Exclusive: Ian Verdun Talks Season Three of Siren, Premiering Tonight on Freeform

Ian VerdunTonight, season three of Siren premieres on Freeform. The series takes place in the coastal town of Bristol Cove that is known for its legends of mermaids. There, truth is stranger than fiction when a siren (Eline Powell), Ryn, surfaces and causes all kinds of havoc while looking for her captured sister.

On the way she meets humans Ben Pownall (Alex Roe) and Maddie Bishop (Fola Evans-Akingbola) who befriend her and help to keep her safe from the military. Eventually more mermaids and mermen, many of a more predatory nature, come to the town seeking refuge and an escape from other humans.

Local deep-sea fisherman and Ben and Maddie’s friend, Xander McClure, played by Ian Verdun, eventually finds out the truth about the town when his father is killed by a siren. Ultimately Xander ends up helping Ben and Maddie protect their friend.

Verdun recently talked to SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview about working on the series and what’s to come in season three.

SCIFI VISION: I just recently watched the finale, before the premiere, and I wanted to first ask something about that. Because at least for me, after I watched it, I kept forgetting and kept thinking, “Oh, wait, that didn't happen.” You know, “that didn't happen either.” Obviously, what happened was just in Ben’s own mind, you know, none of it necessarily would have happened that way. So, I'm just curious, just in kind of your own opinion of the character, do you think that Xander would have reacted the way Ben imagined he would?

Ian VerdunIAN VERDUN:  No, and actually, we had that discussion on set when we were shooting that episode. We had that discussion, and I really don't think so, because of a Xander's actual trajectory. I think he learned enough up to that point to where I don't think he would snap back. He has a greater sense of loyalty that's been kind of recurrent since the first couple episodes. He's a really good guy at heart; he’s just a bit impulsive. He's a bit of an alcoholic, [laughs] and for most of the seasons he was grieving, and I think that people don't take into account that over just two seasons, not much time has elapsed. It's been maybe a few months or so; it really hasn't been a large amount of time. So, for him, it's all very, very fresh, and his father just got murdered in front of him. So, he was just very impulsive.

And I think for Ben, especially at that point in time and with the siren song in his head, I think he was imagining a huge worst case scenario that kind of was a validation of all of his greatest fears, including the greatest fears about his friends.

Yeah, I agree. I mean, it was a really good episode, but in the end when Xander ended up doing what he did, you know, I didn’t want to believe it was true. It's also good they went back, because I was wondering how they could fix that. [laughs]

Yeah, that would have been a totally different show. [laughs]

I was really shocked. I was like, “No, I like him; don't make him a bad guy!” [laughs] But thankfully, that didn't happen.

It didn’t happen, but we were shooting, and I was like, “Oh my god, I'm just going to get so much hate for the hour until they figure [it out]!”

Moving on to the third season, can you talk about Xander wanting to change his career path?

That was actually set up toward the end of season two. I think for like the second half of season two, for Xander, after the boat burned down, I think he just kind of fell into the bartending gig, and he was having a sense of - he never really figured out what his direction was. He just felt like he had inherited [being a fisherman] from his father, and he felt like he had to uphold it and do it and honor it, but it wasn’t really where he wanted to be. It wasn't his passion; it wasn't what he wanted to center on.

And I think in the second half of the second season, we see him in a place where he's coming to accept it; he's gotten past the rage part of his grief. He’s coming to that place of acceptance, and you know, when you're lost a little bit after a major traumatic event, there's like that little bit where you’re just trying to figure out what you're going do with yourself. And I think, at this point, especially after Nicole's gone missing, he's really internalized so much loss having happened to him in a short period of time and so many things that are out of his control. I think he wanted to get in a position and put his all into something where he could have control, where he could do something, where he’d be more involved in helping to protect the people that he loves, you know, because he lost so much in such a short period of time with the advent of this discovery. And I think all of those things kind of make a perfect storm to just put him in a place where he really just wants to just dive into something that can give him the idea of taking his own power back and give him a sense of being able to really protect the people that he loves.

Next, I just kind of wanted you to talk, without spoiling, about the scene with you and Ben on the boat in the beginning of the season - maybe the logistics of the scene, but also just in general.

Just when we were doing it, like actually shooting it?


I just remember [during] that particular episode, I was so seasick. I was so nauseous. We were on that tiny little boat. Usually when we're in the water and I'm on a boat, it's a big boat, like a fishing trawler. It absorbs a lot of the current when you're on those big trawlers, so you don't really get very much motion sickness, but we were on just like a little dinghy. [laughs] It was just thrashing back and forth, and plus they had all the rains towers and all the water and all the stuff. So, I just remember sitting in between takes and just being so nauseous. But also, I'm always thankful that I haven't had to - at least up until those two episodes - get in the water very much [laughs], so I can count my blessings.

