Pop-Culturalist Chats with Cassie Scerbo
Cassie Scerbo returns as fan favorite, Nova Clarke, in the fifth installment of Sharknado—set to premiere on August 6th at 8/7c on The SYFY Channel. It’s a role unlike any she’s previously done and one that continues to surprise her. When she initially signed onto the project in 2013, she was excited to step out of her comfort zone, but never imagined the franchise would turn into the cult classic that it’s become.
Off-screen, Cassie is the VP of Boo2Bullying, a charity that provides outreach, mentorship, education, and support for youth and their families. It’s a cause that’s near and dear to her heart and one she credits her role as Lauren Tanner on ABC Family’s breakout hit, Make It or Break It, for opening her eyes and seeing things from a different perspective. Pop-Culturalist was lucky enough to chat with Cassie about Nova, Sharknado 5, her charitable work, and the possibility of a Make It or Break It remake.
P-C: Nova is back! Where has she been since we’ve last seen her and what is her character arc for Sharknado 5?
Cassie: Nova likes to play hide and seek. She likes to pop in and out. We find out that Nova was off in Paris taking care of Sharknado business, as they hinted at the end of Sharknado 4 when a Nova-like looking character is seen on the top of the Eiffel Tower. She was taking care of Sharknado business elsewhere, and in the mean time, what fans will come to find out is that she has created her own Sharknado sisterhood—an underground army of girls around the world who slay sharks. I find that the writers and the director did a really good job with the evolution of Nova, a very strong female character. She’s now got this army behind her that she leads and it operates out of the Sydney Opera House. It’s basically a battle research station and she’s got girls all around the world fighting with her. You’ll get to see who some of those girls are and one of the cameos in this film happens to be her sister.
P-C: When you signed on to be part of this franchise, was it a challenge not being in every single film?
Cassie: When I signed onto Sharknado 1, I didn’t think there would be a 2, let alone a 5. This whole entire experience and journey in the past five years has been so shocking, exciting, and surprising, to say the least. Honestly, when it comes down to it, there wasn’t like an initial, ‘Hey, there are going to be 5 movies’ or like a 3-movie contract deal. The producers decide after each movie due to ratings if there’s going to be another one and from there, it honestly just depends on what we’re doing in our personal lives, if we’re scheduled for other films, scheduling conflicts, contractual conflicts, whatever it might be for each individual. It was never really planned, but it’s kind of a joke that Nova only comes in on the odd movies. Hopefully, now that she’s got her sister, it would be fun to come back, but it all just kind of depends on what’s going on at that time period. We’ll see!
P-C: Do you have a favorite moment of Nova’s?
Cassie: Yeah! In this last film in particular, there’s a really cool battle scene with Nova and some of her sisters, and she does this amazing costume change. She comes out in a very Wonder Woman-looking outfit and gives this speech that I was given about five minutes before going on set. I was like ‘Are you guys kidding me?!’. We have this joke that we sometimes don’t need to read the initial script because it’s going to be a completely different script by the end of the movie. So, I have this very empowering speech that I’m giving to the girls about going out there and slaying these sharks. It’s a very powerful moment for me, as a character.
The costumes we get to wear and the weaponry were amazing, and I did a lot of wirework for this film. We did a lot more stunt work in this film than the others. We were out in London doing a lot of these stunts and we had stuntmen who worked on movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean and the Bond movies—really big-scale films. It was really cool to get to work with these incredible people!
P-C: What was your initial reaction when you read that Nova was going to have this sisterhood and be in this leadership role?
Cassie: I was thrilled! I was wondering where they were going to go with Nova. She’s gotten really bad-ass and she’s really come to learn the scientific side of these Sharknados. I wondered where they were going to go with her, and for me, it was really cool to step into that role and become this female empowerment-driven character! I was like ‘This is awesome. I get to lead my own underground worldwide army! That’s really, really epic’. I was happy with that decision. I thought that our writers especially Scotty Mullen did a really great job with bringing that into her role.
