A film about a tornado striking Los Angeles is one thing, but a film about a shark-infested tornado that flings these sea creatures on the city is another. And though the idea seems ridiculous, that’s exactly what drew Cassie Scerbo to SyFy’s Sharknado in 2013.
“My initial thoughts were ‘this is insanity. There’s no way I can’t do this,’” she said. “Everything in your career is a stepping stone because it’s an experience, and experience is the biggest thing. For me, this was my first film action-wise, and even though it’s so silly, it was the first time I could run around with a gun and be a badass. I think the most important thing about taking that project, and the third one, is that it’s been a blast.”
The film was originally called Dark Skies, and when the cast was told that the title was going to change to Sharknado, they thought it was a joke. “We were all so against it and laughing about how it was the most ridiculous thing ever,” she said. “I think the fact that they changed the title was one of the reasons it blew up. The movie just went there in every aspect. There was no holding back. We went for all of the crazy, silly, and ridiculous things that we could do.”
When the film first premiered, 1.37 million people tuned in. Due to responses on Twitter, the film was shown a second and then third time, reaching 1.89 million and then 2.1 million people, respectively. It was even shown in 200 theaters nationally for a special midnight showing.
“I was very, very, very shocked about the outcome of the first one, what it became, and the domino effect from the news outlets that were covering it and the social media trends that grew out of it,” she said. “It goes to show that you never know what is going to take off in Hollywood; it’s so unpredictable, so you just have to have fun with it.”
The popularity of the first film lent itself to a sequel in 2014, aptly titled Sharknado 2: The Second One, with sharks raining down on New York City. Scerbo didn’t appear in this one, but the film hosted a number of celebrity cameos—including Billy Ray Cyrus, Matt Lauer, and Kelly Ripa—and drew a larger audience of 3.9 million viewers. This summer, Scerbo returns as Nova for Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!, with sharknados terrorizing Orlando and Washington, D.C. It is set to premiere on July 22 at 9:00 PM EST on SyFy.
Though the film is positively silly, Scerbo said Nova was one of the most challenging roles she has ever had to play. The stunts and movements required to pretend that sharks are flying around was difficult, Scerbo said. Prior to shooting the third film, Scerbo worked with a stunt coordinator to work on Nova’s moves and how to use the weapons she wields. Since much of the film is CGI, stickers marked where the sharks were supposed to be. “It’s so absurd and insane and nothing that I can relate to,” she said. “When I was in something like Make It or Break It, those projects were at least somewhat relatable, even though they might not be something I’ve experienced myself. They are more human circumstances.”