Mitch Pileggi & Eric Cerra Star in Space Twister on Syfy

By Jamie Ruby

Space TwisterMitch Pileggi is probably best known to fans for his role as Assistant Director Walter Skinner in the popular The X-Files, but has appeared on television in a variety of roles, including Stargate Atlantis, Sons of Anarchy, Supernatural, and will be appearing on the upcoming Dallas.

Erica Cerra currently plays Jo Lupo on the Syfy hit Eureka. She has also appeared in series such as Battlestar Galactica, Warehouse 13, and Smallville. She will be starring in the upcoming television movie The Wishing Tree as well.

Both star in the new Syfy Saturday movie, Space Twister. In the film, storms similar to ones on Jupiter begin wreaking havoc and destroying the planet. A student's science project seems to be the only key to ending the storms and saving the world. The two actors recently talked to the media about the film.

Syfy Conference Call
Space Twister
Erica Cerra & Mitch Pileggi

April 25, 2012

SCIFI VISION: Can you talk about how you got started on the film and what originally attracted you to the parts?

Space TwisterMITCH PILEGGI: I was actually up there working on Supernatural and I had just finished, I think on a Friday, and then I got a call and they said that - I guess Greg Grunberg was originally scheduled to play this role and he hurt his back so they asked me if I would step in. So I said, "Well how much dialogue is there on Monday?"

So I took a look at it and I figured out that I could do it. Then I got there and then they kept adding scenes and adding scenes, and I was like, "You know what? Unless you want me reading off cue cards you guys are going to have to cut back on these scenes."

But so that's how I got involved. It was just a matter of another actor dropping out and I happened to be in Vancouver at the time and stepped in.

ERICA CERRA: As far as me, I think we were on hiatus for Eureka or something. I remember I had a bit of time - God knows, I might have been filming at the same time. I remember there was a good period of time where I was a tornado myself, I was working on too many things at once, my wedding included.

And I was asked and I was excited because it was something different. I realize I work on a science fiction show, but my character is the brawn, and this gave me an opportunity to play more of an intellectual character. So that was kind of fun for me.

SCIFI VISION: And what was the most challenging part for both of you?

ERICA CERRA: Mitch, was it memorizing your dialogue, is that what?

MITCH PILEGGI: That would have been it, yes. For me having a bunch of dialogue that I wasn't - I'm not a quick study as it is, so when I get dialogue, I labor over it.

But other than that, there really wasn't any great difficulty. It was a lot of fun. Everybody was really nice. And it was cold and it was wet and it was muddy. We were shooting out at the old Smallville location farm and so it was pretty muddy out there. But it was fun. Everybody was great.

ERICA CERRA: Yes, my answer's fairly the same. I guess probably the only challenge I had was, there was a couple little stunts that I had to do here and there, but that's stuff that I really enjoy doing, so I don't ever necessarily find it a challenge.

But I live in Vancouver so the cold and wet unfortunately, I'm used to. But other than that, yes it was a really fun experience. Everybody was really, really lovely and I had a really good time.

MITCH PILEGGI: Plus I love the cold and wet of Vancouver, just let me go on record.

ERICA CERRA: You're never allowed to work in Vancouver again.

MITCH PILEGGI: My wife is Canadian, my daughter was born in Vancouver. So I've got up there too.

ERICA CERRA: Okay, you can come back to Vancouver.

MITCH PILEGGI: Okay, thank you.

ERICA CERRA: You're welcome.

QUESTION: I really enjoyed this movie...and I loved the science aspect of it. Did that cause you both to run off to the Internet to look things up like it did for me, or did you already know this stuff, or did you not need to?

MITCH PILEGGI: Science lady.

ERICA CERRA: No, I always do my research, even if I think I know what something is. Because if I have to talk about it and I don't know what I'm talking about, oh my God. I'm always racing to the internet to go, "Why do we...?"

Even in scenes on Eureka when they're talking about things and it's not even my dialogue I'm like, "What is happening? What is going on?" So yes, I like to be informed, for sure.

MITCH PILEGGI: I had to build a rocket, or I had to make some adaptations to a rocket. So there was a lot of wiring, a lot of electronic stuff that I was dealing with. It was fun though. Yes, it was interesting playing with all those wires.

I haven't seen the movie though. So you liked it, huh?

ERICA CERRA: Neither have I, actually.

QUESTION: Can you tell us about future projects for each of you? And will there be any more sci-fi?

ERICA CERRA: Mitch, you want to go?

MITCH PILEGGI: I was working on the old series Dallas, they're bringing it back. And last - the first season...


MITCH PILEGGI: ...I recurred on it. And if they go a second season they've asked me to join the cast.

