Interview: Elina Powell

From the interview archives.

You’ve seen Elina Powell in the smash-hit series Game of Thrones and now you can catch her in the heavily anticipated new Freeform mermaid drama Siren. VULKAN caught up with Elina to discuss her character Ryn, filming in Vancouver and what ocean-based creatures she wouldn’t want to come across on a dive.

Siren premieres Thursday March 29th as a special two-hour event.

Your new TV series Siren begins soon, a mermaid-based drama. What initially stood out to you about the character of Ryn?
Naturally the fact that she’s a mermaid was instantly appealing to me, but especially that she was a predator and highly intelligent. I was very excited to explore this new take on such a beloved mythological creature. 

Mermaids seem to be all the rage these days with so many people buying mermaid tails and even mermaid photo shoots are becoming a popular tourist attraction in coastal cities. On a level from 1 to “I want to be Ariel” – how passionate are you about mermaids?
20? I’ve always been a huge fan of The Little Mermaid, unsurprisingly it was my favourite Disney film growing up. I adore that mermaids have now become a craze, when I was a child I was the one most likely to be seen imitating a mermaid swimming style in the pool, so doing it as part of my job feels like a dream come true. Ryn is more “raw” of course than Ariel and I am so fascinated with her connection to nature. On holiday you will most likely find me in the sea or a Cenote.

Fairy tales and myths have taught us that while beautiful, mermaids can be very dangerous. If you saw what you thought was a mermaid hanging out on a shoreline, would you approach?
Absolutely… But from a very safe distance.

What was the most challenging part about diving into this role?
Finding the balance between being a pure predator creature from the ocean and yet a very emotional and intriguing character on land. She may be very different to humans, but she is no less intelligent or even to some extent relatable.

Were you a strong swimmer prior to filming and did you have to do any water-related training to become Ryn?
I was quite a strong swimmer, or at least extremely comfortable in water, which turned out to be a great asset because working in water requires mainly a sense of calm. I was very lucky to get a lot of free diving training so we could have helpful techniques when it comes to breath holds. We also had to get our scuba diving license which is brilliant because I would love to keep pursuing it as a hobby. Naturally the actual movement of mermaid swimming was also a training process and one of my favourite things about getting this role. 

What kind of relationship does Ryn hope to develop with Ben when she meets him?
The relationship with Ben is quite a dynamic one and though Ryn has little faith in humans when she comes on land, she HAS to find someone she can trust in order to help her. I think Ryn is also uniquely curious and finds Ben in particular very intriguing which definitely makes their relationship grow as the show progresses.

Did you watch The Shape of Water? How would Ryn react to seeing that creature (or perhaps another mermaid) caged?
I loved loved loved Shape Of Water, it was so beautiful. Ryn could probably relate to the water creature in that because he is incredibly fierce but has a real sensitive side. She would have no qualms about freeing him by whatever means necessary. Afterwards I imagine they would be pals and meet up for seaweed shakes?

What do you think humans could be doing to better protect our oceans and lakes?
The ocean is an ecosystem and requires balance. Throughout history and to this day we tend to just take what we need and dump what we don’t need. It is hard of course because there are so many people to feed and economies that need to be supported but we will need to make some drastic changes if we want a future where the ocean is a giving resource rather than a polluted threat. Perhaps use much less plastic, dramatically cut down on overfishing and be aware of what chemicals and oils we spill or end up spilling in the ocean. It’s great that they are making more and more MPA’s (Marine Protected Areas).

What is one creature you would never want to encounter while swimming and why?
Perhaps still a great white is the creature that makes me feel uncomfortable. They haven’t changed much in so many years because they are THE perfectly evolved killers. It might have something to do with watching Jaws when I was younger but regardless I’d rather not enter their territory.

Can you tell us a little about the costume production for this series? What do the tails feel like and how long was an average morning of costume/makeup application?
In the pilot, the tail and the whole mermaid look in fact was made by a very talented art department and it was stunning. It did however take 6 hours and the tail was heavy and long so I needed three people to put me in the tank. As majestic as it looked it proved to be challenging working in water with those materials, so for the rest of the show we just had monofins and they did all the skin in post. It allowed us to move freely and be on set quicker. It was bliss.

What was your favorite part about filming in Vancouver?
Vancouver itself is just gorgeous. The mountains were so majestic and I loved that you could smell the salt of the sea and then the pine of the woods. It set the perfect scene for playing a creature who comes from a pure nature.

What kind of genres are you looking to experiment more with this year and going forward?
I am quite open to anything really, but I am always drawn to characters that are a little “unusual” or “out-of-the-box”. I’ll just see what life brings.

What’s your go-to song to get yourself pumped up and excited for your day?
For Ryn, it was entirely Bjork. She really transported me to an other worldly plane, but as Eline I can always find what I need in Queen songs. For getting pumped in the morning I’d go with “I want to break free”.

On free weekends are you more of a homebody or are you generally looking for something to do? What’s usually on your radar?
It depends on the weather. When it’s cold and winter, I tend to go in hibernation and I’ll be much more of a homebody but in summer I love going to the park or the beach or wherever there is a pool. I think my dog loves me more in the summer.

Anything else upcoming that we should be aware of?
Just Siren for the minute. The whole cast has put a lot love in it and we are eager to see what people think so the next few weeks will be interesting. 

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