Colt Prattes estimates he’s watched the original Dirty Dancing around 40 times, a tradition he started with his stepmom when he was just seven years old. Now the 30-year-old actor, a relative unknown to the film and television world (musical theatre aficionados will know the raven-haired dude, though—he turned heads as Stacee Jaxx in Vegas’ Rock of Ages for more than a year), is lacing up Patrick Swayze’s dancing shoes and having the time of his life taking on the iconic role of Johnny Castle in the TV remake of the 1987 classic (May 24, CTV).
FLARE’s most enthusiastic Dirty Dancing fan chatted with Prattes about the daunting task of recreating Swayze’s breakthrough role, what the original movie meant to him and *spoiler alert* how the cast (which is made up p. much entirely of people we’d like to be friends with IRL like Abigail Breslin, Sarah Hyland and Debra Messing) really got as close as they seem on-screen.
Do you remember the first time you watched the original Dirty Dancing?
I used to spend the weekends with my dad and stepmom in North Georgia and—do you remember they used to play certain movies every weekend on like TNT and USA? Dirty Dancing was pretty much the movie they played every weekend and we watched it every single time it was on. And so the first time I watched Dirty Dancing was with my stepmom, and the third through 40th time I watched it was with her. She loved that movie—I think she loved the romance of it all—and she loved Patrick Swayze, and I remember half the time I just watched her as she watched it.
How did it influence your career as a dancer?
I wasn’t even a dancer at the time, I played baseball and I had no intentions of dancing, but my stepmom loved that movie and I just thought Patrick Swayze was the coolest because the *other* movie that we would watch in our house all the time was Point Break. It was my dad’s favourite, and my dad also loved watching Dirty Dancing because Patrick Swayze is the coolest human being to ever walk the planet. So it was a mixture of Roadhouse, Ghost, Point Break and Dirty Dancing in our house pretty much at all times.
How did your family react when you got the role of Johnny Castle?
Unfortunately, my stepmom passed a couple years ago, so she doesn’t know, but my dad was very excited and my mom was over the moon. But nobody was more excited than my wife. We were both doing shows in Las Vegas at the time and I was dropping her off at her show and I got a text from casting saying “Hey, the director wants to talk to you. I didn’t know if it’s good or bad” and this was after four callbacks and chemistry tests with Abbie. I got offered the role and I was like “Could you just hold on one second?” and I opened the car doors and we were screaming and running in circles around the top of the parking garage. And then I had to run over to do my show, and I couldn’t tell anybody. So I literally had to do Rock of Ages that night and I was just on fire, I was so excited. The feeling hasn’t even changed since then, I’m still so insanely excited.
How intimidating was it to step into Patrick Swayze’s shoes as Johnny Castle?
I had such an idea of who I felt like he was, because I had been so obsessed—”obsessed” is probably the right word to say even though it’s not the coolest word!—and I had an idea of who I believed he was. And a lot of people on the set of this movie had worked with him in other jobs—there are extras in this movie that were in the original!—and they just had so many beautiful things to say about him. Everybody says the same thing which is that he was this amazing, spiritual, beautiful person and because of that, I guess I never felt intimidated because it didn’t feel like that’s what he would have wanted. It’s inevitable to get the comparison but I hope that everybody can dig it the same way that I loved it.
Did you have an all-time favourite scene prior to filming?
I did. Before I even knew how to dance, I died over the final scene where there was a single camera shot of Swayze jumping off the stage and then dancing. He did this quick dancing before he started doing the actual steps and I remember that quick step was the one that I was doing around the living room. I would watch that whole movie with my stepmom just to get to the point where I saw that. I didn’t even get to the lift sometimes—I would miss it because I was over there trying to recreate that little dance break.
What was your favourite scene to film?
I can’t lie, my favourite moment from filming was the lift. It is stunning but because when I first watched the original and wasn’t a dancer, I didn’t get. And I wasn’t old enough to be in love and to understand what that lift represented. In the movie when Abbie does the lift, we had never done it in front of anyone else—it was just her and I that had done it in front of the dance team. So nobody else had seen it and we had never held it long and when you see it in the film, that’s the first time she’d ever done it in front of people and the first time that anybody in that room had seen it, so their reactions are their genuine reactions. They go all freakin’ nuts and that energy is real, people screaming and jumping up and clapping—like those extras that had seen the original and saw that when it actually happened the first time and then were in the same room 30 years later, watching it happen again, you can’t act that!—and when I brought her down, looking at her face and seeing her realize what she had just accomplished, I’m getting chills thinking about it. Abbie had never danced before and to trust someone like that, and we had become so close, it just felt perfect.
Tell me about working with Abbie. Did you know her before this project?
Abbie, that’s my girl, though! We talk every other day. I couldn’t have done this with anybody but Abbie. She is caring and hardworking. And knowing that this was my first time in a role like this in a film and my first film of this level, she helped me in ways that I can’t even explain from little things like explaining how the schedule went in the day to just paying attention to things that I was scared of that I wouldn’t talk about. She would just be there to quietly take my hand and say “You good?” She would tell me to take a breath and we would take a breath together and then keep going. She helped me as much as, if not more than, I helped her learn to dance. Working with her was a dream.
Would you say that a lot of the cast got quite close? I think a lot of long time fans (like myself) imagine that there was a summer camp vibe to the whole set.
There’s a group text that we all contribute to everyday and I can say genuinely, this cast is closer than any cast I’ve been a part of. I spent four years in college and don’t keep in touch with my class the same way that I keep in touch with these people.
So the dream is real.
The dream is 100% real!
Is there anything surprising you can share about your cast mates?
The cast is insanely talented across the board, not just acting wise, but musically. I think it would surprise people how much talent there was musically in the cast. I don’t think people know this about Bruce Greenwood but that can play a guitar like I cannot explain! The cast was at a coffee house night and Bruce stood up, took a guitar and played Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey” and blew the house down.
What do you hope people take away from the remake?
I hope the feeling they got from the original—and I can’t really speak to the feeling other people got, I can only speak to mine—they get from this, too. I can tell you from watching this one, I got the same feeling that I got the first time I watched the original. I remember there was just an excitement, like my heart beat a little faster and that’s what I hope that the longtime fans and the new fans, because there are a lot of young people that don’t know the original, get from it.