The Featured Presentation

David Kaye

Photo By: Taseda Knight

Generally those with a fear of flying don’t become pilots, or those who shy away from crowds aren’t known for standing calmly in a sea of people, so it’s a surprise to learn that someone who doesn’t like fish has landed in a show about them. Well, sort of about them.

In the Freeform drama series “Siren,” a dark tale about mermaids and their impact on a small town, David Kaye plays a laid-back employee at the local marine research center who he describes as a “loyal” and “affectionate” friend. And although the mermaid Ryn (played by Eline Powell) at the center of the series is part fish, she wasn’t Kaye’s source of seafood discomfort.

We recently sat down with the Canadian-born actor to discuss why he loves working on the series, playing his character like a dog, and how his fishy fears were stoked being elbow deep in a bucket of bait.

TrunkSpace: How are you enjoying your “Siren” journey thus far?
Kaye: It has been such a wild ride. I’m having a blast.

TrunkSpace: What have you taken from your experience that you’re going to carry with you through the rest of your life?
Kaye: That’s a great question. Firstly, some of the relationships with the other actors and some of the crew members is something that has really blossomed for me. I’ve met some amazing people – super talented, super passionate – who really want to be there. And one of the things that I love about going to set, for “Siren” specifically is, everyone is so happy to be there. It’s just such a wonderful energy. And on top of that, just learning from some of the other actors and just watching them work. I talked quite a few times about how Eline Powell, who plays Ryn, is just such a powerful actor. But also Alex Roe, who plays Ben and Fola (Evans-Akingbola), they have been such a pleasure to work with and it’s really interesting watching them just kind of do their thing. I love watching them do their American dialect warmup, which is always highly entertaining. (Laughter) I’ve had the opportunity to work with just so many amazing actors, like Ian Verdun. His performance last week in episode 106, it was just mesmerizing. I hope that the series gets picked up and I get the opportunity to work with more of these amazing actors.

TrunkSpace: In a lot of ways the show has the elements of a series that could stick around for a really long time. You look at a show like “Supernatural,” which we know you guested on, and while tonally different, that’s a show that has been on the air 13 years. Are you someone who could play the same character for that long? Could you be Jerry for 13 years?
Kaye: I mean, it depends on the show… as a viewer for me anyways, it depends on the show. I’ve definitely binge-watched shows that have more than 10 seasons and I love playing Jerry… I think he’s such a fantastic character and just such a loving person, so if I have the opportunity to step into Jerry’s shoes for a decade or more, I would be thrilled.

TrunkSpace: It terms of finding him as a character, was he somebody that was easy for you to tap into or did it take some discovery?
Kaye: A little bit of both. There’s a lot of myself, I’d like to think, part of Jerry, but there were definitely some things that I had to amp up. One of the things that I really try to do, when I’m playing Jerry, is treat him like a dog – just like his presence. He’s very in the moment. He’s very loving and affectionate and loyal and he’s just always happy to see his people.

TrunkSpace: So he’s man’s best friend in human form?
Kaye: Yeah! Just a little scruffy guy, that you wanna take home.

TrunkSpace: In terms of the mermaid focus of the series, that isn’t a subject that Hollywood has really tapped into on a large scale. In an industry where it seems like everything has been done and done again, why haven’t we seen much of mermaids on screen?
Kaye: This is purely speculative on my part, but I think when you say mermaids to somebody, today, most people, their immediate response, their immediate image in their head is Ariel from Disney’s “Little Mermaid.” Some people might go straight to “Splash,” but there are some really, really iconic mermaid characters that I think immediately come to mind when people talk about mermaids. So for a show like “Siren” to come out, where it just completely turns everything on its head, like mermaids are not these wonderful, singing creatures, they’re there for adventure and exploration, they are apex predators, they are viscous, they are strong, they are highly intelligent, they have a dark, green take on it that is really fascinating, so I think there was definitely a niche to be explored and I think Freeform just hit the nail on the head with it.

