Rena Owen opens up about her character in 'Siren' and her dream of acting in a Marvel movie
Rena Owen is not your garden variety, always-plays-it-safe kind of actress. Name a genre and Rena is all over it- from romance to crime and horror to thrillers, she's done it all. Now she's ventured into the fantasy space with the popular Freeform series 'Siren' - a dark and twisted story about a small town that turns upside down with the arrival of a mermaid.
Make no mistake, this isn't your Disney Ariel-type drama - these mermaids are strong enough to kill and are not afraid to do it. Rightly so, after all, that is how mermaids have been portrayed for centuries in Roman and Greek mythology. To Rena, however, it was all about the script - she was mindblown when she read it. "When I read the script, I loved it. I had never seen mermaids being portrayed as predators. It was just so original and originality is hard to come by these days, you know, people have run out of originality," she says before letting out a soft knowing laugh.
Especially when it came to her character, the eccentric and mysterious Helen Hawkins, 55-year-old Rena knew she had to do it. "When I read about Helen, I fell in love - I was perfect to play the role. When you see a really well written, juicy character as a mature woman, you have got to jump on it! There are not many roles in town for mature women and she was a gift of a character."
Helen Hawkins is one of the main characters in the small mermaid obsessed fictional town of Bristol Cove. She's like the encyclopedia of sorts for the town folk - she knows a lot more about mermaids than anyone else. Clearly, she's holding some dark secrets close to her chest. But one thing is for certain, Rena is right - no one could have played that role better than her - the dialogues are so organic as the words fall out of her mouth on the screen and the styling and body language is such, you want to believe that she is Helen in real life.
The women in 'Siren' are quite the badasses - Ryn (Eline Powell) can throw grown men through windshields, Maddie (Fola Evans-Akingbola) is a smart as hell, marine biologist, Donna (Sibongile Mlambo) can manipulate and is super powerful and then there's Helen, the voice of knowledge. It may appear like this series is all about female empowerment, but it wasn't the initial intention, she says.
All 'Siren' was, was a great story, she says exasperatedly. "Any writing that comes out of a politically correct issue or point of view doesn't always work - 'Siren' came out with the strength of the story," she says pointing out that it is not always just the concept that makes it work, you need some great characters too. "It's not what storytellers do - you don't just kind of go ' I am going to pick an issue and talk about it', you need a really good story too and it just so happened that we have some very strong female characters."
Speaking of strong female characters, you should really check out Eline Powell's performance as Ryn, the mermaid. There's just so many layers to her and on a scale (pun intended) of one to ten, it feels like she scores an eleven in terms of cheekbones made for the role. "It was great working with Eline. She's a very sweet, intelligent, dynamic young woman and I found it incredibly compelling and powerful. I totally loved working with Eline," says Rena, her voice turning louder in eloquent adoration.
'Siren' does come out of an environmental issue which the writers have cleverly woven into the plot. "The whole of the series comes out of an environmental issue. The seabeds are being stripped off their food supply and thus, the marine life is swimming closer to the shore to find food and the draining of their food...you know, like I said, it doesn't come out of just a statement, it comes out of life, you know what I mean. No one is going to watch a show if it's just someone trying to beat a political issue over their head, it's the storytelling that draws you in," she says.
'Siren' is more than a fantasy horror thriller with just slash and gore, it also shows a deep connection to human emotions. But, as many fans have pointed out, the show doesn't venture into the softer side of Helen, the happier aspects, perhaps her love life? Rena laughs at the naivety of the thought. "We are only in the early stages right now... You've got to give it time! Maybe next season, if there is one, we can petition for a boyfriend for Helen! But seriously, it isn't a priority right now, the setting up of the characters is more important."
As of now, she says there's no news for a second season but if it does happen, it will be nothing like you can even imagine. "Once you get to the end of this season you'll know what I mean by anything can happen. There's a whole lot of possibilities as to what could go down and who could go down! It's so exciting, like a cliffhanger! Especially with Helen's character and her backstory, some new information is coming along." Here's hoping she brings in a lot more improvisions like in the first episode as she goes to town to buy some fish for Ryn. Could you have guessed it was entirely improvised by Rena?
Even when it came to preparation, she says it was so her, it was unbelievable. "When I read it, I loved it - Helen was just so close to who I am. The producer, Eric Wald, much later told me that they had felt right from the start and that they had loved me in a New Zealand film that I had done (Once Were Warriors 1994). Now we joke about how this role was 22 years in the making for me," she laughs.
The cast of the show is wonderfully diverse - and not just in terms of colors. After being in the industry for almost three decades, she says that the present inclusiveness is really the better part in cinema history. "It really exploded and rightfully so. There was a film called 'Straight Outta Compton' - it was a phenomenal film. It was entertaining, trailblazing and it educated a lot of people. It was a real American story and it didn't even get one nomination - not even for a song!" she exclaims clearly disappointed, "It was a whole big movement - it was so disheartening. People have made rooms now. It is the season, it is the time! When I first came to Hollywood I would go to auditions and people would go she is fantastic but what is she? Things were very much in boxes."
"The cast of Siren is so diverse, I feel like we are the United Nations! and I really like that, I really do. That is the face of America - incredibly diverse." It also means more work for her, she says laughing.
She's quite happy being a series regular too. "You're in one place for longer than 3-4 months and that is honestly something I love - I can be in one place and actually have a routine," says the New Zealand native. But does that mean she's stopping to rest anytime soon? No way! She's got an independent movie coming up, "maybe" a 'Siren' season two. Her dream job? To star in a Marvel movie! But as long as "you can see my face!" You're a gift that keeps on giving Rena, here's hoping you keep it coming.