Ian Verdun: In-Depth Views, “Siren” and “Drag”

Words + Interview By: Krystal Luster

A man of many words, Ian Verdun gets deep on a range of topics that are sure to spark the interests of anyone willing to go beyond the surface. Find out more about this talented actor, writer and gamer in this all inclusive interview!

What is life like in LA and how long have you been there?
I love life in LA, though as a native I’m pretty biased. I’ve been in the Southern California area pretty much my whole life, though I moved around a lot. We weren’t rich and we got our fair share of eviction notices. I’ve also lived in Texas, New York and even England while I was studying theater. But, “La La Land” is home. I really couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

What was your nickname as a kid? Does anyone still refer to you by that name?
I didn’t have any nicknames as a kid, but in college everyone called me “Mickey” because my middle name is McShane. If you ever hear anyone calling me by that name, they probably know me from my college days.

In your adolescent years, were you the teaser or the teased?
I was never a bully as a kid. I was quite the opposite. I never could tolerate bullying and in fact, the only fight I remember having was because I was being bullied. Kids would try to intimidate me all the time. I was an artsy kid and I suppose they thought I’d be an easy target. They were wrong, of course. I always had a sense of standing my ground and not allowing myself to be defined by anyone’s terms other than my own. I had also been on the football team since I was 7 and wasn’t opposed to throwing a punch (in defense) if one came my way. Kids eventually learned not to pick on me. I was more trouble than it was worth.

What are your thoughts on bullying? Do you think it is kids “just having fun” or something more severe?
Now, I’m not a behavioral psychologist or anything but it seems to me that most bullying (at varying ages) stems from some deep insecurity that spurns you to preemptively deflect negative attention by singling out seemingly weaker targets. It seems to be endemic of human behavior. It’s not like it’s a new phenomenon.

What has made things worse in recent years is the rise of social media and the tools available to facilitate bullying. Harassment is something that now extends beyond school walls and intimate circles. It follows you everywhere through your internet presence. I think as always, it’s important to teach kids to stand up to bullies, stand their ground and know thyself. I’m also an advocate for making verification mandatory for all users of social media, not just celebrities and other media or political elite.

I’m a staunch supporter of free speech, even if I find what you’re saying wholly repugnant, but I think that people need to be held accountable for their words. Just as much as I would if I was spouting off at the mouth in the middle of Times Square, I’d be held immediately accountable for my statements. This whole age of anonymous internet bullying needs to end. It’s having real world, geopolitical repercussions now. I’m not claiming by any means that that alone will end bullying in society, but it can at least help steer our public discourse back toward some semblance of civility. People will think twice about what they say publicly when everyone can see who you are. Say what you will, just be prepared to deal with the repercussions of what you’ve said.

What about acting sparked your interests?
I’ve been interested in the arts for as long as I can remember; drawing, dancing, singing, writing, etc. You name it and I was into it. I started getting into school plays in junior high and just fell in love with the craft. From then on, I got involved in every school musical and theater class I could, all while balancing time on the football field. My whole adolescence was basically the first few seasons of, “Glee”. From there, I went into theater training at college and took extra courses in New York and Oxford before starting the uphill climb to turn it all into a real career. But, I guess what I loved about the theater initially was the emotional freedom. Society comes down harshly on men when we exhibit any emotion outside of anger and a reserved, manly, slightly contented happiness. The theater afforded me a place to fully embrace the tapestry of human emotion without society’s knee jerk reaction of telling you to bottle it up and be a man. Of course, there’s the performative aspect, which I really do love as well, but I really enjoy mining the human experience so far as I know it at the age of 32. The beauty about the art, any art, is your expression of it changes and evolves as you grow. I’ll be discovering characters and emotions long into my older years, should I be so blessed. To me that’s an exciting prospect for a lifelong career.

Tell us about Freeform’s SciFi thriller, “Siren”.
Certainly! Siren is a story about what happens to a town known for it’s legend of once being a home to mermaids, when mermaids actually start showing up. Whose known that the legends were true? Who reacts violently? What are humans’ intentions? Do they pose a threat? It’s just a fun, dark way to look at the mythology and it’s so cool to see people so surprised by it. People weren’t expecting to like it as much as they do, which is fantastic!

Your character, Xander McClure is a regular, correct?
Oh yeah, he is. Xander gets swept up pretty heavily in all the mer-madness.