TrunkSpace: We know you’re also a voice actor. Do you view both aspects of performance as separate career paths or do they both lead towards the same end goal?
Kaye: To me it’s just about telling stories. One of the reasons I’ve kept on doing this for so long is because I love telling stories. I don’t particularly care about the format if it’s on screen or if it’s on the microphone, in front of the camera, behind the camera even – I’ve done some producing myself – or theater, I just love being part of telling a story.

Kaye with Eilene Powell in “Siren.” © 2018 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.

TrunkSpace: You have your own production company, Whiskaye Films. Where does that fit into your focus these days?
Kaye: Currently I am just working on the last, final touches on the distribution of my first feature that I produced, which is called “Prodigals.” That will be hitting theaters in June, so look out for that. That’s a project that I’ve been working on since 2013 and so it’s been a labor of love and there’s some fantastic actors in it. It’s a great story. You’ll see Sara Canning is one of the leads. She’s on “A Series Of Unfortunate Events” and in “War for the Planet of the Apes.” Kaniehtiio Horn, who’s in “Letterkenny” and “Man in the High Castle,” and David Alpay. It’s just some really, really talented people and it’s a story that I think is incredibly relatable about second chances and whether or not anyone actually deserves a second chance.

And other than that my other passion project… Season 2 is coming out shortly of “White Ninja.” That will be released on Toonstar, so you can check out the Toonstar app because that will be coming out end of May.

TrunkSpace: So does one scratch the back of the other? For example, does a high profile acting gig help on the producing side, and vice versa?
Kaye: I’m not sure yet, to be perfectly honest. I think it’s been a really interesting ride. I’ve been acting since I was a child, so I’ve got 25, almost 26 years, in the industry now. I started producing because I’ve grown up on set and in the studio and seeing all these people doing all these jobs, not really knowing how those parts fit into the overall machine, and so I took an intro to film production course in 2008, as part of my undergrad, and I was like, “Oh, this is what everyone’s doing.” And I just had a deeper appreciation for everyone on set and how hard everyone works and how integral everybody really is to the final product. So production gave me a whole new appreciation for the industry.

TrunkSpace: Finally, David, we read that you have a fear of fish, which made us wonder… was a show about a half woman/half fish really the way to go?
Kaye: (Laughter) Well, I was less scared of her, because of the whole human aspect and knowing that Eline is, in fact a human. However, Jerry feeds the sea lions and in order to feed sea lions, you need to go elbow deep in a bucket of fish, and so that for me, that was probably the most challenging thing I had to do on set and it has actually helped my fear, in a big, bad way. So I’m grateful to “Siren” for that.

TrunkSpace: But still, no 100-gallon aquariums showing up at your house anytime soon, right?
Kaye: You know what, I think I would probably avoid it if it was offered to me. (Laughter)

Siren” airs Thursdays on Freeform.

Featured image by: Taseda Knight 

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The Featured Presentation

Ian Verdun

Photo By: Claudia Greene

Unless you’re a sailor from the 15th century with a belly full of wine, you probably don’t have a lot of experience with mermaids. That being said, Ian Verdun, star of the new drama series “Siren,” which premieres March 29 on Freeform, promises viewers will find plenty to relate to when mermaids come ashore in the fictional town of Bristol Cove.

The Los Angeles native portrays a salt-of-the-earth fisherman in the new series, and it’s these types of real, recognizable people that he says helps to ground the fantastical elements of “Siren.”

We recently sat down with Verdun to discuss why he thinks the series will have no problem finding an audience, how success won’t mean it arrived overnight, and the reason he genuinely loves portraying his character Xander.