And it's funny because I've come full circle. I actually came out to Los Angeles from Texas and one of my first jobs 30 years ago was working as an extra, background on Dallas.

ERICA CERRA: That's funny.

MITCH PILEGGI: My first day of work last season I was working with Linda Gray and she came up to me when I was first seeing her and she said, "I'm such a big fan." And I said, "I used to stand behind you as an extra 30 years ago on this show in this town." And she was, "Oh my God."

ERICA CERRA: That is so great.

Mitch PileggiMITCH PILEGGI: Yes, it's kind of cool. It's a great group of people, and plus I get to be down in Texas and it's a lot of fun.

ERICA CERRA: Very cool. Right now my next job is mommy, I'm due in four weeks.

MITCH PILEGGI: Congratulations. Good for you.

ERICA CERRA: Thank you.

MITCH PILEGGI: Awesome. It's awesome (unintelligible).

ERICA CERRA: So apparently that's the biggest job I will ever try taking.

I did a Hallmark movie called The Wishing Tree, which will be airing next Christmas.

But since, no I haven't really been doing - I got big real quick, and so there wasn't a whole lot of acting opportunities for me. So I'm just going to be mommy for a little while and then hopefully this coming pilot season I'll get me on another show so.

And sci-fi, who knows? We'll see what the world throws at me.

MITCH PILEGGI: That's great.

SCIFI VISION: I'm also a huge fan of Eureka, and growing up The X-Files was my absolute favorite. Can you both talk about a favorite memory from working on them?

MITCH PILEGGI: For me it was the first time I saw my wife on the show. She was Gillian's photo double on the show and I didn't see her until the third season because she was always on second unit.

And then we were shooting a scene one day and Chris Carter had asked my wife to play a waitress in this scene. And I saw her in this little waitress outfit and I said to Duchovny, I go, "Who is that?" And he said, "That's Arlene," and I go, "Oh my God, I love her. I'm going to marry her," and I did.

ERICA CERRA: You have some great stories, don't you?

MITCH PILEGGI: Yes it was. The X-Files, it was a wild ride and it was a crazy experience. And it was one of the biggest things that happened to me in my life. And there were many, many experiences that if I could talk about it. It was a great time for me.

ERICA CERRA: You know what, I've said this time and again, on Eureka we worked for seven years on the show. And trying to like narrow down one specific, special moment...

MITCH PILEGGI: It's hard. It's really hard.

ERICA CERRA: really hard. We had so much fun on that show, and the cast gelled so well and we all got along so well that I - yes, trying to narrow it down would be virtually impossible.

But one thing I can definitely say is I learned a lot. My costars were very gracious with helping me along, teaching me, inspiring me to be better or whatever, and Colin Ferguson especially and Joe Morton.

And because we all got along, we all still talk, you know? So it's just a great family and a great group of people. Even crew, writers, everybody. So yes, I can't specify. Great all-around experience.

QUESTION: What was the most adventurous moment you've experienced during filming Space Twister?

MITCH PILEGGI: At the end of the thing where he's trying to fix the rocket so he can take off, and there was a lot of vapor, really, really, really cold vapor that they were shooting out of the back of the rocket to make it look like it was smoking.

And it was really cold. I had to have my hands up right where the stuff is spraying out and my hands just started freezing badly. And it was kind of crazy. It was a little scary. Plus you've got all the pyro and stuff going on around it. That would have been it for me.

And at one point I had to climb up a tower and the character falls off. I don't know how he survived that fall because it was an extremely high tower. So that would have been it.

ERICA CERRA: Oh sci-fi.

MITCH PILEGGI: Yes, that's how you do it. Okay yes, I can fall 50 feet, my back hurts a little bit, but I'm okay.

ERICA CERRA: And you'll bounce when you hit the ground too. It's like you hit a mattress, you'll just bounce. Should be great.


ERICA CERRA: Just so you know Mitch, I'm going to let you answer all the questions first. Obviously I have been, so we're not talking over each other because it's kind of hard to tell.

What was the question again? Most challenging, right?

QUESTION: Adventurous moment that you've had.

ERICA CERRA: Oh, most adventurous. There is a scene that I can't - you've seen it haven't you? I don't know if I can give away anything. There is a very heroic moment for my character, and that was probably it. There was fire involved and it was very hot. And I was a little wary about jumping through the hoops of fire. So yes, we'll say that.

QUESTION: And how do you find balance, Mitch and then Erica, when everything gets a little chaotic, how do you take time to find your center and to be balanced?

MITCH PILEGGI: My concentration is usually so pinpointed towards remembering my lines, I don't think about anything else.

It's just having done this for so long, I've been doing it for over 30 years. And I get it now. And so when I need to get that focus it's there for me. And when the camera stops rolling I step off set and have a smoke. That's it for me.

