Ne-Yo Opens Up About Making Christmas Movies, Acting & Musical Longevity

Ne-Yo and Keri Hilson in 'Hip Hop Christmas Wedding'
Q&A
VH1

‘Tis’ the season to be Ne-Yo. The hitmaker already gifted us performances on The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration show and released “Everyday Is A Holiday,” a bonus track from the “Another Kind of Christmas (Deluxe Edition)” album.

The star is currently flexing his acting chops in not only season 3 of Step Up but two festive movies. First as a billionaire widow in The Sound of Christmas and then reuniting with a loaded cast including onscreen wife-to-be Keri Hilson for VH1’s Hip Hop Family Christmas’ upcoming followup Hip Hop Family Christmas Wedding.

And that’s not even counting returning to the judge’s chair for the new Netflix reality competition series Dance Monsters. Needless to say, the well-versed entertainer is closing out 2022 strong. In between tour stops, Ne-Yo caught us up on all his projects.

How was it getting the call that Jayson and Jessica’s love story was continuing for the Hip Hop Family Christmas Wedding?

Ne-Yo: I got really close to the cast and the director [Greg Carter]. The whole feeling and mood of the set literally felt like family. Redman is clearly not my father, but he takes on the role while we are on set. I can recall in between takes with him just dropping jewels of knowledge on us. He is a little older than everyone and has been around and through it. He is better now than he was before. Some of the things he went through where he came out clean on the other side. Whether it’s being in the music industry, parenting, or just what it is to be a man period. Everyone on set was genuinely happy to be there. That hat was one of the most fulfilling parts for me in that we were playing these characters. That is real life, we actually dig each other. When I got the call, I was excited to go back.

That feeling of family translates onscreen. Redman is a scene-stealer.

He absolutely is. We found ourselves doing extra takes because someone is laughing after he went off on a tangent. He freestyles and adlibs and catches you off guard. You got to stay on your toes with that dude.

Do you see Hip Hop Family Christmas adding the third chapter? Maybe where Jayson and Jessica have kids?

I’ll say I have no idea what the future holds. I try to live in the moment. However, were that to happen I would not have an issue with that at all. I let it be known on the last day of filming to let me know when we do the third one. It’s a really warm feeling you get from the cast, crew, and production people. They are all in the spirit of what we are doing. Let’s franchise this thing. I’m a phone call away.

Hip Hop Family Christmas Wedding on VH1

VH1

Serayah and yourself are also in BET+’s The Sound of Christmas. This one has a different tone.

I love Serayah. For us to be in two Christmas movies around the same time. The universe wants us to work together. It’s about a man who lost his faith due to his wife dying of cancer. Before that, the family was very heavily into the church. Serayah’s character is also down on her luck but very wealthy in faith. She comes into the family and helps restores that faith. After the wife died there was no more music in the house. Nobody touches the piano. Serayah’s character melts the ice in this guy’s heart. It’s another situation where it’s warm with the cast and I got close to the director. I love the acting thing but my heart is behind the scenes. I want to get to that point where I’m producing, directing, and writing films. I took it upon myself to shadow the director in the case of both of these films. I asked a lot of questions. That movie went really well and another situation where I would not be opposed to doing another one if the opportunity presented itself.

In the Step Up TV series, you play Sage Odom, who is definitely a different archetype that what we see in those Christmas movies. What are your thoughts on Sage’s journey so far this season?

Sage Odom from the first two seasons you get to know one side of him. He was somewhat one-dimensional. He was pretty much out for himself. A little sneaky and conniving. Not the best dude. That’s fine because it’s actually fun to play. In my regular personal and professional life, I don’t get to bark at people as Sage does. That’s a lovely release for me. In this third season they open the character up and you get to see some depth. The reveal of the depth and dimension gets deeper as we go into the season. I was really excited we got the third season. Looking forward to a fourth. Yet again where the cast got really close.

Christina Milian has carried on the role of Collette, who was originally played by the late Naya Rivera. No easy task.

Naya, rest in peace. She will never be forgotten. That was difficult. Those are hard shoes to fill with Naya being the actress she was. It really spoke to Christina’s ability to make the character hers to where you don’t see Naya or Christina you see Collette Jones. Kudos and love to her and the whole cast. Everyone stepped up for this season. Pun absolutely intended.

You’re judging on Dance Monsters, which really is a fun concept. What can we expect?

When I got the call for that I initially was like, “No. I don’t want to do it.” It was because I didn’t really grasp it fully until I got to talk to some of the producers and others behind the scenes. I went for it, and I got to say it is really cool. It was to the point where I wanted to be a monster. It’s a dance competition show, but as opposed to dancers doing their thing regularly, they put them in these motion capture suits and create a CGI monster for that dancer. You’re seeing the dancer’s skill and ability but not the dancer themselves. It’s kind of like The Masked Singer to the 25th power but for dancers. Initially, it sounded silly, but I think people are really going to dig it once they see what it is.

Ne-Yo performs on "The Wonderful World of Disney."

Disney/Abigail Nilsson)

What is it like on the road performing your new music?

The beautiful thing about where I am in my career right now from a singer-songwriter standpoint is I’ve been called a legacy artist. Meaning I’ve been here about 16 years. The cool thing about that is I’m still here, putting out brand-new music. At the same time, I can go on stage to the point where a lot of my first material I don’t have to sing. I can turn the mic to the crowd for them to sing the whole song. It’s a beautiful feeling…We’re in a really fickle time where people love you one second and the same millisecond hate you. The fact I’ve been here 16 years feels amazing.

Do have a favorite TV show or movie you enjoy this time of year?

Not really. Around the holidays, I must be home. My mother demands it with death threats, so I have to take my ass home. When I’m there we don’t do a lot of TV watching. It’s mainly stuff with the family. It will be me drawing with the kids. My mom is big with arts and crafts so we’ll go down in the basement to make stuff. That is really what Christmas is in my house. It’s a good thing to disconnect. It’s about unplugging where you put the phones down and have the TV off to enjoy the energy of the people you’re around.

Maybe you’ll squeeze in Hip Hop Family Christmas Wedding though.

Well, you got to watch that now! Daddy is on TV. Got to watch that. After that TV goes off and we’re back to the family.

Hip Hop Family Christmas Wedding, Check Local Listings, VH1

The Sound of Christmas, Streaming Now, BET+

Step Up, Sundays, 10/9c, Starz

Dance Monsters, Series Premiere, Friday, December 16, Netflix