Each member of New Edition spent time with the two actors playing him – viewers see the group as both children and as adults – to help hone their on-screen portrayals. "All these [actors] had done their due diligence, watched YouTube," director Chris Robinson explains. "But then you actually sit down and have a conversation with Bobby Brown, and he tells you about his tumultuous life, and he goes, 'My pelvic thrust was like this.'"
The actors were put through a grueling boot camp to get their dancing into stage-ready shape, and New Edition would drop by to show them up. "Imagine you being an actor and the guys that you are portraying come in, and they're dancing better than you at 40 years old and you're 25," Robinson says. This training proved to be crucial, as large swathes of the film are taken up by performance pieces where the actors recreate a number of New Edition's biggest hits.
Originally, The New Edition Story was slated to be a feature film, but Brown refused to sign on. "Sometimes you look at things, and you say, 'Dang, once again we can't get everybody on the same page,'" Bivins says. "But honestly, I'm kind of happy that that shit didn't happen, because that meant 30 years would've been in two hours. It's one time where [Brown] made a move where I can say, 'Damn, man, that worked in our favor. Now we get six hours instead of two!'"
"There's still some parts that are left out," Brown notes. "I have a whole total different career that occurred after I left New Edition, and that part is not in the movie." He's planning to put together his own feature film as well.
New Edition's longevity and perseverance is remarkable for a collective enterprise. Brown returned to record with the other members of New Edition for 1996's Home Again and still sometimes performs with them' New Edition still tours after more than three decades in the business, and the film was made with their cooperation. That cohesive tenacity, according to Robinson, is "ultimately what [The New Edition Story] is about.
"Through the differences, the pain, the betrayal that some feel, the brotherhood remains, the professionalism remains," he says. "I don't know too many stories like it."