Exclusive Interview: C.J. “Lana” Perry Talks WWE Studios’ “Interrogation”
She’s known as “The Ravishing Russian” when she’s managing her husband and WWE Superstar, Rusev, but C.J. “Lana” Perry’s talent doesn’t stop there. The former dancer also shows her acting chops in WWE Studios’ latest film Interrogation.
Her iconic Russian accent has been a special part of her brand but Perry shows a different side (and a different voice) in her role as Becky, the computer specialist that teams with Adam “Edge” Copeland in trying to take down a criminal mastermind.
As Perry prepared to leave for her honeymoon, she took a moment to discuss her life in WWE and how a missionary kid in Russia eventually became one of WWE’s hottest stars.
CraveOnline: What can you tell us about your character in Interrogation?
C.J. Perry: My name is Becky in the movie, and I play an American FBI computer specialist. She’s really, really smart and she’s really intrigued by different smart minds and computer things. She kind of geeks out over it and finds it fascinating. Stephen Reynolds, the director, wanted to take a different approach on the character and avoid clichés by making her cool.
It was cool that at the time in WWE, I was basically dedicating my matches to Vladimir Putin so it was cool to be able to go from the Russian patriotic Lana to playing this character Becky, who was an American patriotic person.
How was it working with your co-star Adam “Edge” Copeland on set?
Edge is awesome. I was able to meet him a couple of times at Raw before. He’s always giving so much knowledge on the business and on life. He has such a great attitude and he’s so talented and to be able to work with someone that is such a talented actor and an icon and a legend here, a lot of WWE Superstars were really jealous that I got to work with him and do a movie with him.
What were some of your favorite films growing up?
Forrest Gump was one of my favorites as a little girl. What About Bob is my all-time favorite and I think I’ve always been prone to comedy. But I always love fantasy. Lord of the Rings were some of my favorites, Harry Potter, anything to do with universes or fantasies, it’s like you can escape from your own world. Star Wars is one of my favorites.
I wasn’t able to watch a lot of movies when I was really young or I had to close my eyes because my dad was a minister and I grew up being a missionary kid in Russia, actually. There were a lot of ‘close your eyes’ and ‘cover your ears’ in Forrest Gump five or six times so Star Wars was a really good PG movie that I was able to watch.
Trying to break into the industry
What was life like for you when you first moved to L.A. and you were trying to make it into show business before ultimately landing with WWE?
Oh, man. Ever since I was a little girl, I had a dream to be an entertainer and I wanted to travel the world telling stories and putting smiles on people’s faces. I can say that L.A. was a lot of ups and downs. When I moved to L.A., I went to Las Vegas first and I literally had $50 in my account. I played some blackjack and got lucky and made $3,000 and basically, moved to L.A. with $3,000 and my car. I would sleep in my car, I would shower at L.A. Fitness and there were a lot of auditions.
I would get a bunch of jobs for a couple of months and not a couple of jobs for like six months. You just get used to a lot of rejection over and over and over again. I was never going to give up the dream. I wasn’t going to go home. I had decided I was going to make it. It’s everything they paint in those movies. That struggle was my life.
With WWE, I got this audition and thought there was no way that I was going to actually get the job. They were doing the WWE Diva Search at the time and I didn’t think I would get the job because I wasn’t a wrestler. I went to that cattle call and kept being called back over and over again and they narrowed us down to the top 12 where Eva Marie and JoJo were also in that top 12 and I remember Triple H being there.
Then we went through this month camp, learning how to bump and hit the ropes, I just fell in love with WWE and sports entertainment. It was the perfect world of the merge in sports, action, acting and entertainment. I felt like I finally found my place. Then they picked five girls that they signed and me, Eva Marie and JoJo were part of the five and that’s where my journey began and where my life was changed and where I met my husband [laughs].
Getting back in the ring
You wrestled at WrestleMania this year. Are there any plans for you to return to the ring any time soon?
I would love to do it but when the time is right. It was always a dream for me to do my debut match at WrestleMania and people would laugh at me. People would laugh at me all the time for my crazy ideas. Reach for the stars and at the very least, you will get the moon and so I would say my first match is going to be at WrestleMania and people would laugh at me and sure enough it happened.