ERICA CERRA: So funny. I haven't been doing this - well, I have on and off for 30 years because I started when I was 6, and I'm now 30-some-odd years old.

We were doing Eureka for so many years that I can sort of say the same thing. There was a point where it became slightly effortless. It almost felt like my dual personality was going to work, and then I'd go home and live my normal life, you know? So it really wasn't - that's to say, "Who knows? On my next challenge?"

But probably my husband, that's where I go and find my balance because he definitely brings me back to Earth. He is a very fun and funny guy. And I'm a pretty stress-less person, I don't generally get too overwhelmed or over-affected by anything. I'm pretty laid back. I usually try to find the humor in things and just have a good time.

QUESTION: Now that the film wrapped, looking back was there an element or a level that you wish you brought to your characters after the fact? Or do you think that you just hit it on the head from the beginning?

MITCH PILEGGI: I was good. I was real good.

ERICA CERRA: I was really (unintelligible).

MITCH PILEGGI: That was too much of a setup. I felt pretty good about what I did. Whenever I do a character I just try to bring as much reality as I can to what I'm doing and the circumstances that the character's involved in, who he's dealing with, who he's talking to, what he's talking about.

You've seen it, right? At the end of it when I died, do you hear me screaming in the barn? Was there a scream? Because I was really concerned, they had me scream right as the thing was taking off and killing me. And I was like, "You know what? That kind of loses the heroic aspect of what he's doing if you hear this guy in here who's screaming like a maniac."

I said to them at the time, I said, "Can we lose the scream? Because I don't think it's right for the character, I don't think it's right for the moment." And so I'm anxious to see.

When I went back in and did some ADR, they had actually asked me to do a scream and I was like, "You know, I've already screamed." So I said if they're going to use it, they're going to use it, if not then I don't want to give them any other ammunition.

But so I'm anxious to see whether that's there or whether they took it out. But overall it's like I say, bring as much reality to the moment and to the character as I can.

ERICA CERRA: I don't want to steal Mitch's answer but it was so good. First, no, I wouldn't have changed anything because I was fabulous. And two - I didn't scream in a barn though.

MITCH PILEGGI: We're laughing when we say this.

ERICA CERRA: I know, it's like they don't believe us, I don't understand.

I can't say that there's any part that I've ever done where I've looked back and gone, "Oh my God, that was perfect." So yes, absolutely there's things I'm sure I would love to change.

But touching on what Mitch said, I try to bring as much realism in the moment as I possibly can. I try to interact with the characters and I try to bring as much truth to whatever the scenario is and cross my fingers and hope that it makes sense in the end, and I don't look like a crazy person.

MITCH PILEGGI: We are crazy people.

Erica CerraERICA CERRA: But we don't want everyone to know it, that's the thing.

SCIFI VISION: So which do you prefer, or do you find more challenging - the dramatic scene versus action scenes?

MITCH PILEGGI: If I don't have any dialogue during the action it's fine. I guess the dramatic moments. I'm not a comedic actor, and I've found that out time and time again over the years, when I try to be funny it's not funny. And people go, "You're not funny," and I go, "Yes, I know."

ERICA CERRA: I think you're funny. You've been making me laugh for the last 20 minutes.

MITCH PILEGGI: I guess the dramatic moments. I like the action stuff too, my body doesn't take it as well as it used to. I know that for years I'd try to do my own stunts.

And I did do my own stunts, and I'm paying for it now. And I try to tell younger actors, "Let the stunt guys do it because your body's going to hurt later on down the line." My body's riddled with arthritis now.

Yes, they're both fun, but I think I prefer if I can just stand there and deliver a scene and not have to do too much. I'm just old and lazy, that's what it's come down to. That's what it is.

ERICA CERRA: Where were you when I started doing stunts seven years ago? Because I wish I was listening.

I love doing my own stunts also. And I am a tomboy and I always have been, so I would rather do it myself and no offense to a lot of stunt girls, but I find that I can do it better, it always looks girly when they do it. So I'm like, "Stop doing the stunts, it makes me crazy."

Some stuff I just can't do, like there's motorcycle riding, and there are certain stunts that they won't allow me to do.

But I love doing action stuff. I think I'm definitely wearing down. As I get older, it's not as easy. When I started the show I was younger. But I'm starting to learn my lesson now.

I like doing both, really. So whatever - you know, either/or. But I love doing action, I think action is just a lot of fun.

SCIFI VISION: Is there anything you guys learned about yourself that you were surprised to find out during the filming?

MITCH PILEGGI: I just turned 60, so I think I know pretty much know everything there is to know about myself at this point. So I don't think so.

ERICA CERRA: I'm good at tech talk.

