Jaason Simmons, Cassie Scerbo, John Heard and Ian Ziering in SHARKNADO | photo courtesy Jaason Simmons

Jaason Simmons, Cassie Scerbo, John Heard and Ian Ziering in SHARKNADO | photo courtesy Jaason Simmons

SHARKNADO, the movie about a tornado full of sharks that decimates Los Angeles, has been all over social media, radio and TV since its debut on Syfy Channel on July 11. Syfy has run the film twice since then, to bigger ratings each time. Now SHARKNADO and recently stormed into 200 movie theatres across the U.S. for a midnight showing this past Friday.

Cassie Scerbo plays Nova in the film. Nova starts out as a waitress working for Ian Ziering’s character in a bar on the Santa Monica Pier, but she quickly proves her butt-kicking credentials when all hell breaks loose.

Speaking by phone from Florida (where she was visiting), Scerbo talks about her work on the surprise shark hit.

ASSIGNMENT X: How did you get involved in SHARKNADO?

CASSIE SCERBO: It’s as simple as, I got the script, right when I got back from winter break. I had been approached with scripts ever since my show [MAKE IT OR BREAK IT] ended. You obviously can’t pick them all, and it was so funny, because this was the most over-the-top one, and I could not refuse. How could I say no to this? This is literally my favorite tomboy dream. I literally had six hours to decide if I wanted to do it or not. Immediately, I was like, “You know what? This is totally for me, I have such a sense of humor for this stuff and I just want to have a blast with it and have my Lara Croft moment” [laughs].

AX: Did you already know how to use chainsaws and the various sorts of weapons that your character uses, or did somebody have to show you how to do that?

SCERBO: We take a lot of safety precautions on set – we had a real gun and a fake gun. The fake gun was a lot lighter, but believe it or not, that thing gets heavy. I remember one of the days when I had the scene in the house, I was holding the gun and my arms were sore the next day because I had to redo that shot. I was cocking it – I had to redo that scene twenty-five times, because we had to get it perfect. We had two different versions [of the gun], but whenever the real version was on set, they had to explain to everybody, “This is a real gun, but there’s absolutely nothing in it, it’s been double-checked. If anyone would like to double-check and look inside the barrel to see that nothing’s in there, you’re more than welcome to come up.” They had safety precautions and they also explained how to hold it, how it worked, what the backlash would look like – everything. But the thing is, I actually do go shooting on the range, I love shooting guns, but I’d never shot a shotgun, so that was the difference. I did have to learn the appropriate way to shoot a shotgun, because I wanted it to look badass. I was, “I don’t want to look like I don’t know what to do with this thing.” So they were teaching me how to cock it with one hand and all these cool things, and it was really fun.

Jaason Simmons, Ian Ziering and Cassie Scerbo in SHARKNADO | ©2013 Syfy

Jaason Simmons, Ian Ziering and Cassie Scerbo in SHARKNADO | ©2013 Syfy

AX: How much did you have to deal with practical sharks and how much was CGI?

SCERBO: As everyone knows, it wasn’t the biggest-budget film, so we only had one big shark. It was incredible – I posted a picture of it on Instagram. I was kidding around and I was kissing it, and people thought it was real. They were like, “How dare you?” [thinking she had been involved with killing/was posing with a real Great White shark]. I am a big animal lover, I surf and I love all the ocean’s creatures. I was like, “Oh, my God, no, it’s fake! I swear, it’s for a film I’m doing!” So there’s only one shark that they had created for the film. It was an amazing copy, and the rest is CGI. Most of the film was actually done on a soundstage. Every time we’re in the car or we’re in the helicopter, it was really just done in a soundstage. Funnily enough, it’s a silly, over-the-top film, but it was actually challenging as an actor, because you have to imagine the most insane things. You’re sitting there thinking, “Is this expression too much or too little? Because this is what I feel like I would really feel if there were really sharks blowing up in my face, and if I was in a helicopter looking down at a shark that was flying onto it.” So everything was done on the soundstage, and it was actually one of the most challenging things I had done, because you had to make everything up.

AX: They built a house set inside a swimming pool so they could show it flooded. How was it spending all that time in the water?

SCERBO: This whole movie was shot in under a month, which is why we’re even more excited about the success and the buzz that it has, but we were only in the pool for two nights, and let me tell you, that was the most I will ever want to be in a non-heated pool in the middle of January in Los Angeles ever again. We were so cold that they were actually getting scared that we were going into shock, because I couldn’t feel my body any more. I started going in the pool, and I was like, “It doesn’t even bother me any more that it’s so cold, because I don’t feel my legs.” Jaason [Simmons] and I, our lips were turning purple. It was really intense, and it was so strange, because I had no idea that they were building this set inside the pool. But we always laughed, because while shooting SHARKNADO, everything went wrong. If we had the water towers on a specific day, they wouldn’t work. The heaters were supposed to be on for the pool – they were broken. Something just went wrong with everything. So that was actually the most difficult part of filming, just the fact that it was so brutally freezing when we were in that pool.

AX: How is Anthony C. Ferrante as a director?

