NYCC 2017 – ‘Siren’ Showrunner and EP Discuss Inspiration Behind New Mermaid Series

At New York Comic Con 2017, Freeform brought out the cast and crew of their newest series, Siren.

Centered around the quiet coastal town of Bristol Cove the series follows Ryn (Eline Powell), a mermaid who finds herself lost in the quiet town. Marine biologists Ben (Alex Roe) and Maddie (Fola Evans-Akingbola)  have taken it upon themselves to solve the mystery of what drove her out of her home.

I sat down with Showrunner Emily Whitesell and Executive Producer Eric Wald during a roundtable discussion at NYCC 2017 to talk about their inspiration behind the series and how they managed to craft the world of Bristol Cove.

What was the inspiration behind Siren?

Eric Wald – An early influence for me in the pilot was Jaws. It’s funny because everyone thinks of Jaws as this great monster movie, which it is, but it is also a great portrait of this small town. The characters are so alive and there is humor. It was written by a comedy writer. It’s just so alive in that way so we really embraced that.

You always have a version in your head of how you think it will look. Sometimes it’s different, better and more interesting than you imagine it. I think the casting of Eline [Powell] was critical for us. The show doesn’t work if the mermaid doesn’t work. What she brought to it was so fascinating. She has three words in the pilot and you can’t take your eyes off of her.

Will you explore the mermaid community? Is there a whole underground city of mermaids or is it like pods of whales?

Wald – We really wanted to base it as much as possible on science and marine biology. Sometimes I feel like a lot of shows get in trouble when they start to expand their mythology too much and all of a sudden “This vampire has this new power that I didn’t know about.” I feel like that’s when a show can start losing its course a little bit. We want to keep our mythology really simple and grounded. Keep it based as much as possible in science for a supernatural idea. There probably won’t be an Atlantis down there, but we want to play with life underwater. What is the social structure? What is their language like? How do they communicate? Recently data came out that dolphins are having conversations with one another.

Emily Whitesell – The core important part for us is to view the human world from an outside view as well. We really want to shed a light on what’s going on on the planet in many ways. Taking a look human relationships with totally fresh eyes. In that way, we can bring that culture to us. It’s not so much as what’s going on down there… We’re interested in that, but also seeing our own cultures.

Siren 2017

Did you encounter any hardships planning and shooting underwater?

Wald – In general, we try to write the coolest scene we want to see and the line producer will scream and yell and we say “get it done.”But no, we try to be aware of the production constraints. We learned a lot in the pilot of what works and doesn’t work.

Whitesell – We tried a sort of conception of how are we going to make the mermaids look cool and real and not mermaids that look like they’re in costumes. We tried a lot of different things in the pilot unsuccessfully. We made tails for them, put them on, and it did not work. The word of visual effects right now is so great, cool, and brilliant. We completely shifted gears to go to VFX.

Wald – The digital tail allows us to make it look like its absolutely not a person in a prosthetic tail. We were able to do a silhouette that couldn’t be human. We wanted to avoid the knee bend that you get a lot of times. We wanted them to move more like dolphins would move. It should look like its own unique creature that couldn’t just be a person in a costume.

What was the process behind creating the mermaid?

Wald – One of my favorite movies is Jaws and I love the town there. It was Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides and they sort of had a new spin on the mythology. It was marrying those ideas. It just felt so interesting to take this classic mythology that has at times been a light-hearted mythology and give that a darker spin. The original Little Mermaid is a dark story. A lot of the mermaid myths from the cultures around the world, there is a darkness to it.

Whitesell – We’ve been studying those, hoping to use all the stories of the culture all over the world, what they think, and sneak it into the story as we move forward. For the people that do know about it and understand it will see the story in there and for the others that don’t, it’ll just be a great story.

Siren premieres on March 29th on Freeform at 8 PM.

Bilal Mian
Bilal Mian
Bilal is the Editor-in-Chief of The Workprint. Follow him on Twitter @Bilal_Mian.

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