Exclusive Interview with Siren’s David Kaye

If you’re not watching Freeform’s Siren you are missing one of the best show’s on television. In short, mermaids (and these are no sweetly singing, dinglehopper carrying Ariels) come ashore a small, east coast town and turn it on its tail. Really, it’s more Grimm’s than Disney. While it may have your expected small-town gossip and scandal, its hushed secrets, it also has bloodshed, secret government testing, siren song addiction, polyamory, and Jerry.

David Kaye plays the breakout role of Jerry (no last name), a sweetly oblivious marine biologist who feeds the seals, provides fake ids when needed, has a quirky set of phobias (Gaga?) and steals every scene he’s in. Kaye’s adorkable portrayal quickly gained fans seal of approval, mine included. To my complete delight, he reached out for an interview, which, I’ll confess, may be most favorite yet. If you thought you loved Jerry, just you wait…

Jerry’s already turned into a fan favorite. I think as far as the fans are concerned there is never enough of him in the episodes. What’s it been like for you seeing the fan reaction?

Honestly, I was super surprised. Jerry came in as his total sideline character, and I’ve been given the opportunity to just have so much fun with him. I think that really translates, and the fan reaction so far has been really hilarious. Everyone who’s been engaging with him, or with myself rather, has just been so lovely and wonderful and supportive. Most of them really… I think they are actually very fun people who engage, who identify with him, I guess.

So far, we don’t know too much about him. We get little bits here and there. We know he likes to party, and he’s got some very unusual fears and side hustles. I’m curious to know as a performer have you created a back story for him, and if so, is there anything you can tell us about the true Jerry?

About the true Jerry? Well, I have created a back story for him personally. I don’t know if the writers have anything in store for him, so I wouldn’t want to step on their toes at all. But what I can tell you, is that I like to think of Jerry as a big shaggy dog. He’s always happy to see his family and his friends and his people. He’s always just really excited to be there. He’s easily distracted but really likes food, treats, and people and just has all the love to give.

So I always like to think of Jerry as a dog. I personally foster dogs, and I learn a lot from dogs –  just dealing with dogs that have been abandoned or abused or all these things. They can still find a way to learn to trust again, learn to love again, learn to let you in again. So I think for Jerry, I wanted him to be more dog.

I can’t even tell you how much I love that. But now I have to ask you what breed of dog he is? How do you envision him in your mind?

I envision him like a St. Bernard crossed with a mutt, so there’s a lot of other dog breeds in there but there’s definitely some St. Bernard in there. Which is funny because I am a very small person. So I like to think of myself as a big dog. [laughs]

That might be one of the favorite answers I have ever gotten in any interview.

Awesome! Jerry is a character that has given me the opportunity to just really have fun and explore. I think the reason he is so much fun in the Bristol Cove world is because he is so much fun for us to play with on camera.

Absolutely. Now you’ve obviously worked a lot with the sea lions – Sitka, Hazy, Boni, and Yasha. Do you have a favorite? I know you’ve said they have very distinct personalities. And what’s the best thing about working with them and the worst?

Okay, I don’t have a favorite… Hazy is the Meryl Streep of Sea Lions. She always hits her marks. She’s super patient, she’s really, really good on camera. Sitka, she is like the big baddy. She’s super lovely, but she’s the biggest one, and she looks really big and scary on camera. I think she’s the one they usually use for the vocals – when they get them to roar or bark. I don’t know, do Sea Lions bark or roar? I don’t know.

I think both work.

Yeah. Yasha is pretty anxious but very lovely, and Boni is super ADD. Bonnie decided one day she’s done filming, she’s gonna go for a swim, and she left for forty-five minutes. We had to figure out what to do because we lost one of the sea lions. So we had to start shooting something else while we waited for her to come back, but she came back.

