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Exclusive Interview with Erica Cerra, The 100’s Newest ‘Big Bad’

Photo Credit: Liz Rosa
Photo Credit: Liz Rosa

Erica Cerra, born in Vancouver, British Columbia, discovered her love of acting by her 8th birthday. After appearing in numerous commercials, Erica took a break from acting but then returned to the business at 22 when she decided to dedicate herself whole-heartedly to living as a professional actor.

Since then, she has been seen in such shows as Dead Like Me, Eureka, Battlestar Galactica, Smallville, iZombie, and is currently portraying The 100’s supremely intelligent A.I. called A.L.I.E. who is likely responsible for setting off the bombs that destroyed the world.

Recently, Erica took time out of her busy schedule to talk with us about her role and what we might have to look forward to as we move further into the third season of The CW’s post-apocalyptic, critically acclaimed drama.

How was it for you watching the premiere? 

“You know what? I’ll be real. I didn’t watch it when it aired because I’d already actually watched it. (laughs). And I realized later, which made me really upset because my husband did want to watch it with me, that when I tried to DVR it, the recorder didn’t record it. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if it was recording too many things at once or, I just don’t know what happened.”

Oh no! That’s awful! 

“But that’s ok, we’ll watch the next one. We’ll make sure that I don’t screw that one up. (laughs) I may pretend to be artificial intelligence on television but in reality, I am not. That intelligent. Not with technology.”

That is seriously funny. You were live-tweeting during the show, though, right? 

“Well, because I know the episode. I have seen it. I do know what happens and I could answer questions. Don’t tell anyone, but I was actually watching American Idol instead (laughs).”

Well hey, there was some singing on the episode last night! 

“Oh yeah! There you go. See? I was at least thinking about the episode! No, really, my husband was busy and said ‘Can we just watch it tomorrow?’ and I was like, ‘Yup.’ So I watched something else while I recorded it -well, I thought I recorded it but I did not.”

Ok, I gotcha. So I know this isn’t your first time doing Sci-Fi, but is it your first time doing A.I.?

“Yeah.” 

Then how was the experience of doing that [playing an A.I.] for you?

“At first I was intimidated. Because, I wanted to make sure that I, one, really did the character justice, and two, I didn’t want to play the character like every other A.I. out there. Since there are so many. I wanted to make sure that she was interesting because that character can get incredibly boring because there’s no emotion so you want to make sure that they have something that keeps you watching, you know? That there’s something that keeps you interesting to them. So it was an interesting challenge.

And there’s no emotion, right? So it’s not like I can…like I can have people care about me, because there’s emotion attached to me but there’s nothing there for them to latch onto. That was a challenge, trying to find the perfect balance. I mean, I hope I did a good job. I hope I pulled that off. And then you get concerned that some people can’t help but compare you to other actors that have played this role, so I wanted to make sure that she was different. So…I hope that worked.”

It did! I love ALIE. She’s just very intriguing and a little bit scary. And I think the scary part IS that lack of emotion. It seemed like she had a bit of a sense of humor or at least understood irony. So can she have relationships? Or have some kind of a connection with someone? She’s just so real and yet not.

“Mmhmm. Well, I think with what…the idea behind a character like that is that everything is logic-based. Everything is sort of calculated. She learns very quickly. So like if something is funny, she understands that it’s funny based on circumstance or the logic or the mathematics behind it. And when something is funny, people generally laugh or smile. So there are a lot of characteristics that she starts to gain being around people.”

Ohh. Ok.

“She’ll learn mannerisms and she’ll – it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t mean she understands the emotion behind it. She just sees what they’re doing and she sort of follows suit in order to make herself appear more real, I guess.”

Right. Almost to fit in?

“Yeah. Exactly.” 

Ok. Where did you find your inspiration for playing her? 

“You know what? I really don’t know. I can’t really answer that.  I watch a lot of sci-fi, soo…you know, I used to watch Star Trek with my dad so there was Data, you know? I was on and I watched a little bit of Battlestar, so there’s Six. There’s sort of like a roster in your head and so the character just sort of made sense to me. When I auditioned for it, I guess I kind of hit the mark. It was what they were looking for. And when I actually filmed a couple of episodes, Ex-Machina had come out.

I really sort of feel like I should credit myself because I just made her up. You know what I mean? I don’t think that I mimicked her from anyone. It’s just a collage, I think. A collage of things I’ve watched and things in my own head.

I think it’s easy sometimes to say, ‘Ok, this person did this,’ but I think with ALIE, I don’t think anyone did give me inspiration. I don’t think I mimicked her from anyone. I feel like it was just a collection of everyone from TV at the time.”

Ok, yeah. That almost kind of seems like that’s where this entire season is coming from. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, a little bit of pretty much every sci-fi kind of scenario all mixed together with a twist. (laughs). 

“Yeah! Yeah, it’s a little bit of everything. I would agree. As the season unfolds, I think you’ll see that more and more.”

Interesting. Well, now that we’ve seen the City of Light, are you able to talk about it a little bit more?

“Not really (laughs). The only thing that I can say is that the City of Light is like the Garden of Eden or it’s like your heaven or your fantasy, but that’s all I can really give you.” 

My thought was that it seemed very Matrix-like. 

“I mean, it could be a bit of a Matrix, yeah. I think really, I don’t even want to give it away. Because I just think it’s really cool. With the A.I., the stories are so intertwined and they’re really cool. I don’t even want to give things away. And this is from someone who wasn’t a fan of the show…I didn’t even read full scripts because I wanted to be surprised by things that were happening that didn’t pertain to me. I think this season is really smart and I think the fans are just really going to enjoy watching it! I don’t want to wreck anything for them.”

