Entertainment Interview

Cody Linley Battles Sharks in ‘Sharknado 4’

Two words: Cody Linley. More likely than not, minds go on a whirlwind and instantly think of one character: Jake Ryan. No, not Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles, but the new and improved one from Hannah Montana! Now, it has been 10 years since the show first premiered and the whole cast are out doing their own thing, including Cody Linley. In fact, fans can expect to see him in one of the most talked about franchises this summer, Sharknado: The 4th Awakens. We had a chance to chat with him to talk about his new role, his famous past role, and what he does off screen.

Cliché: You’ve been acting since you were a kid, but who or what introduced you to the world of acting and entertainment?
Cody Linley: My mom is an acting coach and my older brother Chad was an actor. I remember when I was 4 years old, I saw him on set playing baseball, and I knew then I really wanted to be like him. So, a couple of months later, by chance, I booked a commercial without an agent. It was so exciting for me to be able to do acting just like my big brother, and the rest was history.
When you were younger, how did you imagine your future career? Were you always set on being an actor or did you want to pursue another career path?
Like a lot of kids, when I was young, I wanted to do a lot! I wanted to work with animals, go to outer space, and be an artist, musician, actor, and director. Now as an adult, I still like all of those things, and who wouldn’t want to go to outer space, right? But one thing is clear: acting has been a huge part of my life and always will be.  
We’ve literally watched you grow up on screen and play different roles each time. Is there anything you would want to tell your younger self that you wish you knew then?
I don’t know if I would have listened to any advice when I was younger, because I was pretty stubborn and set on living a carefree lifestyle. If I could tell myself anything though, and knew it would actually stick, it would be to mind the people you have around you. Keep your circle to those that you love, trust, respect, and who you see as your equals. I think it’s easy for young entertainers to get caught up in being “famous” and there are all kinds of people who will appear from all over the place, for all kinds of reasons. I would tell myself that real friends require nothing from you, other than your friendship itself.
The Hannah Montana/Miley era was just before the time social media took over the world. Do you think social media might have changed the outcome of how your character was either portrayed or left the show?
For sure. Social media has changed so much about Hollywood, so certainly the outcome would have been different. My role started out as a one episode guest star part, with the possibility of recurring, and I ended up doing a dozen episodes, over four seasons. So yes, it’s possible that Jake and Miley would have stayed together if the fans pushed for that, and the writers followed that heat, but who knows? It was a fun run being on Hannah Montana and it definitely exceeded my expectations of how it could be received!
I’m sure you get tons of “Jake Ryan” references, which is awesome. However, has it been difficult to get yourself away from being labeled as just Jake Ryan?
When I first finished Hannah Montana, like many Disney actors, I wanted to break away from being known as just a Disney Channel guy. Since then, I have done all types of roles in films and TV, and yes, Jake seems to be the one that I’m most often remembered for. But I’ve come to appreciate it because Jake Ryan was such a huge part of many people’s childhoods and he is without a doubt an early symbol of young love, which I’m totally cool with. Anytime I get recognized as Jake when I’m out and about, I send that love right back to the person, and I see it as one of my life’s gifts to even for a few moments be able to make someone else’s day better and brighter.
Now you’re in Sharknado, which has become one of the most talked about movies on social media for three years! Major congrats on landing the role as Matt. How did this role and opportunity to be included in Sharknado 4 come about?
Actually, it came in as a direct offer to me, completely out of the blue while I was auditioning for other projects. Evidently, one of the producer’s daughters was a big Jake Ryan fan. So I watched the other three movies, and needless to say, I laughed a lot! So I figured, why not? It looked fun, and so I became a part of the franchise.  
Since your character is coming back from flight school and the army, any chance we’ll get to see you doing any crazy stunts with some sort of flying vehicle?
Yes. I don’t want to give anything away, but right from the start the film becomes an over-the-top thrill ride that won’t disappoint. The action was challenging at times, but so very exciting for me. I got to do lots of stunt work, and yelling at green screens, on this film. I became a big fan of hot tea!
Now, not to say your character is getting killed off, but since Sharknado has had a lot of gruesome or let’s say, unique, death scenes, if you were to get bitten off… How would you want your character to leave the movie?
[Laughs] That’s a funny question. How would I like to get eaten by a shark? Hmm… I guess, head first, so it would be a quick and easy death, with minimal pain and maximum blood!
Which would you rather be in: a Sharknado or zombie apocalypse, and what would be your plan to survive?
Ooh, both would be really scary, but since I have training in Sharknado hunting, I’d say I’d be in a Sharknado. I would have lots of chainsaws, automatic rifles, grenades, and a bulletproof suit of course, because you know how a disaster-apocalypse can go. I would live in a tornado shelter, eat beans and rice—vegan till the end, baby!—and listen to music until all the sharks I encountered were killed.
I read that you do a bit of improv when you’re not working on a project. How did you come across doing improv? Is it difficult to transition from going from a very unstructured “anything-can-happen” type of acting to a very structured and scripted role?
I love improvisation and have used it as a tool for years to help deepen my characters from scripted jobs. I had the privilege to study with one of the founders of The Groundlings, Gary Austin, when I was just 10 years old, and I’ve continued to study with him off and on. I’m also an alum of Improv Olympics and still perform there sometimes on Friday nights. Improv is a fun outlet where you find a lot of freedom in being in the unknown, and developing new forms of comedy. Luckily in Sharknado: The 4th Awakens, there were some sequences and moments where we as actors were allowed to improvise, which allowed us to feel really invested in the action. I think that the spirit of “anything can happen” should be embedded even in a scripted role. It’s what gives a character life.
Although you’re busy gearing up and promoting Sharknado: The 4th Awakens, what else can our readers expect to see from you in the near future?
Expect great things. I love what I do and I’m not going to stop any time soon, so follow me on social media at @codylinley to stay up to date. I might even surprise you at your Sharknado: The 4th Awakens watch party! So tune in to Sharknado: The 4th Awakens when it premieres on the SyFy network on July 31 in the US, and August 2 in the United Kingdom, and I promise it will deliver some hilarious insanity!
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Cody Linley Battles Sharks in ‘Sharknado 4’: Photographed by Terry Cass

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