FIND OUT ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MAKE IT OR BREAK IT STAR CASSIE SCERBO!
By: Bessie Sorge
Cassie Scerbo can be seen weekly on ABC Family’s flyaway hit drama “Make It Or Break It,” portraying the bratty and most misunderstood teenage gymnast that everyone loves to hate, Lauren Tanner. We recently caught up with Cassie to chat about the framework of her career and to find out exactly what she thinks of her character on MIOBI. Keep reading and you might just find a soft spot for this talented young actress and her alter ego, Lauren Tanner!
Cassie Scerbo was born into an Italian family in Long Island, New York in 1990. Shortly after Cassie’s birth, her family relocated to Florida where her father established an auto mechanic business while her mom stayed home to take care of the family. At age four, Cassie had her first taste of performing in front of an audience, creating skits for her aunts, uncles and cousins who came over for dinner. “We do huge Italian Sunday dinners,” Cassie recalls. “I remember putting together little dance routines in my room and going downstairs (to perform them).” That was just the beginning of what would become a long journey into the creative arts profession.
Growing up, Cassie was exposed to a variety of activities that helped build the confidence and strength that is dominant in her personality today. Her background includes a variation between creative outlets such as acting and singing and athletic activities like dance, soccer and martial arts. While all of these hobbies opened the door for success, Cassie was never able to choose just one focus. “It has never been one thing,” she explained of the extracurricular activities she pursued. “Singing, acting, dancing, all of it I love so much.”
CASSIE SCERBO DURING OUR INTERVIEW IN HOLLYWOOD, CA
Dance played a huge role in Cassie’s early years. She recalled the first dance classes she took were ballet, tap and jazz, and in time she discovered a passion for hip hop. “I feel like it is very free and there are no boundaries. There are no limits and there is no exact structure,” she described her love for hip hop. “You are just kind of liming in the moment. I really enjoy that.”
Cassie began taking acting classes at a local charter acting school when she was eight years old where she developed a profound love for being in front of the camera. “We did little short films and they had little Oscars at the end of the year,” Cassie shared of her experience. While many acting classes tend to focus on old school theatre techniques, this class focused more on the television and film side of the business, which is exactly what Cassie set her eyes upon. “I love the whole feeling of being in New York and being in The City, that whole Broadway-esque feeling of the theatre area and the lights and energy,” she confessed. “But I never had a passion for theatre. I have always wanted to be on TV.”
After several months of begging her parents to take a trip out to Los Angeles, they finally gave in. “My parents wanted to give me that very balanced lifestyle,” she explained of their initial hesitation. “You know, no one in my family had ever done this before and nobody knew the entertainment business at all.”
At fourteen, Cassie and her mother jetted across the United States to the land of hopes and dreams for a little thing the entertainment industry calls the pilot season. During her first trip to Los Angeles, Cassie auditioned for this little Disney project named Hannah Montana. “In the original screen test it was between me and Jillian Claire, who was a soap actress back in the day,” she noted. “Then they completely re-wrote everything, got a new producer.” After waiting eight excruciating weeks, Cassie finally received the news that the new producers wanted to go younger with the role and brought in someone new to audition, that someone being Miley Cyrus. “I feel everything happens for a reason,” Cassie said in good spirits about the whole process.
With that sweet taste of success lingering just a few steps ahead, Cassie’s desire and passion to chase her dream became more prominent in her life. She joined the Hip Hop Kids dance team and traveled around the world performing for large audiences in Singapore and New York. “We performed at halftime basketball games and football games,” she added with excitement. “I was in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.”
Just as she was beginning to get used to being a member of Hip Hop Kids (now called H2KZ), Cassie received news from Los Angeles that she was chosen out of thousands of kids to be a member of the all-girl group The Slumber Party Girls. “It was unfortunate that I had to skip out on (Hip Hop Kids) but I had to take on Slumber Party Girls, which was a great opportunity for me,” she emphasized.
At seventeen, Cassie packed up her life in Florida and made her first official move to Los Angeles to become part of the Slumber Party Girls. The group signed a record deal with Geffen Records and DIC Entertainment under the direction of famed music producer Ron Fair, who is responsible for discovering Christina Aguilera and the Black Eyed Peas. Throughout the next year and a half with the band, Cassie was able to show off her triple threat talent as a dancer, singer and an actress. The group released their debut album on Geffen Records in October 2006, and CBS picked up their series KOL Secret Slumber Party, which aired on Saturday mornings. “They had all these deals lined up for us . . . then we parted ways,” Cassie confessed.
