'Sharknado 3' Star Ian Ziering on Acting Naturally "When the Shark Hits the Fan"

The actor talks with THR about what it takes to play Fin, his mandate to guest stars on the popular summer classic and more.
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Ian Ziering is having a career renaissance.

Thanks to Syfy's summer Twitter sensation Sharknado, the Beverly Hills, 90210, alum has evolved into an action hero as Fin Shepard, a man whose focus is always on his family, even when he's fending off flying sharks.

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Ziering to talk all things Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No, including having David Hasselhoff portraying his father, his love of the franchise's over-the-top stories and more. 

What did you think when you first read the script for the new movie? 

It's over the top, but it's over the top in a great way, and I've stopped questioning it. These movies are rated awesome, and they're not intended for overthinkers, so when I first approached this script, I didn't know the rating and I overthought it, and I was averse to doing it. At my pregnant wife's behest I took the job for the paycheck and the health insurance, and it turned into Sharknado. I couldn't have played this better if I'd wanted to. It's really captured the imagination of sci-fi fans. … When Sharknado 2 hit the small screen, it generated such a shock wave that it reverberated over a billion Twitter impressions around the world. It was all top 10 trending topics on Twitter at the same time. I was very flattered that I had "Fin Shepard," "Ian Ziering" and "Steve Sanders" all in that category. (Laughs.) Nowhere in any parallel universe did I ever think that would happen. The movie delivers: It's a campy, cheesy science-fiction movie, and it's wildly absurd. It's a huge impossibility — Mother Nature says this could never happen — but with a little bit of popcorn and some friends, you're able to suspend disbelief and enjoy the movie. It's almost like it's its own genre, where everybody's in on the joke except the actors within the movie! (Laughs.)

These are definitely films where you're lucky if you can go five minutes at a stretch without saying, "You have got to be kidding me."

Oh, yeah. When I read the script, I said that too. (Laughs.)

How do you feel about Fin's evolution as a character over the course of the three films?

I love the fact that this movie is grounded in family. Fin is an ordinary man doing extraordinary things to keep his family safe, and that's the foundation. That's the building block that these movies stand on. And from there, that's when the shark hits the fan. (Laughs.) He's thrust into these situations that really turn him into a fish-out-of-water type of action hero. So for me, to get to play an action hero in a science fiction film is a marriage of two genres that I'm a huge fan of. This is like a cross between Bruce Campbell and Bruce Willis for me!

I'm sure it's second-nature for you now, but when you started out in the Sharknado franchise, was it difficult for you to avoid winking at the material, so to speak?

Anytime I see one of these type movies, anytime I feel that the actor falls out of character, where they're thinking they're too good for the material, it all falls apart for me. If there's any wink to the camera, any break in the fourth wall, then it really does the movie a disservice. In breathing life into Fin Shepard, my job as an actor is to act naturally in imaginary circumstances. That's acting. And I never forgot that, even though I was screaming ridiculous things like, "There are sharks flying out of the sky!" (Laughs.) I got all my sillies out before we started rolling, but in front of the camera, I make sure the stakes always remained high, and I was very sure to instill in all of our guest cameo celebrities that they also were on board with that, to never be winking at the camera. After [director] Anthony Ferrante was done with his directions with everyone and was ready to do the scene, I just wanted to impress upon the newbies that it was important to keep the stakes and not to let the wind out of the sails, basically saying, "There are sharks, and they are coming for you. Just keep that in the back of your mind as we work." I hope everyone stayed on the same wavelength because that's what makes Sharknado work.

How was it having the Hoff as your TV dad?

David Hasselhoff is awesome. He came to set, he was a big fan of the first two movies, and he was very excited and happy to be a part of the third. And he came ready to work. We actually took time to rehearse! (Laughs.) Which is unheard of. I mean, we shoot these movies so quickly that, quite often, we'll even shoot the rehearsals, because when people show up on set, there's no time to really workshop scenes. But he and I have some real poignant scenes together. I've always been a fan of his. He's very humble and appreciative. He lets a lot of self-deprecating humor fly, which takes the curse off of any missteps he may have had in the past, and you just can't help but love the guy.

In regards to the celebrity cameos in the films, has there been a close encounter that particularly blew you away?

Bo Derek was wonderful to work with. And Lou Ferrigno came over and asked for a selfie, which actually made it into the movie! That was kind of a surreal moment, because he's the Incredible Hulk! When he hugged me, he crushed me like I was a loaf of bread. (Laughs.) This whole thing, it's just pure fun.

Sharknado 3 airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Syfy. Will you watch? Stay tuned to The Live Feed for more coverage. 

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