Chosen Jacobs (L) and Lexi Underwood will be seen in "Sneakerella," starting Friday. Photo courtesy of Disney+
NEW YORK, May 12 (UPI) -- It and Hawaii Five-0 alum Chosen Jacobs said he had no trouble relating to his Sneakerella character, El, an artist who works hard to make his big dreams come true.
"As an entertainer, singer and actor, that's our story. We come out to this world and share our perspective and our voice, and that comes with a lot of failures and successes. I think those failures are just learning lessons," Jacobs told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.
"We all can relate to having a dream and not knowing if we have the ability or the resources to make it come true," he added. "Through the help of friends or fairy godfathers and fairy godmothers, we find a way to make them happen, and that is just a roller coaster. I think that's what life is."
The Queens, N.Y.-set, hip-hop musical premieres Friday on Disney+. It follows El as he secretly designs fantastic sneakers while working as a stock boy in the shoe store his beloved late mother left to him, his distracted step-father (Bryan Terrell Clark) and evil step-brothers (Kolton Stewart and Hayward Leach).
El's life takes a magical turn when he and his best friend, Sami (Devyn Nekoda), unexpectedly meet Kira King (Lexi Underwood) at the highly anticipated debut of a new sneaker at a packed Manhattan store.
El naturally falls in love with smart and beautiful Kira before discovering her father Darius (John Salley) is a sneaker tycoon looking for fresh talent to create his new footwear line.
With infectious tunes and a winning cast, the family film is bursting with positivity.
"That's the cool thing about this story. It transcends even age -- no matter how mature you get and how much experience you have, there are always times where you pep-talk yourself and have to believe in yourself and stay true to yourself and love yourself," Jacobs said.
The 20-year-old actor said he didn't initially see this project as a modern male take on the oft-told Cinderella tale.
He now fully embraces the twists, and hopes audiences will do the same.
"Being able to play Cinderella is already a life-changing experience," he said. "It's something I never could have dreamed of. Anything that happens after that is just a cherry on top. Just to have an opportunity to make a movie that I am proud of -- that's all I ask for as an actor."
To prepare for the movie, Jacobs and his co-stars spent a month rehearsing for its many splashy musical numbers.
"That's how we really bonded as a cast -- that process of really getting down and putting in some sweat equity," he said.
Jacobs also connected with how El's mother shaped him into the man he became, even though they didn't have much time together before she died.
"Everything great about me is due to my mother," the actor said.
"She taught me so much, and my perspective on life and the ability to believe in myself stems from her believing in me first," he continued. "That's the same for El. He is always learning and trying to remember what his mother taught him."
Underwood loved flipping the script and playing Princess Charming to Jacobs' Sneakerella.
"It's been a dream of mine ever since I was younger to be a part of the Disney family, but, specifically, also to be a princess," she noted.
Regarding the film's inclusivity, the 18-year-old actress said it felt like a full-circle moment to be in that space at that time.
"We are now seeing that we don't always have to have trauma or something negative attached to our story lines for it to be viewable -- especially when it comes to Black and Brown people," she said.
"It's important to see us in these spaces where we just exist, where we are joyous and we're just fun and full of life and I feel like that is what this movie represents."
Underwood, whose credits include The First Lady and Little Fires Everywhere, said that Kira also is a superb role model because she is not a damsel in distress waiting for someone to rescue her.
"She has her own point of view. She knows what she wants for her life," the actress said.
The romance at the heart of the film also gives it a special sparkle.
"That love story between them is so sweet and so different from some of the others we've seen. It's such a realistic and relatable thing," she said. "What draws Kira and El into each other, No. 1, is they have a lot in common. But, also, I feel like they see each other as motivators."
Underwood said she enjoyed exploring the complex King family dynamics, too.
"They are a very tight-knit family, but they are also a very structured and organized family who are running a major business," she said, pointing to how Darius ultimately realizes more important things exist in life than work.
"What is so beautiful is being able to see that turn with Darius understanding that it is bigger than him. It is bigger than just sneakers."