TrunkSpace: Freeform has an amazing track record of building and establishing shows that amass really passionate fandoms. In everything that you have experienced and seen of the show thus far, does it have that same fandom-building potential?
Verdun: Absolutely. I think it could do it on a number of levels, actually. First and foremost it’s about mermaids, so I think there’s already such an avid fan base for that creature, for that folklore, all across the planet. There’s no country in the whole world that doesn’t have some kind of dedication to mermaids, some kind of cultural cornerstone where it deals with those creatures, so I think that alone is gonna have a lot of people very interested from the beginning. And then when they really get into the story and they get into the characters, and they get into what we’ve actually done with these characters, I really think people are gonna find a passionate new angle. And my character, he’s not a supernatural thing. I definitely am not a mermaid. Spoiler alert. (Laughter) But I think there’s something so human about him. When you have characters who do things that are just incredibly relatable, incredibly human, especially against the backdrop of something so crazy and so out there and off the wall, you really find a way to just see yourself in all of these people, in all of their situations, and in all of their hardships in spite of all the zaniness that’s happening.

And I think that the writers have really done a great job of keeping everybody grounded, so when people watch, it’s not just about flippers and fins and intrigue and mystery and all of that other stuff, which is great and awesome, and I enjoy it – I enjoy genre TV like anybody else – but I think the thing that keeps you coming back and makes you really passionate is the people. I tip my hat off to them (the writers) because I was just so excited to get a script every time, because we would just eat it up and just zoom right through every script. It was the only opportunity for us to be fans, because it’s spoiled for us. We already know what’s happening. If anybody watching the show is as involved and intrigued as we were reading it, then, yeah, I think it’s really gonna find a big audience.

TrunkSpace: What’s interesting about mermaids is that, while it’s a recognizable creature, they haven’t been overly exposed in the world of modern pop culture.
Verdun: I totally agree. And I think there’s actually a couple of reasons for that. One I think is that it’s probably just incredibly expensive, technically, to do it, especially on television. It’s a lot of water. It’s a lot of stuff. So I think we’ve just kind of come to a point in time in television, just technically, where we’re able to pull off something like this and make it believable and real and fresh. But I also think culturally we’re just in a different place where Women’s Liberation, the #MeToo movement, Time’s Up and all of these things are happening when it comes to narratives that center on women in positions of power, and I think that before now, it’s been very rare to actually look at these kinds of creatures, these stories, and actually focus in on them and break them down because people weren’t paying attention before.

TrunkSpace: The show is already creating a buzz, and again, Freeform is very good and finding audiences for their programming. With all of that being said, does it feel like “Siren” could be a game changer for you as far as your career is concerned?
Verdun: I mean, one can only hope, right? Don’t count your fish before they’re caught, right? (Laughter) But I would hope so. For me, it’s not really an overnight success. It takes years to become an overnight success. I graduated from college back in 2007, so it’s been a long haul for me.

It’s about the integrity of the story that you’re telling and it’s about the craft, no matter what the project is, you know? You always wanna do your best work and you always wanna be able to stand up and stand behind what you’re doing and be able to defend it, and I’m very lucky with this show that I genuinely enjoy it and I genuinely think it’s a great show. I’m very lucky to be going into this particular process with a project that I really, really, really love. It makes things, I imagine, so much easier. This is the first time I’m doing any of this, so it’s not like I have a lot of comparative experience.

TrunkSpace: Like many other shows nowadays, “Siren” is adopting a smaller season order (10 episodes), which for viewers, feels more consumable. You’re getting story, not just filler content.
Verdun: Exactly. You don’t have those little standalone episodes. It really kind of felt like we were shooting a movie every week. It’s just the production value and the amount of people that are involved, and sometimes, the depths that we had to… pun totally not intended, but kind of intended… the depths that we had to go to to really find characters and to really tell a very honest story about them in light of, like I said before, all the craziness. So I think it’s also advantageous to have smaller episode orders because you’re able to put some money into it, and put some bang into the episodes that really just, you know, knocks everything home, because when it looks beautiful and when everybody’s happy, it shows up on screen.

TrunkSpace: We know you can’t go into too much of the story, but can you give us a taste of what Xander’s personal journey is over the course of that first season?
Verdun: I would love to go into details, but obviously, I can’t. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) Contractually you can only confirm that you’re NOT a mermaid.
Verdun: (Laughter) Yeah. All I can say.

