‘Percy Jackson’s’ Erica Cerra is a goddess, and a deputy

Jan. 30, 2010 | 3:00 p.m.

Erica Cerra is billed as the hottest woman on Syfy – Deputy Jo Lupo on the series “Eureka” – and now she’ll be playing an actual goddess (Hera) in the movie “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.” We caught up with the actress, who also has a movie coming out soon called “The Stranger” with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and asked her about acting up north, acting tough and acting among the gods.

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JP: So you’re one of the Vancouver-based actresses. With so much production, TV and film, is it tougher now than it’s ever been in ‘Hollywood North’ to get a role?

EC: It’s funny, I started up here when I was 5 or 6, and when I did it  I was with the first agency in Vancouver when we had “21 Jump Street,” or about that time. There was such a small pool of actors in the city that it was easy to make it big… Now, there’s so many other Canadians and people from other places coming here as opposed to L.A.  There was sort of this handful of people my age that would go out, I’d say 10 girls, and we could say ‘Oh, you get this one and I’ll get the next.’ Now, I went to my first audition in a few years [because of "Eureka"] and I thought ‘Who are all of these people?’ It’s not like L.A. though.  L.A. is tough! Not just the casting directors, the actors are even tough! Not that Vancouver is a small town, but you come from this sort of camaraderie. It’s not the little evil shark tank [that's in L.A.] I think that if something is right for you, it will come to you regardless of what you try to do to get it.

JP: So in getting the role of Hera, did you research her or just go by the books or the script?

EC: Well, unfortunately, Chris Columbus was not banging down my door, and I had to go in and audition.  I initially went in for Medusa and Persephone. Shocking that I didn’t beat out Uma Thurman or Rosario Dawson, I know. But, he brought me back a couple of times and I auditioned for another character. Then I came back again for another character and ultimately got the part of Hera. Even before that, though, I ran out to the library and got all of the books.  I love fantasy. If I could have, at the time when I was 12, been on “Harry Potter,” then I would have… I was like, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians!” Cool!

All that being said, who ever knows how a character is going to be portrayed in a movie as opposed to the mythology…. There is more to come with my character, so at that point, I’ll do more research when that comes.

JP: So, there’s thoughts of a sequel already?

EC: Hopefully they’ll do the other movies. In one of the other stories, Hera helps Percy in one of his missions. I think [the franchise] will be a big success and I think that unfortunately “Harry Potter’s” coming to an end and there’s always room for new cool boy heroes. Or heroes in general.

JP: And how does the movie differ from the books?

EC: I think that they’ve made the movie a bit more tempting for an older audience, whereas the stories are for children. So they’ve opened up the audience.

JP: So, do they contemporize the gods?

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EC: No, not totally, and I think they made a really good choice. I think you can see with Persephone in the trailer, he just goes sort of classic and beautiful.  I think that they’ll, well, I don’t think, I know, but I just don’t want to tell you too much! Some of the gods are a little bit edgier, but, at least for the goddesses, they’re mostly classic.

JP: Did you have to do a lot of CG work and did you get to work with those other actors a lot?

EC: A bit of both. There is a special effect, that I won’t give away, that is really neat when [Percy] first meets the gods, but I don’t want to give any away… I know that there is a shot that you do see of all of the gods and goddesses sitting in their chairs on Mount Olympus that is pretty interesting.

JP: So, with the fandom aspect that could come with a series of “Percy” movies … does that fanboy scene appeal to you?

EC: I’ve done it for “Eureka” a couple of times. I’ve gone to Comic-Con and I went to [an expo] in London. I have a great love for the genre audiences. They’re so supportive and so great. I really enjoy the idea of getting lost in a fantasy world, and I think they do too.

JP: You mentioned “Eureka” …

EC: You’re gonna love this season! They just called me and said ‘So this is what we have planned for this season.’ And, it’s funny, they asked me what I expected out of the season, and I really have no idea. I give them my ideas, and sometimes they let me do what I want, and sometimes they have their own ideas. But they have such a cool concept [coming up]!  And it’s ‘Eureka,’ but totally different. And it’s going to happen right in the beginning. Imagine big, and that’s what happens.

JP: You’re going to be a telepath!

EC: [Laughs] No!  What’s going to happen affects the whole cast, the whole city. And there might be some new faces.

JP: So how’s the role of Deputy Jo Lupo the law enforcer been for you, and do you see more romance in the future?

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EC: Well, my character started off like ‘We want Chyna.’  You know, 5’10, 200-pound, muscled Chyna … and they ended up with me. I just saw “Avatar,” and I think [Michelle Rodriguez] is what they wanted — you know this really tough chick. So that’s what I did. Then later they came and said, ‘OK, the audience doesn’t really like this, so let’s try something different and soften you up.’ That being said, some people loved her, loved her being tough.

In Season 3, they took her love relationship to a whole ‘nother level, showing that there’s a much softer side to Jo … but I really want tough Jo back.  There’s a lot of love going on and we don’t need so much love.

JP: So, no more scenes of you singing on top of pianos?

EC: [Laughs] Oh, OK. That wasn’t necessarily my favorite thing to do, but I loved that episode! I had an absolute blast doing that episode. Talking to another version of myself was challenging and a lot of fun…. But yeah, I want that special forces chick back. The little tough girl.

JP: Back to “Percy Jackson” and Hera … do you bring any of that toughness to her?

EC: Well, the story of Hera is that she is a bit of a prude. She is the goddess of marriage so she has a bit of a tough time with what goes on with the gods, their fraternization with the humans and having babies and such. Hera basically dislikes everyone, even her own husband and brother cause he’s had a million affairs  There is an element of bitterness towards her, and from her a bit towards Percy and Annabeth cause there’s the possibility of something maybe happening between the two of them. She just feels that there should be a bit more loyalty.

JP: How is it that the gods just keep popping out babies with humans, enough to fill a classroom?

EC: Well, that’s just in the mythology. Hera and Zeus (husband and wife) and Poseidon are brothers and sister. Husbands and wives and sons and daughters all have affairs in the gods. It’s in “Percy Jackson” but it’s softened a bit. They don’t touch on it much. Wasn’t Hercules also a son of the gods? These gods and goddesses hang out for a millennia or more, for thousands of years together … they get bored.

– Jevon Phillips

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Photos: (1-2) Erica Cerra. David Fierro / DavideFierro.com. Last – Erica Cerra as Deputy Jo Lupo on Syfy’s “Eureka.” Credit: Syfy.

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