Breakout star Luka Kain had never vogued before filming Saturday Church, an indie film about Ulysses, a genderqueer teen finding community in the New York City ballroom scene. "I had a one hour crash course, [...] I learned three moves, [...] and I worked those three moves to high heaven." What's the secret to this dance style that originated out of 1980s queer culture? "You gotta have good knees!" the 17-year-old told host Ophira Eisenberg. "And this sounds cheesy, but be yourself, cause voguing is a form of self-celebration."
In fact, places like Saturday Church— which is a real program that provides services to LGBTQ youth in New York City's West Village— put this kind of self-expression on the map. As a program volunteer, the film's director noticed that despite the terrible circumstances many of these kids found themselves in, "there was a through-line in all of them, in that they were beautifully creative." In a nearby gymnasium, they'd hold elaborate balls, which inspired him. This artistic escapism manifests itself in the film's musical numbers.
Starring in a feature film at such a young age was "a totally new experience," but one that Kain didn't shy away from. "The kind of arc and beauty of the character overshadowed every kind of nerve and doubt I had," he told Eisenberg. "I felt proud and attached to Ulysses [...] just for becoming their own person." Kain and his "momager" were personally touched by the story, as Kain's sister is a trans woman. "I thought it would be nice to, I guess, support her in that way by doing a film about it."
Kain hopes the movie's core message of the importance of found family will resonate with all kind of audiences, including young people everywhere that identify with his character. "I want kids who see the film [...] to know that there are people out there who will love, you know, every part of them, no matter who they are."
Other than being an actor, singer, and dancer, Kain is a self-proclaimed "big science nerd, and nerd in general!" His love for Pokémon started when his mom gave him a GameBoy— "which she still regrets today"— and is team "Charizard all the way!" We quizzed this Pokémaster on the game— he's gotta guess 'em all!
On taking on his first starring role
I didn't have time to be nervous, I just had to be my best self. [...] So I felt the need to kind of rise to the occasion.
On often being the film's only ambassador at film festivals around the country
It was a really great experience. And also it was a, uh, a really great application to my resume for college.