In the Syfy original movie Sharknado 2: The Second One, directed by Anthony C. Ferrante from a screenplay by Thunder Levin, a freak weather system turns its deadly fury on New York City, unleashing a Sharknado on the population and its most cherished iconic sites, and leaving Fin (Ian Ziering) and April (Tara Reid) to save the Big Apple. The film also stars Vivica A. Fox, Mark McGrath, Kari Wuhrer, Judah Friedlander, Judd Hirsch, Kelly Osbourne, Andy Dick and Perez Hilton.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, Sugar Ray frontman Mark McGrath talked about how he got involved with Sharknado 2, being a fan of the first film, adjusting his big performing style to the subtleties of acting, why he enjoys getting lost in a character, that they had to do a lot of script changes on the fly, how great it was to get to shoot in New York City, and the social media phenomenon of Sharknado. He also talked about why he still loves touring with Sugar Ray, and why it might be the right time to finally release a solo album. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
MARK McGRATH: I know, I ask myself that, every day. I’m like, “How am I in Sharknado 2?” I obviously don’t make my living as an actor. It’s funny, they make a million of these shark movies, and Syfy puts out a bunch of them. The lightening in a bottle that is Sharknado and the phenomenon that it became is hard to explain. If we all knew how to do it, we’d do it every time. I remember watching it while I was on a tour bus because I was on tour last year. A friend of mine is really into the sci-fi/horror genre and shark movies. He was watching it in the front lounge, by himself, and we were all congregating in the back. By half-way through the movie, we were all in the front lounge watching it. And we were on Twitter going, “Is anybody watching this?!”
I am and was a fan, who got asked to be in the second one. I feel like I won a contest. So, I don’t know how this happened and I don’t know why I’m in it, but I’m sure glad I am, as a fan. It’s just such an incredible, fun movie to be a part of. It was so fun to watch, being a part of the second one and seeing it all being made, with the incredible cameos that were going on. I was a little worried that they wouldn’t be able to top the first one. When you chainsaw your way out of a shark, you’ve got a pretty high level to live up to. But I’ll be damned, if they didn’t do it. I’m proud to be a part of the second one.
Did you put the word out that you’d want to be involved, or did they just reach out to you?
McGRATH: They just reached out to me and said, “Is this something you’d like to do?” I’d been on Asylum’s radar, a little bit. They’ve reached out on a few things before, in the past, but logistically, I hadn’t been able to do anything. And then, Sharknado came and I’m a fan, and I said, “I’d love to be a part of it!” It really was just a series of serendipitous events that got me here. I’m just a fan that’s in this movie. I don’t know how the hell I got here! Let’s be honest, Daniel Day-Lewis didn’t drop out, and then I got the part. One thing about Sharknado is there’s an earnestness to it that starts with Ian [Ziering]. He’s the John McClane of the movie. He won’t wink at the camera and he won’t laugh, and it’s infectious to the rest of us. That earnestness really sold the first one. A lot of these shark movies are crazy and stupid, but there’s something compelling about how Ian performed. It starts with him, and we’re just all on board the Ian train and behind him, 100%. Yes, we’re making a low-budget shark movie. We all get that. But, we don’t let on that we get that. That’s what’s so important to making it work.
Does acting come naturally to you, or do you feel that you have to work at it?
McGRATH: Yeah, I definitely have to work at it. As a performer, I want to hit the last row of the arena. I want to make big moves. I’m a spaz, naturally. But with acting, there are a lot of subtleties and non-verbals involved. If someone is over there, getting eaten by a shark, there’s a non-verbal way of how to act that. There’s a certain nuance to acting that does not come intuitively to me. It’s something I still have to learn. You know, for every Mark Wahlberg that came out of music, there are a million Vanilla Ice’s that didn’t make it. There are tons of other people that made me really respect the craft of acting. Tim McGraw and Dwight Yoakam have become excellent actors. As a lead singer, all I want to do is be in my own head and think about how great I am. That’s a lead singer’s disease. And acting is something where you have to completely remove yourself. So, do I find acting easy? Absolutely no! Do I want to do more of it? Do I enjoy doing it? Do I feel appreciative to get this opportunity? Absolutely! I was on the second to last episode of The Office, which was fantastic. I did an episode of The Neighbors. This year, has been my biggest thespian year, ever.
Do you find it more fun to get lost in a character, rather than just making an appearance as yourself?
McGRATH: Absolutely! Cameos were fun for me to do to get into the television world because they’re easier to do. Playing myself, I was like, “Hey, I’m a band guy!” But you learn about over-the-camera shots, how to get coverage, all of the language that they speak, and where the cameras are. Acting is about listening, and that’s something that took me awhile. You almost don’t have to learn your lines, if you listen to what they’re saying and move it along. That’s something that I’ve been learning a lot more because that’s something you have to do when you play something other than yourself.
