According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Lionsgate TV production consulted with Rivera’s family before choosing the 39-year-old.
The Love Don’t Cost a Thing actress expressed her excitement to join the Step Up family in a press release stating, “I know I have massive shoes to fill. Naya was incredible. I hope to honor Naya, her family, friends and fans with a great performance.”
Ne-Yo is set to reprise his role as Sage Odom on the series but understands it will be no easy feat for Milian but he’s “more than certain of her ability.”
“There is no replacing Naya,” the singer-songwriter said. “Let’s get that straight. Her spirit lives on in our memories and every part of what this show is and will be. Christina has big shoes to fill and she knows it, which speaks to her poise and respect as a person and an artist. I’m more than certain of her ability to bring an energy and light to this character that Naya’s fans as well as the rest of the world will love.”
Following Rivera’s fatal drowning accident last summer while boating and swimming with her son Josey, executives at Starz, Lionsgate and producers on Step Up weighed all of their options for moving forward with the series.
“Naya’s death was a terrible loss to our world that we will, frankly, never stop mourning,” said series creator and executive producer Holly Sorensen. “It was almost impossible to consider there could be someone so graceful and loving who could both help us honor our loss, while also bringing a deep reservoir of talent to our show, in so many areas. Christina is an exceptional human and a dazzling performer and we are so happy she has joined our family.”
Production for the third season, which originally aired on YouTube before their migration to Starz in May, began at the top of the year.
Inspired by the 2006 film of the same name, the series follows Sage Odom (Ne-Yo) as the founder of Atlanta’s famed High Water Performing Art School and Collette (Milian) as the Queen of High Water and Odom’s partner who has a dark secret.