Exclusive: Ian Verdun Talks Siren, Premiering 3/29 on Freeform

Ian VerdunMarch 29th, Freeform will premiere it's new drama, Siren. The series takes place in the coastal town of Bristol Cove, which legend says used to be home to mermaids. When a mysterious girl (Eline Powell) arrives in the town, they discover that the legend just might be true.

Ian Verdun stars in the series as Xander McClure, a small town fisherman who while fishing with his father catches something surprising.

Verdun recently talked to SciFi Vision about his work on the upcoming series and a bit about what fans can expect.

Since the show hasn’t aired yet, can you just give me a quick rundown of the show and your character since most people haven’t seen it?

Ian VerdunIAN VERDUN: The show is set in a town called Bristol Cove, a small coastal town in Washington state, that’s known for having a legend of being home to mermaids. So, it’s kind of like Salem, Massachusetts, which has a big town back lore of witches. So, that’s kind of like what we do on the west coast, but it’s about mermaids. And then everything kind of gets rocked when this mysterious girl comes to shore and starts proving those legends to be true.

And my character, Xander, is a local boy from Bristol Cove, and he’s a small town fisherman, super blue collar. And I fish with my father, and we catch something off of the Bering Strait, which kind of gets everything started.

I don’t want to give too much away, but he’s just a beautifully loyal guy, way more intelligent than people give him credit for. And I think he has this loyalty about him that just really is endearing, but it sometimes can get him into a bit of trouble. He tends to go to great lengths for friends and family and what he believes in. So, he’s a pretty active character, a little bit of a conspiracy theorist, but it’s pretty hard to pull the wool over his eyes, which is nice, kind of liberating, to get a character that can figure things out.

This series seems to be something completely different than anything that’s on television right now, but when I started reading up about it, I also realized, it sounds like these are not necessarily the mermaids that we are used to from the movies, nice gentle creatures.

It’s like you think of a shark in the ocean. They’re not necessarily good or bad, right? They’re just predators; they’re doing what they do. And that’s definitely dangerous; that’s definitely unpredictable, but to say that one thing is benevolent and one thing is malevolent, I think that may be a little too easy. So, I think how we look at them is definitely darker, but if there was a human species or human adjacent species that evolved in the ocean that we suddenly discovered, and the first thing that we could think of to was to call them mermaids, you know, they probably would be pretty dangerous creatures. Because when you think about humans on land, we ourselves are quite dangerous.

So, I think it’s interesting to look at them from a standpoint of a bit of a reflection of our own nature and to kind of look at them in a much more broken down sense and kind of get rid of the [stereotypes] - I mean, everybody loves The Little Mermaid. I watched that growing up too as a 90s kid. I mean, I know in the movie they’re very playful creatures, but it’s very interesting to think of them as something that exists in the world that we really know - less fantasy and more grounded.

How did you first become involved in the show?

I auditioned. You know, it’s actually kind of ironic, because I was on an island kayaking; it was right before my birthday when I got the audition. [laughs] So, I was like, “Oh it’s about mermaids, how interesting; I’m on the ocean right now.” But, I mean, when you hear about the concept, you’re like, “Oh a show about mermaids,” and the first thing that you think of is Ariel. So, I just got pulled in just on an audition. But it was interesting for me, because the character that I was auditioning for was really nothing like me on paper: he was blond, he was beaded, and he was heavy set.

And my agent had been tracking this role, and he was like, “I think you can really do this.” I read it, and was like, “If they want to take a chance on being a bit different, yeah, I think i can do this.”

And it ended up changing their minds, and they ended up forming a character to me, which is spectacular. It was awesome. I’m so thankful; there are really not adequate worlds to express my gratitude.

Other than the physical aspects, how do you connect with him; how are you similar? How do you kind of get into that headspace of the character, so to speak?

For me, I think, it’s interesting, because I’ve been acting for such a long time, and sometimes when you find a character, it just it starts to click - you get it, and you just see him. And for some reason, there’s just definitively things I can relate to, and I think that a lot of people can relate to, in that sense of growing older and growing apart from friends, which is kind of the place that he’s in. He wants more out of his life, but he’s very beholden to his family and his family business. He’s just kind of seeing his friends move on and move up and pursue these things and kind of go out a little bit more, and I think there’s a sense of him feeling a bit trapped. I think we’ve all felt like that. So, I definitely was able to kind of relate to that. I’ve totally been there in my life, and that was something that I definitely latched on to when exploring his character.

