Misty Copeland Shares Best 'Nutcracker' Memories, Explains What's 'So Beautiful' About New Movie (Exclusive)

ET caught up with the ABT principal dancer at the film's premiere in Hollywood, California, on Monday.

Misty Copeland is bringing her ballet magic to the big screen!

The 36-year-old dancer stars as the Ballerina Princess in Disney's The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, a twisted reimagining of the classic tale, The Nutcracker and The Mouse King, written by E. T. A. Hoffmann. While speaking with ET at the Hollywood premiere of the film on Monday, she took a trip down memory lane to recall her most memorable Nutcracker moments.

As a dancer, Copeland naturally grew up with the story of The Nutcracker ballet and danced the role of Clara for the first time at San Pedro High School in Los Angeles. She landed the prestigious part just eight months after beginning her dance training, after taking her first ballet class at a local Boys & Girls Club in 1996.


"It's a special story for the ballet world," she told ET's Courtney Tezeno. "It was the first ballet I ever saw, it was the first ballet I ever danced in. I've literally played every role, but I would definitely say Clara is my favorite within the ballet. But being the Ballerina Princess is also pretty amazing, in this version."

"It's crazy," Copeland added. "I'm in my element to some extent, but I think that taking on opportunities like this allow me to grow so much as an artist. Like, I think that it's good to kind of be scared and have that feeling like, 'I don't know if I can do this.' But I'm not acting in the film -- I mean, I'm acting through my movement -- but not with words yet."

For those who also grew up loving the ballet version of this story, executive producer Lindy Goldstein encourages everyone to go into The Nutcracker and the Four Realms with an open mind. While you'll still visit the familiar Land of the Snowflakes, Land of the Flowers and Land of the Sweets, you'll also be introduced to the Fourth Realm, which is home to an evil Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren). Clara (Mackenzie Foy) learns that the normally beloved character is trying to destroy the world her late mother created, and it's Clara's mission -- with help from her godfather Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman) and the Sugarplum Fairy (Keira Knightley) -- to save the kingdom.

"Everyone loves The Nutcracker! I think that it's a classic Christmas movie and everyone will be able to relate to that," Goldstein teased to ET at the premiere. "But we do have some fun twists and turns that make it fresh and, you know, something that you've never seen before."

Copeland is currently a principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre and has already made history with the classical ballet company. In June 2015, she became the first African American woman to be promoted to the position in ABT's 75-year history. Before that, she was part of ABT's Studio Company in September 2000, a member of the corps de ballet in April 2001 and a Soloist in August 2007.

"To be the representation for ballet within this film, that it's going to reach so many people that probably don't feel comfortable stepping into the Metropolitan Opera House, and to be a black ballerina? I mean, it's just all so insane," said Copeland, who played the lead role of Clara again, this time with ABT, in December 2014. "These young people are going to look at me and see a ballerina, not a black ballerina. It's going to be normal and that's what's so beautiful about it."

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms hits theaters Friday. Watch the chilling trailer for the film in the video below.


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