EXCLUSIVE: Masiela Lusha Talks 'Sharknado,' Her Approach to Acting and More

Photo credit: Ashlyn Kudransky

Since her debut as Carmen Lopez in the hilarious sitcom George LopezMasiela Lusha has been non-stop grinding. From acting in the sci-fy thriller series, Sharknado to publishing three books, this talented beauty has proved she can do it all, while still being able to devote time to philanthropies that are near and dear to her heart. We caught up with Masiela and talked about her passion for writing, her advice for young actors and the one role she is dying to play. 

RELATED: The 7 Best On-Screen Latino Families

Q: Tell us a little bit about your character Gemini in the Sharknado series.

A: Gemini was first introduced in Sharknado 4, which is when they cast me. She’s pretty much an enigma. When I found out that they were doing Sharknado—they had offered me the part blindly—I canceled all my plans that I was supposed to be out of the country for and basically showed up on set 48 hours later. Gemini was this creation that was in progress as we were filming. So even about halfway through production we didn’t know where she fit in the universe. She first started off as a family friend and then the writer and producers were wondering 'Why would Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering) go to Vegas with a family friend?' Then, they changed her to a babysitter and then the question was 'Why would she go to Vegas as a babysitter when the son wasn’t there?' Eventually we decided that she was the first cousin, so I’m officially a Shepard now.

Q: What was the process like getting the role?

A: It was out of nowhere. I received a call from my manager at the time and he said 'you have an offer for Sharknado.' I mean, I completely knew Sharknado, I had seen the press and I had seen one of the movies but I hadn’t quite wrapped my mind around the fact that they were casting at the moment. So my instinct was initially to say no simply because I had a scheduled flight out to Florence, Italy and it was completely out of the scope of genres that I’ve done, but when I read the script my mind just completely turned. I immediately fell in love with Gemini and I loved her fierceness and her unapologetic ability to heal. To me she was a little bit of a feminist and I loved all the stunts; jumping off of the Stratosphere hotel, which was written in, and being swept up in a Tornado, just everything. I couldn't have imagined being a part of a more perfect production. So last minute I just said, 'Fine I’ll do it,' I couldn't wait to just sink my teeth into it and that’s how we started—it was super quick.

Q: How does Gemini differ from other roles you’ve played?

A: As an actor I always try to push myself and see what my limits are. So I’ve done sitcoms, I’ve done dramas, I’ve done period pieces in a foreign language, I’ve done horror films, but this was one particular genre where it was a drama and a thriller, but at the same time it doesn't take itself seriously. I loved the idea of being able to play with that and still stay true to the character and true to their missions, but at the same time understanding that there was an element of comedy in it. That balance was intriguing to me. Also the idea that it’s Sharknado, it speaks in the fabric of our culture and I wanted to see how my fans would react because they know me more for my serious work, my poetry and from George Lopez.

Q: How did they react?

A: I noticed that there is a distinct line between the George Lopez fan base and the Sharknado fan base. There is very minimal overlap, which I was a bit surprised to see. So when a fan approaches me because they are a George Lopez show fan, there is no conversation about Sharknado and vice versa. I find that interesting, I feel like there is a little tug-of-war between the two fan bases and they kind of battle each other a little bit as to where I truly belong.

Q: You posted great photos from Comic Con, how was that experience?

A:  It was amazing. We don't get to see each other as often so it definitely felt like a family reunion with the Sharknado family, because that’s exactly what it is. We spend so much time together and we’re all completely swallowed up in this world where we can’t really escape for three weeks and we go through it together so we’re really solidified by the end of it. Then, we don’t see each other unless we’re doing post-production, so seeing them again felt like a reunion where we have dinner, go to events and catch up, so that’s the joy of it. Also, you know seeing all my favorite actors from Game of Thrones and all the incredible talents—I can't complain about that.

 

 

Hamming.

A post shared by Masiela Lusha (@masielalusha) on

 

Q: Of all the roles you’ve played, which character is your favorite? Or, do you feel like you have been impacted by all of them in some way?

A: That’s what it is with acting—especially given how I study my craft—I actually do become the character. So I would say each character stayed with me. The one that I learned the most from was Carmen Lopez from the George Lopez show. I was about two or three years older than Carmen when I played her and she still taught me so much: about boys, dating and reputations in school. The torture that she went through and what she endured in her growing pains resonated with a lot of people, and with me. So I would say by far she was the most rewarding, because on top of everything I learned from her, the reaction from the fans, and the show itself, was that the cast brought some type of healing for them. It allowed people to see the world in a very authentic way and people utilized that in their personal lives as well. I have fans, one girl in particular, I’ll never forget, came up to me crying and hugged me so tight like I was a long lost sister and looked at me with tears streaming down her face and said 'thank you so much, that one episode where Carmen was bullied in school and called a whore because a guy lied about sleeping with her, I went through the same thing at the exact same moment and it really helped me, so I just want to thank you for that.' That’s obviously one of the most rewarding feelings as an actress to know that you are healing to your full capacity. So yes, Carmen Lopez hands down.

