Ian Verdun is a fisherman. Well, maybe not literally but he plays one in his new show Siren. A role that he feels could serve as his big break into the acting world. The thing about Ian is, he’s not going to wait around for it to come to him. He creates his own destiny. He writes and produces his own material. Content that speaks to him and drives narratives that he truly supports. Ian chooses to be the change that he wants to see in the world.
Verdun joined us for the afternoon and while we couldn’t get him to dress up like a mermaid, we did get some fantastic photos and got to hear all about him, his career and what we can expect from him in the future.
Where are you from?
Ian : I’m a unicorn because I’m from Los Angeles California. A born and raised native.
What’s the farthest you’ve ever been from home?
Ian : I studied in England. I was in Oxford for a bit of the summer when I was 18, many moons ago. I had wonderful teachers that still act and train. I really am very lucky, Alan Rickman who passed a few years ago was one of our teachers.
If you could call up anyone in the world and have a one hour conversation, who would you call?
Ian : Barack Obama, definitely. I would gladly call that man up and talk for an hour about what his experience was and what his particular opinions are about our current state of affairs.
What was the last gift you gave someone?
Ian : I gave my mother and my brother a curling wand. They were given to us for free and I was never going to use them. I also gave my brother a Google chromecast which was free as well. He didn’t know what it was.
What are your favorite three apps on your phone?
Ian : Instagram is high up there. Instagram, Facebook and I actually have Final Draft on my phone. That is one of my favorite apps. If you see me typing away and think I’m texting and being rude, I’m actually writing something. Seriously creative stuff, I’m not being rude.
If I gave you a million dollars to do something charitable what would you do?
Ian : That is an awesome question. Being a California native, it would have something to do with housing, bringing rental costs down and fixing the major homelessness problem we have in Los Angeles. It’s a big problem that we have in the city. We drive by human misery all the time. There’s so much money in this state. It’s unacceptable that it’s such a big problem.
If you can only eat three foods for the rest of your life what would they be?
Ian : There’s got to be some sweets. Cheesecake, that’s my jam. My mom’s gumbo, and tomatoes. It’s really weird but it’s been my favorite fruit since I was a child and I could eat them like apples.
What is something that’s popular now that you find annoying?
Ian : There are so many things that are popular right now that I find annoying. I’m really a terribly opinionated person. No shade at anybody but I find the Kardashians horribly annoying. Everything about the entire empire is so irritating, but that’s not going to affect their bank accounts, they’re working.
What led you into acting?
Ian : What got me into acting was a smaller play I did in junior high school. I was in Junior high school in 1998. We did a theatrical version of Disney’s Mulan and I got cast in the worst role, it was not the one I wanted. I hated the character but I just loved the stage. I went into high school the next year and I just started doing every musical that was available. I worked my way up to the leads. Every year I worked my way up. I wanted to go to CalArts. That was the school I decided on. It was the only one I applied to. I went there, I studied and worked hard.
If you could have hand picked a Disney character to play, which would you pick?
Ian : I wish there was some real ones or extra black ones to go around, that’d be nice. Maybe Hercules. That’s a strong serious character and I remember loving that movie. I remember singing along to that song. I can go the distance. Loved it.
What did it take to transition an education in acting into a career?
Ian : Lots of hard work, abject poverty, debt and an amazing level of stubbornness. Up until a couple of years ago I could count how many auditions I’d get each year on one hand. I always had to make an audition count. I just stopped caring about auditioning and I started creating my own stuff.
I’ve always known this is what I wanted to do, put all of my energy into this, my entire life. There was no plan B. I don’t care how long it takes. I could be 58 years old when I make it and I’d be just as happy and thankful. Whatever I had to go through to actually professionally make a living off of this, it’s worth it. To be one of those people who inspires others the same way I was inspired by people watching things as a kid.
If you could choose one actor past or present to share the screen with, who would it be?
Ian : Derek Jacobi maybe, Paul Newman. I know you said one but my mind just fires up. Gregory Peck. Judi Dench, Meryl, of course. And my contemporaries like Michelle Williams or Chadwick Boseman.
What would you say was your big break moment?
Ian : That would be Siren. This job right now is the one where everything comes together. Who knows what the future holds but this one, just from the work and the energy put in is going to, at the very least, put me in a position where people are going to be seeing what I can do. It’s all about Siren which is of course about Mermaids. Have you met me? Of course, it’s Mermaids.
Can you tell me how the part came to be for you?
Ian : It wasn’t offered the role, I auditioned. My agent had seen the breakdowns and was watching the role and tracking it for me even though it wasn’t written for anybody like me. In the script the character is blonde and burly. I was like, “This character’s amazing, this is a really beautiful character.” I remember getting the call for the audition right around my birthday. We happened to be on an island kayaking that day when I got all the information. The auditioning process involves a terrible, gross story.
Can you tell us the story?
