Sitting in the hot-seat for this Friday edition of our Eureka interview series is the beautiful and talented Erica Cerra, who has portrayed former deputy (now head of security for Global Dynamics) Jo Lupo since the series’ inception. In our conversation with Erica, she discusses growing up with sci-fi, the differences between her and her character, the Jo/Zane relationship dynamic, and more!
Special thanks go to the Syfy network, NBC Universal, Vancouver Film Studios, Jaime Paglia, Matt Hastings, Eric Wallace and the entire Eureka production team for their support and graciousness.
Erica Cerra: Hi!
SciFi Stream: Hello! Thank you, Erica, for spending the time and talking with us.
EC: My pleasure.
SFS: You’re a Vancouverite, born and bred. You started in the industry pretty early — can you tell us a little bit about that journey?
EC: I started when I was like a wee little kid, about six. I had done some kids’ shows. Obviously living in Vancouver, it was an American show that I did — a pilot that didn’t go anywhere — and then some commercials. At about age 14, I decided I wanted to be a rebel without a cause so I got out of doing anything responsible, like acting, school, most things. [Laughs]
I decided to just be a kid. Then I started again when I was about 20, commercials and did some guest stars on this and that, and then at 25 I booked this. It’s been six years! [mock gasp] I just gave away my age. [Laughs]
SFS: We won’t tell!
A good chunk of the work you’ve booked has been genre-based. Do you enjoy it, or is it more just a by-product of Vancouver being such a genre-heavy town in terms of what films here?
EC: Both. I do like genre. My dad was a Trekkie so I grew up watching Star Trek and you name it, I watched it. I remember we did watch Battlestar Galactica when I was a kid and I watched a lot of Star Wars and pretty much anything that was sort of science based. But I’m really a huge fan of anything fantasy oriented. I love any fantasy.
So, I do love doing that. I think I would like to do a bit more fantasy stuff, but I pretty much just want to work. I love what I do, so I kind of want to do everything and anything — it doesn’t actually matter to me. I love my job, so I’m happy. I just want to work.
I love doing character stuff, it’s really what I have the most fun with. It makes me feel like I’m really performing or acting, when you get to embody a character. So I’d much rather do that as opposed to just being myself on TV, because that’s no fun.
SFS: In what ways are Erica and Jo different and in what ways are they similar?
EC: I don’t like guns, Jo loves guns. I don’t really like violence, I don’t really like war. [Laughs]
There’s so many things! I used to be a tomboy and I am a tough girl, so I like doing a lot of the stuff that Jo does do, but there’s a lot of things about Jo that are dissimilar. Like, I’m sure she wouldn’t be at home cooking and I do. I’m sure she wouldn’t garden and I love gardening. So there’s definitely some differences. Jo’s like me when I was 14. Her relationships are a very good example of that. She dates like a 14 year old would.
SFS: Jo’s been established as a very tomboy-like character, someone that grew up in an all-male household, and had to get tough in order to survive that adolescence. She carried that with her in the military, then into law enforcement and now as head of security for Global [Dynamics]. Essentially, for Eureka, you’re the actress that’s kind of pushing the female empowerment dynamic. That’s important for any series. Do you feel any type of responsibility when it comes to how you portray her?
EC: Absolutely! I think that it’s incredibly important that there are strong women out there, but I think there’s always degrees. There’s always the women that insist on doing jobs that they just physically should not do or actually can’t do, and then there’s the women out there that have the right to be in an office and have the right to not be a stay-at-home mom and I think that there’s got to be a balance in between.
I do believe that women should have any right to do whatever they want, but I do still believe that it’s the best person for the job. Not trying to get into any arguments with anybody about this, but I do believe that there’s a fine line. Yeah, I think it’s important and I love playing the strong woman. That’s one of things that I get so many compliments on by a lot of the fans. They love seeing a strong woman on television, they respect my character, I inspire them. I love that and I think that’s wonderful. I think it’s great that women out there, they can be tough and now there’s a more sensitive side to Jo and they know they can be sensitive, as well.
SFS: Let’s talk about that. At the beginning, Jo doesn’t hide her dislike of Carter. Initially she feels that he shouldn’t be there, and she’s unhappy that she’s been passed over [for the sheriff position]. But over the course of four and a half seasons, you have a mutual respect that grows into a deep friendship between the two of them. In terms of everything else with the character, though, how’s the progression of the character? Has it felt natural to you?
EC: Oh, absolutely. I think in any show in the beginning, there’s always some confusion as to what direction it will go and what direction the characters will go. Obviously, [there’s] the tension between them as a woman who wants the job that the guy got, so definitely there was some frustration from Jo.
