Sibongile Mlambo And Ian Verdun Talk Freeform's Mermaid Thriller 'Siren' And Why It's Important To See Black Characters In Sci-Fi/Fantasy
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Interviews , Television

Sibongile Mlambo And Ian Verdun Talk Freeform's Mermaid Thriller 'Siren' And Why It's Important To See Black Characters In Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Get ready to explore the world of mermaids in a way you never have before. Freeform’s Siren follows the coastal town of Bristol Cove, which holds a legendary history of once being the home to mermaids. Things go left when the mysterious Ryn appears from the deep sea to above land, forcing marine biologists Ben and Maddie to uncover how she got to their town, and whether there are more like her out there.

The series stars Eline Powell (Ryn), Alex Roe (Ben), Ian Verdun (Xander), Rena Owen (Helen), Fola Evans-Akingbola (Maddie), Sibongile Mlambo (Donna) and Chad Rook (Chris Mueller).

Mlambo and Verdun joined us to chat about their characters, as well as touched on the larger impact their show will have as black actors playing in a sci-fi/fantasy world.

Mlambo portrays the fierce Donna, a warrior mermaid. “I was offered the role last year and it seemed like something very exciting and different (to do),” Mlambo exclaimed, who touched on the “inner strength” Donna portrays that mirrors what black women have in real life. “I love the physical aspect of it -- having to swim and all of that stuff!”

As for Siren’s impact, both Mlambo and Verdun agree that its effect goes far beyond the scope of the audience’s couch.

“Just to be a part of Siren is so cool, from the casting directors to the network (everyone is) so supportive at making sure the world was not just representative, but also casting the best actors for the role and that just resulted in such a varied cast with varied perspectives, which just makes the whole world feel so genuine,” noted Verdun.

Mlambo likens Siren’s impact on the audience to what Black Panther had on her. “I recently watched Black Panther and seeing women like me onscreen, I immediately thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I wish I had this when I was a child!’, because the impact that it has on your psyche,” Mlambo mused. “It may seem like something so slight, but it has such a big impact. If I can have that same effect on another woman or another girl from them seeing me on-screen, then I’m very excited about it.”

“I talk to Sibongile about this a lot -- we were just having a conversation the other day on black people being uncomfortable with water and the cultural (conversations) on black people not being able to swim,” said Verdun. “And I told her, Do you realize what it will mean to some black girl to see you and want to play -- to want to be you?’ Those things have repercussions far beyond just the realm of what entertainment and television is.”

Verdun sees a lot of himself in the loyal deep sea fisherman, Xander and noted that he could relate to Xander “feeling lost and behind” during the beginning of the series. What drew Verdun to Xander’s character? “Gainful employment!”, he joked. Verdun’s agents initially informed him that Siren featured mermaids, but he had no idea what he was truly in for.

“When I got the script, it blew my mind -- it was so much fun. It was so dark and so much different from anything I had imagined,” he noted.

So, what can we expect from the first season of Siren?

“I think (the audience) should open their minds for something different, because these are mermaids depicted in a way that they’re not usually represented,” said Mlambo. “So, I think they should open their minds to something more real and gritty with strong characters that they can relate to.”

“I know this is going to sound cliché, but really -- expect the unexpected,” said Verdun. “Expect to be touched in a way you didn’t expect, expect to be scared in a way you didn’t expect -- drop all of your pretenses. Drop what you think you know about mermaids, what folklore has said or Greek mythology or the debate about mermaids vs. sirens. You can allow this world to be its own thing… its own mythology.”

Siren’s special two-hour premiere airs March 29  on Freeform at 8 p.m. EST.

You can read our review of the show here.

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