CASSIE SCERBO WITH THE SLUMBER PARTY GIRLS
After the group broke up, Cassie returned to Florida and was quickly cast as the lead in the latest Bring It On installment titled, “Bring It On: In It To Win It.” The film shot in Florida where she was able to remain close to her family while working at her craft. Her athletic background helped her excel at doing her own stunts on set. “I did all of my own stunts,” she boasts. “They had a stunt double set up but I didn’t use her.”
Having an athletic and performing arts background was helpful in landing her current role on ABC Family’s breakout series Make It Or Break It. We now welcome you into the world of Lauren Tanner, a role that Cassie takes pride in playing not only because of the complexities the character embodies on the surface, but because she understands the difficulties stemming from deep down within.
Cassie did a lot of research to prepare herself to play such a complex character like Lauren Tanner. “I almost have like a spiritual connection to acting,” she noted of her craft. “Being able to dig deep into all these characters and really expose yourself and become someone else is an amazing feeling.” With Lauren, Cassie often found herself writing in a journal thinking of how Lauren would handle a situation and what she would say. “I really get into the mind frame of Lauren,” she revealed. “I will just start writing and writing. Things come out that you wouldn’t expect when you really connect with the character.” The research she performed helped Cassie better understand her character and deduced that the harsh wall Lauren Tanner built was to protect herself from being hurt, yet again.
CASSIE SCERBO IN MAKE IT OR BREAK IT
(Photo Credit: ABC Family)
“I think as time goes on people realize more the hurt and the pain in Lauren, and realize that the things she does is completely out of pain and anger towards her life and her dad and her mom,” she said with a glimmer of hope that fans will look beyond the surface to see the tender side of Lauren. “Sometimes the more abandoned she feels the more evil she does. I hope that viewers do see that and hopefully it teaches them something in their own lives or teaches them a little more about bullies, or girls like Lauren. Sometimes all they need is a friend or to talk (to someone).”
The second season of MIOBI promises to dig further into the lives of these elite gymnasts, and will surely bring more drama along for the ride. “We are getting closer to that gold medal and the closer we get the more intense it’s going to get,” Cassie revealed. “I think we are really going to take viewers for a ride this season.”
One of the surprises of the season happened in the second episode when an Olympic gold medalist paid a special visit to the girls. “She is a gymnastics Goddess,” Cassie said describing guest star Nastia Liukin. “Having her there and listening to her advice, and just seeing what a great and strong and confident girl she was was really amazing and a great experience.”
CASSIE SCERBO AND NASTIA LIUKIN ON SET OF MIOBI
(Photo Credit: ABC Family)
The road to overnight stardom has been a long and adventurous journey with a fair amount of setbacks for Cassie Scerbo, but that did not put a damper on this young starlets desire to fulfill her dream of becoming a film and television actress. With her passion for creativity coupled with a positive attitude and a bright outlook on life, there is no doubt that you will be hearing her name for many years to come.
Keep reading to find out a little more about Cassie Scerbo and the upcoming season of Make It Or Break It and be sure to tune into ABC Family every Tuesday at 9PM to discover the world of Lauren Tanner, the character everybody loves to hate!
Do you recall your first acting job?
Yes! I was a complete background extra on a Burger King commercial. I was at camp and I remember coming home on a bus and my mom had a huge poster on my front door that said, “Congratulations for your Burger King commercial.” And that’s where I (got) started (in acting). That was a very exciting moment for me.
Do you remember your first audition? Were you nervous at all?
Yes, I do! I was not nervous. I literally was fearless as a little girl and still up to this day, I would say I am pretty fearless. My first audition was a GAP commercial and it was in fourth grade.
What is your favorite style of dance?
I would say my favorite style of dance is hip hop because I did hip hop for so many years. I feel like it is very free and there are no boundaries, there are no limits and there is no exact structure. You are just kind of living in the moment. I really enjoy that. I also love watching lyrical and modern pieces. They are so beautiful and there is so much emotion that is also put into those genres of dance. I respect a lot of dancers. I know that ballerinas work really hard; they keep in shape and have to keep the perfect structure and perfect posture. Some of the girls on the show, Ayla (Kell) and Chelsea (Hobbs) who play Payson and Emily, were ballerinas and they have a lot of grace.
