Siren interview: Rena Owen on Helen’s discovery, ‘epic’ stories ahead

SirenSiren is in the midst of the first half of season 2, and through the first five episodes, you’ve had a chance to see some really wonderful things unfold for the character of Helen. For most of her life, she felt like an outsider, an outlier from the rest of the Bristol Cove world. Now, that is changing! While the recent plot from Ben’s mother was quite nefarious, it did yield a welcome silver lining: She has a relative, one she never knew about. This opens up a really interesting story arc for the character both now and moving forward, and that is added to everything else transpiring in the layered Siren world — For example on Thursday’s past episode Katrina is on a warpath, and you saw Helen and Sarge have a shared moment when he was in the tank.

This week, we were excited to have some personal insight from one of our favorite actors on the show, Rena Owen, who has gifted us many wonderful scenes and story arcs this season. In this CarterMatt interview, she discusses where the show is when it comes to filming, a promise for some “epic” storytelling coming up, and then also how she perceives the character and the wonderful response she’s had from viewers.

CarterMatt – Where is everyone right now in production?

Rena Owen – This is our last week on episode 15, and then we start episode 16.

Back when you were filming season 1, you had no idea that Helen would be so well-received. Now that you know that she is, has that changed or informed the way you play her?

Rena Owen – No. You usually establish your character from the beginning, season 1. The character has changed because of the events that happen in her life, but the character traits remain the same. I think with all good acting, it’s an inward job — doing things for an audience, that’s not really how I work as an actor. Your character is your character, whether they are liked or disliked.

For me, it’s being the person, and in Helen’s world, she’s unaware that I have an audience. I think she has evolved in terms of storyline and I love playing her. I think back to the pilot when I thought ‘oh my god, this is exactly the sort of character I wanted to play’ — someone who was different, eccentric, and someone I could bring parts of myself to. That’s the unique thing about acting; as I get older, you appreciate it more than when you’re in your twenties or your thirties. A lot of the good stuff happens from a place of relaxation and trusting yourself and the people you’re working with. I think it’s something that most people go through in life, you get more comfortable in your own skin.

I’m in this imaginary world as Helen, but I possess a good many of her character traits. I like a good laugh, I have a good sense of humor, and with each episode she’s getting some fantastic laughs. The growth of the character has changed from the beginning of the show because the secret is no longer a secret. Ryn kind of validated her entire existence and her entire life. She’s always been the historian of Bristol Cove in terms of mermaids, and [her own secret] really came out in episode 10. It was a big reveal to Ben and Maddie in that last episode, and that’s given her a new lease on life. She has people in her life who know that she’s a hybrid!

We also saw recently, just a couple of episodes ago, that she has a relation in Rick Marsden, who is played by the wonderful Brendan Fletcher. As he revealed in episode 5, he’s got a sister! Helen’s got a family. This season has been a rollercoaster.

We’ve had phenomenal scripts, and we’ve been really lucky because we are so close and we really love each other. We care for each other, and that was established right back when we did the pilot. I always give Eline [Powell] credit for this. We were in the second day of pre-production trying out makeup and hair and establishing the look of the characters, and she said something to me — ‘in order for this to work, we’ve got to connect.’ I then said ‘yeah, we have to connect. You’re going to be really busy. You’re going to be working every day. I’m going to have days off.’ I kind of became our social manager — we got together at least once or twice a week. At the time [of shooting the pilot], it was the debates in America so we would go to the pub and watch — the cast and our showrunner [Emily Whitesell] and our creators when they were up in Vancouver. It really did help us to bond and help us to become family, and it’s strengthened as we go through every season. I feel blessed because I know not every show is lucky to have this experience.

The season finale, which we start shooting next week, is epic. It’s just phenomenal. This time around, it’s been a longer haul for us — we’re doing 16 episodes this time, as opposed to the ten from season one — though really, in season 1 we only did nine because the first one was a pilot, and we filmed that back in 2016. There’s a lot of stuff that goes down in every episode — there are a lot of key players who turn up in Bristol Cove.

I was so pleased and kind of relieved at the end of season 1 that Helen resonated so much with young people. It is a [young adult] show on one of the biggest YA platforms in Freeform. From my own experiences with young people, my nieces and nephews, they’re not really interested in old people (laughs). I think back when I was a teenager — you don’t really want to hang out with your auntie!

I set out to make her a very real character and, even though she’s a hybrid, I wanted to make her human and identifiable to people. That’s easy to do since it is a gift of a role. I have so much fun with her! The audience will grow with her as she makes all sorts of juicy discoveries. There’s also a lot of action going on and the trio in Ryn, Maddie, and Ben will always be at the center of the storyline.

You talked earlier about the big reveal that Helen has a secret relative, someone she did not know about before. How do you think she’s feeling about that, both now and moving forward?

She has a really emotional reaction. A lot gets cut from every episode — they have to decide what they can lose and what they can hang on to — but I remember us doing one take of when Ben and Maddie showed Helen the DNA report, and it was kind of a sad reaction. He was literally just ten miles away from her all this time — she had a family that she was related to and she just never knew about it. That scene just got cut down to the second part of it, the part of Ben’s mother doing Helen a favor, because it’s led me to this family member.

When I read the scene [of the two meeting] for the first time, I got really emotional. That first encounter where she met him at the back of the cafe where he works. That scene came out really great, but doing it was really emotional. I was thinking ‘here you are for some fifty-odd years thinking that you’re on your own, and then suddenly you’ve got a cousin or a relation somewhere.’

There are some really interesting storylines for Helen. You’ve got the one with this relative, and as it was said, he also has a sister. As for whether or not we’re going to meet her, I can’t say anything about that. We also have another storyline that evolves in the back eight (episodes). There’s also a lot of mermaid-wrangling going on right now. The trailer for the next episode (watch here) has Katrina out on a rampage.

Every good season has to have cliffhangers — you get a really good cliffhanger at the end of the end of the first eight, and then a really huge cliffhanger at the end of the season. Episode 16 is one of the best scripts I’ve read in a long time, and I’m not just saying that because I work on the show. I was just like ‘wow.’ It really is a magnificent script — Nick Copus, who was our producing director in season 1, is coming back to direct that episode. It’s right up his alley.

What’s the conversation been on set about season 3? Does everyone feel optimistic?

We do! Everyone would love to do another season. It’s just hard to gauge. I think we’re all cautious enough to not take the work for granted because you just don’t know. I do know that it’s an expensive show, just with the visual alone and there’s a lot of logistics and a lot of people who go in and out.

People feel optimistic but also cautious. A lot of the crew are anxious because like with actors, they don’t want to keep turning down work.

A quick reminder…

The next new episode of Siren will be coming to Freeform on Thursday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. Be sure to check back after it airs for a full review as we are covering this show all season long with reviews and previews.

What do you want to see when it comes to Helen on Siren this season? Be sure to share in the comments. (Photo: Freeform.)

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