If you watch Freeform’s Siren you know Rena Owen as everyone’s favorite hybrid shopkeeper, Helen. Believed to be mad by the townspeople of Bristol Cove, she actually comes from mermaid lineage. Though she can’t shapeshift like the sirens who’ve recently come ashore she can protect her kin and protect it she does.
This is the second time I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Rena and she’s got some hints on what’s coming down the pipeline (Pun? You decide.) for the rest of this season.
I’m so happy Helen has had an extended role this season. It’s been so much fun to get to know more about her character.
Thank you. Yeah, I’ve certainly had a lot of fun doing it. It has been great to have all these juicy storylines for Helen, and they just get better and better.
It makes me so happy. One thing that occurred to me in seeing her interact with the new mermaids, Rick, and of course, with the main three – you’re so good at conveying your emotions. I feel like we can just read your mind. I believe that until all of this happened Helen was really lonely and isolated for a long time.
Absolutely. It’s kinda like I always described episode 10 in season 1, as Helen coming out of a closet. Because she had been so closeted for so long, keeping the secrets so close to home and not being able to talk to anybody about her heritage or her mermaid ways or culture.
We found out early in season 1… Well, I kinda knew, and a few fans picked up on the pilot, episode 1. ‘Cause a lot of people said, “Oh, it takes one to know one.” That instant mermaid recognition, that moment with Ryn, which for me was a huge moment for Helen. ‘Cause it validated her entire existence to the point where she’s like, “I’m not mad. There are mermaids, and mermaids are real. And there’s one on land.” And then, of course, Ryn picked up on that with Helen’s skin condition in one of the early episodes. Then, of course, Helen revealed herself to Donna. But it wasn’t till the season finale when Helen revealed her mermaid history to Ben and Maddie. So it was like suddenly she’s got this core group of people who she can just be herself with and can talk about things that they all share now, this very common sense of purpose and passion for saving the mermaids.
And it’s been fantastic that, yes, we’ve had more merpeople come to land and we’ve had to protect them and wrangle them and take care of them. She’s also had this relationship ongoing here with a new mermaid called Sarge, and finding out she’s got family that she never knew about. I think it was episode 5 she actually said that to Rick. She said, “I always assumed I was the only one. But of course, there are more.” And she’s like, “It’s like we’ve got our own secret society.”
It’s been fun. It’s just been great. I love being Helen, and I love being in Siren. We’ve got such a great cast. We all love each other. We’ve got the best crew. My only really valid complaint is the weather has been pretty challenging in Vancouver with a lot of snow and a lot of rain and very cold.
But that’s okay. That’s okay. It could be worse. People on the East Coast got hit by really frigid temperatures. So here we are. We’re shooting. We’re in the middle of shooting our season finale, episode 16. You’re gonna get a nice little finale for 8. All finales have to have cliffhangers, so 8’s got a great cliffhanger. And episode 16, oh my God, it is just epic. It is fantastic. So much to the point where I’m like, “Oh my God, you have to have a season 3 just to find out what happens.” The cliffhangers are so good. Trust me, it’s gonna be worth waiting for. Every episode just seems to get better and better.
And you know, it’s been a really great ensemble. Especially this second 8 episodes. It’s been a great ensemble. Everyone’s gotten really interesting storylines. And then, they all come together, of course. As you know, the trio for the sake of Ryn and the sake of the merpeople. Oh yeah, I think there’s some really exciting… We’ve been shooting some really awesome things. And we’ve had great scripts and really good directors.
I love that. I think one of the things I really liked about Helen having found this merfamily is it really breathes a new life into her, and we’ve seen her soften. She’s got this incredible maternal instinct when it comes to taking care of the sirens. I think it has really given her a purpose in safeguarding them. Do you think that is strictly because they’re part of her legacy? Or is this part of just who Helen is that she’s never been able to really show before?
