Exclusive Interview with Siren’s Fola Evans-Akingbola

SIREN – “The Arrival” airs Thursday, Jan. 24 (8:00 – 9:01 P.M. EST) on Freeform. (Freeform/David Bukach)

As Maddie Bishop on Freeform’s Siren, Fola Evans-Akingbola plays a marine biologist with a caring heart, sharp instincts, and a generous spirit marred with distrust due to her absentee, addict mom. In season 2, set to start Thursday, Maddie will face a multitude of challenges. Not only are more mermaids coming ashore, but her estranged mother returns and her boyfriend is dealing with the worst earworm imaginable – he CAN NOT get Ryn’s song out of his head!

I got the chance to talk with Fola about the many changes ahead of Maddie. I also delivered those pressing fan questions about our favorite throuple, whether or not Maddie makes it into the water, and how her and Ryn’s relationship has changed since season 1.

I think you’ll enjoy the answers as much as I did as a fan – Fola is quite magical herself.

The first fan question I have for you is to please describe season two in three words.  

I’d say mermaids. Obvious, but there are more mermaids. History. Mermaids, history, and fights.

Maddie’s absentee mother is returning. What kind of challenge does this mean for Maddie? And is her arrival at the same as the mer-folk incredibly coincidental or suspect?

Well, I think definitely the arrival of Maddie’s mum throws a huge spanner in the works. I think at the end of season one Maddie’s already so off balance, as you would be with kind of realizing that mermaids exist and dealing with that, so she’s in already such a challenging and difficult circumstance in her life, but then her mother is a particularly sore spot for her. Their relationship is very difficult and very strained, and what I love about this season is, as much as we’re getting to explore mermaids and the dynamics between the mermaids and going into the mermaid world, what really grounds this season is that a lot of the characters, particularly Maddie, are dealing with very real family dynamics and drama, which I think we could all relate to. I’m looking forward to audiences seeing that. Then, in terms of the coincidental arrival, I don’t know. I can’t speak on that.

What do you think the sirens represent from a cultural standpoint?

Oh, I love that question. That was a great question. I think that mermaids represent a lot of things. Most have always been navigational charts for how we should live and move forward. The mermaid mythology is so universal. It’s present in so many different cultures. I think that they represent, to me, both the power and the beauty of nature. You’ve got this voice of the sea, but speaking more currently, I think mermaids represent the fierceness of women and our inner spirit, because mermaids can be misunderstood, they can be feared and then they’re lusted after. People try to control them, and certainly, in our show with the mermaids being such strong creatures of the deep, I think the show is trying to make a commentary on don’t underestimate the mermaids, but also don’t underestimate women and the power that is within us.

I love that, what a great answer. Okay, another fan question – Are the mermaids on Siren able to survive in freshwater as well as salt? @will_palow

No, I think it’s only saltwater because if I recall in season one Ryn falls into the pool at a house party. Now I know the pool has chlorine in it so maybe she doesn’t mean this or he doesn’t mean this, but Ryn doesn’t transform in that episode. And Maddie asks Ryn, “Why didn’t you transform when you fell into the water?” And Ryn says, “It’s not my water.” So, I think it’s only the ocean water. I think it wouldn’t be fresh water. Or any other kind of water.

We know Ben will battle addiction this season in regards to Ryn’s siren song. What will that mean for Maddie as his girlfriend and somebody trying to aid him through that difficult time?

I think Ben’s addiction is particularly difficult for Maddie because of her history with her mother. Maddie’s mother has a history of drug addiction, which you’re going to learn lots more about in this season. Ben struggling with his addiction is bringing back a lot of difficulty for Maddie because she’s tried so hard throughout her childhood and teenage years to stay away from that dynamic. Yet she loves him so much and so she’s gets quite sucked into it. I think what we see with Maddie, as to what continued with this season, is that sometimes to her own detriment, in spite of herself, she’s so caring and puts other peoples needs first. This season she’s definitely having to be tested about what’s worth holding together and what’s worth fighting for. How much is too much? How patient is too patient? I can’t tell you what happens, but those are things that she’s having to struggle with and deal with.

Another thing that’s been widely reported for this upcoming season is that you are going to delve into polyamory. What misconceptions do you feel people will leave behind upon seeing that kind of relationship represented?

I hope people leave behind an idea that it’s kind of something that’s just super kinky.

Right, that’s it’s a deviant type of thing.

