The distribution of interaction strengths among community members has important consequences for assembly processes and community responses to perturbations. Species deletion from communities can trigger cascading extinction events, with strong evidence from empirical and theoretical work. I examined model competitive communities, sequentially assembled using species drawn from a global pool with interaction strengths described by different distribution shapes (uniform or beta), with the same mean and variance. As community size increased, it became harder to assemble communities drawn from a uniform distribution compared to a beta distribution. The distribution of interaction values in the assembled communities differed from the shape of the initial distribution. The distribution shape and the relative abundance of the deleted species also had strong impacts on the probability of extinction cascades following primary species removal. Extinction cascades occurred in communities with a higher mean and variance of interaction strengths before the primary extinction. Those species lost had negative equilibrium densities and tended to be the least abundant, when assessed following the reorganisation that occurred after the primary and subsequent extinctions. Knowledge of the shape of the distribution of interaction strengths from real communities will allow us to make better predictions about which species are most at risk in extinction cascades under natural circumstances.