So right now I’ve been filming a lot of things for Total Divas and focusing on my weddings so when all of that passes, I’m sure you will see a lot more of me in the ring.
“I’m not going to let fear motivate my life.”
When you entered into WWE, did you expect to achieve this much success?
Going into WWE, I didn’t know if I would be successful, to be honest. I looked at the ratio of people getting signed from the development program and I’m a realist, I really counted the cost before moving to Orlando. They might cut me in a couple of months or a year and that might be it. I was really afraid. What if I fail at this? Am I going to come back to L.A. in a year or two as a failure? But that was a really big life lesson because I’m not going to let fear motivate my life. I’m not going to make a decision based off being afraid to fail. I’m going to have courage and be resilient and it was the greatest decision I ever made.
Falling for Rusev
Did you ever expect to meet your husband when you got signed with WWE?
I definitely did not see me meeting my husband. I was never a relationship girl; let’s just say that [laughs]. I maybe had a boyfriend for like six months and it would be too much. I was like ‘I have to focus on my career.’ It always seemed like a big distraction that was unnecessary. I was also never a person who would date just to date.
[Alexander] Rusev is one of a kind. Instantly, within the first two months of knowing him, he stood out to me as being very, very different. I didn’t expect meeting my husband. I never really liked to date within the same business I was in because if it didn’t work out, you’d have to see that person all the time. But things happen and we’re best friends.
What do you and Rusev love to do when you’re not performing?
We like to snorkel and scuba dive. I love the beach. I grew up on the Baltic Sea. I love the beach, I love the water, I love surfing and swimming. Rusev did not like any of that when he first met me. I took him to Hawaii and told him, ‘Trust me. Put these goggles on and let’s go scuba diving.’ Now he’s obsessed. He’s like a little kid with his little snorkel. We just went to Anguilla a couple of weeks ago and I was wondering where he was and the next thing I know, I see his green little snorkel thing sticking out as he is exploring the Caribbean Sea. We’re going to do that on our honeymoon a lot.
“Lana” on Total Divas
What has your experience been like as the newest cast member of Total Divas?
You can expect ratings to go through the roof [laughs] with Lana on TV. We’re manifesting to be the highest rated season yet. I have had an incredible experience. It has been so fun being on Total Divas. I have got a lot closer to the girls. I guess it’s the Russian side of me that takes me a long time to get close to people. It took about two and a half years for me to finally make friends with some of these girls.
I’m excited because basically, we’re taking you backstage and opening up the curtain on Rusev and me. You’ve seen us together the last three years on TV but now you’re going to see a lot more of our relationship. To be honest, I think a lot of people will fall in love with him [Rusev] because they’re going to see this other side of him that I’ve always been able to see and he’s really fun. I don’t know if people know that but he’s a really funny guy.
So you’ll see his humor, you’ll see my in-ring debut, and the challenges I faced with ‘Do I valet or do I wrestle?’ You’ll see a lot of stuff of us preparing for the wedding and you will learn a lot more about what has defined me. Lana is an extension of myself.
A lot of people are excited to hear your real voice because they have just seen you as your character.
I’m really excited about that because I grew up in an American Christian missionary family in Russia so I consider myself an anomaly. I don’t know a lot of Americans who moved to Russia in the early 1990s.
Being a strong voice
At the end of the day, what do you want out of all of this?
I want to be a voice to young children and women and people of all ages to go for their dreams, to be resilient and have courage. Don’t let fear motivate you. The American Dream says that all things are possible and I genuinely believe that. I love being here in WWE. I love performing and entertaining but what I want to really share is a stronger voice to the people and empower women to show that women and girls can do anything. Don’t ever let your gender stop you from chasing dreams.
The best WWE film yet?
Why should fans check out Interrogation?
Because it’s a psychological thriller. It’s exciting, it’s one of a kind and you’re going to see me talk in an American accent. I’m in it, Edge is in it, so there’s two great reasons to see it right there. It’s the best movie yet for WWE.
Joshua Caudill is a writer for CraveOnline, a hockey fanatic, a pro wrestling connoisseur and an expert on all things Patrick Swayze. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshuaCaudill85 or “like” CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.
Photos and video courtesy of WWE
WWE Studios and Lionsgate’s Interrogation is available on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD and On Demand Sept. 20.