Earlier this week I was in L.A. for the Red Carpet premiere of Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. We have already shared our red carpet premiere experience as well as our review of Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Be sure to check both of them out after you read this interview. We are also sharing our interview with Mackenzie Foy shortly, so be sure to watch for that!
We were at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel for the interviews. This location was great because it was a short walk over to the Dolby Ballroom where the red carpet premiere and pre-party were held, and then another short walk over to the El Capitan Theater where we watched the movie.
When the time for the interview came, Misty walked into the room in a gorgeous blue dress. I also have to remark on her earrings since I absolutely loved them! She is stunning, funny and is a powerhouse. It was truly a privilege to meet her and chat about Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.
How did you get involved in this project?
MISTY: They reached out to me which was kind of shocking. I’m not an Actress but I understand the Nutcracker connection. They were like, we don’t know Ballet, this isn’t our world so these teach us. We’re going to entrust that you’re gonna have the right team. So they allowed me to choose a Choreographer so I selected Liam Scarlet. He’s a Choreographer in Residence for the Royal Ballet in London and I had worked with him before. And he was young so that’s not common that you see in the Ballet World.
I think when they brought the idea to me, it was based on the Nutcracker Book. It wasn’t based on the Nutcracker Ballet so there was no Ballet in this version of the story. They were like you can’t do the Nutcracker and not have Ballet in it so they kind of created this Character for me, the Ballerina Princess just as a way to have Ballet in it. And I’m like the storyteller. It’s like a performance would be there to kind of share the story of the four realms and tell it to Clara. It’s awesome.
I’m a Barbie Collector and I can’t wait to get your new doll. How did you feel about both of them?
MISTY: The second one came along so fast. Before I knew it, I was like Oh OK, it’s here. The first one was a lot of work. I was very involved. I made it very clear that I wanted it to be a true representation of me and what I stand for like just don’t take Barbie’s body and like paint her brown. I want her to have boobs. I want her to have thigh muscles and calves. And I want her nose to be wider than Barbie’s, and the lips to be full.
I mean, they kept coming back to me and I was like, the boobs aren’t big enough. And their last final review, they’re like OK, here it is. I was like oh my gosh, they’re still not big enough and then it was like we’re gonna pad her bra. So then we padded the bra for the Firebird Barbie.
So we already had the mold when we did this one for my Character in the Disney film so all they had to do was put a white wig on her and put a little dress on her and they changed the makeup a little bit. It is so incredible and something that I loved my whole life. My Mom had to take the Barbies away from me cause she was like, it’s not OK at this old, so this has to end. It’s amazing to have a brown Barbie that somebody can see themselves tied in.
What kind of a message do you want girls to take away from this movie?
MISTY: I think that this film couldn’t be a more amazing platform for ballet to be introduced to the masses. To those people that don’t feel welcome to step through the doors of the Metropolitan Opera House. It’s a place that you can dream and fantasize and so forth. Everyone goes to the Movies. It’s a place you can dream and fantasize and I think first of all, for the cast, being as diverse as it is, is amazing. And then for this next generation to see a brown ballerina in this Nutcracker film that will live on and hopefully, sooner than maybe 30 years that you’ll be able to say like Oh, that’s what a Ballerina looks like. And that to me, is just like so incredible and empowering and I think that’s something that Disney Movies have done for me growing up. For them to see representation and possibilities and limitless opportunities for themselves. That’s what I hope they take away.
Did you do any special training for this?
MISTY: No just my normal Ballet. I don’t act in it the movie. I have no speaking parts. I had some rehearsals. My schedule is just so tight, and the Choreographer Liam flew out from London. There was no set plan. It wasn’t like I’m gonna fly out and we’re gonna work from this time to this time on this day. I was like no, you’re gonna just going to be in the studio waiting til I have a break, and then we’re gonna run into a studio and create some movement and then I have to leave you again. So that was kind of how it happened.
Whenever I do like partial shoots, like Under Armor, it’s like that. They want to see something cause they don’t know this world so they want to know that I have some steps to do. And I think the more that people get to know me and the relationships…like I just go and improv but I understand that a company like Disney did not feel comfortable with me saying that. So we filmed a lot of movement that I didn’t even really use in the film but we did it because we wanted them to see that I can dance.
But then when we got on the set we adjusted to being in this massive space where they created the sets and everything. It made me feel like I was at home, made me feel like I was in like the theatre performing on a stage because it wasn’t in front of a green screen. It allowed you to really feel the magic like you were actually there. But then we just kind of adjusted the choreography or whatever I was gonna do to the camera angles and where the camera was flying in from like watch out, I’m gonna kick it.