Ian VerdunThen the rest of it just kind of comes as you’re feeling the character out. It’s my first time being a lead on a tv show, and to have the opportunity to grow into a character, you start to really understand how they think, and not just [be a guest star] and just serve the story, I think just evolving into him was the best way I can describe getting into characters.

Was there any special preparation or research you did for the role? Maybe into mermaid lore, or just into, I don’t know, fishing [laughs]?

I’m already like a huge nerd, so I had been into that lore, and I know that our sirens slash mermaids are not necessarily Greek mythology; it kind of evolves from a lot of different sets of mermaid lore across the globe to kind of come to where we’ve come to, but I was already very interested, and I loved those creatures. I grew up by the beach, and I grew up in LA, so I’ve always been in the water and on the ocean, so for me that was super easy.

As far as fishing, mostly what I did for that was totally binged Deadliest Catch. [laughs] I was like, “Okay, I have been on a boat before, but I’ve never like actually gone and really been a fisherman and really kind of had that entire gruff experience.” So, for me, it was like, “Okay, what’s the best thing I can think of to do? Watch Deadliest Catch!”

So, I remember when we were shooting the pilot, when we’d be back between shots, I’d be watching episodes of Deadliest Catch, just watching and hearing the vocabulary and what they’re talking about, and getting the words down and their slang and shorthand down.

Also, what was as great thing, was they had real fishermen while we were shooting on the boats. So when we shot on the boat, there were actual fishermen there who would guide through certain things and just kind of help us making it as real as humanly possible. So, they were really awesome. Some of these guys were lifelong fishermen with the beards and just had been doing it for so long, and they were just so kind, and kind of guiding us through their day to day stuff and telling us what it was like out on the ocean. I think that was incredibly priceless too, just really getting first-hand experience. This was when we were on the set when we were actually shooting. It was priceless.

Do you have a favorite scene or moment you can tease without spoiling too much?

I think as far as what I can say, moments that I really enjoyed were just what I said, like being on the boat. They put a lot of water on us, a lot of elements; they dumped a lot of water on us. We were in a lot of crazy conditions, and I’ve never been in a situation where there was so much action and so many rigs and just so much going on and you’re at the center of it. And just remember it feeling like you’re at play. You know, like when you’re a little kid and you’re using your imagination to just create the most wild and ridiculous scenario. You’re with your friends, and you’re all just playing this game, and it’s so real for you, and it’s so exciting. And every time we were in those situations on the boat with all of the elements and all of the lights and all of the fog and everything going, it kind of felt like that. It was like imagination made real, so it was super playful, but at the same time incredibly intense. [laughs]

Can you talk about working with the cast?

First of all, we have a ridiculous cast. Our cast is so good, all of our leads – Eline [Powell], Alex [Roe], Fola [Evans-Akingbola]. And Rena Owen, who is just, she is a beast. I don’t know if you’ve seen her movie, Once Were Warriors, but while we were shooting she had a screening of it, and it’s spectacular. It’s almost an honor to be in the same cast as her.

And all of our recurring cast, we have some amazing character actors. Like Gil Birmingham, who I have seen on TV forever. He’s been in so many things from the Twilight movies on. It was just so cool being in a position to work with so many faces that I was familiar with and to be able to learn from them. And also, to be able to show what I could do.

And as far as the energy on set, it was immediately familial. We shot the pilot, and we had a great time, but it was such a whirlwind experience that a lot of times, we didn’t have so much time to spend together, but when we were shooting the season, we spent so much time together, especially at the beginning. And it just was immediately family. Everybody has so much respect for each other. Everybody is so talented and so hard working, but at the same time incredibly fun. And some are accident-prone. I won’t say exactly who [laughs], but there are a few accident-prone cast members. And yeah, everyone was an absolute joy.

It was a hard shoot because of the challenges of the weather, the challenges of temperature, and the challenges of time, with such a crazy, off-the-wall, new territory kind of a show, but everybody – if I can use a pun, everybody dove in. They really just committed one hundred percent, and I think it’s good. I really like it. And I’m a hard critic. I like what we did. I can’t wait to see it.

Ian VerdunSpeaking of wanting to see something, you said earlier you were a nerd, so you made me wonder, what kind of stuff do you watch on television?

