The cheat sheet to understanding the poplocking robotics geek that is ‘Madd Chadd’ goes like this: popping, Boppin Andre, dance battles and advanced robotics research.
A few years ago Chadd Smith was on a different kind of track all together. The two-time California high school champion in the high jump was a gifted athlete bound for UCLA on a track scholarship. But like most teenagers, it’s the company you keep that can make all the difference. For Smith, it was a friend who could break off windmills without thinking that dropped the dance bug in him, making him the dance version of jock-turned-Glee-k Finn Hudson.
Except there was one problem—”I couldn’t even two step or snap or clap on beat,” Smith admitted of his early days. “When I went to college I met some other b-boys and started going to dance events.” This is where he would meet Boppin Andre, an LA poplocking original. “He blew me away,” said Smith. “I felt this connection to what he was doing—I felt it in me. The illusion that he created and how he made me feel propelled me into practicing as a robotics dancer.”
“I’ve always been into robotics and I’m a techie at heart,” said Smith. “I hadn’t seen anyone move like that before, to that extent. It took me seeing it with my own eyes, three feet in front of me, of how strong the illusion was of a human being making me fully believe that they were a machine. I just fell in love with the feeling of being a robot.”
Little did he know that Smith himself would take over the reigns of the robotics style and star as the scene-stealing Sp3cimen in the internet’s breakout The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers (The LXD).
It was somewhere around 2003, a few years into his time at UCLA that he would become known as ‘Madd Chadd’ to the underground dance community, appearing in numerous dance battles and amateur YouTube videos.
Through meeting Chris Scott and other dancers, all of whom would eventually be his LXD co-stars, Smith ended up catching the eye of rising film director Jon M. Chu who ended up casting him in Step Up 2 and later in a bigger role in Step Up 3D. “Jon is is such a huge gift to underground dancers,” he said of Chu.
But in this age of infinite streams of culture uploaded all over the world, is anything truly underground any more? “The online world has really changed the game,” said Smith. “You don’t have to wait, you just upload your video and if you get hits people notice you.” “But,” he added, “it raises the level, since there are so many choices out there.”
A child of the internet generation, Smith knows a thing or two about online video and state of what’s people are watching. He’s not shy to call out The LXD for its impact on the world of web series. “One of the biggest things that surprises people is the level of qualtity of what we’re doing,” Smith noted. “I’ve never seen anything on the web that looks like The LXD.”
As for what to expect from his character Sp3cimen heading into Season 2, which premieres Wednesday on Hulu, Smith says the mortally-wounded soldier is still “figuring out who he is.” From Sp3cimen’s character bio:
Apprentice Level details, however, are available to all LXD recruits and reveal that Sp3cimen has the power to manipulate the mechanics of both space and time. This rare gift, permitting him to phase his joints between two distinct moments, lends his movements a robotic precision seldom seen outside of instruments of war. This is, in part, why many LXD members believe he had a military background prior to his recruitment into the LXD. While x-rays indicate that Sp3cimen isn’t entirely human, the wedding ring on his finger indicates he once was…and may be again.