Ian Ziering on ‘Sharknado’ franchise: ‘It’s the gift that keeps on giving’

Kelly Woo
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Sharknado 5 (Photos: SYFY)

Watch out, world — sharks in tornadoes are coming for ya! (Again.)

They rampaged in Los Angeles, tore apart New York, wrecked Washington, D.C., and even menaced outer space. Now, they’re ready to feast on the rest of earth in Sharknado 5: Global Swarming, coming to a screen near you on Sunday, Aug. 6. Ian Ziering returns as hero Fin Shepard, a regular guy who always finds a way to battle these beasts. Hope his passport is up-to-date, since Fin, his wife, April (Tara Reid), and their pals will have to chase Sharknados from London to Rome to Tokyo and beyond.

And like previous installments, Sharknado 5 boasts some insane cameos, including Fabio, Dolph Lundgren, Olivia Newton-John, Margaret Cho, Clay Aiken, and Chris Kattan.

Ziering talked to Yahoo TV about the Sharknado phenomenon, Fin’s new chainsaw, and how long this franchise can keep going.

Did you ever think you’d make five Sharknado movies?
I actually didn’t think the first one would see the light of day. No one is more surprised than I am that we have just completed our fifth and it’s going to air Aug. 6. You said it right, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. And it’s because the audience demanded it.

Why do you think these movies are so popular?
It’s the fun movie where everyone’s in on the joke except the characters in the movie. It’s not a classic horror movie. It’s not a classic science-fiction movie. It’s not a classic comedy. It transcends those categories and forms its own. It’s become appointment television; it’s a summer event that people have parties and gatherings for. I don’t know anything else out there that’s like this.

So, what’s going on in Global Swarming?
We were very sure to maintain the same formula. Basically, Sharknado movies are about an ordinary man who goes to extraordinary lengths to keep his family safe and protected from sharknados. We started in California and have basically decimated the entire United States and have even been to outer space. It seems the only place next to go is the rest of the world, so that’s what we’ve done. This production was shot in over half a dozen locations around the world. I left my home in Los Angeles, flew east, and continued to fly east around the world until I was back at my own door. I’ve never done that before. This was a global production.

Will we see the chainsaw again?
Pretty sure you’re going to see the chainsaw again. Absolutely! That’s Fin Shepard’s signature weapon. And he is given a chainsaw by a cameo appearance that is hysterical. It’s almost a divine chainsaw he’s given.

The Sharknado 5 crew traveled around the world during production.

The movies have always gotten some great cameos. How do you line them up?
Many of them are requests. It’s become like a badge of honor on actors’ IMDb, to brag that they’ve been eaten by a shark on Sharknado. We also solicit cameo opportunities. And what’s really amazing now is that since we’ve taken this global, it’s not just celebrities that are looking to get in on all the fun — there’s countries now that have solicited production in hopes that we’d come and destroy their iconic tourist spots.

How long can this franchise keep going?
These movies are fan-based movies, and as long as the fans continue to enjoy them, as long as the ratings continue to go up, they’ll continue to make them.

There’s no shortage of creativity. Once we’ve gotten people to accept sharks in tornadoes, accept us going into outer space to fight sharks, to be OK with Fin Shepard flying in a mechanical suit and his wife April is sort of bionic — there’s really nothing that we couldn’t do. It seems the more crazy and the more outlandish these scenarios become, the more people love it.

Honestly, this could go on for many, many years. It’s already spawned a play, or a musical. There’s cosplayers that dress up like sharknados in various Comic-Cons around the country. You know, when you’ve got your picture on the front of a kid’s pajamas, it really lets you know that you’re part of something that’s iconic.

Do you get recognized more for Sharknado or Beverly Hills, 90210?
As an actor, this journey for me is 42 years long now. I’ve done a lot of things over my career that different people have been fans of. I’ve got little 9-year-old girls that remember me from McKenna Shoots for the Stars, which is an American Girl Doll movie. I’ve got grandmas who remember me from Dancing With the Stars. And of course the 90210 fans are some of the most supportive fans out there.

This Sharknado franchise now seems to have brought them all together because the demographic that it appeals to is from 8 to 80. What’s amazing is that social media creates another layer of interaction. When I put on these behind-the-scenes pictures, people love that! So if people want to see what I’m posting, they can follow me @ianziering.

What’s been your favorite moment from the movies?
I think my favorite moment was from Sharknado 2, where I stood on top of a fire truck in midtown Manhattan, raised a 40-pound chainsaw into the air, and screamed, “Let’s go kill some sharks!” And when I did that, everyone screamed, “Yeah!” And it wasn’t just our crew and our background actors. It was the entire city block of New Yorkers on their way walking to work!

It was just so empowering and so exciting. It was a tangible, palatable moment, where I felt like I was part of something bigger than a TV movie.

Sharknado 5: Global Swarming premieres Sunday, Aug. 6, at 8 p.m. on SyFy.  

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