Actress and former ballerina Amanda Schull looks back on the celebrated dance movie

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Center Stage
(left to right) Ethan Stiefel, Amanda Schull and Sascha Radetsky
| Credit: Barry Wetcher/Columbia/Laurence Mark Prod/Kobal/Shutterstock

Center Stage is celebrating its 20-year anniversary!

Since its 2000 release, the film has earned cult classic status among dance aficionados for its charming portrayal of a young ballerina, Jody Sawyer, and her time at the fictional, but highly-competitive American Ballet Academy, loosely based on New York's School of American Ballet.

With a TV adaptation now in the works, 20 years after the film's release, the film's legacy is stronger than ever, having helped launch the careers of Zoe Saldana and Amanda Schull.

Schull, who landed the role of Jody, was a student at the San Francisco Ballet School when she was scouted by a casting director.

"I didn't have film acting experience — it was my first film job ever," Schull told Entertainment Weekly. "So I could relate to [Jody] more than if I was playing a boxer or something. I was in the right place at the right time when I got cast to be Jody Sawyer."

Schull was also an aspiring prima ballerina, and landed a contract with the San Francisco Ballet at the same time she landed the role in Center Stage. After filming for the movie, Schull packed her bags and joined the company in London for a tour.

Center Stage
The cast of Center Stage
| Credit: Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

The fact that she "could relate to every single thing Jody was going through was perfect," Schull told EW, before jokingly adding, "Although I didn't have an illicit affair with any company members."

The film also starred professional ballet dancers Ethan Stiefel and Sasha Radetsky. Steifel played Cooper, one of Jody's instructors and the company member with whom she has that "illicit affair." Radetsky portrayed Jody's classmate, Charlie, who develops a crush on her.

It was also a young Saldana's first movie role, where she played Eva Rodriguez, a gifted but short-tempered ballet student.

"We were all novices, Zoe had maybe done one Law and Order: SVU or something so we were all fairly new — nobody had any egos," Schull recalled. "We were all around the same age if not the exact age. It was just a gift. You had to say lines that people wrote for you that made sense, that weren't forced, that were easy and then you laughed and chatted and spent time with your new best friend between takes. It was a lot of fun."

Surprisingly, an iconic scene from the film, Jody's final fouetté sequence during her workshop dance performance, isn't something Schull is happy to look back on.

Center Stage
Sascha Radetsky and Amanda Schull
| Credit: Barry Wetcher/Columbia/Laurence Mark Prod/Kobal/Shutterstock

"I had mixed feelings about that actually, because I loved doing it and I didn’t overanalyze it but I was coming from this school where everything was super precise," she said. "If I had filmed maybe a year or two later after being in the company I would have probably been a lot more loosey-goosey and played with it because I would have been more comfortable with more forms of dance at that point."

Schull revealed it's hard for her to watch that final performance, saying she regretted not being able to go back in time and build on it.

"I don’t cringe when I watch it but I think I could have done that part better," she said. "I would have done that movement a little more freely. It is a little bit bittersweet and frustrating because like any performance you watch back and think, 'How can I do this better?' But not everyone’s work is forever embedded on celluloid. That’s what makes it frustrating."

As for what she loves most about having worked on the film, Schull says it was the impact it had on male dancers.

"What genuinely brings tears to my eyes is I’ve had a number of male dancers approach me and say, 'I showed my parents that movie and that’s when they understood why I love to dance,'" she told Vulture. "And that is something I could never have anticipated."

Since Center Stage, Schull retired from dancing in 2006 but has continued to act, starring in Syfy's 12 Monkeys, and guest-starring on One Tree Hill and Pretty Little Liars.

Schull also appeared on USA's Suits beginning in season 2 and was promoted to series regular for the drama's final two seasons.

The actress and dancer married George Wilson in May 2011 and the couple welcomed their first child together, a son named George Paterson Wilson VI, in February.