Eline Powell Talks Transforming Into a Killer Mermaid for New Freeform Series ‘Siren’

Eline Powell is used to being on sets where the magical comes to life, but now she is the myth herself in Freeform’s epic new series “Siren.” Set in the cloudy coastlands of Bristol Cove, Washington, the series is an update on the mermaid legend. One night a group of fishermen are attacked out in the Bering Strait by something they have netted with the rest of the evening’s catch. Military helicopters descend on the scene and quickly recover whatever it is the unfortunate fishermen found.

Later a young, beautiful woman calling herself Ryn (Powell), is found wandering naked down a road near Bristol Cove. She is picked up by a local seaman named Ben (Alex Roe) who takes her in and tries to find out who she is. Ryn barely speaks but seems to have a bond with the local, oceanic creatures. It soon becomes apparent to us that she is indeed a mermaid. As the locals attempt to figure out who Ryn is she is herself on a mission to save a fellow mermaid who was the catch recovered by the military that night in the Bering Strait.

“Siren” is an edgy update of the pop culture image of the mermaid. It is a fairy tale filtered with a darker, grittier style. Ryn swims among the sea’s inhabitants, she creates an alluring, musical sound, but she also hunts and can easily kill any human who threatens her.

Eline Powell recently sat down with Entertainment Voice to share her experience of becoming a new kind of legend.

“I was so, so excited, I think I fell to my knees and did the two lowest screams,” said Powell cheerfully when describing the day she was offered the role. “It’s quite a big job. These sorts of parts come around once in a blue moon. It’s so physical. She’s incredibly strong and fierce but there’s a vulnerability to play with.”

Preparing to embody a creature both mythical and aquatic came with its own challenges. “We got physically trained, obviously, to do all the underwater stuff,” said Powell. “In preparing for the character I also knew that once she was on land she would have limited forms of communication and things like that. I looked at tons of mammals, I love the very small, deliberate moves of cheetahs and leopards.” In the pilot episode Ryn gets her first feel for walking on land when she makes it into Bristol Cove. Ben finds her walking with an odd style. She then wanders around town, looking at everything and everyone with the expression of a creature from another planet. “When you look at sea mammals and even fish, just look at the deadness in the eyes, yet very expressive at the same time. I also felt that since she comes from the sea that would translate into how she walks on land. So I worked on my posture and how she walks. She stands out, let’s say. I spent days in front of the mirror finding the right look. It was so much fun.”

Much of the show takes place in the water, with scenes of either elegant serenity or exciting action. “I’ve always felt comfortable in water,” said Powell. “I generally love it. But there were some challenges, like finding the camera when you’re surrounded by a lot of black or finding your mark. Your vision is limited. Communication is key. When they realize you’re basically blind they keep talking to you saying ‘go lower, go deeper.’ Those sorts of things are really helpful.” Powell even underwent some training for holding one’s breath underwater. “I can do three minutes now,” she revealed. “It requires a bit of trial and error, but now we’re in a very good place and I can’t wait to do more.”

Before “Siren,” Powell’s first taste of big budget television was a stint on “Game of Thrones” where she played the character of Bianca. “Eventhough I had a small part I was so well treated and everyone there was so nice. Everyone looked so excited to be on that set. It was the first time I worked on a big studio in London, it made me more excited as an actress to keep going, to keep fighting. The biggest gift is that you can invest all your energy and love into something that’s big, although there is no such thing as a small part.”

Powell now joins a growing number of high profile projects in which strong female leads take on a prominent role. “Female characters can be incredibly great story guiders,” said Powell. “We’re not just purely sexual or alluring, or maternal and in danger. There’s a complexity there in this show.”

From starting in the background of one major show and now fronting another one, Powell has also been changed in other, interesting ways by her role in “Siren.” After doing a lot of research she has become something of a mermaid scholar. “I had never looked into the mythology of mermaids, which is fascinating. If you’re ever bored it’s something to dive into. It’s such a rich world. The first mermaid, I think, is from 6,000 B.C. or 3,000 B.C. in Syria. The myth goes that it was a fertility goddess and after being shamed for making love with someone she threw herself into a lake and turned half-fish and half-person. Since then that has popped up around the world. For some cultures they were good things and for others they were dangerous things.”

Even Powell’s friends have noticed the change. “Since I got this role my friends say ‘can you please stop talking about what kinds of mermaids they have in Russia.’”

Siren” Season 1 premieres on March 29 and airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on Freeform.