That’s right. I think it’s a combination. Like she’s never been able to tell anyone about her true mermaid history until episode 10. It’s like I said earlier, it felt like she was finally coming out of the closet. And she wasn’t rejected, she was accepted for who she was. Absolutely she’s got this new lease on life now that she feels that she has a purpose. Because the one thing that’s never changed about Helen is she has constantly had a passion for mermaids and mermaid cultures. Now she gets to put all her passion and her history and her knowledge to good cause in terms of helping the merpeople. So it is like she’s been reinvigorated. And she has been able to have some fun because she can just be herself.
Where she’s pretty much spent her whole life having to hide this secret because it would’ve caused such an enormous problem if it was ever found out. I mean, Ben knows, but his dad, his parents, do not know. They think [as] Ted Pownall said in season 1, that she was the product of an affair his great-great-grandfather had with a prostitute. Well, we know that that’s not true. It was a love affair with a mermaid. But they don’t know that. They still think that Helen just comes from this line of prostitutes. It’s interesting that Mrs. Pownall had that DNA test done – which as Helen said, did her a favor. ‘Cause she found out about Rick Marzdan.
The sad thing is she confirmed that, yes, Helen has Pownall blood. So that trust fund, I have the right to that trust fund, to spend however I want. Of course, I spend it on… You’re gonna find out what I spend it on next episode.
But she didn’t look close enough or ask the question, “What is this 12 percent ‘other’?” She just doesn’t. ‘Cause I guess it’s never occurred to them that the story wasn’t a fake story, that it was a true story. That there’s hybrids who are related to the Pownalls–me and Rick.
So there have been really great storylines. I’ve had an absolute ball. I just love being Helen. She’s just such a good character. It has been great to have opportunities where she could be more open and, sometimes, at times, vulnerable and share her emotions because she’s in a safe environment with people she knows she is safe with.
Absolutely. Speaking of her showing emotions, I have to tell you, you have been so incredible, particularly in the scenes with Rick. Seeing how incredibly moved Helen is at realizing that she has a living relative who can share and understand her unique struggle. The naked longing that you had on your face when you looked at him almost made me cry. It’s obvious that she really wants family, that that’s important to her. What does having Rick in her life mean for her? Him in particular.
Well, him in particular, it just is a sense of, you know, when you spend most of your life… I mean, she had a mother who she spent a big chunk of her life with, but she’s never had someone who she was alike. It’s like kinda getting a breed of people, a new breed of people, who suddenly find each other and go, “My God, I’m not alone. There’s somebody like me. I’m not a freak. I’ve got somebody who shares the same feelings, and identifies with everything I identify with.” She’s had a lot of fun.
And it was very emotional. That first scene I did with him, I felt so overwhelmed because it was a really emotional scene. When we do scenes together, and we’ve got more scenes coming up but, we just laugh a lot. Because it’s like, you know, us two little misfits finding each other. It’s like being brother and sister. I think that’s been amazing for Helen. Because she’s not full-blooded mermaid, and she cannot be full-blooded mermaid, so she can help them.
But to actually have someone who’s a hybrid just like her, and comes from that same family line, it’s just been a gift for Helen and opened so many doors. I’m not making any spoilers here, because it was already said in a prior episode, that he’s got a sister.
So maybe something will come out of that. But he’s not the only one. Rick has said he’s got a sister. So we’ll have to see if that leads somewhere. But I think it’s like anybody who has felt… they’ve been on their own for their entire lives and it was just them. It’s like suddenly finding you’ve got a family who shares your DNA and is exactly like you, is a hybrid. I think that that’s a human condition for people just to be so happy and emotionally overwhelmed to discover that family. It’s been awesome.
And me and Rick, we just have this innate relationship. The chemistry, it’s not something we had to work with. It just came out of the fact that he was full of angst and sharing all of his problems. And it’s like, “I can identify. This is my family history. This is why we’re different, and this is why we felt like we were outsiders.” It’s been liberating, I think is a good word. It’s been really liberating.
I’m happy to hear that because I have to say that I have this awful feeling when it comes to Rick. I just feel there’s something brewing underneath there. I know you can’t tell me whether I’m right or wrong, but is there anything you can tease about the trajectory between Rick and Helen for the remainder of the season?