As far as a favorite, I don’t have a favorite. But I think I’ve had the opportunity to work with Sitka the most. There was this one moment where there’s a scene in… I can’t remember what episode it is. I think it’s the first episode of season two where the sea lions are going crazy and they’re all up on the dock and I’m trying to feed them but they won’t eat anything. They gave me a bucket of fake fish because I wasn’t actually feeding them, but Sitka at one point, she decides no, she’s done waiting around with the trainers. She sees that I have a full bucket of fish, so she starts coming down the dock towards me to get my fish. Now the rules are… hand goes in the bucket, hand comes out with fish, fish goes to sea lion, that’s it. If you drop it, you leave it alone, you don’t hang on to the fish. If the hand goes in the bucket, the hand has to come out with a fish for the sea lion.

So my hand went into the bucket, I grab the fish, it came out, she starts coming towards me, and I’m like, “I can’t give her this fish, it’s made of rubber.” And then there’s just this almost 500-pound animal barreling down the dock towards me. I’m like, “Oh my god, I’m going to die.” [laughs] We figured it out, and we didn’t even ruin the take. [laughs] It was great.

I would have been terrified, absolutely terrified, so you handled that well.

I was just really hoping they were kind of like dogs, and if I just asserted my dominance, I could keep the fish. I didn’t want it to bite my hand so I threw it on the dock. I didn’t want to throw it in the water because then I wouldn’t be able to get it and she would go in after it. So I just dropped it and stood on it and owned my space like, “This is my space! Don’t come here.” [laughs]

Wow, and that worked?

Yeah, I shouldn’t have done what I did but it worked.

Well good… Hey, you know, when something is barreling down at you like that you do what you need to do.

Exactly. But honestly, they are the most lovely, intelligent, wonderful, wonderful animals. They’re so cool. It’s such a blessing working with them, really.

So you know Jerry tends to come across as adorkably clueless–

Adorkably clueless, I like that.

But oftentimes characters who seem the most oblivious are actually the most keenly observant. Do you think Jerry takes in more than he appears to?

Absolutely not. [laughs] I think Jerry just shows up and does his job. He thinks he has a pretty sweet job. He gets to work with sea lions, and that’s awesome. But that’s the kind of job that you can leave at the end of the day and go home.

I think he’s just there to hang out with animals. And I have a feeling he’s usually pretty baked, so I don’t know how much is actually getting absorbed.

I think he has his theories about who the merfolk are, but I don’t think he has any clue what is actually going on.

As the performer, what is your wish for Jerry? Do you want him to remain oblivious? Or would you like him to eventually get in the know and join in on the action?

As a performer for Jerry, I think it would be really funny if he continued to remain in the action but oblivious to what’s going on. Just thinking he’s hanging out with people and helping out but not actually knowing what’s going on. That can only go on for so long though. I’ve always played it that ever since Jerry met Ryn he had a crush on her. But I don’t think that’ll ever go anywhere.

You are supremely funny on the show. As I told you, the fake I.D. scene had me in stitches. Then I watched some video clips of you in Cadence and my jaw dropped. You were utterly terrifying. I was shocked. What type of role do you get the most gratification from?

Most gratification? That’s a really interesting question. I like exploring new characters.

I think I get the most gratification from exploring something new or challenging. So to go from Cadence and Prodigals to Siren… to go from killers, whether it’s intentional or not, to a goofy stoner guy who works with sea lions is such a blessing because I get to… not a blessing, a privilege I’ll say. It’s really a privilege to be able to explore completely different sides of myself.

When I was shooting Cadence it was like… that character was actually pretty hard for me to shake, because in order for me to actually get there I had to go to some really dark places. So to go from not being able to shake a character to being like “I’m a dog now,” that has been really cool.

There is one thing I would really like to do at some point. I would really like to be in an action film ‘cause I do a lot of stage combat and fight choreography. So I would like to do my own fights at some point, if anyone is looking for a goofy ninja.

We’ll put the word out.

Thank you.