P-C: Was there another female character or somebody in your life that you’ve modeled Nova after for this fifth film?
Cassie: I think it’s a combination. I always wanted to do action movies, I’ve always loved Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Lara Croft—I could watch anything action-driven and I always wanted to have my moment, and these movies have given me so many of those moments, especially this one. I think it’s just a mixture of really powerful and strong women as superheroes that I got to play around with and still make my own.
P-C: When you initially signed on for the project, did you ever imagine it would become this cult hit that it is?
Cassie: No! I think that’s the main question that we get asked because it’s so insane how big it’s become. I was excited because I was playing a gymnast on ABC Family for four years and, for me, I was like, ‘This is cool! I get to trade in my orange, sparkly leotard for some Converses and a shotgun and run around slaying sea creatures. This is fun. It’s different’. I was excited to step out of the box and have a different role because, as an actor, that’s what you’re always looking for—something different. I remember the first thing I saw was that Sharknado was trending on Twitter five years ago and I was like, ‘This so is weird! It cannot be our Sharknado. There’s no way on Earth! Did they come up with a new pack of gummies or something strange that’s also named Sharknado?’ I was blown away and then I started looking at the feed and just saw how people were taken aback and entertained, and from there, I got on a plane to New York doing press and it’s just been a rollercoaster ride ever since! I remember saying back then, ‘Oh my God! Someone pinch me! This is the last thing I ever expected to blow up’. I just thought it was silly and fun and something different and so crazy that I couldn’t say no. It’s been hilarious and awesome. Every time one of these comes out, we feel like we’re having a party with the whole world. It’s always premieres around Shark Week and it’s very much like the Superbowl. People throw parties and have Sharknado-themed weddings, bake these cakes, and dress up and it’s become like a holiday, like an event! I never in my wildest dreams expected it, to answer your question.
P-C: Being part of this franchise, I’d imagine it’s opened you up to an entirely new audience. Do you have kind of a favorite fan interaction?
Cassie: There have been so many, especially being at these Comic-Cons and seeing people dressed up as a Sharknado is the greatest thing ever! It’s so fun because it’s not a specific character or animal or sea creature. It’s just, like, a fluffy tornado with little sharks all over. Honestly, people tweet me that they’ve themed their weddings after us and the images that they send us of them CGI-ing tornados with little sharks behind their bridal party as they’re all running really crack me up! There are some really hardcore fans. I do a lot of charity work and one year, someone had reached out to me. Her son was in the hospital and the hospital had told him that if he could get in touch with somebody in the Sharknado crew or cast, that they would allow him to leave for the day to meet us. I got in touch with his mother who told me her child was a huge fan—Frankie—and we invited him out to set and he got to meet everybody. We even let him fake direct a scene and hang out with our director, we gave him his own cast chair, and moments like that are truly the most special to me, personally. I have to say that really sticks out! I do lots of visits, as well, at CHLA and the kids love it. That’s what’s so cool about Sharknado! They are family movies in a sense and people of all ages love the movie! We have such a wide range of audiences—kids and adults—and it’s just so much fun.
P-C: Segueing off of that, how did you get involved with Boo2Bullying?
