ATM: What about your interest in the arts persuaded you to take this position on this production?
CJ: I am originally from New York. I lived here for about 14-15 years. I come from a live theater background. A lot of the creatives on the show are from New York City. The Lip Sync Battle started as a segment on the Jimmy Fallen show. Steve Merchant created the idea and concept. They brought it over to Spike, which is now Paramount Network. This was one thing that drew me to this show — the interest of the gratification in seeing the audience laugh and to entertain them. I enjoy anything that happens spontaneously to the audience. I loved the comedy aspect. There are not too many jobs where you get to combine the art of dance and the art of comedy. I love things that are funny. I love to dance.
ATM: Who is your favorite comedian?
CJ: From the show or just in general?
CJ: I love watching animations in general. Family Guy is one of my all-time favorites. Seth McFarlane is incredible. I got to meet him, and he is just a genius. This is a great attribute all human beings should have. There are a lot of funny people on the show. It is an enjoyable process once you start filming. Matt McGorry was a hilarious guy. We had to give him a couple of creatives to choose from before coming on set. He wanted a little help on the dance moves.
He would send us videos of him dancing at home on his own. These are the crazy moments you would never send to anyone. He was someone who wanted to have fun and be very serious. He made you laugh. Snoop Dogg was very funny. He was in a great state of mind. He is kind of carries a dad demeanor. He made light-hearted jokes. Everyone that said yes to the show had a funny aspect. We have been lucky not to have to pull the funny out of them. They open their hearts to the show.
ATM: How does this show exhibit a softer side to people working in Hollywood?
CJ: The people who are coming in and wanting to be funny must show a vulnerable side, primarily because of the scheduling of the show. We sometimes get a confirmation the day before filming. The celebrity comes in with having an hour to learn the song, lyrics, and the creative. You are in the state of vulnerability to the max. They are usually in the state of coming to set well-rehearsed. They learn their lines. This is their art form. Here you are at the whim of dancers and the choreographers. They have to be open to trying and seeing everything. Seeing what works and what does not. This is a side other people do not get to see.
They all come from different artistic backgrounds, which shows their softer side. The creative process is fascinating. You have these icon actors like Kathy Bates who gets serious about everything. They are serious because they care about the funny. They put their all into it. Every moment means something to them. The athletes are the ones freaking out. The athletes get the most nervous. We have to calm them down and remind them that these are the things you do around friends and family. It is the same thing on this show except with cameras.
ATM: What has this show taught you more about your love for the arts?
CJ: It has taught me that I truly love to dance. It takes a month to film an entire season. We film most of the episodes on the weekend. We have eight days to film 20 episodes. You must love what you do being in this type of pressure cooker. Otherwise, you just will not make it, to be honest. — The hard work each art department goes through is amicable: the dancers, choreographer, lighters, art department, and everyone. You see how much they care about the quality. They love the art of comedy. I enjoy this. The show is like a Christmas, Thanksgiving, or family dinner. They are prepping and cooking all day. You just sit to enjoy a great meal. It is just fucking delicious. They put so much of their heart and soul into the entire process. You cannot help but feel the love.
ATM: Does this show help you see a different side of LL Cool J and Chrissy Teigen does not get seen?
CJ: What you see is what you get, honestly. I only knew LL as the rapper. I have followed his career in the acting field. This work ethic is one of the best seen. He is right up there with Beyonce and Madonna. I used to work for them. He is meticulous and direct. He is a great man and never raises his voice. He is “LL Cool J.” He bases his points very concisely. He knows how to have fun. There is no pseudo. Chrissy is so funny. She tones herself down for the show. She says everything from the heart and says it with pure love.
CJ: I have always been the type of person to observe the things I liked. I take a piece from the people who I find inspiring and take it with me. I have always been a person of discipline. Dancing is the most disciplined among all the other arts to me. Dancing takes your mind body and soul, and you also have to give your all at it. I just watched what they did meticulously and applied it to my regime of being an artist. Todd Smith is not late and knows his lines. This has a lot to do with your reputation in Hollywood. It is a very small group of people. People talk about your reputation. These small things are a part of the discipline. Someone is going to get hired over someone that shows up on time and can do the job correctly. This does not work with people coming in with an ego.
ATM: Describe the energy that moves throughout the production.
CJ: It is an organized, crazy, hilarious, and chaos. The dancers start from 7:30 am to 1:30 am depending on when we give the creatives.
ATM: Why dance? Why does dance make you who you are?
CJ: Honestly it comes naturally to me. My dad was a rapper, and my mother was a break dancer. It was in the blood. I dance and act. I found my true calling in dance. I love communicating with all types of people. I found this in me while being an entertainer and an artist. Dancing is a way for me to do both as an artist. This is why I picked to dance. It is such a universal expression.
ATM: How could a younger dancer look up to you?
CJ: Hmm. I have never thought of this before. If you want to be a dancer these days, then discipline is the number one priority. It is going to take hard work to get what you want. If it is easy, then you may not have done it right. You have to research whatever you want to do. We have Google. People should know their craft. It is bullshit when people say they do not know. You must work your hardest. As a dancer, you have to be perverse. This is a prerequisite for a dancer. You can no longer work at being good at ballet, tap, or hip-hop.
We auditioned over 500 to 600 dancers for this upcoming sixth season. You have to learn a technical and Hip-hop combination. You can get anything from Fifth Harmony to Paul Abdul. There are many factors with dance on the show. You must be able to infuse all these genres of dance into one project. Take as many classes as you can. A lot of Los Angeles dancers think the dancing that happens on tours is all they have to do. There are many jobs for dancers. If you want to pay your rent and eat, then you have to be able to take a job where you can point your feet or twerk.