making people smile or laugh or dance.
Laura Soltis: And it was such a wonderful thing to do during this pandemic. It took us all out of the house. We all got together, and even though we wore our masks and our shields, it was just so great to be with each other. It was just fantastic. Perfect timing.
Sienna Leone: If you could have one word to describe J Team, what would it be?
Tisha Campbell-Martin: Sparkle, honey.
Laura Soltis: You took the word out of my mouth! Energetic.
Sienna Leone: What would you say is the biggest message in The J Team that you want the fans and viewers to take away from the movie?
Tisha Campbell-Martin: Don't let anybody steal your shine. Don't let anyone take your sparkle away. Don't dumb yourself down just to make other people comfortable.
Laura Soltis: I would say follow your dreams, dance from your soul and dare to be different.
Sienna Leone: How does it feel now that the movie is out for the fans and viewers to see?
JoJo Siwa: I am more than excited for the fans to get this movie. I have been wanting to do this project for over three years now—I think we pitched the idea three years ago of doing a movie musical. Now that it's finally here, it's like it's actually real, and it's actually happening.
If you adore JoJo as much as we do, click HERE for our favorite JoJo Siwa quotes from her coming-out video.