Cassie: We actually have an event this Sunday called Take a Bite out of Bullying—a shark-themed event for the last day of Shark Week, and it kind of incorporates the whole Sharknado world. I got approached at an event about seven years ago and I’d been wanting to get into more charity work. Giving back is always something that’s very important to me. I played the bully on this ABC Family show which allowed me to see everything through a different pair of eyes and see the other side of the spectrum. I got to see that a lot of the kids that are doing the bullying actually either have a very tough home life or they’re very insecure—there’s something going on in their own life that is making them act out this way. You know the old saying ‘misery loves company’. I wanted to get into these schools and I wanted to explain to the kids that are being bullied, ‘Don’t take it offensively. This person is probably just going through something’, and it’s important because kids are at every end of the spectrum and I felt like that was lacking. Because I was playing this character, I got to really understand that point of view. I hopped on as the Girl Ambassador. About four or five years in, I went my way up to West Coast Executive Director and from there, somehow at 25 I got asked to be the Vice President and it’s been so incredible. Our organization has grown so much. We do lots of art therapy programs, and we speak at schools and tolerance education centers. We like to use art and artists and art platforms to give back. I’ve really enjoyed being able to speak to these different kids and do my duty and be able to help in any way I can, and we’ve definitely grown a lot. We’ve got incredible ambassadors-—Randall Telfer, Lindsey Shaw, Lizzy Greene (from Nickelodeon), Steven Benedict who was an Olympic contender, and a wage range of actors, sports players. It’s been an amazing journey!
P-C: Remakes have been very popular recently. Would you ever consider re-doing Make It or Break It, the ABC Family show you mentioned?
Cassie: Absolutely! I feel like that show has somehow never stopped giving. Less than a year ago, we did a whole Facebook live video because I guess we’re one of their three top shows still on their Freeform app and the fan base we had really blows me away. We’ve been off the air for four years now or five? The fans loved it! The majority of comments I get on my social media are still about Make It or Break It. People’s Choice will still randomly write up or like our tweets online and whatnot and they were totally backing doing a reunion movie. I would be 100% down to step into those shoes and see Lauren Tanner again. It was an incredible role and an amazing show to be a part of. It still blows me away! It has the most incredible fans and I feel like it’s, once again, bringing up female empowerment. Our show was based around a sport that takes a lot of mind power and physical ability, and it’s very different than anything else out there. I feel like girls that play sports were really into it, as well as cheerleaders and gymnasts, and so many different audiences! It was very unique, different. It wasn’t your typical high school-driven show. It took place mainly in a gym and I just think it was really unique and the cast was great!
P-C: If I think of ABC Family, that’s one of the top shows that comes to mind.
Cassie: Thank you!
P-C: Do you have any other upcoming projects that you can chat about?
Cassie: Yeah! Actually, it’s something I’m so excited about and it’s rare cause I’ve never done a short-film, but I did a short film called Graffiti, where I really got to step out of the box and I feel like I got break some stereotypes because I tend to play certain characters at times. I got to play this really bad-ass street-art chick. The movie is called Graffiti and it just got into HollyShorts, which is a short-film festival—the biggest one here in LA—and I’m really excited for people to see that and, hopefully, it’ll be turned into a full feature. Fingers are crossed on that! I got to work with John Heard, who I worked with on Sharknado, and he just passed away, so it’s just such a great honor that we get to have this movie selected into the biggest short-film festival. It’s a great homage him and I’m so excited. The premiere is at HollyShorts on the 12th here in LA, and then, I just worked on another film called Truth or Dare, which is coming out around October and it’s from the director Nick Simon, who actually directed and wrote Wes Craven’s last film before he passed away. It’s a great psychological thriller and it’s geared around the game ‘truth or dare’, and basically, a lot of stuff we have to do in the movie is based off of our fears and our obsessions. There’s a lot of having to go against each other and it’s a really intense thriller that I’m so proud of! The cast was honestly outrageous! Every single person in the cast was unbelievable! That’s coming in October and I’m really excited about it!
Pop-Culturalist Speed Round
P-C: Guilty pleasure TV show?
Cassie: I honestly feel like this is a reality-show question and I do not watch reality, so I’m just going to say The Office because I’ve watched every episode, reruns and all. I can’t stop! I’m addicted this many years later, so I guess The Office. I’ve watched it way too often.
P-C: Guilty pleasure movie?
Cassie: Mean Girls
P-C: Favorite book?
Cassie: Girl on the Train
P-C: A favorite play or musical?
P-C: A band or artist that fans will be surprised to learn is on your playlist?
Photo Credit: Diana Ragland