CASSIE SCERBO WITH MIOBI CO-STARS, JOSIE LAUREN, AYLA KELL & CHELSEA HOBBS
(Photo Credit: ABC Family)
Did your dance background help you with the roles you have done as a gymnast on MIOBI and as a cheerleader on Bring It On?
Absolutely! I feel like everything in your life can contribute . . . I feel like any type of athletic sport can contribute to an athletic movie. I was also a huge tomboy (growing up). I played soccer for nine years and that was a huge part of my life. I was also a boxer. I boxed, not kickboxing. I actually got in the ring and boxed down and dirty. I feel like all of that has contributed to who I am and my physical appearance and my physical abilities. And dance definitely helped, especially with cheerleading and gymnastics. There are a lot of dance that goes on in both of those (sports). I am honestly like the biggest daredevil and the most competitive person I know. If I put my mind to something, I have to do it. So, in Bring It On, I did all of my own stunts. They had a stunt double set up, but I didn’t use her. I learned something called a rewind [editor’s note: see an example of a rewind here] and (the stunt doubles) were like, “Cass, I didn’t learn that in eight years and you learned that in eight tries!” Seriously, I just go for it. No fear, like I said before!
Do you get to do a lot of your own stunts on MIOBI?
If it was up to me, I would totally want to learn everything. But, considering that we have Olympians and NCAA champions on our side – my double is actually a NCAA champion and she is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most perfect tens – I don’t do all of my stunts. These girls have been training since they were three years old and some of them are into their twenties. I mean, they are just super human. I really have looked for a button on their body because it doesn’t make sense to me the things they can do. I have my back handspring though, and I just got my back walkover on the balance beam, which was exciting. I learned that in one day, too. I am telling you, if it was up to me I would probably have a lot more things going on right now with the gymnastics thing, but due to liability and keeping safe, we do not do (any stunts).
Your character on MIOBI is very confident and fearless. Will you talk about your character a little bit?
To be honest, I love playing Lauren Tanner. I mean, yeah, she is really evil at times, but she is a really complicated character. And I feel like she is not just one of those prissy bratty characters for no reason. I feel that she has a lot of pain and vulnerability due to her mother abandoning her at such a young age, leaving her for drugs, and forming this alliance with her father, and having no one else in her life, really. I can’t picture her going through life without a mom. My mom is my best friend, especially with all the things I have done, like all the sports. You need your mother there to do your make-up, all these things. I honestly can’t picture not having a mother around. That would probably be the worst thing ever. I know because my mom lost her mom at a really young age. I actually have her name tattooed right here [Cassie points to her wrist]. So, I know from my mom’s experience (that) loosing your mom at a young age is the hardest thing. I feel for Lauren, and I know that a lot of people don’t.
CASSIE SCERBO WITH MIOBI CO-STAR ANTHONY STARKE
(Photo Credit: ABC Family)
Her father and she form this band. They are like, “We’re going to be winners. This is all or nothing.” She is like, “It’s that gold medal or nothing. My mom let me down; I’m not letting that gold medal let me down. I’m getting that gold medal at the end of the day.” I feel like sometimes she hurts the people she loves the most and acts out impulsively and doesn’t really sit there and talk to her people. She just can’t help it because she wants to win because that is all she has left. That’s what she feels is all she has left, is wining, wining that gold medal. She doesn’t want to fail again.
I also feel that it is hard for her because she basically looses her best friend. The only female figure in her life was Kaylie, and it’s crazy because she is so young, but it’s true. Then Summer comes along, and then Summer is not with her dad. Lauren has a lot of losses and I feel like she is a very vulnerable girl and she covers it all up with this whole bratty, nothing can phase me persona. But deep down inside I think she is completely torn apart and probably the most unstable then all the other girls, just due to her background.
I think she is very scared for people to see weakness due to what’s happened to her. She is very guarded. I feel like she is very shielded. I think it is important for young girls to see that a lot of times the bully is the one with all the problems and the insecurities. So, if someone is bullying you just let it go in one ear and out the other because it’s usually them with the issues and not yourself.
You describe your character as such a complex person and a lot of people don’t get to see that through the show. How do you connect with such complexities, especially since you haven’t experienced some of the things that Lauren has experienced in her background?
