Cassie Scerbo hasn't always been a badass, but she sure as hell has always been bad. The 23-year-old actress and aspiring singer has got a track record for playing feisty HBIC's—think ABC's Family Make It or Break It and Teen Spirit—and her teen fans love to hate her for it. Emphasis on the love.
But with a starring role in Syfy's bizarre social media phenomenon Sharknado, a film about a shark-infested tornado that wreaks havoc on La La Land, Scerbo's switching up her rep from the Queen of Mean to the Biggest Badass on the Block. As Nova, she totes shotguns, manuevers a truck like a stunt driver, and annihilates sharks like it aint no thang.
Scerbo is ready to kick those bubbly blonde characters that she's always offered in their pretty little faces, and take on her next Lara Croft-esque role. She's throwing her hat in the Hollywood ring, and willing to fight for a spot as the next great female action heroine. Any takers?
Interview by Tara Aquino (@t_akino)
When you were approached with the script, what went through your mind?
This was the most ridiculous script I had ever been offered, and I was told I had a day to get back to them. Within 20 minutes of reading the script, I was like, "How can I not do this? This is hilarious! I'm absolutely I’m on board!" My inner tomboy was very excited about this, even though I appear very girly. How could I not be? This was action, blood, guts, sharks, guns, and tornadoes. This was totally up my alley.
I imagine there was a lot of green screen work. How strange was it to pretend to be attacked by sharks?
The acting was actually challenging because it's so over the top. You're on these sound stages and they give you a sticker so everyone has the same eyeline. Then they’re like, "OK now basically imagine sharks blowing up and tornadoes." How would you even react to that? How can you even possibly relate to that? On other scripts, you're able to relate to a break up or someone passing away, but you never expect this. [Laughs.]
I mean, in the movie, I have a monologue about my grandfather that died from a shark, and it was so funny because of how serious it was. It was ridiculous!
It was my first time working with CGI, and it was so much fun. We got a helicopter on a soundstage and had to act like we were stabbing a shark, which was basically just air.
This has the potential to be a cult classic.
Totally. I actually just got chills. I didn’t expect anything to happen with this film, yet this is the one thing I’ve done that's really blown up. I'm happy [viewers] just rolled with the punches. They got that we weren’t trying to be an Oscar award-winning film. It was supposed to be a cult genre film like Jaws or Jurassic Park or Twister.
You were on Make It or Break It, and ABC Family shows are notorious for their crazy Twitter following. Did you anticipate the social media boom for Sharknado?
The funny thing was that there wasn't a social media strategy behind it. When I saw it start trending, I was like, "No, it can't be for that movie." Marketing was literally were like, "Do you wanna do a couple of phoners for this?" I said sure, but fast forward to a week and I’m on the Today Show!
When I was on Make It or Break It, we got so much love and appreciation from the fans, but that was different because we planned it. I remember everyone on the cast planning to tweet or hashtag the show whenever it would air.
Are you being flooded with more offers for bizarre movies?
My manager told me that we have a lot to talk about when I get back to L.A. I hope that this is able to open some doors, especially in the action world. I keep telling people that I finally got to have my Lara Croft moment.
I’m still known as like the bitchy gymnast or the blonde, bubbly cheerleader and the mean girl, but I’m ready to move forward.
You started with Disney projects, which has an obsessive fanbase, and now you've opened the door to another obsessive group, a fanboy following with Sharknado.
I literally went from only teenage girls to so many like shark movie-loving dudes. I'm just getting so many tweets from Comicon. I have to show you this picture real quick. [Pulls up iPhone photo of woman wearing a homemade headpiece of a tornado full of sharks.]
It's amazing that the world is embracing this and that we were able to have a party with them through Twitter.
Just imagine us filming on a public street screaming, 'Watch out for the sharks!' and people just chilling at the bus station looking at us like we're nuts.
Is there a sequel in the works?
We just found out that a sequel was green lit, and it's going to take place in New York. Hopefully Nova comes back. I’m just envisioning sharks flowing past the Empire State Building. [Laughs.] And you never know what's next. Paris and the Eiffel Tower? Are we going to do an installment in Italy?
I really hope I'm in it, especially if it shoots in New York. I was born here and I love New York. It's my favorite city in the world.
Did you shoot on location at all in L.A.?
Actually, for the scenes in Tara Reid's house, they drained a big community pool and they built the set inside of the deep end of it, and they just flooded it. It was the most bizarre thing. I think that during 99 percent of this movie, I had hypothermia. It was so cold. We’re like Murphy’s Law. The water heaters weren't working. The water towers weren't working. Of course, we shot this in January.
One of the days, I was sitting in a car on the 405 with a shotgun and the cameraman is nestled in the back corner. All of a sudden, it hits me. What if people saw? What if people were like, "Is that that gymnast from Make It Or Break It chilling on the 405 with a huge ass shotgun?"
Just imagine us filming on a public street screaming, “Watch out for the sharks!” and people just chilling at the bus station looking at us like we're nuts.
What's your guilty pleasure movie?
Mean Girls. Now I don’t sound like a tomboy and all the guys that were like, "Oh Nova kicks ass are like, "Ew, OK, we don't like her anymore." [Laughs.]
People will come up to me and be like, "Are you really mean in real life?" What do you expect me to say? "Yes I’m a bitch, get away"? No! I’m not! [Laughs.] The cool thing about playing Lauren Tanner—let's get real, this is who everyone has to be talking about—is that people loved to hate her. It was fun to play and keep that balance. I also think that as the show went on, viewers saw why she did the things she did and warmed up to her. No one's just mean for no reason.
I try to turn everything into a positive. I became an anti-bullying youth ambassador for BOO2BULLYING, a nonprofit organization. If there's anything that I can tell people that are being bullied, it's that the bullies are really the ones that are hurting. Playing Lauren Tanner made me realize that she was evil because she was harboring so much pain from her childhood. And if there's anything I would tell anyone who is being bullied, it's to just let it go. Bullies are the insecure ones and the ones who are trying to get a rise out of you to make themselves feel better.
Are you working with any other charities?
Charity is my favorite thing in the world. I’m so lucky that I have this platform and that I have a voice and that people know who I am so that I can go out and I can be useful to the world. I'm going to be jumping out of a plane with Serinda Swan next month to raise money for the Somaly Mam Foundation, an organization seeking to put an end to sex trafficking. I did it last year for the first time, and it was the best experience of my life.
I also have my own campaign called Band With Me and the proceeds go to branches of BOO2BULLYING. It's meant a symbol for standing up to abuse, and it also links us all in the cause together.
It seems like if you break out with a certain role, you get the same role over and over again.
Yeah it's true, and you get straight offers for that. It's cool and it’s exciting because people know you can play that, but I don't want to get stereotyped.
Did you do any fight training for Sharknado?
I actually box, as in I wanted to be a professional boxer. No joke. My agent literally laughed in my face. My mom was like, "Really, Cass? Break your nose fighting and then have to go on set the next day?"
But there was really no fight training. They just kept asking if I wanted a stunt double, but I wanted to do as much as I could. I wanted to get credit for it.
What do you have next?
I’m focusing a lot on music. It's always been a passion of mine, but I never had time. We’re in the studio finishing my first single.
What kind of music are you going to put out?
At the end of the day, it's pop, but there's some edge to it.
Who are your musical influences?
I get inspired by Rihanna, Kelly Clarkson, Justin Timberlake, Pink, Alicia Keys, Gwen Stefani. Fergie's inspired my music a bit too. I love Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston.
Who do you listen to when you're getting ready to go out?
I love The Weeknd. His music—I mean, he's the reason for babies being born right now. [Laughs.]
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