So you weren’t a fan of the show before you got the part?

“I mean, I have a three-year-old so I don’t really have a whole lot of time for TV. I was interested in watching the show before I got the part, but when I got the part I was like, ‘Ok!’ It’s really like, she goes to bed and I vegetate in front of the television and watch whatever nonsense is on at that moment. It’s not like I’d really put a lot of thought into watching unless it was like movies or whatever. So when I got the show I was like, ‘Ok, you need to sit down and watch the show. And I Netflix’d the entire first and second season and I watched it pretty consistently. I became a fan of the show for sure.”

It’s hard not to! 

“It’s a good show. I have to say. It’s a good show. It definitely pulls you in.”

It does. As you were receiving the scripts, reading your part, what was your response when you would see what was going on and what you were gonna be doing?

“I had different reactions every episode, every episode that I was in. Sometimes shock (laughs), sometimes sadness, sometimes fear. There were some mixed emotions about what I was reading for sure.”

Was there ever anything in the script that made you think, ‘Oh my god, how are we gonna do this?’

“Oh yeah. All the time! With a show like this there’s so much, I mean sadness and turmoil. There’s so much heartache and so many crazy things going. How does the character itself not take that on? So that was, that was one thing that I found kind of challenging in each script. Like how do I NOT become emotional with what’s happening?”

Was that the biggest challenge you faced? 

“I’m gonna have to say that about halfway through – the first half of the season – I was, I’m sure, driving Jason [Rothenberg, Creator of The 100] crazy with just a million questions about my boundaries, my boundaries as a character. What I can and cannot do, what makes sense. What doesn’t make sense. Why can she do this and why can’t she do that. So halfway through I felt like I just sort of got it. Like I finally just figured it out and I was just like, ‘Oh, ok. I know who she is. I know what she does. I know how she acts. I know how she reacts.’ So, yeah, that was a definite challenge.

I mean, when you play a real person, something happens and your instincts kick in. Those instincts kick in and you go, ‘Oh, I would feel like this. This is how I would react if I was this person.’ It doesn’t matter who you are. If I was a murderer, I’d go, ‘Ok, well that’s how – ‘ (laughs). You can sort of relate or figure out how a certain person would react. But when you’re playing someone who doesn’t have any emotions, it’s like…what would happen in the situation if you were in the situation. It’s just a little more thought that needs to be put behind the different scenes and different scenarios.”

Ok. So what’s been your favorite part about being involved in The 100? 

“I don’t know if I have a favorite. I mean, I think that playing this part and being on the show was my favorite part. Everyone’s so great. It’s a really great show. It’s a great group of people to work with. I genuinely had a lot of fun this season.”

That’s awesome. 

“Yeah, because you don’t always get that.”

Everybody seems to really genuinely care about what’s going on and really into knowing their characters inside and out. It’s wonderful. 

“Exactly. That’s the thing that was great. You go to work, you feel like everybody cares and everybody sort of – you know, as much as it’s really a morbid show, everyone wants to have a good time whilst making this morbid show. It’s really very lighthearted when the cameras aren’t rolling. It’s a great show to work on for sure.”

So…would YOU take ALIE’s chip?

“Nooo.”

(laughs) Wouldn’t even have to think about it?

“Nooo. In real life, with each challenge, I’m more inspired. And with each challenge, I find life more interesting. In the last couple years, I’ve been through a lot. I lost my mother, I’ve had a baby, so it’s been really hard, a challenging couple of years, but, I’m a better person because of these challenges. And because of the heartache and because of the excitement. I’m a really tough cookie. (laughs). I’m always pretty ready for what comes. I don’t fall apart. I don’t break. I don’t break very easily. Just as a human being in general. If something comes my way, I’m like, ‘Ok, how do I deal with this? What do I do? How do I fix this? How do I make it better?” I’m ok with being sad. But some people aren’t. Some people can’t handle it. I don’t understand those people because I’m so opposite. I’m just like, ‘You know what? That’s sad but you just have to cry and deal with what’s the matter with you and move on,’ where some people don’t feel that same way, so…no, I definitely would not.

If the question was ‘Would you take the antidepressant? Would you take the…’ you know? Would you take the thing that would make everything better? I think at the time maybe I would pause…no, no I wouldn’t. I know myself, so no, I wouldn’t.”

Because we are Talk Nerdy With Us, are there any ways that you are nerdy?

“Oh yeah. I am so nerdy. I am. Being nerdy is a funny thing, because when you’re a kid or a teenager, you’re like, there are so many things that you care about. I was a Trekkie because my dad always loved Star Trek. He was a cool guy. He was into sports, he was funny, but he also had some “nerdy” things. He loved comic books, sci-fi, and my dad and I are very similar. Like, he liked the cool things but he also liked to be nerdy and play video games and stuff and act geeky. I’m a nerd. I’m ok with it. And you know what I think is really fun? That people do not expect that about me. They think I’m something that I’m not so it’s kind of fun.” 

 

Watch Thursdays at 9pm on The CW as ALIE’s story unfolds.

Written by Erica Schaaf

Erica is a former social worker and mother of three who has been writing since she was a child. She currently writes fanfiction for the Veronica Mars and The 100 fandoms and is published on Kindle Worlds as well as fanfiction.net and archiveofourown.org. She hopes to one day have the chance to be a fly on the wall on set of her fave shows while filming!

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