I feel being an actress, the most important thing is to research your character and to research who you are. I keep a journal with me and sometimes I will write and pretend I am in English class and I am writing an autobiography on myself. And I will just sit there and think of what Lauren would say and how she really feels. I really get into that mind frame of Lauren and I will just start writing and writing. Things come out that you wouldn’t expect when you really connect with the character. She is very complex, and I think that (by) playing her I have to find a good balance between her vulnerability – because she is just a sixteen year old girl that has a lot going on in her life – and her competitive brattyness due to her not wanting to loose anything. It is just a very complex thing to do, absolutely.
My favorite quote is (by John Gielgud), “Acting is half shame, half glory. Shame at exhibiting yourself, glory when you can forget yourself.” It means, it’s a really weird and awkward thing to completely expose yourself, expose yourself and become someone else and just let everything go. But when you finally get to this point where you forget your own self and become that character it is the most amazing feeling. I feel the important thing is just becoming the character and becoming Lauren and understanding her heartbreaks and her competitive character.
How has Lauren changed from Season 1 to Season 2?
I feel in the beginning people only saw the mean bratty Lauren, and then as time went on they started to realize (why she acts this way). No one knew that her mom was a drug addict until a few episodes in. I think that as time goes on people realize more the hurt and the pain in Lauren, and realize that the things she does is completely out of pain and anger towards her life and her dad and her mom; just all this vulnerability. But in season two, some things go down (and) she has a guy in her life. I think people will see that around this person she is more open, she is more vulnerable. It goes to show a lot of things she does is just because she wants to win, win, win. And it shows that she’s really just calling out for love. It’s like there’s two kinds of people in this world, people that are either calling out for love, or in love or have a lot of love in their life. Lauren is one of those girls that is continuously calling out for love.
I feel that you are going to see that a lot in season two, especially because of this relationship that stars to bud and things that go on between her and her father, and her feeling even more abandoned in season two. Sometimes the more abandoned she feels the more evil she does. I hope that viewers do see that and hopefully it teaches them something in their own lives or teaches them a little more about bullies, or girls like Lauren. Sometimes all they need is a friend or to talk (to someone). Her gymnastics might be getting a little more shaky in the second season because she is focusing a lot more on other things in her life. And I think that it will hit her hard and make her realize that she needs to focus on herself and remain confident and be happy with who she is. I think she is very insecure.
Season one left fans with a lot of questions in the final episode, what can fans expect to see in the second season?
Right when you think MIOBI can’t get any grittier, crazier, love triangles, just crazier in general and intense . . . it does. Our writers find a way to make it just more and more exciting and competitive and intense all the time. I think we are really going to take viewers for a ride this season. There is something for everybody. I mean, who does not like to watch basically the Olympics mixed with an amazing one-hour drama? You have this crazy drama with the adults; you have the drama with the teens, and Becca and the kid drama that is going on.
It’s more gritty, and it’s more gymnastics gritty. A lot of body issues and things on that side of the spectrum come along this season. A new boy comes along this season. (There’s) more heartbreak. I mean, we are getting closer to that gold medal, and the closer we get the more intense it’s going to get. Basically, a lot of issues that haven’t come out in the first episode are coming out now and it’s not just more intense with boy drama and all that good stuff, it’s really intense gymnastics wise. You know, a lot of things go down this season with the national committee against The Rock. It’s really interesting, let’s just leave it at that.
Do you like filming on location or being on set in the studio?
I always love being home at The Rock, but it has been really fun this season. We have had a lot of huge things going on; I mean every episode has been a huge event. We did this crazy thing at the Lake House, the cops are involved. I mean it’s so gritty this season with cops and jail and so much stuff goes on its insane. I can’t really say exactly what, but it’s going to be so intense. I love shooting off location, but this season they actually have a Tanner house. Last season we only had a room for Steve Tanner and Lauren Tanner. Lauren doesn’t have any siblings or anything, she has a small family. It’s just her and her dad, so they usually film her at other people’s houses. But this time around they built an entire house for her because her family might kind of be growing this season in a weird way. They built this gorgeous Tanner house. They also built another side of the house, which you guys will see (later). Her house is amazing and I love it. If there was one house I would pick to live in in real life it would be the Tanner house; it’s very modern yet still has a very Colorado feel. I have been enjoying filming in there as well this season.