What is the story of Sharknado 2?
McGRATH: Basically, Ian’s character Fin has just come off the incredible experience of Sharknado and he’s got this new fame that he’s never had. He’s excited to go home and become a little bit grounded. He decides to go to New York City and repair some family relationships and meet some of the old friends. I am an old buddy of Fin’s, who married his sister. There is an unresolved dynamic there, as well. It’s not something that he’s too happy with. We grew up together, so he knows how crazy we were. And as he arrives in New York City, he brings a Sharknado with him.
Are you involved in a lot of the action, and do you have a specific weapon that you get to fight with?
McGRATH: In certain scenes, I had something, but there were budget concerns. There was a lot of changing of the script on the fly, which was very interesting. It showed how creative Anthony [Ferrante], our director, is and how creative the crew was. Props that were supposed to be used weren’t, so they had to be improved on the fly. I had to end up using something else. So, there were things that I used that you wouldn’t necessarily think I’d be using. But it’s New York City, so there are many, many ways to kill a shark. You’ll find out how we do that. There are many buildings, many subways and many ways to have a pretty gory, horrific shark death or human death.
Was it fun to get to shoot this around New York?
McGRATH: Oh, it was incredible! I thought because it was low-budget that it would have green screen, but no way. We shot it in New York City. We were on Broadway and 54th, and I was in a taxi cab with Judd Hirsch. He was driving, and the irony wasn’t lost on me. You could feel the phenomenon that is the juggernaut of Sharknado, and you could feel the background of New York with such iconic New Yorkers like Robert Klein, Richard Kind, Judd Hirsch, Biz Markie and Judah Friedlander. They’re really representative of what makes New York great. It couldn’t have been shot anywhere else.
Was it really important for everyone to keep that real low-budget feel to it, even though you had a little more money, this time around?
McGRATH: I think it was definitely important to the director. He knows that you can make these low-budget film, which he did with Sharknado, as long as there is something compelling about the characters. There is a believability in the chemistry and a likeability amongst the characters. And Ian and Tara Reid did a great job in the first one. This genre of fans is very forgiving of that type of filmmaking. Yes, the budget was bigger, but we were shooting in New York. It was still very much done guerilla style.
Because the first movie was such a social media phenomenon, will you be live tweeting?
McGRATH: Oh, yeah! You cannot fabricate a social media phenomenon on its own, and Sharknado proved that. That was completely organic. And I think Judah had a lot to do with that. He was watching it in real time. I’ll be live-tweeting, and I know Kari [Wuhrer] will be. It’s become part of the movie. It’s expected by the fans, and I think it’s something that we’re all going to do.
McGRATH: When it becomes a business, like it did in the ‘90s, and you become a commodity to a record label because you’re making them millions of dollars, you can take all of your artistic integrity and throw it out the window. They’re just looking at third and fourth quarter results, especially when there were millions of records being sold, back in the ‘90s, which we were fortunately a part of. So, we did become a little bit of a product back then. But, I love to perform. I’ve never lost the urge. I’ve never once been on stage when I didn’t want to be. I’ve done thousands of shows. You might be feeling sick or a little down, but the second you hit the stage and hear the crowd, you’re ready to perform. That’s what a true performer is. Whether it’s five people or 50,000 people, I always love that and feel very blessed that I’m able to do that. I’ve lost none of that. None of the original love and feel for going on stage is gone. I’m not a true singer. I’m performer, and I need to be on stage. We tour with such great bands, that the pressure is not just on us to sell tickets. If you love that great music of the ‘90s, come see us. We’ve got #1 songs from the ‘90s, so if you don’t like that, please don’t come. This year, we have Blues Traveler, Smash Mouth and Uncle Kracker. It should be another great year for Under the Sun.
What’s kept you from going solo?
McGRATH: I’ve always loved being in a band. Recently, a couple of the original guys left, after being together for 23 years, so it’s something I’m looking at now. I’m in a position now where maybe I will put out a solo record, but there’s no business concerns. It’s simply done out of artistic need. There are two things you do in a band – you play live and you write music. We’ve been playing live a lot, but we haven’t written a lot of new music, and I think it’s time for me to do that. The good news is that there’s no pressure to write a record, but that’s also the bad news because no one’s waiting for it. I’ll have free artistic rein, have some fun, put it on iTunes and, if you enjoy it, god bless you, and we’ll do some of the songs live.
Sharknado 2: The Second One premieres on Syfy on Wednesday, July 30th.