Backhanded Bully Cassie Scerbo Does It All

For an actress in her twenties, Cassie Scerbo is a remarkably experienced performer and philanthropist. Her flexibility on camera is almost superhuman but off-screen, she’s made quite a name for herself in the charity world. This season, Cassie stars in two totally different roles: first, as an edgy gun-toting bartender via Syfy’s “Sharknado 5.” Next, in Lifetime Network’s, “The Perfect Soulmate,” as a psychopathic fan who befriends her idol online.

Photos by Diana Ragland

How easy is it to be two people at once? Well, one of the best people to ask would be Cassie Scerbo. She’s been doing just that her whole life, and she loves it. Versatility has, in many ways, defined Cassie’s career — which officially started at 10 years old. You may remember her as the lead cheerleader, Brooke, in the movie, “Bring it On, In it to Win it,” (2007) or as the bully gymnast, Lauren, from the ABC Family series “Make it or Break It” (2009). But throughout the years, Cassie’s fit into dozens of strikingly different roles without any perceivable wear. And what more, she’s vice president of a non-profit organization, Boo2Bullying. Cassie shared with us how and why she became a jack-of-all-trades, and what she aims for in her future.

What role has family played in your career?

Fortunately, my mother really believed in me from a young age, even though no one else in my family had done anything like that; been in the entertainment industry, or taken out of school at a young age, home-schooled to pursue a career. My mom felt there was something inside of me, she started taking me to auditions when I was 10 years old. To take me on commercial auditions where it all started. My very first job, I was an extra in a Burger King commercial. I was just so proud and so excited, funny little memories like that. Ever since I was 10, my mom started taking me to auditions. When I was 14, my mom moved me out here [to L.A.] and my dad came to visit. And I am so grateful because my parents are still together. Thankfully it didn’t take a toll on their marriage, and they did it as a team. But I’m very grateful that my mom was able to support me and take me out here and let me pursue my dreams.

I read that you’re also a really good singer and dancer. When did you start getting focused on acting?

I’ve always enjoyed all the aspects of the arts. I love performing and I love telling a story. Whether it’s through singing with my voice or legitimately telling stories with acting. I started dancing when I was about four years old and I started jazz, went into hip hop classes at 10. So dance at four, I started singing at eight and then started hip-hop on the side at 10. So, I’ve always been taking classes in all of the performing arts. I love them all pretty much equally. I’d say acting takes it by, like, a centimeter. Sometimes it’s hard to put all of your eggs in one basket. But I love all of them, and I’d love to get back into music or to book a role that has me dancing and singing.

As Vice President of the bullying charity, how long have you been doing that and what’s it like on the administrative side?

I can’t remember my first charity endeavor, but I stuck with Boo2Bullying. I started with them when I was younger, maybe 17, and I was their Girl’s Youth Ambassador. In time, being able to speak at the Tolerance Education Center, being able to go to all these events they would hold, going to their tents at Pride in L.A., I just became so passionate about the cause more than ever before. I had always been passionate about the cause, but even more so being a part of it and listening to people’s testimonies, listening to some of the parents involved with our organization who’ve had kids who were affected by bullying, to the extent of even suicide. It really moved me and made me want to work my way up. When I was 25, I became the West Coast executive director. Shortly after that, I became their vice president. We get to do so many things, we get to hold the bench and raise awareness. We have art therapy programs, and we have a new animation program. We’re starting our own festival: the International Palm Springs Animation Festival. There are so many things going on with our charity. There are so many charities we get to collaborate with and become friendly with and learn from. The charity world is a whole ‘nother world in itself.

What does Boo2Bullying do, and what do you think some of the causes of bullying are?

The most important thing for us is we try to speak not only to kids but also to and for teachers. Some teachers hear about a case of bullying and don’t do anything to intervene or help, which goes on to lean towards more serious issues in the school system. We make sure we get in there and speak to the school systems, we speak to people on the board, and teachers, and kids. We also have a lot of parent allies. We do a lot of art therapy programs. Our entire program consists of us going to school systems and speaking up. Interestingly enough when you form a conversation, you feel the most powerful feeling.

These kids, it’s like a domino effect. Once one kid shares their story this passion spreads, and all these kids wind up for sharing. It lights like wildfire. They all want to tell their stories when they’re seeing other people and learning that everybody comes from a different walk of life and is fighting battles that we’re unaware of. So we make sure to open up communications centers for high-risk kids in different schools and different education centers. Mainly just allowing people to realize that bullying doesn’t discriminate and that we’ve all been there and that they’re not alone.