MITCH PILEGGI: You're good at tech talk?

ERICA CERRA: I'm actually pretty good at tech talk, I can memorize it. I didn't know if I could. I've been listening to all the other cast on Eureka for years do it, and I was like, "Ah, I wonder if I could do this?" And I had the opportunity and I can. I can memorize it fairly easy and so that actually surprised me.

MITCH PILEGGI: Good for you, that's really hard stuff.

ERICA CERRA: It is really hard, and I was actually quite shocked. That's why I do the research, because if you don't know what you're saying then you're never going to memorize it.

MITCH PILEGGI: Yes. I listened to Gillian do the psycho, techno-babble for so many years and I just shake my head and go, "Man, better you than me."

ERICA CERRA: And that's how I felt lots of times on Eureka but when I was given the opportunity, I could do it. So I was shocked and pleasantly surprised.

SCIFI VISION: Can either of you think of anything that your fans would be surprised to know, like a hobby or a skill, or something like that?


ERICA CERRA: Go ahead Mitch.

MITCH PILEGGI: I used to be a cabinet maker and I still do some woodworking. I just actually finished a mantle shelf for my fireplace that looks really, really good. So I'm proud of that. And people may know that, I don't know. But I love working with wood.

ERICA CERRA: I didn't know that. I think everybody knows my extra-curricular activities, they consist of cooking. I'm a total housewife.

I love being a housewife. I'm so excited to have kids. I love cooking. I don't love cleaning. I love taking care of my husband. I'm a mommy at heart. I don't know, maybe that's enough. I always seem so much tougher and cooler on television.

MITCH PILEGGI: You sound pretty awesome to me.

ERICA CERRA: Oh thanks Mitch. You too. That's great.

QUESTION: Mitch, I just re-watched the explosion at the end, absolutely no screaming whatsoever.

MITCH PILEGGI: Yay. Am I heroic?

QUESTION: You're very heroic. It was great. I think you did it...

MITCH PILEGGI: See, that's all I care about.

QUESTION: ...very well. No, no, no, not even a moment's hesitation on that. So no worries for you there.


QUESTION: [Do] you really like working in sci-fi or if it's a pain or if it's a mix?

MITCH PILEGGI: I've done it so much. I mean, we both have. It's pretty much my meat and potatoes. I did nine years of The X-Files and then I did Stargate Atlantis for five years, and I did Supernatural for a while.

And so yes, they keep pulling me back in. And I enjoy it. I've always been a sci-fi/fantasy/horror fan of literature, and so to be able to make my living doing it is pretty cool.

ERICA CERRA: You figure I could have figured that out with Mitch's answer. I love working in sci-fi. I am same as Mitch. I grew up - my dad and I used to watch sci-fi all the time, my dad's a huge science fiction fan, a huge X-Files fan. And so I grew up absolutely watching all the science fiction shows.

And I always enjoyed watching things that were more creative or a little bit less reality-based because I live in reality every day, so I like the idea of watching television that takes me out of the real world and out of my own life. I would love to continue doing it. And no, I don't think it's a pain.

I think sometimes it can be a pain because if you're doing something that doesn't necessarily make sense, it can be kind of confusing. And if you're trying to play a scene that's really true to the scene or bring it down to reality, that can be a bit of a challenge.

But no, I really enjoy it.

QUESTION: If The Twilight Zone's Rod Serling was to talk about your life in a tagline, what would he say?

MITCH PILEGGI: Well that's a really creative question. You're going to make us think? That's not fair. Come on, we're actors.

ERICA CERRA: Listen Mitch, why do you think I have you answering the questions first? I'm not a stupid woman.

MITCH PILEGGI: That's a cheat. That's a cheat, Erica.

ERICA CERRA: I'm sabotaging you.

MITCH PILEGGI: Yes, I don't even know. That's making me use the creative half of my mind too much. Okay, I've tap-danced for a few minutes here, Erica. You come up with something and then see if I can come up with something.

ERICA CERRA: I got nothing. Are you kidding me? I haven't watched The Twilight Zone in so long, I have no idea. It's a great question though.

Space TwisterMITCH PILEGGI: My daughter and I watch when they have the marathons on. When do they have them, on Thanksgiving?

QUESTION: New Year's. New Year's Eve.

MITCH PILEGGI: New Year's Eve, yes we sit and watch them all day long. I've watched them over and over and over. And it's so funny to see Rod Serling at the beginning of it. He's usually smoking a cigarette and it's hilarious.

MODERATOR: On that note, our time is up. I'm going to rescue Mitch and Erica.

ERICA CERRA: Saved by the bell. But that was a great question, thank you.

MITCH PILEGGI: Was good, sorry we couldn't do anything with it.

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