Did you contribute to any of the writing or production in “Siren”? If not, is that a possibility?
I don’t, haha. We have a pretty awesome creator, show-runner and writer’s room and they haven’t let us down yet but they’re always open to ideas we have about our characters, which is awesome. As for me writing on the show, I’ve never asked about it but writing on a deadline in a writer’s room is a very different thing from writing whenever I’m creatively inspired to do so with no restrictions or advertisers to consider. It’s kind of intimidating to be honest.

Are you currently writing or producing anything?
I am! I’m actually working on new pilot that I’ve been developing for years. As well as ramping things back up for my web series.

Tell us about your self-written show, “Life’s a Drag”.
That’s the web series I was just talking about! “Life’s a Drag” is my baby. It’s the story of an actor in LA who is having the crappiest day, only to find out he’s getting evicted as well. His makeup artist girlfriend and their costume designer neighbor hatch a plan to enter him into an amateur drag competition for a cash prize and it turns out he’s great at it and might have a little taste for the “Drag Life”. It’s a fun story with some really poignant moments. I’ve already written the whole first season. We just have to get more funding to finish! We already got some great traction in the festival world and have won some awards, but now it’s about taking the next step. If anyone wants to check it out it’s on YouTube for all to see.

How did you come up with the concept?
I wrote the pilot in 3 days after having the worst year of my life up to that point. I had always been a fan of Drag (RuPaul’s Drag Race is my jam) but had never done it myself and I thought it would be a fun way to take this moment I was having and to write something cathartic while poking fun at myself. It really started out as something therapeutic, but when I sent the script to a friend of mine, (actor and creator Sebastian La Cause) he offered to direct, shoot and edit. It really took on a life of its own.

Do you enjoy writing/producing your own work over acting in the work of someone else? Which is more challenging?
I love doing both, actually. They just allow me to access different parts of my creativity. When you’re playing a role, you’re really giving flesh to a character that was born in someone else’s imagination but it becomes an intimate part of you. You become a part of a vision by adding your own talents to a world you’re creating. It’s electric and so much fun. Meanwhile, creating a world and watching it all come together as other artists start to give something that was in your head life is absolutely indescribable. It’s all at once exhilarating, terrifying and humbling. They both have their challenges, but it’s definitely more exhausting juggling all the hats of a creator and producer. As an actor, I may have some long days and some challenging scenes but once we’re done shooting I go home and rest. There’s nothing quite as daunting as making something yourself and seeing it through, which is what makes it so rewarding in the end. I plan to work both sides of it for my whole career.

Were you ever interested in pursuing another career?
When I was a little kid, I really wanted to be a comic book artist and writer. I would pour over comics and trading cards and I was a huge fan of Marvel and Top Cow, specifically anything by Michael Turner (who was a penciller and comic creator who died in 2008). I was dead-set on going into comics before the acting bug got me.

So, you’d definitely choose Marvel over DC?
Yes. Marvel, easy. All of my favorite characters growing up were Marvel, and though both stem from a time that was more monochromatic as far as representation goes, Marvel properties (like X-Men specifically) have always had more diversity in terms of race, nationality and gender. The world felt large and complex. Good and evil were less clearly defined and it looked at how characters intentions were often at odds with their actions. There was tons of moral gray which made for great story arcs. They’ve really pushed the envelope over the decades with challenging themes of power dynamics, human nature, racism and tribalism all within an action packed narrative that includes every nation and creed on earth. What’s not to love?

What did you think about “Black Panther”?
I actually had the chance to go to the premiere! I took my brother who flew up from Texas to see it with me. It was the first time he’d ever been to anything like that. The energy of the night was electric even before we had the chance to see the film.  You could tell that everyone just knew it was a special moment. I loved the film, what it represented, what it accomplished, the doors it opened and the Hollywood conventions that it shattered, which is all aside from the fact that it was well written, acted, shot, directed and produced movie. I’ll definitely be buying the Blu-ray.

How do you spend your downtime?
I’m a huge nerd so I’m big on video games. I will spend whole weekends absolutely engrossed in a good game. I was just glued to the TV playing “God of War” for a solid three days. Other than that, books, drawing, writing, hiking and beach days. I’m pretty easily entertained.

What is something that makes you smile uncontrollably?
Utterly inappropriate jokes.

Who influences you to be better?
My family, hands down.

What goals have you set for yourself to complete by the end of 2018?</b
Shooting the second season of “Siren” is pretty high on the list. I also want to finish and sell the pilot I’m working on now, plus continue my work on “Life’s a Drag”, and I’ve never done a movie before and that’s definitely something I want to check off the bucket list this year!

Any last words?
“If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen up in here?” Thanks, RuPaul.

Follow Ian Verdun on Instagram and Twitter @IanVerdun.

Photo By: Bobby Quillard

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