By Jacqueline Andriakos
July 15, 2013 at 04:30 PM EDT
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You might know her better as a blonde gymnast from ABC Family’s Make It or Break It, but after Thursday’s premiere of Sharknado, this newly brunette tomboy has even more plans after the Syfy monster flick made waves on social media. Sharknado may just be the beginning for the leading lady. Called the “next Lara Croft” by numerous Twitter admirers and “Lovely Lady of the Day” by Sports Illustrated, her action chick performance as Nova has fans waiting to see where she ends up next. Cassie chatted with EW about the original movie title we didn’t know about, carrying shotguns on the 405, and a possible sequel for the shark attack shlock.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your first reaction when you heard the name of the movie?

CASSIE SCERBO: The funny thing about it is, the film was actually supposed to be called Dark Skies at first. We all thought that was the name, and when we found out that they were going to possibly change it to Sharknado, we were dying. We were like, “No, that’s so embarrassing. We can’t be the stars of Sharknado. That sounds like a type of gummy candy or something.” The director just said, “Trust me.” I had no idea there was a cult of shark movies lovers. He insisted that we just listen to him because shark movie lovers would find this name way catchier. I just said, “Okay, if you say so.” And little did you know, it blew up. I really think just the title had so much to do with it. Hey, now I’m so grateful that they changed the name.

Was the Twitter explosion strategized ahead of time or was #Sharknado a publicity miracle?

The crazy thing about this is that we didn’t plan. We had done things like that for Make It or Break It, trying to all tweet at the same time so that we could get it trending and whatnot. With this, it was just one of those crazy things. There was no plan. I really think that the name is just so catchy and so—if we’re being one hundred percent honest—ridiculous, that people must have just thought, “What the heck is this? What is a ‘sharknado?’” I got calls in the morning to do weather forecasts!

What were your favorite tweets during the premiere?

Just seeing that people were getting so into the film and laughing along with us was the best part of it. There were some great individual celebrity tweets that were so cool to see on my feed, like Elizabeth Banks, whom I love. But the following as a whole is what made it really awesome for me. And we all are used to seeing the haters on the Internet as well; that’s part of every movie or TV show. But the bottom line is, this movie was supposed to be ridiculous and fun, and for the people who took it seriously, I’m worried about you!

How was it playing the bikini-clad, shotgun-operating badass chick, Nova?

It was awesome. I’m so used to playing the mean girl, the cheerleader, the blonde, bubbly character, so I was loving playing this brunette badass, and I had so much fun. I definitely gained a lot of followers because of that. But honestly, mostly guys.

Would you be on-board for a prequel or sequel?

I’ve always been nervous about that stuff, because with Make It or Break It, I always play the mean girl. I would always get the meanest tweets before people really got the character. People would ask me how I could deal with that, but when it comes to that type of stuff I always just kind of laugh it off. I have a really big sense of humor. I’m able to laugh things off, so I would totally be down for a sequel. I think what makes the movie so fun is that we just laughed and had fun with it together, and it’s thrilling at the same time. The fact that we also didn’t take it seriously and were able to joke and have fun with it, that’s what I think is making it blow up. We really also have to give kudos to the director. We had such a small budget to work with, but he really busted his ass to get every shot and make it work with the materials and schedule that we had.

Did you have a favorite one-liner?

“We’re going to need a bigger chopper!” It was fun getting to be the one that reads the line that would resonate with so many Jaws fans. The director made me say it maybe 50 times. I was finally like, “How many other ways can I say this line?” Also, all of the scenes where I got to hold that shotgun. I really felt like a badass. I am a tomboy in real life, so it was fun being able to be that girl in a movie. I felt like this was my Lara Croft moment, and maybe it could actually help me break into some more action roles. It was definitely totally different than what I’m used to, but that’s the point. You have to switch it up and challenge yourself.

If you could have a GIF of Nova that replays over and over, what would you want it to be?

I’m not afraid to make fun of myself, so I’ll be honest, the funniest part of the whole movie is when I try and get serious to talk about my grandfather dying. First of all, I do really take my acting seriously, and I genuinely wanted to try and make the scene serious. Hey, what if I really lost my grandfather because he got eaten by a shark? But because this scene was thrown into the ridiculousness that the rest of this film is, it was just too funny. That would definitely be ridiculous to watch over and over. Another hilarious moment that I will never forget, we were driving on the 405 and I totally forgot I had this fake shotgun in my laptop. Finally when we stopped I was just thinking, “Oh god, just wait until tomorrow when you end up on TMZ for this.” It’s probably better that that’s not a GIF.

If you could make your own Syfy monster movie, what would the title be?

Wow, pressure is on to come up with a funny one now. I don’t know! We could always do a sequel with Sharkicane or Sharknami. I’d say you still can’t beat Sharktopus, but unfortunately that’s already been done.

And how many rubber sharks were injured in the making of this film?

Well, everything was CGIed except for the one shark that eats April’s boyfriend in the house. The ironic thing about this film is that my number one fear is sharks. So when I first saw that thing—I’m not even joking—I didn’t know how I was going to be able to do it. I even watched it get painted and saw it being built, but it didn’t help. They had to walk me over to it and say, “Cassie, see? It won’t attack you. You’ll be fine.”

Yikes! Can’t imagine this movie is going to help that fear…

I had nightmares about sharks attacking me! Also, I surf, so now I can’t imagine going surfing and not thinking about sharks in the water attacking all of those people.

What’s next after all of the Sharknado business?

I’m hoping this could allow me to making start getting into some action films. I want people to see the action side of me. I love all of that stuff and it would be a dream to do that Lara Croft-type role. Along with all of the crazy humor of it, I do hope some of the fun action scenes can be appreciated.

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