Ian : [laughs] Okay, I had the first audition and I got called back which was great. My agents were like, “They’re being too nice, they’re being really, really nice, something’s up.” I was like, “Okay, whatever.” I go in and I remember right before I was supposed to go in front of the director, show runner and the casting director I had to go to the bathroom so bad. I couldn’t hold it. I went to the restroom, it was number two. It was the worst like an atom bomb. I got out and didn’t think anybody was there and then as I was leaving I noticed somebody was there at the sink.
I was like, “Crap, somebody is smelling my shame right now.” I was just trying to sneak out of the bathroom. I get into the audition room and, of course, the director was the person from the bathroom. Now I’m in the audition room thinking, “I know Scott just heard me blowing up the bathroom and, of course, I’m auditioning for him”, but I ended up getting it so it couldn’t have been that bad. [laughs] It was my saving grace.
If there was one thing you that could change about your industry what would it be?
Ian : There are many, many things that can most certainly change. Power dynamics as far as gender equity are changing right now but have been long entrenched and continue to need to be addressed. I’m so happy that I’m entering the industry during that moment because it’s something that I support and something that all of us have been aware of for a long time, even if we haven’t been a part of it.
I would love to change the diversity conversation from being something as surfaced as we’ve gotten. People don’t really grasp that anyone that’s been oppressed or underrepresented by our media, whether they’re transgender, gay, black, Asian or any kind of minority don’t want to just be there for the sake of being there. We want to be a part of the story, a part of the process and a part of the narratives because it’s a reflection back to our society.
I’d love for people to have the conversation as if it wasn’t something flippant or petty or small, because it’s not. It’s really not a small thing especially with how influential media is. I hope that the doors keep opening and it eventually is not even a conversation. A state where you’re getting cast for a show because you are the best person for the job. Your color, your identity, whatever it is, the story will shape to you. I want writers, directors and producers all to be coming at it from that angle. We need more diversity and more representation across the industry because that’s how we get change.
Are there any particular ways that you know of for people outside the industry to get involved in that cause?
Ian : The best way is to support artists, films and television shows that actually care about representation. Industry leaders are going to think about it in terms of dollars and cents. That’s the voice that most people have, is to support the work that represents the world that they want to see.
You’re black, go see the Latino movies. You’re Latino, go see black movies. Support LGBT narratives. Support all of them even if you are not in that community because you’re going to get richer stories. Society will be richer because you’re opening people up to other perspectives and other ways of seeing the world.
You’re writing and producing your own content how do you promote these narratives?
Ian : I’m a big fan of casting the world I see around me. If I have the power to actually cast, I love seeing different shapes, sizes and ideas come together because the world just seems so much more authentic to me. The show that I’ve been working on for a couple of years just exists in what I think is a beautiful middle ground. It exists in that world where a male character is exploring sexuality and questioning sexuality and that’s such a huge cultural taboo. I’m actually pursuing those kinds of stories, it’s a good thing because you’re challenging something, you’re challenging someone.
Tell us about Life’s A Drag.
Ian : Yes. Absolutely. Life’s a Drag is a story about a guy who literally has the worst day of his life. He finds out that he’s about to get evicted from his house and he’s fired from his job. It’s just the worst. He is encouraged by his girlfriend and one of their mutual friends to participate in an Amateur Drag Competition. He does and it opens up for him a new avenue for making money. By entering that new world, he’s discovering new things about himself, about his own identity, about his own sexuality and about exactly what represents him. I think it’s an interesting breakdown of what masculinity is and why it exists. Also what femininity is and why it exists. They give him a crash course in drag as a performer. He ends up knocking it out of the park.
Where can we see it?
Ian : We shot the pilot, it’s done. So if you look it up on YouTube, Life’s A Drag, you can watch it there.
What other goals do you have for the future?
Ian : I want to be in front of and behind the camera. I want to be around the camera. I want to be hovering above the camera. I am such a fan of storytelling. I have my own stories that I want to tell and adapt.
I love acting and bringing to life somebody else’s vision. It becomes a part of you which is a beautiful process. It’s very collaborative. I absolutely love it. I’m not giving up acting for anything. But in order to access my full creativity, I need the opportunity also to be able to create those worlds, because there’s still things that I as audience member would like to see.
If you could go back to your younger self and give a piece of advice, what would it be?
Ian : My piece of advice for my 10-year-old self would be “Keep going, develop a strong sense of self, and a strong sense of purpose. Those two things will guide you through the roughest patches”.
Is there anything else that you would like to go OnRCRD?
Ian : In a time of intense of evil, unrest, division, hate, and negativity, we as individuals have the power to meet all of that ugliness with beauty, love, unity and competence. Any person who’s ever been called a minority, or called underrepresented or oppressed please realize that you’re not minorities. Not together. Together every minority is, in fact, the majority. Think as one, fight as one, love as one and we’ll have a better world.
To keep up with Ian Verdun follow @ianverdun
Photographer – Mario Barberio
Grooming – Kimberly Johnson
Wardrobe Stylist – Joi Salvador