But yeah, there was no special training, just the typical ballet class every morning and then go to set and dance for like 10 hours.
What was it like when you first started dancing?
MISTY: The first Ballet class I took was on a Basketball Court at the Boys& Girls Club in San Pedro, California. I don’t want to say I hated it, but it was not something I thought I was gonna do. I think all the other kids they also were coming from underprivileged backgrounds like me and none of them danced. And they were all older. I was 13. But they had all their gear on, whatever it was. They had leggings or tights and I was in these baggy Basketball shorts and socks and I was like this just isn’t right. It just doesn’t feel right. And I think it was the first time that I was taken on Scholarship into the local Valley School.
And I put on the pink tights and I put on the leotard and I could see myself in front of the mirror. That’s when it clicked, that I felt beautiful for the first time in my life. I felt right. I felt like everything who knows if it was actual reality but in my mind, being a black young girl, being super skinny and long legs and these massive feet and big hands and little head, of which everything was just wrong in the real world. And I stepped into the studio and it was like Oh, everything is exactly right. These are the proportions and I was just like Wo. It gave me such power and confidence that I’ve never experienced before.
What would you tell young girls at that age, um, not only about following their dreams but overcoming diversity like in short, like what would your advice be?
MISTY: I mean, I think that it’s — it’s hard for young people to like accept or ask for support or guidance and you know, that’s just kind of been my saving grace with everything, like if, you know, we don’t have, you know, especially as young people, we don’t have all the tools to, um, push through and get going through whatever it is. We have not [UNINTELLIGIBLE] but I think it’s important to first just to have belief in yourself, like true belief that like you don’t have to look like the person next to you, like what you see on Instagram is not necessarily beauty just because that’s what you pushed in your face, that like we, like I think being an individual is so much more beautiful and being unique and so I feel like I just try and tell young people to own that and be confident in who you are.
How was the process of how your character all came together for you?
MISTY: It’s the most amazing team so we would be up even though it was very early. It’s like still dark outside and we would get to the set every day and be in the trailer and it was a long process. I want to say two hours or more to make sure the wig was secure. There was something, like some gadget that was in my costume, or in my wig or something that was like magnetic and so like the spot of the spotlight would follow me where I went cause of this thing in my costume. But then I was dancing with this thing in my costume so it was like crazy to have this like on.
With the wig, all of those pins on my head for like 10 hours, and then like if I had a 30-minute break to nap I would have to sleep in the wig. And it was just like really painful.
The process of the make-up was a lot of work. And then you know, you have to make it look exactly the same every single day that you go in so it’s just very detailed, not as glamorous as people probably assume it is. But it’s amazing to see how it came out and how magical it made me feel.
Do you hope to do more movies and bring your ballet and dance to everyone?
MISTY: I don’t want to limit myself. Looking back, I never in a million years would have been like, Oh, I’m gonna write 3 books. But I feel like I’m just leaving things open to fall into place organically.
Something that I don’t think I realized til maybe 4 or 5 years ago was how much I enjoyed acting on stage, which is very different from using your words and acting. It’s all through the movement in your body.
I do have a Production Company. It’s called Life In Motion like my memoir. We haven’t done anything yet, it’s a long process but I think that I want to be able to be an authentic voice for ballet and for dance in this Medium.
You know, that it’s difficult to watch Dance Films and not always feel like it’s truly representing who we are. So I feel like that’s a responsibility that I have and want to do that in the future.
Before she left, she also wanted us to share this announcement:
American Ballet Theatre is gonna be in LA in December and they are performing at the Orange County Performing Arts Center and we’re doing The Nutcracker so you can come and see me dance if you want. So it’s December 16. If you go to ABT.org and look for my name, look for Copeland cause everyone thinks I’m dancing every night and then they’re like what aren’t you on stage? If you see Copeland then I’m performing that night.
What a fun opportunity! I wish I lived closer so I could go watch her performance. Here is the trailer for Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms:
About Disney’s The Nutcracker and The Four Realms:
All Clara (Mackenzie Foy) wants is a key – a one-of-a-kind key that will unlock a box that holds a priceless gift. A golden thread, presented to her at godfather Drosselmeyer’s (Morgan Freeman) annual holiday party, leads her to the coveted key—which promptly disappears into a strange and mysterious parallel world. It’s there that Clara encounters a soldier named Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight), a gang of mice and the regents who preside over three Realms: Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers and Land of Sweets. Clara and Phillip must brave the ominous Fourth Realm, home to the tyrant Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren), to retrieve Clara’s key and hopefully return harmony to the unstable world. Starring Keira Knightley as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Disney’s new holiday feature film “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” is directed by Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston, and inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic tale.
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THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS opens in theatres everywhere today!