Ian Verdun Talks to TV Grapevine

Photo by Bobby Vuillard

Tell me about yourself and career.
I’m an LA native, which is basically like saying you’re a unicorn in Hollywood. People always seem to find it fascinating that I’m actually from Los Angeles, since most residents are transplants. Even I have to admit that running into other native Angelenos is pretty rare. I come from super humble beginnings (like super humble) and worked my way up the way anyone would when you weren’t born with connections, money or a wealthy older relative; I went to school, wracked up debt, did small theater, years of extra work, and weathered my fair share of career heartbreaks, crappy day jobs and paltry paychecks. A few years ago I really dug into creating my own narratives, and as luck would have it that’s when Siren came calling. So even though I’ve been training and acting for quite some time, it kinda feels like I’m only just now legitimately starting my career.
 
Tell me about your show Siren.
Siren is about a small, coastal town called Bristol Cove which has this local legend of once being home to mermaids, kinda like how Salem has all its witch lore. Our story picks up when a mysterious young woman comes to town and starts proving these town myths all too real and reveals that the truth of these creatures, has much more dangerous prospects than anyone could have anticipated.
 
What is your role?
I play Xander McClure, a local fisherman in Bristol Cove. He’s a total townie, a salt of the earth, blue collar guy that works for his father, who’s captain of a small fishing trawler called the North Star. He grew up with Ben (Alex Roe), and Maddie (Fola Evans-Akingbola), but now that they’re all grown he finds himself stuck working for his dad, while the others have gone to college and are now big shot Marine Biologists. But he’s a fiercely loyal guy, almost to a fault.
 
What attracted you to the show and role?
Definitely the originality. I’m already such a huge fan of genre TV, and I loved the idea of exploring these mythical creatures in such a dark way. I read the script for the first time and I remember thinking, “now that sounds fun”. As for Xander, I love him because he’s so human. He’s totally fallible, but he’s got a good heart and a sharp mind, he’s a totally three dimensional character which is so exciting for as an actor. It’s great being a part of building this world and creating something  new. It was a lot of hard work, but I think the results are pretty riveting. Hopefully people agree! 
 
What do you hope people like about the show?
I hope people like our take on the mermaids. People seem to have a lot of opinions about what constitutes a mermaid versus a siren. Some of the threads I’ve read, you’d think that most people majored in Greek Mythology with a minor in mermaid lore. My best advice is for everyone to leave whatever preconceived notions they have about these creatures at the door and allow themselves to go on a journey with us. It’s a new take, and personally it’s the kind of take that I’ve always wanted to see done. Just remember that we aren’t doing a faithful adaptation of The Odyssey, and before you get into a semantic argument about what the difference is between a siren and a mermaid, remember that there are plenty languages that use both terms interchangeably and that mermaids are a cultural property that every human civilization on Earth has had a hand in creating. I think we pay a faithful tribute to what mermaids have been in pop culture, but I love that we forge our own path and that we’re trying something different. I love that our mermaids have this element of wonder and danger, existing in a place where beauty and horror meet. After all, isn’t that what the ocean is all about?
 
What else are you working on?
Before Siren came along I was actually in the process of selling my own show! I wrote, produced and starred in my own pilot, “Life’s a Drag”.  It was a massive labor of love for so many people and we actually won a few awards after entering a few festivals. I had my very first professional TV pitch for it the day before I had my screen test for “Siren”, in retrospect it was kind of an embarrassment of riches. I think it’s safe to say that my time has been pretty devoted to mermaids recently, but I have every intention of seeing that project through. There’s a few other things on the pipeline that I can’t quite talk about yet, but I definitely see myself doing more film and really spreading my wings as a writer and producer. 
 
What would fans be surprised to know about you?
I guess my age. *laughs* I’m one of the older millennials, old enough to remember when they referred to us as Gen Y. I graduated college a little over a decade ago and I’m solidly in my 30’s, but I tend to play a bit younger on TV so people are always a bit surprised to find out old I am. 
 
What are you watching on TV these days?
RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars 3 just started and it’s glued me to the TV every week. I’m usually not the biggest fan of reality TV, but I’m huge a fan of Drag, especially since doing my show. I love the camp, the color, the tongue & cheek observations, not to mention the show stopping talent that’s displayed each week. Those queens have to overcome a lot of prejudice both professionally and personally to be where they are, and I have the utmost respect for them as artists, plus I’m ecstatic that RuPaul has been able to really champion Drag into the mainstream market. Before that I was binging Black Mirror, because, duh. And after Drag Race wraps I’ll probably be obsessing over Siren. I don’t think I’ll be the only one. 
 
Anything else you want to tell America?
This day and age there’s a LOT I’d like to tell America, but I’ll try to be as apolitical as I can. I think we all can attest that what we’re witnessing and living through nationally is at best troubling and at worst, a full blown crisis. I think it’s more important than ever to recognize that no person who has been denigrated as a minority is actually a minority. I feel like that word upholds a narrative that we are isolated and disparate, and nothing can be further from the truth. All of our rights are at stake, all of our fates are intertwined and when people seen as minorities or the oppressed come together we realize we are in fact a healthy majority. Support each other, love each other and champion equality for all people. We all deserve the freedom to pursue happiness without threats and constant denigration. Love, unity, bravery, and good old fashioned work. That’ll see us through the woods on our way to the mountaintop.