SFS: You don’t really see the cracks in her demeanor, though, until she starts to date Zane.
EC: I guess, yeah.
SFS: I think that’s when you start to see more layers of her underneath the surface.
EC: Yeah, and later on, I think in Season Three and Four is when you really started to get a good sense of her as an individual. I think the writers needed some time to figure out what they wanted to do with Jo and I think that it was a good progression. That’s what I’m saying — Jo is kind of like me as a 14 year old, she was like this young girl and didn’t know anything better than what she thought she knew, which was the military and defend yourself.
SFS: Jo and Zane have had a rough time of it pretty much since the start. What does Jo see in Zane and what do you think he sees in her?
EC: I think that Jo didn’t have a very broad dating history and she’s probably really happy and flattered that someone took an interest in her and someone who’s an attractive young guy. I think that’s probably what started it and how it continued. I think that he worked. In any love situation, when someone works hard at trying to be with you, it’s very flattering no matter what their personality, race, job, whatever they do. When someone wants to love you, it’s a very flattering thing, to be loved is a very flattering thing and I think that’s probably what got them together.
What kept them together was … who the hell knows? And that’s probably why they’re not together now! [laughs]
It was very “opposites attract”, right? He’s the criminal, she’s the cop, so it was a tough balance for them and I think that maybe, maybe all of that might get figured out. Maybe. [Laughs]
SFS: Sometimes in genre and sci-fi series, giving the characters love interests doesn’t always translate well. For every Buffy and Angel or Mulder and Scully that work for fans, sometimes the writers and producers try pairings that just aren’t meant to be – like they’re almost trying to force something to have that angle. But with Eureka, it’s all over the place. You’ve got Jack and Alison, you’ve got Henry and Grace now, Jo and Zane, even Fargo had Julia. How is Eureka able to buck that trend?
EC: I don’t know, good chemistry. We’ve all got really great relationships. I sincerely believe that stems from reality. I think that we all have a really great relationship with one another and I think, because we all get along as well as we do, that it translates onto film.
This isn’t saying anything for Scully and Mulder. I don’t know anything about their relationships, but Niall [Matter] and I are great friends. Salli [Richardson-Whitfield] and Colin [Ferguson] are great friends. And I think that when you’ve got a great camaraderie and a great relationship, it’s good chemistry. Some people make really great matches and some people just don’t in life.
SFS: You’re filming Season Five now, and you’ve been living with this character now for years. Are there aspect of her that you’d like to see explored more going forward, that haven’t been touched on yet? Extended family?
EC: I would love for them to do that and they’ve been wanting to do that for the last couple of years. They’ve been wanting to bring in somebody. I know that there’s been some talk of bringing in a dad or bringing in the brothers or something. Some sort of extension of the family, which I think would be really great. They’ve touched on the emotional aspect. I love doing the fighting and I love doing all the tough stuff so I always want to keep doing that. She’s becoming, with all the seasons, more well-rounded and you’re able to see all the different aspects of her. But family, definitely. Yeah.
SFS: We’ve witnessed the demise of several different sci-fi shows. Eureka, though, and Warehouse 13 and some of these other shows have bucked that trend and they’re flourishing and even bringing in record ratings for the network. What is it about Eureka that you feel is different enough that it translates so well and is keeping an audience where others are losing their audiences?
EC: Well, I think that feel of the show is already a winner. It’s fun, it’s light television and I think there’s not a lot of that. When Eureka came around, there was a lot of hospital shows, there was a lot of shows that were just sort of depressing. They were great television, but they were depressing. Reality shows, or these cop shows … and I think when Eureka came around, it’s a show that allows you to do anything. We touch on old shows, we touch on new shows. You can watch it and just feel like you’re watching this really fun show for an hour and hanging out and enjoying yourself. And the characters are really fun.
And like I said before, I do really strongly believe that our chemistry is a huge part of why the show continues. We become better and better friends with our cast, with our crew. The show is just a really well-oiled machine and I think that it’s just going to keep going. I think that people see that, they watch the show, they’re like, “Hey, those people like each other! They have fun together! Let’s keep watching.”
SFS: Any message you want to give fans?
EC: Keep watching! We’ll come back! Tell your friends!
Interview by Chad Colvin
Transcription by Lahela
TOMORROW: SciFi Stream’s Eureka interview series continues with actor Joe Morton!
Season 4.5 premieres on Syfy on July 11 at 8/7 p.m. (E/P). Season 4.0 is available on DVD today.