What I can say about Xander is I think his journey is incredibly relatable, even though, you know, it’s mermaids and I doubt too many people can relate to dealing with mermaids. I’ll be very surprised if they do. (Laughter) But I think his journey is about friendship and it’s about loyalty and maybe misplaced loyalty. And I think it’s also about family for him. His entire outlook is very tied up in the people that he’s with and he’s around. I think he’s an incredibly smart guy, he’s incredibly intelligent, but I don’t think people give him credit for it. What I do love about him too is he’s just this regular dude. He’s a working class, blue collar fisherman, and I think to give that perspective a younger face, and even to give that perspective a brown face, to me it’s really interesting. I rarely ever see fishermen on TV or even blue collar characters as people of color. They generally aren’t. But we exist, they exist. I don’t come from a high class, upper class, or even upper middle class family at all. I grew up pretty poor. We have blue collar people that have very different faces and it’s almost an honor to be able to represent that and to put a human face on it that looks a bit different.

Siren” premieres on Freeform March 29.

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The Featured Presentation

Michael McGrady

Photo By: Shimon Karmel

Michael McGrady of “Ray Donovan” and “Beyond” has seen the entertainment industry go through numerous changes throughout his storied career. Many of those changes have been improvements based on innovation, ultimately leading to what is currently being called the Golden Age of Television. Technology has advanced, making it possible to translate any concept imaginable to the screen. Storytelling itself has changed, not only becoming more realistic and gritty, but profoundly more character-driven. And with so many different platforms presenting original content to the public, the number of jobs for actors has greatly increased. But even as the positives of this prolonged revolution continue to outweigh the negatives, there is always a voice softly speaking inside the head of the nostalgic mind.

Are we moving too quickly for our own good?

We recently sat down with McGrady to discuss the continuously-evolving entertainment industry, how he would have never gotten away with so many F bombs 20 years ago, and why now, at 57, he finds himself being drawn to the past.

TrunkSpace: One of the things we love about the current TV landscape is that an actor can do a show like “Ray Donovan” and a show like “Beyond,” both at the same time and reach different audiences. It wasn’t always that way, right?
McGrady: No. Absolutely not. That’s why it’s such a fun time right now for actors. There’s so much airtime out there… so much product. My gosh, back when I started back in the 80s, I think FOX was new, believe it or not. There weren’t 500 channels. You had maybe a handful of dramas that you could do on three or four different networks and that was it. You could maybe do a film here or there… indie films weren’t even big yet during the early 80s. They were just kind of coming on the scene then. So for me now, after three decades of doing this, I had no idea the landscape would be so wide and so deep.

TrunkSpace: Back in the 80s it must have been difficult to land consistent guest spots because once you were on a show, they weren’t going to have you back to play someone else… and with so few shows on the air, the ceiling must have been low?
McGrady: Yeah. That’s absolutely true. You would do a handful of guest stars that year and unless you were a series regular on the show, that would be pretty much it. They wouldn’t ask you back. Every once in awhile there were a few shows back then like “Murder, She Wrote” and a handful of others that would ask you back if they liked you… even as different characters, believe it or not. I believe it was that as long as you allowed one or two years between the last time you did a guest spot, they would allow you to come back and do another one. Bread and butter for me was guest starring roles and I was very fortunate because I would pick up two or three decent film roles along the way during the off-season, so I was always busy. I was very lucky in that respect. But the opportunities were not nearly as vast as they are now.