Well, you know, they’re very much… they got a great chemistry, and they’re very connected. We develop the closeness very quickly. ‘Cause it’s like, I don’t use this word lightly, but it’s like, I guess, if you’re a refugee and you find a fellow refugee, you’re gonna hang on to each other. Does that make sense?
That’s how it felt with Rick. That’s just gonna go from strength to strength. And we do get up to some adventures, some really exciting adventures. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying that. There’s some stuff coming up for Rick and Helen. And it’s a really solid relationship.
I will look forward to that.
Yeah, yeah, same. I look forward to seeing the outcome. ‘Cause, you know, we shoot these episodes and episodes get cut and some stuff gets sacrificed. So we’re all just like you. We’re kinda watching the episodes for the first time just like the audience. Yeah, we don’t get to see them before you guys, so we discover all of these things along with you. And that’s been a great joy too, for Helen, is that the audience have been able to discover all this new stuff for Helen as she discovered it.
It’s been a great ride. We’re gonna miss each other. We’ve been together for eight months now. We will miss each other, but it’s time to go back to L.A. And people, it’s time for them to go back to England. We have everything crossed that we’ll be coming back for season three in summer.
Oh, I’m crossing my fingers and toes on that one.
I will for sure. So, revisiting the Pownalls. I know, as you mentioned, that they’ve kind of shunned Helen a little bit because of the great-grandparents relationship. But I feel like there’s something more. Am I right in assuming that there are more secrets between Helen and the Pownalls? And will we learn anything more about them in relation to Helen in the future?
I’m like you, I’ve felt the same. And I don’t know anything further than what’s been revealed already in season 1 and what we’ve already seen in season 2 about the trust fund. And I love that line, “Maybe I’ll buy myself a Maserati.”
You know, Helen gives such great one-liners, zingers. Yeah, so, I know nothing more than what I know already. Maybe that’s a possibility as we go into season 3 that more will be revealed. ‘Cause I’m actually like you. There is stuff that is unexplained. And actually, coming up in the second 8, there is stuff that goes down with the Pownalls, and with Ben and his parents, and his parents and Helen to a certain minor degree but it’s kinda, yeah… I don’t know how to explain it to you without scene spoilers.
Okay, well, I’ll be watching for that scene and I’ll be going, “Okay, that’s what she was talking about. Now, what’s the subtext here?”
Have you seen it, the one that screens tomorrow night?
I have not. I have access to the screeners, but because I live tweet the show, I prefer to watch it when everybody else does.
Yeah, good for you. And unfortunately, again tomorrow, I’m at work. So I’m not gonna be able to live tweet. ‘Cause I love watching Twitter when it’s screening. But no, I’m gonna be back on-set tomorrow. So I’ll just have to tune in at some point. Good on you that you refrain from watching it so that you discover it with the audience. But there’s some nice, there’s some really… Well, every episode’s got great moments, but there’s a really special moment. It’s a reveal. It’s a reveal not just to Helen but to everybody else.
— Siren (@SirenTV) March 9, 2019
Oh my goodness, now you have me very excited.
Yeah. That’s all I’m gonna say.
Everyone is loving the interactions between Helen and Sarge. There’s this growing awareness, this spark. What is she seeing in him? What is going on in that mind of hers when she sees Sarge?
Well, I think she’s quite smitten because he’s interested in her. You know, Helen had never been able to be a merperson in the presence of anyone. So to suddenly have this male merman show all of this love and attention to her… I remember when we were doing the scenes it made me feel all quite gooey and gushy like a teenager. That’s how it’s been for… Because it is a matriarchal society, that he’s been very subservient to her and very in awe of her. So it’s been very flattering for Helen to have this merman who’s more than just interested in doing his job as a mermaid and a protector, but genuinely someone who genuinely is interested and cares about her.
And that was established the first episode really when we were in the cabin. You know, he’s looking at me, and I’m sitting in that chair and he comes over. And Helen’s a bit tentative, apprehensive, but he takes her hair, ’cause he recognizes my mermaid blood, and once it’s confirmed, he bows down to Helen. That was, if you re-look at that moment, that was episode 2, that was the moment it kind of began. ‘Cause she’s really like … She just says, “Thank you.” She’s quite overwhelmed by the fact that he recognizes her, she’s mermaid, but bows down to her, which is like, “I’m here to be of service to you.” And that’s the culture. So it starts in that moment. And that was a really beautiful moment. That was a really beautiful moment where it kinda all began.