SCERBO: Anthony is so fun. I absolutely loved working with him. He’s very hands-on and he’s what I’d like to call an actor’s director, because he really takes the actors’ side into consideration, and he sits with you before the scene, he stops and he talks about the film and our vision for it, and then we talked about my character, and character development, and we changed around so much stuff from the original script, so that it was – it sounds ridiculous, but a little more natural in a sense, the way Nova would say things. He really took everything that we were feeling and thinking into consideration, and if we felt like, “Oh, my God, we didn’t like that take at all,” he’d redo it for actors. Anything that we wanted, that we had felt or thought throughout filming, he was just very understanding towards, so that was great.

Cassie Scerbo at the premiere of the Web series DAYBREAK | ©2012 Sue Schneider

Cassie Scerbo at the premiere of the Web series DAYBREAK | ©2012 Sue Schneider

AX: At what point did you realize that SHARKNADO was gaining a lot more momentum than the average Syfy Channel movie?

SCERBO: I still don’t understand it. I’m [visiting] home in Florida, and I keep telling my mom, “Will you just pinch me? Am I really going on GOOD MORNING AMERICA for this? Hold on, is THE TODAY SHOW really broadcasting this [excerpt]? Are we really trending Number One on Twitter for over twenty-four hours?” I was stunned. And to be honest, it happened a couple of hours before premiere – I am admittedly a little bit of a Twitter-holic – and I was on Twitter, and I just happened to be looking at the trends and I saw SHARKNADO at the top and I was like, “Wait a second, hold on – our SHARKNADO?” Because there’s definitely no way there was going to be any other SHARKNADO that’s out there. That’s when I realized, “Hold on, people are really loving this and finding this really fun and the title’s creating so much buzz.” And that’s when I was like, “Okay, here we go.” When I saw that it was trending, so many people were talking about it, Tweeting about it, suddenly after that happened, I realized the Huffington Post posted about it, the L.A. Times, the New York Post, and that’s when I was like, “Wait a second here, this is not what I expected” [laughs]. So it really was the day of, I would say. And we were all shocked. But that’s what’s so cool about Hollywood, I keep telling everyone – you never know what’s going to become a hit. You keep on your toes, it keeps things interesting, and that’s what it’s all about. Life is too short – have fun, laugh, embrace it. I love that America is joining in and laughing with us and enjoying it.

And to be a hundred percent honest, for a thing to be like, “Oh, my God, it’s so bad, it’s good,” or whatever, but I personally have not gotten one Tweet from anyone who didn’t like it. They’re like, “This is awesome!” I think it’s because you go into watch a Syfy movie not expecting THE AVIATOR or whatnot, you don’t expect an award-winning or Oscar-worthy film, you go into it expecting something fun and campy. They’re all very much genre films – they’re different, they’re these cult-driven films that are so fun, and I think that’s why everyone embraced it, is because they knew what it was and, just like you would go in to watch HARRY POTTER, understanding that there’s not really a school full of wizards, and that’s how you have to approach it. You have to approach it that this is going to be fun, this is going to be campy. People loved it. They’re calling it the new JAWS, they’re calling it the new SNAKES ON A PLANE and TWISTER and a cult classic, and I’m really proud to be part of something like that. It’s fun and that’s what I’m all about [laughs]. I have a lot of fun with movies.

AX: Do you have any other projects going on that we should know about?

SCERBO: Right now, I am so excited – I’ve gotten back into music. I’ve been recording, I have my first single that we’re finishing up right now that I’m very excited about. And this is the type of stuff that I love. I’m very much involved with charity, so I’m going to be jumping out of a plane again in August, as I did for the first time last year, for the 18 for 18 campaign, benefiting Somalymam [at somaly.org], which is an anti-sex trafficking organization. I’ve been very blessed to have the opportunity to become a part of the whole movement of getting people aware of sex trafficking and the fact that there are twenty-seven million women around the world who are enslaved at the moment, more than ever, believe it or not. I’m so grateful to be among girls that are looked up to so much and to be spreading the word about this – we like to call it a war against humanity. It’s just insane.

And I have a film that came out in theatres called NOT TODAY about sex trafficking, crazily enough at this time when I’ve been involved in this charity. I don’t think it’s in theatres any longer, but that was a really cool experience. So a lot of charity stuff – I’m also the ambassador to Boo2Bullying, an anti-bullying organization, which means a lot to me, especially right now. I feel like there’s just so much that’s going on, more than ever. I don’t know if it’s social media or what’s making all these young kids and people in general [become bullies], why all this bullying is going around, but we just need an end to it, so I’m a big part of that, and because of that, I started my own campaign called Band With Me, using wristbands to give back. So lots of charity stuff.

AX: And what would you most like people to know about SHARKNADO?

SCERBO: I want people to know that this is something for literally anyone who enjoys being entertained and who enjoys action. It’s fun, it’s not meant to be taken too seriously and I want them to just go in and have as much fun as we did shooting it. There are laughs, there are thrills and scares – there’s so much that this movie has to offer, and there’s so much that we did for such a small budget that Anthony really deserves kudos on and the budget for this film was really crazy, because there’s so much CGI and different things that have gone into it. So just enjoy it and laugh with us, enjoy it with us and to embrace it for what it is. It’s fun and I just want them to embrace it for what it is.

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Related: The Almost Red Band full-length SHARKNADO trailer has finally arrived

Related: Brand New Syfy SHARKNADO destruction clip is here.

Related: Brand New Syfy SHARKNADO commercial is finally here

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:Exclusive Interview with SHARKNADO star Cassie Scerbo

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