You’re welcome. A lot of people may not know this about you, I didn’t, but you have a really impressive resume for voice-over work, which you have been doing since you were a kid. How did you get started? And what do you like most about that kind of work? As opposed to on-screen acting?

I really, really, love voiceovers. It’s totally different. It’s really great that I get to embrace my goofy side again. A lot of the time I am doing kid shows, really big over the top goofy voices and that’s super fun. You don’t need to look pretty, you can just show up.

It’s a totally different beast. I think I have the best job in the world. I think acting, if it’s on TV or on film, or on stage, or behind the microphone, or improv, it’s all just the best, most fun I could have. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. That was a really roundabout way of answering your question, I’m sorry.

No, no, that’s awesome. I always love hearing that kind of passion from people, because it’s so obvious when you love your work. I can hear that from you.

Awesome, thank you. There is another David Kaye though, who has a much more impressive voice-over resume.

I saw that, and I thought, “How could there be two of them?”

In Vancouver, among the voice over community, I am known as “The other David Kaye.” He was here first.

One of the things I found in researching you, which I completely love and plan on sharing in this interview, was you rapping in a hip-hop Shakespeare musical called the Bombity of Errors. One, I really wish I could have seen that in person, and two, not only do you rap, but you have some really impressive beatboxing skills. Was that your first gig out of college? And what other hidden talents do you have?

The Bombity of Errors is one of the most fun [times] I’ve ever had on stage. It was five guys. There was four actors and a D.J., and we played 26 characters between us. It’s really just a hip-hop musical version of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. We were doing drag, we were break dancing, we were beatboxing, it was so much fun. It was pretty soon after college. I think it was a year after I graduated. I think I did a production of Spring Awakening the summer before I did that. And then we did Bombity. It got picked up by a theater company here after we did our first one, so we did another two runs a year and a half later.

You mentioned break dancing, and obviously rapping, and beatboxing. Do you have any other hidden skills we should know about?

Um, fire spinning

What?!?

I can spin fire…

Really? Like a baton that’s lit or…

Yeah, a baton that’s lit. I have spun poi before, on fire. I am much better at the glow poi because if I bail, I don’t light anything on fire. But I am pretty good with a fire stick.

And how did that come about?

I was hanging out with two of my friends in college and one of them… she was in my acting program at UBC and she is a tremendous poi artist, she is also an actress. She’s on The 100, right now. Barbara Beall. She is one of the best fire spinners I know. I was just twirling a broom around and she’s like, “Hey, you’re pretty good at that. Do you want to light it on fire?” And I was like, “Sorry, what now?” So I did, and I didn’t burn anything down. And she was like, “Hey, you could probably do it.” So I started practicing, and then I bought one, and I started working with her professionally doing live shows spinning glow staff and a fire staff. So now I can spin and breathe fire.

I won’t lie when I asked for a hidden talent, I was not expecting that. Very impressive. So, this is a question I’ve asked other cast members, due to the nature of the show. If you could be any paranormal creature what would it be and why?

I think I would like to be a Sphinx because I really like riddles, and I also feel like a bit of a trickster, so yeah. I think I’d go with Sphinx.

Lastly, we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us, so we want to know what it is you nerd out about.

Oh, my three C’s: Cocktails, Cooking, and Cheese.

You like to cook a lot?

I love cooking. I wanted to be a chef. I was a child actor, but I wanted to be a chef until I was sixteen. And then I realized, no I want to be an actor.

So do you just cook for a lot of family and friends? That kind of thing?

Or just myself, or my girlfriend, or whoever is around for dinner time. I’m like, “Hey, let’s make some food.” I find cooking something that is really fun to do for people but also with people. I feel like you get to spend some really good quality time with people when you’re cooking.

Same with cocktails. Drinking can be a really creative social pastime. When you’re making cocktails you get the opportunity to be creative both with your concoctions and your presentation. I like to think that people drink with their eyes before they drink with their mouth. So I like to make my cocktails really pretty.

Catch David on Siren Thursdays on Freeform. And be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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