Ian VerdunYeah, that must be really hard though too, because I know sometimes when I get airsick, once it happens, it's really hard to get rid of. That must be really hard to keep doing your lines, because I would think, obviously, Xander wouldn't have that problem if he's been on boats all his life. [laughs]

Yeah, no, not at all. I can't look like I'm about to vomit on a take. They usually really take care of you when you have seasickness. You know, they have things that you can take that help with motion sickness. And when we're out shooting, you're on the boats with the professionals who are there on boats all the time, and they have their own little things, like you're supposed to look at the horizon and all that other stuff. But it was the first time I'd really experienced that, because really, I hadn't spent very much time in the ocean on a small boat like that. So, that's really why it kind of hit me. But usually when you're doing a take, you forget about how uncomfortable you are.

You just get into it.

Yeah, during action, you're doing it; you're just uncomfortable between takes, that’s all.

This season they're discussing a lot more again about how, as a species, we're ruining the ocean. So, I wondered if you could kind of talk to that and also are the kind of things that they talk about doing on the show this season, do you know if they are real, or was that just something they made up for the show? Because I found it really interesting, but I had no idea if it was real or not.

Which part? You have to refresh my memory. [laughs]

It wasn’t directly involving your character, but specifically when Maddie talks to Rob (Deniz Akdeniz) and they’re talking about creating things with the currents, and I thought that was really interesting. I'm just kind of curious about it.

Actually, from what I do know, I think a lot of our writers, Eric [Wald] and Emily [Whitesell] are very into, you know, taking things that are real and using them and kind of suffusing them into our fantastical setting, and it I do believe that they did get inspired by something that was a prototype of something that would let currents move in and try and remove at least large particulate matter from the oceans. I do believe that is a thing. Don't quote me, though; Google it first, but I do believe [laughs] it's a thing.

[see information on “cleaning up the garbage patches” and more specifics at The Ocean Cleanup]

And as far as how we talk about living conservatively, I think it would be remiss for us in our time to be telling a story about a humanoid species living in the ocean and not talk about our impact on the oceans as, you know, humans. I think our show doesn't shy away from addressing very human and real themes, in spite of the fantastical setting, which I think is what makes the fantasy so much more engaging. Our characters are going through real stuff that we recognize, in spite of all the fantasy and the world building, which is great fun. We see a world that we recognize, and I think that's important.

And I think, narratively for the show, it just makes sense that we use what we're doing to the ocean to make the mermaids appear, because, of course, we've never really trashed our ocean the way we have in the last, you know, century; we've just really trashed the oceans.

And when we're talking about fantasy, and we're talking about reaching people and reaching specific demographics, I think it's important to talk about the world that we inhabit and that the younger audience members are going to have to deal with and live in for a far longer time than any of us. And I'm 34, so I'll be around for the crap too, but if you're twelve years old, you're really going to be around for it.

So, yeah, I love that. I love that they do [that]. I love that they take it into consideration, and they’re not corny about it or heavy handed, which I think is amazing as well. It makes sense how they use it.

Yes, and it's definitely informative, because that's why I found it interesting and wanted to know more. It does make you think too, because as an average person, you may not really know kind of what is happening out there unless it’s shown to you. I think part of you knows how bad it is, but it really makes you think about it.

Ian Verdun
If there's like one person that Googles it after watching the show, then something's been done right.


This next question doesn't necessarily have to do with that, but just in general, I was curious, now that you're in the third season, how have you changed or been affected by working on this show? Maybe as an actor, but also just as a person, just kind of how it's affected you?

I count myself so lucky and so blessed, just because it's been such a positive experience. Everybody on the set and everybody on the show from top to bottom - from network executives to the crew to PAs to cast - has just been absolutely amazing. So, I feel, for me, it's been a lesson in consistent gratitude. Also, I had just turned 31 when I booked [the role], and this was my first large show. I went to school for acting; I've been at it for a very, very long time. So, for me, it’s just a combination of a lot of hard work and a lot of sacrifice and a lot of struggle and a lot of just keep believing in yourself against all odds. So, it's like a personal victory dance for me, but at the same time, mixed in with a lot of humility and a lot of gratitude, because I come from a very poor background, like a very, very impoverished background. I know what the struggle is, very, very personally. So, just to kind of begin to experience this is amazing.

Then also, just as an artist and as a professional, when you do go to school for it, and you spend a large time struggling, and then you get something that's big, there's that sense of imposter syndrome that creeps in that I think we all kind of have a sense of. I would find myself thinking, “Can I do it? Can I do it?”

And then you feel like you do a good job in the second season, and by the time you get to the third season, I feel, for me at least, it was like, “Oh, I can do this.” There's a sense of acceptance, and I think that imposter syndrome kind of goes away, because you're like, “You know what? I do hard work. I'm a committed actor, a committed person. I'm very dedicated to my job, and I try to bring a good energy to my job and do good work.” And I think that mixed with consistently being grateful are things that compound over time and that are useful in never feeling like you just kind of deserve it, you know, never that sense of entitlement. It's all tenuous; it all could go away. Everything could go away tomorrow; nothing is guaranteed. So, I think that has kind of like been the biggest lesson for me where this whole experience has been concerned.