Then after that, it’s just a little look here and a little look there. Then we have that moment in the tank, which was a beautiful scene to shoot. And then, of course, this last episode he showed up to her shop. Let’s just say it’s developing.
I love it. Well, I have a fan question for you that is along this line. Anna @Fangirling_Anna wants to know how you feel about having a love interest.
I think it’s been great for Helen. I think it’s good for Helen. I think it’s not just good for Helen, I think it’s good for Helen’s age group. Because it’s really easy… You know it’s a YA, it’s a YA show on a YA platform. And I think we forget when we’re much younger that mature people still need to be loved and still want to be romanced. You know, you never grow too old for it. I mean, it’s one of the wonderful things I see when I see elderly people have been together all their lives. It’s a basic, fundamental 101 need that connects all of us is that each one of us needs to be loved and we need to love.
So I think it’s been wonderful for Helen to kind of have those parts of her kinda wake up and go, “Oh my gosh, I’m blushing.”You know, enjoy the attention of this beautiful merman. And I think it’s one of those things we can all identify with, ’cause we all wanna be loved. We all need to be loved. It’s our basic 101 need. Next to air and water, is love.
Yeah, I agree. Another fan question comes from Jacob @JcobMichaels . He asked if you ever wish Helen could have a tail? And I’m gonna ask the inverse of that and say, does Helen ever wish she had one?
Yeah. I think she does. I think there are moments she has on land where she goes, “Damn, I wish I could just grow a tail and swim away.” Yeah, there are definitely moments where sometimes the world can be not such a nice place to be. I guess it’s like a bird, someone who’s part bird, if they had wings, would think, “Oh God, I wish I could just grow my wings and fly away.” And I think, yeah, that’s what I think all hybrids probably feel and go, “God, I wish I was full-blooded so I could grow a tail and just swim away, you know, out to the blue horizon.” So yeah, I think Helen definitely has moments where she wished she could transform.
And do you have a desire, you Rena, have a desire to put on a tail?
And go into the cold water? Not right now. I’m gonna be honest, I take my hat off to Eline. She’s literally like a fish, and she is so good at it. I mean, those are a heavy set of skills right there. What she and Ben do underwater and sometimes Maddie, but more Eline. They are a serious set of skills required to be able to hold your breath and stay under the water that long with your eyes wide open and act. No, thank you. Maybe, if it was summer and it was hot, I might go, “Oh yeah, I don’t mind going into some water.” But right now, no. We’re getting some more snow here in Vancouver, so no, thank you.
I don’t blame you one bit. The show has continued to tackle a number of social topics – addiction, grief, environmentalism. I’m curious to know if there is an issue you would like to see the show address but it hasn’t yet?
Oh, good. What a great question. That’s a great question.
Yeah, we’ve covered a lot of ground, huh? We’ve covered a lot of things. Let me see, what can I think of? Yeah, ’cause we have, we’ve absolutely done the environment and then still doing the environmental thing. Polyamorous relationships are being explored. A mature relationship is possibly being explored. Hybrids are being explored.
Exploitation, I think. Looking into… You know, tourism on the surface can be all about generating money for the economies. But the underbelly of that is an exploitation of resources. So it has an underbelly. Maybe I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more of the underbelly of tourism. And maybe that’s something that could kinda go on with the Pownalls. ‘Cause as we found out, the Pownalls are hooked up to the oil people. So that’s all about money. And tourism’s a big part of a coastal community, particularly with one that kind of… I mean, I grew up in a similar kinda area where the coastal communities, they made no money in winter. They had to make all their money in summer when the tourists came in. So I’d like to maybe, yeah, explore the underbelly of tourism.
I like that idea. I live in Colorado. And our national parks and even free areas are so overrun by tourists who don’t respect the land. We’ve had lakes that have been destroyed, and they’ve had to close off areas because of vandalism and constant abuse.