Q: How has your approach to acting changed as you've gotten older? 

A: My career was such a learning curve. I arrived in Los Angeles when I was about 12 years old, completely green, had no imagination as far as what acting truly was. I initially thought that Hollywood was just hidden cameras everywhere so I couldn't even fathom the technicalities of acting. I would say my biggest understanding was that the acting industry is an industry and not a lifestyle. So I learned that the most talented and successful actors are usually the most professional and they consider this not just a craft, but a 9-to-5 job. Whether they are auditioning, on set, rehearsing lines or just going into an acting class, it’s all part of building their muscle to maintain that integrity of the craft. So yeah, just now seeing it more as a business than anything else.

Q: Do you have any advice for young, inspiring actors who want to get into this industry?

A: I was actually thinking about this the other day. I feel like we live in a society now where we have the ability to rebuild culture in some way. We have so much access to social media and to different public platforms, we can create a website without any idea of coding, we can send out any message we want and help contribute to our culture. So now I think actors have the ability to be absolutely unapologetic about their passion, because their passion conditions our culture and what we perceive as beautiful in the future and what we perceive as authentic and as acceptable. We have that power now more than ever and I think the younger generation really has that potential to take it far.

Q: When you’re not acting what do you like to do?

A: There seems to be a parallel between my writing and my acting and it’s the same approach where I really try to push myself to different genres. My most recent book was released in November of 2016 called The Living Air and that particular book explores so many genres, I was even pushing myself to write poems in German and translate them back into English. I found poetry from Saint Teresa, who is Albanian, so I was able to utilize my Albanian a little bit and translate her meditations. I really wanted to see what I was capable of. In the end the fans and the critics will decide where my talent lies, but at least I allowed myself the opportunity to just try and see if that could lead to something more substantial.

 

 

Reciting a few poems for #readacrossamerica. Can't wait to meet the students!

A post shared by Masiela Lusha (@masielalusha) on

 

RELATED: National Poetry Month: 10 of Our Favorite Latino Poets

Q: What would be your dream role to portray on film?

A: I would love to portray an actual person on screen and my dream character, because I’ve read so much about her and resonate with her because she’s from Albania as well, is Mother Teresa [now Saint Teresa]. There is a bit of a parallel between her finding her passion at 12 years old and pursing it unapologetically and leaving her country and family at 15 to fulfill this one vocation that she had. I find that strength, and her unique ability to find complexity in her one vision, just inspiring. When I read her personal letters to her family and friends, I found that she would be such a dynamic and contradictory character to play. It would be absolutely incredible.

Q: Is there anything else about you that you would like fans to know?

A: Yeah, we just wrapped a movie, it was released on Lifetime and they moved it internationally as well, it’s called Forgotten Evil. It was actually from the same producer and director of SharknadoAnthony Ferrante, so it was a bit of a reunion, but in a totally different genre. Once again, it was a piece that I absolutely needed to be a part of because it is a genre that I hadn’t really touched yet. My character Reneé comes out of a 6-month coma having complete amnesia so she finds herself along with the audience. There isn’t any backstory that my character can rely on, she’s literally watching her life unfold in the same synchronicity as the audience. To be able to just relinquish any techniques you learn as an actor and say I’m just going to experience everything for the first time on camera and have the audience experience it with you was definitely a first for me so that was absolutely rewarding and I still think about this character to this day.

Q: Well that’s pretty cool, especially that you were able to work with the same director that you did for Sharknado

A: Yeah, he’s definitely a director that you would need to completely trust because Sharknado is so fluid and there is absolutely no sense of predictability. You can’t really memorize lines the day before, because the lines will change on set. He’s a director that takes that challenge on and just says, 'Trust me. Take my word for it and it will turn out well' and it always does. So I was excited to be a part of that again.

Q: Is there anything else that you are working on outside of acting that you are excited to share with your fans?

A: I’ve been involved with philanthropies for 25 years now and my current project with Uncommon Good is something that I’m absolutely passionate about. We help elevate families from underprivileged communities, but in so many different aspects. For example, we acknowledge nutrition in their education and we help the students vocalize their dreams and find a path to college acceptance. We have a 100 percent success rate getting our students into college in a community that usually has a 41.5 percent success rate.