Oh, I watch a lot of stuff. Let’s see...of course Stranger Things, Game of Thrones, Rick & Morty. I’m a big fan of Rick & Morty. I’m really devouring The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel right now, too. I love it. That’s something I’m currently binging through as well. But I love genre tv; I love anything that can give a bit of fantasy. It could be wizards or mermaids or zombies. I was really into The Walking Dead for a while, but I’ve just kind of fallen out of it. But all the nerdy stuff.

Another good Netflix one it sounds like you might like is Travelers.

We were watching Travelers, because it also shoots in Canada. That’s with Eric McCormack, right?

Yes, we definitely watched a bunch of that too. It’s a really good show.

I have a few friends on Timeless as well, which I never got into, but I wanted to, because I know it’s got that kind of feel, but I haven’t had time to get into it yet.

My favorite though has always been The X-Files.

I was obsessed with The X-Files in the 90s. Actually, when we went to New YorkComic Con we were all geeking out super hard core, because we were on the same plane as Gillian Anderson. It was me, Alex, Fola and Eline, and Gillian Anderson was sitting right in front of Fola. And all of us were sharing glances like, “Oh my God, it’s Gillian Anderson! It’s Gillian Anderson! We’re on the plane with Scully!” 

Did you talk to her?

No, we were all too chickenshit. [laughs] We were all too chickenshit to say anything. It’s like, “I don’t want to bother you; you’re on a plane.” And you could tell everyone was going to Comic Con. You try not to gush, even though you want to.

We were hoping to see her when we were at Comic Con, but it was impossible. I don’t know if you’ve been to Comic Con –

Not yet.

It was out first time; it was my first time. It was such a cluster-cuss, you know? We had no time to do anything [laughs] except take pictures and do interviews, so we didn’t see her.

Did you have fun, though?

Oh, we had a blast. It was an absolute blast. I wish I was able to see more, because I really wanted to go down Artist’s Hall, because I draw. Before I wanted to be an actor, when I was a really little kid, I wanted to be a comic book artist. I really wanted to be a pencil artist. And I would draw and draw and draw, and I still draw. My mother was an art major in college, and so I would get obsessed with her drawing books, so I just practiced. So, I wanted to go down, because I love it; I just absolutely love comic book art. But we didn’t have time. We could see it in one of our interviews; it was behind this glass window and looking so close, but so far away. We had to do this interview, and there’s Artist’s Hall, and I’m like “Arrrrghh! There’s no time to go down there!”

I saw a video from Comic Con with you talking about some of the issues the show tackles. Can you talk a bit about the message about the oceans and the environment, and how that plays a part?

Oh definitely. I think, without giving away too much, that there definitely has to be a connection, at least thematically, between these creatures coming up now, when we’re in a position where we’ve polluted and decimated our oceans at an unprecedented level. So, I think, even though it’s narrative and it’s genre and it’s fun, it’s an opportunity to at least thematically talk about the impact that we as a society have on our environment and have on our oceans. So, to embody that within these fantastical creatures that the world-over identifies with, you kind of are able to, in a sly way – or maybe in an overt way – talk about how our actions change the game for the rest of the planet and how those effects will in some way come back to bite us in the ass.

Ian VerdunBefore we go, is there anything else interesting about the show that I should include?

Let’s see. I think it’s also a pretty timely show in a sense. I say this a lot, because I really, honestly believe it. I think the industry is going through a really awesome shift right now when it comes to representation across all kinds of disenfranchised groups, not just diversity of skin color, but diversity of gender. And it’s a show that is centered on a creature that is innately female and has this innate feminine quality to it, and also centered from the perspective of the women and these creatures, and really breaking them down and making them not be just happy little bubbly things, but also incredibly self-sufficient creatures that are a little dangerous and a little intimidating and that are empowered. I think it’s such an exciting thing to be a part of at this particular moment, to be able to champion that, and to be a part of a show that represents that, and to also witness some amazing actresses, amazing women, do what they do. I just can’t wait for Eline and Fola and Rena and all the women that are in our show to get this light shone on them, because it couldn’t be more timely. It couldn’t be more timely, and I think that’s a big reason why people should also watch. We’re in a moment and we have to recognize that and we have to champion it. And even though it’s a genre show about mermaids, and it’s zany and all this other stuff, we all still exist in this cultural moment. So to be a part of that in some small way is awesome.

Should I assume, then, that there aren’t any mermen?

Oh no, I don’t think you can make that assumption at all. Just because you have a society that’s centered in - or even a species that’s centered in - female characters that are empowered, it doesn’t mean that men don’t exist, it means that they exist in perhaps a different balance of power.

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