Footloose: Ziah Colon

Ziah Colon who plays Rusty Rodriguez

The remake of the 1984 classic Footloose will be in theaters on October 14th. Ziah Colon who plays Rusty Rodriguez in the film spoke to me about her role in the film and the struggles she faced trying to break into the industry.

Alex Gonzalez: Hi, how are you today?
Ziah Colon: I’m good, thank you.

AG: Well, let’s get started with you telling me a little bit about your character.
ZC: Cool! Okay, well, my character’s name is Rusty Rodriguez, she’s best friends with Ariel and girlfriend to Willard. She’s a fun, cute girl, very original, very smart, knows what she wants. She’s a little more mature than the rest of her friends. She’s very strong in herself, but not physically until the end.

AG: Is there any of you in Rusty? Was there any sort of personal connection to your character?
ZC: It was very easy to relate to Rusty, because I was that kind of teenager. My friends rebelled but I didn’t. I was always more careful and timid, like Rusty, that kind of kid. Very sweet, timid and kind.

Original movie poster from 1984

AG: Did you watch the original Footloose when you were younger?
ZC: My older sister actually showed it to me, so I experienced it when I was very little. I didn’t know the moral story behind it, I just enjoyed it. It was also always on TV, so I got to watch it a lot. I actually didn’t watch the movie before I went to audition for the movie, I just knew what the story was, who Rusty was.

AG: What would you say is the biggest difference between the original and this version?
ZC: This one was filmed and takes place in the South, and the original took place in Utah. You really get a feel for the South in this version, Craig Brewer does a fantastic job of making sure you see all the different genres of music and culture, different ethnicities, so different from the original film.

AG: You mentioned you get a sense of culture in this one, different ethnicities. I know you’re Puerto Rican, and you had a difficult time getting jobs at first because of your ethnicity; can you tell me a little bit about that?
ZC: Sure. I was born and raised in Georgia, but there was just no room for me. It was either Caucasian or African-American in the South, they didn’t know what to do with me. I didn’t have a commercial look, but I continued to study. I told myself, “If I’m not right for this, I could be right for something else.” It was tough, especially in Atlanta, but I kept persevering. I did a lot of theater, because it was mostly blind casting.

AG: So theater versus film, what’s the biggest difference and is there one you enjoy more than the other?
ZC: They’re like children, you can’t love one more than the other! (laughs) Theater is different because you can’t break character at all. You’re onstage for two or three hours at a time, and you are that character that whole time. In film, it’s a different kind of challenge, you’re in and out. But in the end, you’re proud of what you watch, what you’ve accomplished, if you understand what I mean.

AG: What was your favorite part of working on this film?
ZC: We all got along so great. I loved my castmates, we’re all still friends to this day. My favorite scene, though, is when they go to a club and Rusty is dancing with this cowboy. He kind of crosses the line a little bit, and Rusty hits him in the head, smashing a beer bottle on his head. I mean, how often do you get to do that and not get in trouble? (laughs) It was a lot of fun.

AG: Obviously this movie has a lot of dancing, so are you a dancer? Was this a first for you or have you danced before?
ZC: Well, I’m not a professional dancer, but there was always a lot of dancing with my family so I have natural rhythm. I did a lot of work with a choreographer.

In Theaters October 14, 2011

AG: One of your castmates is Julianne Hough of Dancing with the Stars fame. Did she help you with the dance scenes at all?
ZC: There’s actually one scene we rehearsed together, and it was so much fun. I adore her, by the way, she’s the best. It was just a lot of fun working with her.

AG: Before we run out of time, I want to ask you if you have any advice for other young Hispanics reading this paper that want a career in theater and film?
ZC: I just want to say that it’s not easy. You don’t make it on luck. You have to be prepared, work for it, don’t take the criticisms personally, be the best you can be, and persevere. The opportunities are out there. I could go on and on! (laughs) We actually have to get going, but thank you!

AG: Thank you so much for your time, it was nice meeting you.
ZC: It was nice meeting you, too! Thank you.

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