TrunkSpace: Strictly from an acting perspective, the content itself must be so much more interesting now due to so much of the content on television being character-driven.
McGrady. Oh yeah. It’s funny because my wife and I were just having this conversation not too long ago and I was telling her that after being in this business for as long as I have, I have really seen some very serious, tangible changes in terms of the product. Again, going back to the 80s and earlier on in my career, television was pretty clean. It was pretty traditional, conventional, and I’d say pretty far right. I’d go so far to say even sanitized, to a certain extent. And then we started breaking some ground with “NYPD Blue” and some other shows that kind of opened the way for darker characters, darker subject matter, and stuff that had some gravitas to it. Then of course cable blew it all wide open with all of the stuff they started coming out with. “The Sopranos” of course came along and then “Six Feet Under” and then “Nip/Tuck.” We really ventured off into some different adventurous lands. Everybody had to kind of bring a different game. Writers, actors, producers… everyone who is involved in filmmaking had to up their game in order for this transformation to take place, at least on a global level like it did. It was slow, but when it happened, boy did it happen! It just snowballed pretty quickly and now you have these amazing shows like “Ray Donovan” and another show I was on called “Southland.” That was a really great show. To this day I have law enforcement personnel and firemen who come up to me and say, “That show was probably one of the most accurate depictions of law enforcement that we’ve ever seen.” They were huge fans of it and they still are because we were able to explore things in a way that dealt with real life.

I also think that reality TV had a lot to do with that too. As much as it became a bane of our existence in the beginning, it also helped to open the doors to a little more of the reality of what we’re doing and what we’re seeing. If you watched “Cops” or all of these other shows we had on TV, you can’t have anything less exciting than that when you’re doing a cop show. People won’t watch it. It has to have those realistic elements and the drama behind it, the good storytelling, and the interesting characters. We kind of cross-pollinated.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned how cable stepped in and helped to change the TV landscape, but you actually appeared on one of the first scripted cable shows, “1st & Ten.” It has to be pretty cool to think that you were a part of that seed that ultimately grew into what TV is today?
McGrady: You know, that’s interesting. I’ve never really thought about it like that. I haven’t thought about that credit in… probably since I ended it 30 years ago. (Laughter)

We kind of thought of it as soft porn at the time. (Laughter) There was a lot of T&A on that show. O.J. Simpson was one of the stars of the show. They had all of these NFL players who came on board. Yeah, they were exploring some pretty trippy subject matter, no doubt.

TrunkSpace: And yet still there’s a big difference between how they were handling storytelling then to how it is being handled now.
McGrady: Just the technology allows us to do things that we weren’t able to do back then. Cable can take you places now without all of the restrictions of the FCC and what not. It is much more exciting and much more adventurous… taking you to deep and dark places, both metaphorically and physically as well. There’s nowhere a camera can’t go now with CGI and all of those different elements. I guess every product is ripened at its own time. I look back at the stuff I did in the 80s, like “1st and Ten” and a lot of the Aaron Spelling shows and stuff, and they were kind of rather pedestrian in terms of the subjects. I look at “Ray Donovan” and my character uses F bombs every third word. (Laughter) I’m like, “Wow, I could never have gotten away with this 20 years ago.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: What’s great about a show like “Ray Donovan” is that not only is it entertaining people in the present, but it will no doubt inspire people in the future much like some of these earlier shows have done.
McGrady: Absolutely. That’s what’s exciting about it. It almost seems like every year and certainly every half decade or so that I’ve been in this business… and I can only speak from my experience… but you can watch how the technology is changing with our understanding of human nature and understanding of what a story is and what is truly interesting to us and what isn’t. Also what we are allowing ourselves to have the courage to explore about relationships, gender, sex, race, nationality… all of those things. We’ve come to a place where there really is no limit to any of it. I always think, “Gosh, I’m pretty excited about what’s going on now, but what about five years from now?” I keep telling my kids, “When Dad’s dead and gone, mark my words, you’ll have holograms and you guys won’t be going to movie theaters.” My kids are laughing at me and I’m going, “You watch!” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Well, a dad decades ago probably said something similar to his kids. “When Dad’s dead and gone, mark my words, you’ll be watching movies with sound!”
McGrady: Yeah, that guy came from my camp! (Laughter) I’m right there with him.