Yes, exactly. That it’s just about like “Oh, lucky Ben, getting to sleep with two ladies.” It’s not about that. I think that for Ben, Maddie and Ryn, they’ve had such difficult and challenging circumstances together and through that their bond deepened, and only they know what they’ve all been through. There’s no going back. Ryn has changed both of their lives forever. The isolation of that experience, when you go through something that’s so difficult or shocking, people can be there for you but no one really understands. But those three all understand each other because they’ve been there for each other. I think the polyamory for them, it’s so much more about their bond and their relationship. I hope people don’t take from it like, “Oh, kinky.” That’s what I don’t want people to take from it. But audience members will take what they want, and that’s the beauty of art. You just put it out and see what people feel. But I hope that’s the misconception that goes away. Although having said that, I’m sure there are people in the world that can enjoy the kink and good for them. I don’t know, it’s like I’m trying to answer in the most Disney way.

I know people are very excited about the trio. In fact, that brings me to my next fan question. People want to know what the ship name is for the throuple? 

Oh, we were literally talking about that today. Me and Eline were on-set trying to work out what the combination of names would be. Maybe like… Brydie? Or B-r-y … it’s hard to add the Maddie bit into it. It’s like … Brydie, maybe? Yeah, I don’t know. But I trust the fans will come up with something ten times better than I could possibly think of. (This writer would like to suggest Bryndie in order to get the entirety of Ryn in the middle.)

SIREN – “The Arrival” –  (Freeform/David Bukach) FOLA EVANS-AKINGBOLA

The next fan question is: how has Maddie and Ryn’s relationship changed since season one? @miightymorphin

I think season one, Maddie had to really earn Ryn’s respect. Ryn was sussing Maddie out. She threw her across the room and all these different things. But now, I think in this season, as much as mermaids are learning from humans, I think Maddie is learning from Ryn. I think Maddie sees that Ryn is fully inhabiting her strengths. Ryn is fully able to step into her power and her position as a leader of the mermaids. And Maddie is consciously or subconsciously learning from Ryn about what it means to be unapologetically yourself and to just stand in your power. I think Maddie’s on that journey. I don’t think she gets there to that kind of strength that Ryn has, she has a different kind of strength. I think Maddie’s watching Ryn and going “Oh, wow. Look at how she is. How she’s being.” I’m really interested in, as much as there’s a love connection between them, there’s sort of a female friendship aspect to it. Maddie really admires Ryn, I think, this season. That’s been fun to play out.

The next fan question is: did you get a chance to get in the water in season two? 

Yes, we did have, and I think we’re going to have, some more tank days coming up, some more water days. But we had lots of water days. I can’t tell you exactly what happens, of course, but it’s been super fun. We’ve continued our scuba diving training, and me and then Alex have both done more free-diving training. I know that some mermaids have also been doing free-diving training. We definitely get to see more underwater worlds, so I think people will be really happy about that.

And you specifically get to go into the water?

Yes, yes, I have. I am in the water, Maddie is in the water.

Yay, I’m so excited.

Yeah, I know. So fun.

The next fan question is will we get to see more about the Haida culture? 

This season, not specifically. We don’t get to learn that much more about Haida culture this season. But I think it is very subtly there. There’s some interactions between characters where we do get to explore a little bit more of it. I recently learned that in Haida language, there’s no word for nature, which I love because they believe that the natural is inseparable from the human world, the end world, and the supernatural world. That everything is one. I think actually, to your previous question about what mermaids represent, other than what I said about the women, on the wider note I think mermaids represent that they dance in both worlds. Mermaids, they have the ocean world, they’re supernatural, and yet, they’re human, they transform. I think they represent that universal being.

If you could be any paranormal creature, what would it be and why?

Yeah, I would definitely be a fairy. I think fairies are just the cutest, coolest things ever. Getting to fly around but also be a bit mischievous and do your little spells. It would be great.

Lastly, we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us, because we all have an inner-nerd. What is something you nerd out about?

Disney movies. Honestly, Disney movies, I love Mulan, Hercules. I know all the words to all the Disney films from when I was younger and I obsess over them.

That’s awesome. Which one is your favorite?

Mulan, definitely. I’m really upset that I, of course, couldn’t be in the Mulan film because I’m not Chinese. But if there was an alternate universe in which I was Chinese, and could be in the Mulan film, I would definitely want that.

Season 2 of Siren premieres January 24th.  Be sure to follow Fola on Instagram! And if you missed our interview with Siren‘s Tammy Gillis make sure to check it out

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