That would be a great storyline for Siren. That would be a really great… And we touched on it for one moment in episode 1. It’s one of the first moments when we meet Helen. The Mermaid Days parade is going on, which is kind of like a mermaid parade, a reenactment of the fables. Helen’s disdain for the event, perhaps that can be extended and looked into more. But I think the story you’ve just told me would be a wonderful storyline for Siren. And I think you should submit it because I think–
You’re so sweet.
It’s a perfect story and platform for that kinda story. Because tourism is what keeps Bristol Cove going. The myths of mermaids. But of course, we know that it’s real. They’re not just a myth. So I’d love to see those two worlds clash maybe.
Absolutely. I mean, you never know just how far a ripple effect something has that may seem minor on the surface but actually creates big waves.
Exactly, exactly. I think that’s something that I should mention to our boss. That is something else I feel like, “What else can we explore in Bristol Cove, given the location and tourism?”
Yeah, definitely. Well, one thing we talked about when we spoke last year is how you’re a playwright. Now that you’re further into Siren, now that you have a stronger sense of the stories and the characters, do you have a desire to write an episode or two or three or four?
I’ve kinda not thought about it at this point. But I could very well maybe do that. Maybe if we go season 3, season 4.
I have a mild interest in being a shadow director, you know, with our directors, get to shadow one of our directors. I mean, I’ve got a lot of production experience. Yeah, I could maybe come up with a storyline, or I could get a storyline from the bosses and write the script. But right now I haven’t really thought about it ’cause we really just have not had that kind of spare time. You know, shooting 16 episodes.
The spare time I have had I’ve just been trying to get on top of my backlog of taxes and staying on top of social media. And then you’ve got ADR, additional dialogue recording, and you got costume fittings and you got interviews. So it’s been a very full schedule. But absolutely, in the future, I would be interested in looking at maybe writing an episode for them with a strong storyline. But yeah, it’s been a busy time.
But I’ve enjoyed doing social media. It’s great to interact with the fans. It’s really easy to do it when you’ve got something you can be very proud of and very passionate about. And I love Siren, and I love being Helen.
You said that you are getting ready to film the finale or that you have already filmed it?
No, we’re in the middle of it right now. This is it. Next week is our last week. Gosh, what’s today? We are on the third day of shooting our finale. Yes, our last shooting day is next Friday.
I know you can’t give anything away, so I’m just gonna ask if you could give me five words to set the mood for the finale?
Epic. Yeah, epic. Exhilarating. I have to go to my dictionary to look up an E word. Yeah, I’m trying to keep them all to E’s. Maybe I’m trying to do too much. What’s a word that starts with E when it can be also quite scary?
Yes. Definitely. That’s the word. It’s epic. It’s eerie. It’s exhilarating. It’s exemplary. And it’s exciting.
All right. Well, I like that!
It’s epic. It’s fantastic.
I’m looking forward to it. Although I always get nervous.
It’s absolutely fantastic. When you see it, and we’ll have to talk again at some point… But yeah, no, episode 6… When I read it, I tell you, when I read the script I just was mind blown. I cried, and I just, it was just mind-blowing. It’s a mind-blowing episode. It is such an amazing season finale. And the cliffhangers. It’s extraordinary, is also another word I’d use. Extraordinary, there’s another E word. It is extraordinary. Rather than maybe exciting, but use extraordinary. To the point where I was like, “Wow, this has gotta be one of the best scripts I’ve read in a long time.” Yeah, it’s so good. The cliffhangers are like so up there. I’m kinda like, by the end of the read, I’m like, “Oh my God, they’re gonna have to go to season 3 just to find out what happens.” It’s fantastic. It’s fantastic. There you go, you’ve got five very strong words that start with an E.
Okay, so last question. Do you have any other projects you would like to share with your fans?
Yes. I think it’s safe for me to say that you’ll see me back on The Orville very soon.
Yay. That’s great.
I think it’s safe to say that. I can’t talk about it yet until it airs. But you will see me. I think it’s very soon. It’s episode 11, called “The Sanctuary.”
You can catch Siren Thursday nights on Freeform.
Interview has been lightly edited for length