TrunkSpace: Things always improve when it comes to technology, but at the same time, there always seems to be a place for what came before. Vinyl is a perfect example of that.
McGrady: That’s absolutely right. I have that same philosophy. I think in many ways technology is sort of overwhelming. Let’s face it, there is a dark side or different side to every coin. Technology has been a bit of a set back for us in many ways. Look how people are texting and how nobody talks anymore. Kids don’t talk to their parents and they bring their phones to the dinner table. That technology is also separating us as well.

I love film. In fact, I have an old AV-1 Canon that I’ve been thinking about taking out. I have a really nice digital, but I’m thinking about going back to my Canon just because I actually took better pictures with it than any that I’m taking now with a high end digital. And I don’t think it’s just the technology. I think back then you had to be a lot more thoughtful about composing a photograph and getting the light and shot just right. Because it was expensive to develop, a couple of bucks a shot, it’s not like you had 900 tries at it. So I think it forced you to put a little more thoughtfulness into it. The emotion of film has that quality.

Photo By: Shimon Karmel

TrunkSpace: That’s really interesting and very true. When you can take as many tries as you want and see the results immediately, it sort of becomes manufactured at that point and less about the art itself.
McGrady: You know what’s funny about it… I almost think of it this way. For me, it’s almost like we have found ways to make things accessible to anybody… a cross section of people. You don’t necessarily have to have the technical knowledge because you have automatic settings on your expensive digital camera. You don’t have to be a great skier anymore… just good enough with 190 cm skis. Back in my day, if I wore the skis you wear today, they would have laughed at me. “Dude, you’re wearing children skis.” (Laughter) But they figured it out. They went, “If we shorten the skis, we can increase the volume of people who can do this sport.” If they make it easier for people, more people will do the sport, the activity, the project, or whatever it is. It’s even with surfing. For a long time, up until about 10 years ago when longboarding came back in, very few people surfed unless you were a young kid who had the power to swim out into the bigger waves and get up to pop up quickly… all on a little wafer thin potato chip. But when the longboard retro movement hit, it made surfing accessible to anyone even over 50 or 60 because now you’ve got a bigger board, it’s accepted on the beach and nobody is laughing at you. And then the kids started getting into it and they got extremely proficient at it to the point that they started having competitions and going back to the old 1960s style of smooth groove riding and walking the board and hanging ten and all of that. That created a whole entirely new surf category… old new.

And so, we’ve done that across the board with so many things. That’s been great on one level, but now when you go to a mountain… it’s crowded. When you go to a beach… it’s crowded. We went kiteboarding the other day and it was crowded. There must have been 100 kites out in this one bay and I was thinking, “My God, we look like a bunch of ants running around out here.”

But, this whole thing about moving forward and pushing that bar forward… whether it be in film, TV, music or whatever… yeah, I’ve got kind of a love/hate relationship with it. I love it because of all of the cool stuff that we get out of it, but I hate it because in many ways there is a lot of negative energy to it as well.

I just turned 57 in March. I don’t feel it. I don’t live it. I’m pretty active for a guy my age, but I have to say, the older I’m getting, the more nostalgic I’m getting. I’m in Vancouver right now and I’m from Seattle originally. I’ve only spent very short, brief spurts of time up here growing up because it wasn’t the burgeoning city that it is now, but being up here now for this length of time… four months for this season… I really have evolved this strong connection to my past and the Pacific Northwest. I find myself sitting on the deck of the house that we’re renting… and we have this beautiful view through the woods to the ocean… and my wife must have heard me say this a thousand times, “My God, it’s beautiful.” I could stare at this all night long. If this was 20 years ago, I would have been bored out of my mind, but now I look at it and go, “A lot of this is going away.” A lot of the green is going away. A lot of the trees. We’re losing a lot of this. There’s a lot of buildings going up in Vancouver right now. Everywhere you look there’s a crane or there’s a house being built or torn down.

I can’t seem to, within my soul, move forward into the future. Part of me wants to hang onto the past and not leave it behind because I have such great affinity with where I grew up and how I grew up.

Beyond” airs on Freeform. Season 2 is currently filming. A premiere date has not yet been announced.

Season 5 of “Ray Donovan” premieres on Showtime August 6.

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