It was a rainy day in February when Zap2it traveled to Florida to visit the set of Syfy’s “Sharknado 3.” While most think of Universal Studios Orlando as a theme park, it’s also a fully functioning movie studio. For the purposes of the latest “Sharknado” installment, it’s acting as a bit of both.
While “Sharknado 3” will see the twister with teeth rampaging all over the East Coast — dubbed Feast Coast for the movie — a large portion of the terror goes down at Universal Studios Orlando. After all, the only thing worse than being eaten by a Sharknado is having it happen while riding a roller coaster.
The day Zap2it was on the set, the roller coaster in question was the Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit, and it was sending passengers to certain doom. It’s there that a few of the movie’s long list of cameos were first revealed.
First and foremost, Irish pop duo Jedward appear in the movie, riding the roller coaster. While American audiences aren’t quite as familiar with the singers, who are also good friends with star Tara Reid, they’re well-known in Europe.
“We’ve traveled the world together, but one time we landed in Dublin where they live. I’m not kidding you guys,” Reid says in a group interview. “Maybe 3,000 girls were all outside, inside, outside, all over the airport screaming for them. They had to rope off the airport.”
Fitting them in the movie seemed like a no-brainer for the actress. She explains, “I’m like, ‘We have to put them in the movie.’ I said to everyone at Syfy, I was like, ‘If we don’t put Jedward in the movie,’ I said, ‘We just have a whole different fan base now. We just got all of Europe just by making the announcement.’ Then they were on the front page of the newspaper, Jedward join ‘Sharknado 3.'”
Those who don’t know Jedward may recognize another cameo — WWE Superstar Chris Jericho, who appears in a supporting role as Bruce the ride attendant, a name pulled directly from the name of the shark in “Jaws.”
“I’m not going to say it’s a pivotal role, but it’s a really good role,” Jericho tells Zap2it. Of course, the real draw for him was getting a glorious on-screen death. “One of the badges of honor when you get to do one of these movies is you get to die,” he teases. “Those are the best cameos.”
While he won’t reveal how his character gets killed off, he says it’s “borderline genius.” “The circumstances leading up to it are something I could see being iconic,” Jericho admits.
One thing many may not know about the “Sharknado” movies is they tend to shoot an entire film in about two weeks, meaning the director packs as much as he can into a single day. During Zap2it’s visit, that means the roller coaster was only the first half of the day. After the cast and crew wrapped lunch, production shifted to the streets of the park, which filled in as Washington, D.C.
In the movie, Ian Ziering’s character, Fin Shepard, starts his adventure in Washington, D.C., where he’s receiving a commendation for his work in saving the country for Sharknadoes.
Unfortunately, not everyone is happy with him, leading to mass protests in the streets. While there is a contingent of pro-Fin supporters, there’s just as strong a crowd defending the sharks. That’s where you’ll see Zap2it, along with a handful of other media outlets, acting as extras, screaming and waving protest signs both in favor of and against Sharknadoes.
Only in this world is there a group arguing the merits of a weather system that throws sharks at people.
After filming the protest scene roughly a dozen times, complete with Ziering’s arrival, production moved yet again. This time to the simulation ride “Twister … Ride it Out.” It’s there that Ziering finally gets up close and personal with sharks — albeit CGI ones — as a Sharknado descends on the tornado simulator.
Shooting three very different scenes over the course of a day is business as usual for the “Sharknado” franchise. While most productions would only get through roughly two pages of a script in a single day, Ziering says, “Not only do we shoot seven to ten pages a day, but those pages are changing up until the moment we say them. So it’s like nothing I’ve ever done before, and it’s incredibly rewarding and immensely enjoyable.”
After wrapping the “Twister … Ride It Out” scene, the day came to an end for Ziering and the rest of the cast and crew. This was the last day shooting in Orlando. The next stop for the production was Los Angeles.
That’s the real story behind “Sharknado 3.” It’s a non-stop ride to get the movie done and out to fans to enjoy. Of course, even though the breaks are few and far between, there’s always a little bit of time to ponder the next one, should Syfy greenlight a fourth installment.
For Ziering, who at this point had been shooting in a rainy Orlando for days, he only has one request for “Sharknado 4.” “My dream plot line?” he wonders. “Some place warm.”
“Sharknado 3” premieres Wednesday, July 22, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Syfy.