New ‘Drumline’ casts a new beat to the original

By Jonathan Landrum Jr., AP

ATLANTA, Georgia–Nick Cannon remembers when youngsters often approached him, telling him that the 2002 film ��Drumline�� influenced them to attend a historically black college and university.

Cannon believes the sequel could have the same impact.

��People told me back then they went to an HBCU because of that movie,�� said Cannon, who starred in the original film as Devon Miles, a teenage drummer who went from a New York high school to the fictitious Atlanta A&T with the hopes of claiming drum section leader. ��That film made being in a marching band cool. I think this new one could have the same effect.��

��Drumline: A New Beat,�� which airs at 9 p.m. EDT Monday on VH1, continues to tell the story of marching band members at Atlanta A&T. But this time, the spotlight is on Alexandra Shipp, who stars as Danielle ��Dani�� Raymond, an ambitious drummer with the goal of becoming the first female section leader at Atlanta A&T.

Cannon, who served as one of the film’s executive producers, makes a cameo appearance.

��I loved the first ‘Drumline’ movie, and all I wanted to do is bring it justice,�� said Shipp, who will also portray Aaliyah in the singer’s biopic, ��Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B,�� which premieres on Lifetime at 8 p.m. EDT Nov. 15. ��(Cannon) passed the baton in a way, but was like you’re going to make this baton what you want it to be.��

In 2002, ��Drumline�� was grossed more than US$56 million at the box office. The original film was based on the life story of music producer Dallas Austin’s experience in a high school band.

Austin initially thought there should’ve been a follow-up movie soon after the original, especially after hearing the strong demand from fans to create a sequel. But he did not want to rush into another one.

��I felt like we should have had it sooner to tell the truth,�� Austin said. ��People thought we would never make another ‘Drumline.’ But I was not willing to compromise the integrity of what made it.��

Leonard Roberts, who played Devon’s nemesis in the original, returns as the character of Sean Taylor. But this time, his character has more of a charismatic persona �X which initially worried him.

��It was great to finally get a story,�� he said. ��Sean was kind of the bad guy in the original. I had a momentary pause at first, wondering if the audience would accept him into this role. So it was a transition for me.��

Wendy Finerman, who returned as an executive producer, said the return of Cannon and Roberts will help carry on the legacy of the film.

��We were able to find a fresh way to have the legacy of ‘Drumline’ continue, meaning have a young girl as the drummer and watch where Devin went in his career,�� said Finerman, who shared the Best Picture Oscar for the 1994 film, ��Forrest Gump.��

VH1, which aired ��CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story�� last year, took an interest in the film because of the ��authentic�� story it tells.

��Our focus is on stories that have twist and turns, telling a story we’ve never heard of before,�� said Susan Levison, head of programming at VH1. ��Involving music is important to our brand. We feel ‘Drumline’ can help that cause.��