Do you think bullying is more of a natural phenomenon or that there are aspects of our culture or media that may be engendering this problem for kids at a young age?

It’s not that bullying and hatred will ever go away. It’s about learning how to handle things and life, and how to taking things with a grain of salt, and to take other things and use it as your fuel to accomplish bigger and better things in life. That much more excited about your taking on your passions, no matter who doubts you or tells you what. It’s about rising above and learning how to tackle it so that we don’t have kids taking your lives, which is rising since social media has come around.

It’s natural, but it’s definitely been amplified and become a bigger subject over the past few years due to social media and the internet.

Do you have any personal experience with bullying growing up?

Of course, I don’t know many people who haven’t. I definitely got bullied in high school, nothing. I have spent a lunch or two in the bathroom stall, just because girls were jealous and mean and petty and scary! Girls bully girls more than guys bully guys, to be honest. So, I dealt with a lot of that catty bullying nonsense. And as I like to tell the students I speak to, maybe it hurt for a second or some, of course, but I really did take all of those moments and use it. It made me want to that much more and to make me work that much harder to accomplish the things that I wanted. My whole thing was that I started at a young age… being at a house party and having people say, “Well, if you think you’re so great, so sing for us now.” You know, putting me on the spot and making me super uncomfortable. You gotta rise above and have thick skin in this world. Really It really starts with loving yourself and knowing yourself. But that’s definitely the thing I also push with the most, having that self-love because what we have inside is what we bring out to the world.

I’ve dealt with it in my high school, but interestingly enough I played a bully in Make it or Break it. That’s when I saw the other side of the spectrum. The fact that my character had so much going on in her life… There were just so many underlying layers and it made me think, “Well, I want to go out there want to explain to these kids that are being bullied that the person who’s doing this might be the one that’s suffering, and might be the one who actually needs the help. And to not let them get down to saying something mean about them.” Misery needs company. And at the end of the day maybe you could even write the bottom line of helping that person.

How do you compare the experience of acting in such different roles?

The reason I became an actor was to tell stories. I think acting is so cool because you get to learn about psychology and every walk of life, all different kinds of relationships and people. I love being able to go from one role to the next and change it up. That’s why that’s what we do. It gives you the opportunity to research different character types and step out of the box. It would be pretty boring to go to work every day and play Cassie Scerbo. I love being able to constantly prove myself. I’m not ABC Family only, I’m not Sharknado only, I’m not independent film only. I’m this and that and all of it. I can’t wait to see what my future holds because I know that I won’t stop until I continuously prove myself in different types of roles that people have never seen me in before. I’ve played a prostitute, I’ve played a psychopath, I’ve played a young cheerleader, I’ve played a bullying gymnast who then winds up with a serious heart disease. That’s why we do what we do.

I love it. People don’t realize how challenging some of the roles are. I always laugh when I say Sharknado because it can be the most ridiculous things on the planet. Of course, that’s why we all love it! It’s actually one of the most challenging things on the actor’s side because we have to go in there and play it just right, so it makes sense and it works with the subject of what Sharknado is. We’re literally given a neon strap and a green screen and told, “Okay, now imagine sharks blowing up in the sky!” And you’re like, well, that is actually a lot harder than acting depressed or heartbreak, or a death of a close friend or family member and whatnot because all those things are somewhat relatable. Then Sharknado comes and along and you think to yourself, “How the heck do I envision this? How do I imagine this scenario and make it somewhat real, so that it works with the joke?” We have to be in on the joke, especially when you’re part of the cast.

What would you like your fans to know about the work you’re doing and what you have coming in the future?

For one, to enjoy Sharknado, because we all know it’s one big party for all of us! It’s fun and hilarious and great. I also just finished up a project that was the most challenging project I’ve ever done, actually. It’s called “Truth or Dare” and it’s from the director of “The Girl in the Photograph,” which was Wes Craven’s last produced film before he passed away. It’s a horror film, it’s going to be super gritty. We had to dig really deep to get into the mindset of the things these characters go through. I’m really, really excited about that. I’m really proud of that project. I’m trying to learn the guitar and trying set up some really cool different cover videos. Of course, if they want to take a look at any of my charitable endeavors, all of my social media platforms are available:

Twitter: @cassiescerbo
Instagram: @cassiescerbo
Facebook: @cassandrascerbo

Stick along for the ride! I strive to continuously make my fans proud, to surprise and shock people, and at the same to time always use my voice to spread good vibes. Hopefully, I inspire them and they can be entertained by my work.

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