Chosen Jacobs was selected after a lengthy search to take on the starring role of El in the Disney+ original musical movie “Sneakerella.” The casting gave him the chance to play an aspiring sneaker who will do anything to achieve his dreams. As with other adaptations of the “Cinderella” story, El must overcome family members who see him as nothing more than someone who works in the stockroom.
It is easy for the young actor to see the comparisons between El’s determination to succeed and his own.
“Going into entertainment, we go out here with our dreams and believing we can make it happen,” Jacobs says. “I feel my journey has been very much a reflection of El’s. I have had a lot of people help me get where I am at and I am very grateful.”
That help got Jacobs to the film that unfolds in the street-sneaker subculture of New York City. El splits his time between creating wild sneaker designs and working in the shoe store that once belonged to his late mother. He hides his artistic talent from his overburdened stepfather and two mean-spirited step brothers who constantly thwart any opportunity that comes his way.
A chance meeting with Kira King (Lexi Underwood), the fiercely independent daughter of legendary basketball star and sneaker tycoon Darius King (John Salley), creates a relationship that touches his heart. He just has to find a way to get past his family hurdles to pitch his shoe designs.
Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum, director and co-executive producer of “Sneakerella,” spent months trying to find the right actor to portray El. Because the casting was done virtually, Rosenbaum got to look at a wide range of actors.
“Chosen just embodied the role on every level,” Rosenbaum says. “He could dance, sing, light up the screen. He also exudes so much kindness which is what I loved about the original ‘Cinderella.’ Good things came to her because she was good.
“Chosen is that kind of character and he is like that in real life.”
Rosenbaum had to search to find the actor who could handle the acting, singing and dancing to play El. She didn’t have the same problem with casting the actor who could be believable as an NBA legend and who could also sing.
Salley fit the legendary part of the casting with no problems. He was the first player in the NBA to win a championship with three different teams. Rosenbaum found out Salley could sing from Salley.
“He really wanted the role and pursued it pretty actively,” Rosenbaum says. “He started sending us extra little videos of himself rapping. It was really nice to see how invested he was and he was like that from start to finish.
“He elevated everyone because of his joy.”
Jacobs came to the movie with a more traditional entertainment background. He had been working for years before landing the role in “Sneakerella.” Along with starring in the latest versions of “It,” he has had roles on “Castle Rock,” “Hawaii Five-0” and “God Friended Me.”
The actor/singer was born in Springfield, MA and raised in Atlanta. He began his singing career with the Georgia Boys Choir where he sang opera at the age of 6. Music was a big part of his life before convinced his mother that he needed to go to Los Angeles to land acting roles.
Jacobs was drawn to the Disney+ movie because it would give him a chance to not only show off his acting skills but also would get to sing and dance. His musical background meant he could spend time on other parts of the job, especially the dancing.
He liked being able to show off his wide range of talents but he quickly learned that the way Rosenbaum shot the production, there were days when he would be required to do it all – act, sing and dance.
“It was like a boot camp of entertainment,” Jacobs says.
The dance part of the movie was a bit of a learning experience for Rosenbaum. There were numbers that only featured a small amount of people but there were others that came across like a massive flash mob.
Rosenbaum had gotten a little taste of dealing with musical numbers because she had directed episodes of “Empire.” She admits now looking back that she may have been a little conceited when it came to her confidence of staging massive dance numbers.
“It was a whole extra medium and so many other things to consider and so much extra prep work,” Rosenbaum says.
The prep work for Jacobs started when he was very young as he chased his dream of entertaining. He says just like El has a person who helps make his dreams come true, he has had his mother’s support that helped him achieve so many goals.