Freefrom’s Siren took the SDCC stage on Thursday morning to bring the latest news from Bristol Cove to the beautiful San Diego Bayfront.
If you’ve never seen Siren before, binge it now. Set in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, Siren is technically a show about killer mermaids – but it’s so deeply character driven and so naturalistic that it’s more of a straight drama about culture and environmentalism than a fantasy show about monsters.
The first season follows a chain of events when marine biologist Ben – the black sheep of the Pownall family, descendants of the town’s “founding fathers,” and his girlfriend Maddie Bishop, also a marine biologist and the daughter of the town’s sheriff, are drawn into Bristol Cove’s biggest secret – that the mermaid legend the town has always spun for the tourist trade is true – with a twist.
Siren gained something of a cult following after its March debut, and was renewed for a second, longer season in May. All of the show’s stars were relatively unknown before this series, particularly to American audiences, and it’s the first showrunning gig for EP Emily Whitesell, so it’s an absolute credit to the show’s performances, storytelling, diversity and grounded tone that Siren was such an instant hit – viewers adore it for its own fresh and fishy self. Freeform brought the cast and producers to San Diego Comic-Con to meet their fans and tease what’s next for the mermaids of Bristol Cove.
Hosted by TLC’S Chilli – one of the show’s celebrity fangirls – the panel featured showrunner Emily Whitesell, co-creator Eric Wald, and stars Eline Powell, Alex Roe, Fola Evans-Akingbola, Rena Owen, and Ian Verdun. The EPs revealed that more mermaids will be coming onto land during season 2, and that the effects of the siren song, which have left Ben addled and addicted at the end of season 1, will also need to be delved into in a deeper way.
The core relationship between Maddie and Ben is in pretty bad shape due to the mermaid Ryn’s influence, but this ain’t your grandmother’s love triangle – all three characters are drawn together in a way that has ship-happy fans immediately asking (no, really, the panel’s first fan question was about this) whether Siren is on its way to exploring mermaid polyamory. Spoiler: pretty much a solid yes.
With plenty of mythology yet to explore – the panelists discussed several times how mermaid legends exist in nearly every culture, and how fascinating that aspect of their show is – and a worldview several strides ahead of most genre shows, Siren has the potential to grow into one of the biggest fandoms of the current TV era, and we hope it does! We joined the show’s cast and creators in the press room after the panel.
In the press room, EPs Eric Wald and Emily Whitesell elaborated on their plans to have the audience learn more about the siren song, and how the physiological elements will be explored and expanded upon. Aspects that the writers are currently working out include how it may affect different people, and what it feels like for the mermaids themselves, whether it can be controlled or weaponized intentionally. As more mermaids will be coming onto land, a lot more will be revealed about their culture and community, as we will see more mermaid people interacting with their own kind.
In more human aspects, there will be plenty to learn about Maddie and her mother, as well as Ben’s family history, and how Helen, who has mermaid heritage, may tie into that. As for romance, we expanded on some questions asked at the panel about the possibility of Maddie, Ben and Ryn maintaining a functional three-way relationship. As mentioned, Siren has become rather famous for fostering this potentially canon OT3, as unconventional romances are slowly being represented more often and less scandalously in the media, and Wald and Whitesell expressed that they are more than willing to go there.
“We really are interested in it. I think the whole world is interested in it. It’s just a matter of how to unpack it in the right way, so that the relationship is built very organically, and that it can feel very positive on almost every level,” Whitesell elaborated. “Not to say that some people wouldn’t be scandalized within our town, it’s a small town, but the idea that she [Ryn] doesn’t have the constraints that we do, and that Ben and Maddie, I think in many ways, also live on a different plane a little bit. I think it’s ripe for the telling.”
The OT3 themselves – Fola Evans-Akingbola as Maddie, Eline Powell as Ryn and Alex Roe as Ben – then joined us in the press room to discuss their journey so far and what they’re most excited about for next season. All three leads are European imports – two Londoners and a British-residing Belgian – so our first question was regarding the Native American culture of the Pacific Northwest that Siren features, and how the foreign cast researched that aspect of the show. Evans-Akingbola as Maddie, the black stepdaughter of a Haida sheriff, was particularly interested in how her character and Powell’s both share that perspective on different levels.
“It allows us the opportunity to explore the fluidity of culture, and what it means to have not necessarily been born of a culture, but be immersed in it, which is what Ryn is having to experience with human culture,” she explained, and she had this comparison in mind when she and Powell researched Haida myths and legends together. “Where we are in Vancouver, where we’re shooting, there’s a big Haida community there too,” Roe added, “so we’re luckily immersed in it too. It’s there if you want to go and find it.”
Regarding that potentially polyamorous relationship dynamic, Powell addressed that it is somewhat uncharted waters in the media. “I think it’d be very interesting to see, because I don’t actually know how it would work, I can’t quite imagine it, so maybe it is a fantastic way to explore that. I think maybe, because Ryn is a mermaid, and for her things are so different in the way she shares and gives love, maybe it is a bit more flexible of a model than perhaps if we were in a very realistic TV show.”
“In my real life, I know of a “couple” that is a three, and for a while it worked for them, so who knows?” Evans-Akingbola adds. It’s certainly not a run-of-the-mill story to pursue – although cable comedy You Me Her, now in its third season, tackles realistic suburban polyamory head on, it’s far from being a normalized romance option in a genre show.
‘Siren’ season 2 is expected to air in early 2019.