EXCLUSIVE: Erica Cerra Talks Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief
" Vancouver based actress Erica Cerra is best known for her role as Deputy Jo Lupo on Syfy's popular TV series Eureka but she is about to make the leap to the big screen with not one but two new films being released in 2010. The first is an adaptation of Rick Riordan's popular series of children's novels called Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. The movie is about a boy named Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) who discovers that he is actually the demigod son of the Greek God, Poseidon (Kevin McKidd). Percy embarks on a journey across modern-day America with his friends, a satyr and the demigod daughter of Athena, to save his mother (Catherine Keener) and return Zeus' (Sean Bean) stolen lightning bolt in order to prevent a war between the Gods. In the film Cerra plays Hera, the Goddess of Marriage, Earth, and Heaven, as well as the wife and sister of Zeus. The film is helmed by Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone director Chris Columbus and opens in theaters on February 12th. The busy actress will also be seen later this year starring opposite wrestler-turned-actor "Stone Cold" Steve Austin in the psychological thriller The Stranger about a mysterious man with a rare form of memory loss. We recently had a chance to catch up with Erica Cerra to talk about Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, her role as Hera, working with the talented cast, how she thinks the film will hold up against the competition and what audiences can expect from and The Stranger. Here is what the talented actress had to say:
In "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief," you play the Goddess Hera, was there anything that you learned from your research that helped guide your performance or did you take all of you direction from the script?
Erica Cerra: I did do my research. The minute I actually found out about the audition I went and bought all the books and read them. Then I thought I probably needed to do some more research as far as the mythology of Hera, so I did that. There is a lot of truth, I think, to the mythology of Hera, where she is the Mother of all the Gods and the wife of Zeus. She is the Goddess of marriage and she is a little bit up tight and prudish as far as the mythology is concerned. She is definitely not on board with all the activities of the Gods and Goddesses. How they all sort of commingle together and then are off with humanity as well.
As far as the script is concerned they were really more or less quite secretive with the script so we only knew what we needed to know. With the series of books, in the story the Gods and Goddesses are there to sort of help Percy and the demigods achieve their goals in each story and in each movie. I'm sure that they will be making the series because I think it's going to be a huge hit. So the Gods and Goddesses are there to help him along and give him advice. Help them out of trouble and so on and so forth. What they'll do with the script and what they'll do with the original story, who knows? Because the stories are a bit different from the script, they kind of rewrote it in a way that will appeal to a broader audience. The storybooks are written more for children so with the movies they kind of upped the scale so it's a bit more ... more adults will be interested in the movie. That being said, I can't necessarily say that they'll follow all of the stories (from the books) but in the stories Hera does help Percy along with one of his missions so in that there is some truth to the mythology of how she deals with him and what goes on in the stories. So not to give too much away, I'm sure that most people have read the books but I think there is some truth in my very long sort of circular answer. In the beginning, yes, I think the mythology does ring true with Hera.
In mythology, Zeus is Hera's brother and husband, is that the same in the film and if so, what was it like acting out that strange and awkward relationship with actor Sean Bean who plays Zeus?
Erica Cerra: Yeah, she's Zeus's sister. I didn't get to work directly with Sean. We're not in the same scene together. But how it ends up in the later films I'm not sure? I'm actually a big fan of his because I'm a big fan of Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Rings and all the other wicked characters that he's played in the movies. So that was really cool just to meet him in general but as far as ... you know, I don't think Hera and him have a very good relationship at all in these stories. Basically because Zues is thinking about the Gods, he goes off with them, has warfare, kills everybody and because she is the Goddess of marriage she's not into that. So the relationship between them in the movie as well as in the mythology is very similar. I don't think that they have a very strong bond.
The series of novels that the film is based on are extremely popular with children and the studio is probably hoping that this will create a new "Harry Potter-type" franchise for them so how do you think the film will appeal to fans of the "Potter" series? Also, the movie is directed by Chris Columbus who directed the first two "Harry Potter" films, so was it comforting to know that he was at the helm?
Erica Cerra: You know what, I'm a huge "Harry Potter" fan. I personally think that with myself as a fan, as long as there is truth to the story it will be good and my example to that is "Harry Potter" is British so I love that all the characters are in fact from their heritage. So if they're from Romania they have a Romanian accent, if they're from London they sound like they're from London. All that stuff really rings true and I appreciate it in any film. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is based out of the United States and that rings true. I think that this story is a really great story with respect to what goes on. You know what? I think once you read the novels you understand why it takes place in the United States and what's going on with the Gods and Goddesses, is what's going on now.
I don't think I'm giving anything away in saying this, the way the Gods put it is that they go to whichever country or place is the strongest place in the world. Where the power is, that's where the Gods and Goddesses go. So in Greek mythology it was Greece, then it was Rome, then at one point it was England and now it is the United States. So that's why the Gods and Goddesses are residing in the Unite States of America now. So I think that that is really cool. The story is really well written and really well told. So I do think that it will be a huge success. I do think that it will appeal to everyone and that the actors they cast in it are amazing. I think Sean Bean is a wonderful choice for Zeus and I do I think it will be a huge success. I say that because last night I popped in Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone. I just wanted to watch it again. I think it is one of those stories that you can always continue to watch, really enjoy and be entertained. It's something interesting to see and an interesting idea. I do think it will be successful and Chris Columbus is a wonderful director and a great guy. I think him leading them off is a great start to a great story. So yes is my answer. I do, I think it will be a great success.