It's good to hear that, and hopefully you'll get a fourth season, too.

Yeah, that would be absolutely lovely. Yes, please. [laughs] Everyone watch!

So, is there something you can maybe tease that's coming up for either your character or just in general in season three?

I have been saying that this is the most action-packed season that we've done. There's so much going on. There are always many more twists and turns and fallout and consequences, and you know, new and familiar faces. So, it's just an engaging season, and I love my arc this season as well. It was a joy to shoot, and it's been a really great arc for me as an actor, getting through the stages of grief with this character. And for Xander, I think he redeems himself a little bit this season.

Then this question isn’t about the show, but I'm just curious. Obviously, things are a lot different right now for everybody with the pandemic, but I'm assuming you're not working. So, what are you doing to keep busy?

In my spare time I'm playing a lot of video games, [laughs] so many video games.

But at the same time, I also am a writer and producer, so it's been a blessing in disguise to be able to focus on that side of my creative self. So, I have a few things that are dropping next week; I have an episode of my show called Life's a Drag that I did before Siren. Right before we shot the first season, right before I booked the pilot, I think in 2016, we did the second episode, which was a whole crowdfunding thing we did, and we were able to shoot it but just ran out of money to finish it. And I finally finished; we finally finished it. So, I'm going release that next week, and it's been four years since we shot it. So, I'm just really excited to get that out into the world and engage in in my own content creation, which is fulfilling for me. It's nice. It's kind of a good opportunity to focus on that.

Ian VerdunCool, I have to look out for that. Do you have a social media account? I couldn't find you, at least on Twitter anyway.

Oh, yeah. I'm not on Twitter. I am on Instagram, @IanVerdun.

Okay, that's easy to remember.

I figured your name is always the easiest, right? [laughs]

Yeah. [laughs]

Then this is another off-topic question, but I was just kind of curious. I was looking at the interview I did with you the first time, before season one of Siren had aired. We got into talking about different television shows, and you had said that, like me, you were also a big fan of The X-Files in the 90s. I was just curious; it made me wonder, what did you think of the revival that came out? Did you watch it?

No, I only got into one episode of it, and for me, I feel like The X-Files was such a great time capsule, you know, for storytelling and how it existed in the 90s and where primetime television was the 90s and early 2000s. And I kind of felt like the grandiosity that I also remembered as being younger was missing. I thought it was a little bit more of a lighter tone than I had expected. Do you agree with that? It was lighter in tone.

Yeah some episodes were, but a good bit of them were also dark too, which obviously you didn't see if you didn’t watch them all. But yes, some of them were light.

I didn't. The one episode I saw, I was like, “Oh, this is really light and fluffy.”

Yeah, yeah, some of them were, and I agree, but I was really, really into it. I'm three years older than you, but I was really, really into the show then. And, I mean, I admit, it didn't kind of give the same feeling from back then, but I still wanted to watch it all and take it in, but it is kind of hard to recapture I guess what it had before, and at that age, but I was glad it came back.

I love those actors too. I love David Duchovny, and I love Gillian Anderson so much, and their chemistry together is amazing, and they're both such great actors. I haven't seen much of David Duchovny since Californication ended, and I would love to see more of his work as well, because Gillian Anderson is killing it right now. She's in everything. [laughs]

Yeah, they’re both really great. You should watch it though if you get the chance; it's good.

I will totally. No, I will actually; I will. I will take you up on that, and I will totally give it a second chance, because I trust you.

Great. There are a couple of funny ones though, too. I don't know if you like the funny ones, but there are a couple that are also really, really funny.

I know there were lighter episodes in the original; I know that they were there, but because when it first started airing, I was probably like, you know, eight years old, so I think when I first started watching it, it was always so scary. It was such a scary experience, and I just remember there were so many episodes that were just so haunting and that would just stay with me. Like the one where the guy was stretching, living in the sewers; I remember that, and there was like paper mache -

Tombs, yeah.

To this day, that imagery just sticks with me. And I think what I was just kind of expecting, was that kind of imagery, that haunting quality, and when I didn't get it on that one episode that I saw, when it didn't kind of match that expectation that I had and also that set in from when you’re a child, it's so hard to match that idealism and especially that level of just fear and wonder and mystery. Now I'm looking at it as like an adult and also a working actor and a writer, and I'm looking at it from so many different angles than I looked at it at that time. But I love the world. I love those actors. I love the mythology that was created over The X-Files. It has certainly influenced what I write, like The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer - all of those shows influence me completely. So, I'll take you up on it; I'll totally watch it.

It's definitely got some dark ones too, so hopefully you will enjoy it.

I will. Yeah, give it to me dark, dark and gritty. I'm all about that dark and grit. [laughs]

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