Mari Koda talks about her role in the “Step Up” series and the new film “Step Up: All In”

Mari Koda is known for her role as Jenny Kido in the “Step Up” film series. She has been in every “Step Up” film since “Step Up 2: The Streets”. She is returning this week in the the fifth film in the series “Step Up: All In”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Mari about the film and her challenges during filming.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you get started with your background in dancing?
Mari Koda: I started listening to music before dancing. I just thought to myself, “Wow, I would love to do something with the music that I love”. So I started dancing and I just started moving. I do not think that I was even any good [laughs]. I never went to school or anything. I just went out there and starting dancing and that’s how I got I into it. You just catch the energy and go with it. I love it. After I started dancing, I wanted to know what the songs were actually about and after that I decided to learn English and move to New York. I love New York because it is so diverse and there are so many different kinds of people. I knew this is where I belong. In Japan, there are too many Japanese people [laughs].

MG: “Step Up All In” takes us to Las Vegas, what was that like going from the streets to the Sin City?
MK: It was just amazing. Just Wow! We came this far! We are in Las Vegas. There is a lot of surprise in this new film. Even working on the film, we were all impressed with what happens. I am just lucky to be in the film.

MG: How has Jenny Kido changed at all over the course of these four films?
MK: I have played Jenny in four films now. She has never had a love interest in the films. Does this girl never fall in love? Can I at least hold somebody’s hand? [laughs] In the movie, I quit my job and come to Vegas to support my friends but she never has a boyfriend. I told the producers about this and they asked me if they do a “Step Up 6”, who would I choose for a boyfriend? I told them “JT” and they asked “Who” and I said “JT…Justin Timberlake”. So I figured it can’t hurt to ask [laughs].

MG: This film brings back Briana Evigan and Ryan Guzman to lead roles along with others like Alyson Stoner; what do you enjoy most about the continuity of the cast in these films?
MK: We have grown up so much together. It is just so much fun to work together. We are laughing all the time. Rehearsals are just a blast and getting to catch up with everyone. With a normal movie series, there is usually a different cast but not with these films. Like with me and Moose, he and I are always coming back. So it is really great.

MG: When co-starring in “Step Up 2: The Streets”, did you ever think you would have been in three follow-up sequels for this franchise?
MK: No, not at all. I was surprised that there was even a “Step Up 2”. I had no idea what I was going to do in the movie. I knew I would be in it as either “Dancer 1” or “Dancer 2”. But I had no idea about my character and I was really excited. Everything I did in “Step Up 2” was all improv and I was just excited that I ended up staying in the movie. Jenny Kido stood out. I didn’t even know what would happen after that. I even went to the audition for “Step Up 3” and Jon Chu, the director, was like “What are you doing here? You are already in the film”. So that was so awesome!

MG: What was the most challenging aspect of this film compared to the others?
MK: Well I actually got hit by a car in this film for real. I was in the hospital for a while. It was very challenging for me. The doctors told me that I needed to stay in the hospital for at least two or three weeks and that I couldn’t do anything. I told them if they told the producers I’d punch them! [laughs]. So I carried around an ice pack with me wherever I went. Everyone was so supportive of me and I got a lot of positive energy. In the finale scene, I have this little solo and I struggled through it but I was able to nail it, which was great.


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“Mosquita Y Mari” Lands with Maya International

The Sundance Next Film Selection From Aurora Guerrero Gets Rep’d

Los Angeles, CA – Maya International, a leading independent sales and distribution company based in Los Angeles, has worldwide rights to the Sundance selected film “Mosquita Y Mari” written and directed by Aurora Guerrero. The film, a co-production with Chad Burris’s Indion Entertainment, will be represented by Maya International for foreign, with The Film Collaborative handling domestic sales at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

In this character-driven coming of age story about two 15 year old Latinas who struggle to recognize the sexual undercurrent in their friendship while growing up in an urban immigrant community within the U.S. On the surface, “Mosquita Y Mari” is a story of best friends struggling with life’s universal questions, including finding one’s place in society. But sub-textually, “Mosquita Y Mari” takes a critical look at the less obvious pressures that society insidiously imposes on its citizens, like the assumption that love only exists between the opposite sexes.

The film, which was also accepted into the Sundance Selects at Berlin, is the second film that Producer Chad Burris and Maya International have worked together on; “Ass Backwards”, which Burris exec produced, and Maya Int. holds international rights to the film, was the first.

“We are thrilled to once again work with Chad and Indion. Aurora Guerrero is a talented emerging director, we are proud to represent “Mosquita y Mari” at this year’s Sundance Film Festival,” states Elias Axume, President of International Distribution for Maya International. “We are pleased to have our films in the hands of Elias and Maya International. We feel Elias and Maya bring a work ethic and understanding of the films that will translate into success,” Chad Burris, Producer and President of Indion Entertainment.

Maya International will be handling sales at Sundance Film Festival and at EFM 2012.

Maya International Distribution, headed by Elias Axume, sells rights to its entertainment properties worldwide and has a presence at key markets including Berlin Film Festival/European Film Market, Hong Kong FILMART, Cannes Film Festival, MIP-TV, Toronto International Film Festival, MIPCOM and AFM. Currently, Maya International is selling rights to Ass Backwards, starring Alicia Silverstone; It’s a Disaster, starring Julia Stiles and America Ferrara, Café, starring Jennifer Love Hewitt and Jamie Kennedy; Without Men starring Eva Longoria Parker, Christian Slater and Oscar Nunez; Across the Line, starring Aidan Quinn and Mario van Peebles; A Bag of hammers Starring Rebecca Hall and Jason Ritter and The Last Rites of Joe May, starring Dennis Farina, among others.