To that end, the film obviously has ties to Greek Mythology as well so how do you think it will stand up against say a film like the remake of "Clash Of The Titans," which opens only a few weeks after your film? Is there enough room in the market place for both films?
Erica Cerra: You know what, totally. I am so excited to watch Clash Of The Titans and think it's going to be unbelievable but I do think it's a different kind of movie. "Harry Potter" and "Percy Jackson" can appeal to children, adults and grandparents; it's sort of a broader spectrum. Where with something like Clash Of The Titans you're not going to see little kids at the theater watching that movie. You will very likely see your parents or your friend's parents because they remember the original and they want to see what the remake is going to look like.
I do think that Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief will have a broader spectrum. Maybe the young tough guys won't be into Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief but I personally think they should because I think that is one thing that is great about what they did with the film is that I think they opened it up to a broader audience. So I do think where a young guy may not have picked up the novel and loved the great story I think that he will watch the movie and think, "Wow this is a really great movie." So yeah, I do think that there is enough room for both. And I think there is room for more mythology. I think when it comes to fantasy people are always interested in seeing different stories. I don't think that this is the only mythology movie that can happen now. If you think about a movie like The Bourne Identity, there is only room for one movie like that. You can't have five different versions of that story. Because people will watch it and say, "This is the same thing!" With fantasy I think there is so much room. Look at the idea of a young man as the hero, well "Harry Potter" has been done before and that's all well and fine but Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is completely different. It's the same idea, sort of, it's a boy but everything else about the story is different.
The film has a really nice mix of young, newer actors and some pretty incredible veteran actors like Pierce Brosnan, Uma Thurman, Rosario Dawson, Catherine Keener, Ray Winstone and Sean Bean, so did you get to work with all of them and of the actors that you did work with what was that experience like for you?
Erica Cerra: Well unfortunately, I didn't get to work with Pierce Brosnan, Uma Thurman or Rosaria Dawson but as far as the other cast members I got to work with all the Gods. Sean Bean, Kevin McKidd and Ray Winstone, who is an amazing actor. I got to work with a great cast but unfortunately not the whole cast. The scene I'm in, in the first film is basically all the Gods and Goddesses being introduced because in the first film they're not all there throughout the entire movie. Catherine Keener is another person I would have loved to work with but didn't get the chance. But I got to meet them and that was really cool. Logan (Lerman) who plays Percy is great and I enjoyed working with Melina Kanakaredes (CSI: New York) who plays Athena. I worked with a lot of Vancouver based actors and it was great working with them as well. So that being said I got to work with local cast members and some really big, huge stars. The combination was really wonderful and I was excited.
In the novels your role gets larger as the series continues so did Chris Columbus or anyone else on set discuss possible sequels to you or were you all just concentrating on making the first film a good one?
Erica Cerra: You know what it really wasn't, unfortunately, I wished that they had talked about it more. I think they're really waiting, and this is all speculation I really have no idea, but they're probably waiting for the release of the film in order to determine what's going to happen with the other films. But in my opinion I can't imagine that they won't make the other ones because I just think it looks like it's going to be a huge hit. With the fact that Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows is bringing that series to an end, I do I think our film is going to be a huge hit and I think that the fans will be really thankful that they have another fantasy world to dive into.
Finally, what can you tell us about your upcoming film "The Stranger" co-starring "Stone Cold" Steve Austin? What does your role consist of and how was it working with him?
Erica Cerra: Steve Austin plays a man who has a mental illness that makes him forget what's going on. It's kind of bizarre because it's kind of like amnesia but you do get it back. You sort of get bits and pieces back of your memory but you go from personality to personality. So you forget who you are and then all of the sudden you create this character in your mind and two minutes later you forget who that character is and your confused so it's a really quite sad mental disorder. I play a psychologist named Grace Bishop who is called in when the FBI finds Steve's character in a very terrible circumstance. My character is there to help him find out who he is and where he is from.
After years of me trying to help this man ... the movie begins years later when we've grown to have a relationship together but he still doesn't know me all the time because his memory goes in and out. My character tries to find him and help him figure out who he is. I've obviously created some kind of bond with this person and there's a lot of fighting. I think it will be cool and Steve does an absolutely great job and it was a pleasure working with him. I think the film will be great. The movie is sort of a psychological thriller/rough and tough movie/drama so I think it has a little bit of everything. It's the tough guy movie that every boy wants to watch. It's still that but I think it was also an opportunity for Steve to put his acting chops to work and use a little bit more than just his muscles. I think he did a great job and I really enjoyed working with him.
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief opens in theaters on February 12th and The Stranger is scheduled for release later this year.