Eureka’s Erica Cerra – The Enforcer

Erica Cerra as Eureka's Jo Lupo - Photo by F. Scott Schafer and copyright of The Syfy Channel

Erica Cerra as Eureka's Deputy Jo Lupo - Photo by F. Scott Schafer and copyright of The Syfy Channel

Intelligent, beautiful, resourceful and sexy – all these adjectives describe Deputy Jo Lupo. Let’s not forget that, given just cause, she can also incapacitate you and throw you in jail. With her as one half of Eureka’s long arm of the law, the small town has nothing to worry about.

Three years ago, it looked as if Jo would be promoted when her boss, Sheriff William Cobb, was reassigned after almost losing his life to a misguided scientific experiment. Unfortunately for her, the government chose U.S. Marshall Jack Carter as Cobb’s replacement. At first, Jo was disappointed and somewhat prickly towards Jack, but they soon became friends as well as a formidable team. Nowadays, she is still helping him police the town, and Erica Cerra, who plays Jo in Eureka, is thrilled with her character’s growth and development so far over the show’s three seasons.

“Each season, Jo seems to soften up somewhat, which I always think is nice because it allows the audience to get to like her a bit more,” says the actress with a laugh. “Her relationship with [scientist] Zane Donovan [Niall Matter] has also helped give her an opportunity to express her feelings and become emotionally attached to someone else. I’m very happy that the [show’s] writers have allowed Jo and Zane to more or less take their time and haven’t married them off yet and given them children. The two of them bicker a lot, and Niall and I enjoy playing that.

“As individuals, Niall and I get along very well, so that makes our scenes quite easy, and I think that’s why the writers are able to give us so much bizarre relationship stuff to do. Zane has almost been taken away from Jo a couple of times, and those moments have given my character a chance to say to him, ‘No, please don’t go. I really do have a heart.’ The [acting] challenges with this and any character are in the scripts, and I always look forward to taking on the next challenge.”

Deputy Lupo on duty in Eureka. Photo by James Dittiger and copyright of The Syfy Channel

Deputy Lupo on duty in Eureka. Photo by James Dittiger and copyright of The Syfy Channel

Midway through Eureka‘s third season in From Fear to Eternity, Sheriff Carter (Colin Ferguson) must deal with yet another technological crisis when a long-forgotten doomsday weapon discovered in an abandoned military complex threatens to destroy the town. In the process, he ends up trapped inside the facility with Eva Thorne (Francis Fisher), a scientist with a mysterious past and a secret to hide. Above ground, Deputy Lupo and Zane try to help figure out a way to rescue Carter and Eva, but have their own problems when a weird substance literally binds them together.

“The original script for that episode was very different from what ended up on the screen, and it continued to change quite a bit while we were shooting,” recalls Cerra. “Jo and Zane were, I believe, on the brink of breaking up in that story, or they were at least fighting; every other episode they’re on the brink of a break-up, but again that’s fun. It not only gives the characters something to do, but it’s also very real. These are two people who passionately care about each other and are trying to find their groove.

“One thing that immediately comes to mind from that episode is that in the scene in which Jo and Zane finally become unstuck, I walk away and say, ‘If I had been stuck to you any longer I’d have gnawed off my own arm.’ And he yells back at me, ‘Well, your mouth is big enough.’ That was all Niall, and it was really funny,” chuckles the actress. “He just ad-libbed that and they ended up keeping it in, which was great. It’s something that, again, is real. It’s what a boyfriend might say to his girlfriend when he wants to get a jab in at her, so that line always sticks out for me.”

In the third season Eureka story Your Face or Mine – directed by Colin Ferguson – Jo Lupo becomes acting sheriff while Carter takes a Department of Defense (D.O.D.) recertification test. However, her friends being to wonder if the job might be too much for her when she starts behaving strangely. They have no idea that a scientist at Global Dynamics is using her experiment to take over Jo’s physical identity. As is typical in Eureka, things go horribly wrong, and Jo comes face-to-face with herself as she fights for her life.

Carter (Colin Ferguson) and Jo in a scene from "Your Face or Mine." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of The Syfy Channel

Carter (Colin Ferguson) and Jo in a scene from "Your Face or Mine." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of The Syfy Channel

“I was so excited when I got that script,” enthuses Cerra. “First off, being given that much stuff to do in a single episode, it just felt so nice to know that the producers had faith that I could handle it. As an actress I had tons of challenges, and having Colin directing was such a cool experience. It was the first time that a member of the cast had directed us, and it was important to me that I do everything to the best of my ability and not let him down.

“Colin and I work so much together that he says, ‘I speak Erica,’ which I always find amusing. The thing is, I’m not always the best as far as articulating certain things, but somehow Colin always knows what the hell I’m trying to say,” she says laughing. “I’d be in a very happy place if I could take him with me as a director all the time.

“So this episode was by far my biggest challenge of the season, and as the remaining 13 episodes went on, the writers gave me other scenes where Jo became emotionally attached to something. As an actor, if you’re not emotionally attached to something, there’s nothing to really play, right? A great deal of what I do on the program is standard, so whenever I’m given something a little different to play, I take full advantage of it.”

When Cerra took time out to do this interview (early January 2009), she and the rest of the Eureka cast were shooting one of the final season three episodes, which was directed by castmember Joe Morton (Henry Deacon). “In this episode, Zane comes back to Eureka after being gone for a month, and there is a possible threat to the relationship between him and Jo,” notes the actress. “There’s also a visit from an old love interest.

L-R - Erica Cerra with some of her Eureka castmates at Comic Con 2009 - Joe Morton, Salli Richardson-Whitfield (Dr. Allison Blake), Cerra and Neil Grayston (Douglas Fargo). Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel

L-R - Erica Cerra with some of her Eureka castmates at Comic Con 2009 - Joe Morton, Salli Richardson-Whitfield (Dr. Allison Blake), Cerra and Neil Grayston (Douglas Fargo). Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel

“As far as being directed by Joe, it’s been fantastic. We get a different director with every episode, and with Joe it feels more like we’re all hanging out and playing together, do you know what I mean? It’s not that we ever make any of our directors feel uncomfortable, but when someone new comes in, you’re trying to get to know them and there’s never enough time for that. With Joe, and, of course, Colin, you already know them and they know how to talk with you and know what you need. It’s just cozier and easier to sort of give them what they want because you both know how to translate each other’s words.”

After production wrapped on Eureka‘s third season, the actress shot guest-spots on episodes of Warehouse 13 and Sanctuary, and can also be seen as Hera in the feature film Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief starring Pierce Brosnan and Rosario Dawson. As for Eureka, the program continues to grow in popularity and has been renewed for a fourth season. While the episodes may be driven by scientific mishaps, there is a lightness and humor involved in storytelling as well, both of which Cerra feels draws viewers to tune in.

“I remember looking at one of the Eureka websites and someone was complaining that the science was wrong. Somebody else wrote in and said, ‘Just watch it and be entertained.’ and I agree,” says the actress. “There are a lot of TV shows about murder and sadness, and what’s great about Eureka is that you can sit back, watch it and just be entertained, and in today’s world I think that’s a good thing.”

Steve Eramo

As noted above, photos are by James Dittiger, Marcel Williams and F. Scott Schafer and copyright of The Syfy Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!

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