Hannah Levien: The Siren Call of Vancouver

April 20, 2018
Australian actress Hannah Levien tells about her role in the new YA supernatural drama, Siren, the life of a working actor, and making a home herself in Canada's main screen production hub.

Tell us about Siren.

Essentially, it’s a new show on Freeform, which is ABC Family in North America, kind of aimed at late teens/early 20s. They’ve got a lot more edgy programming – there’s definitely a quite diverse variety of shows on there now. This is like a dark mermaid kind of show. I say it’s like taking the mythology of mermaids and sirens and putting them in a modern day context. It’s set in a small seaside town in North America, in the Pacific Northwest, and this town is known for its mermaid history and things that have happened with mermaids coming into the community and creating havoc, and that’s basically what happens in this modern context.

Between this, and The Shape of Water, and Netflix’s Tidelands currently in production, there’s something in the water…

I have heard that, yeah. There’s been a bit of chatter about how vampires have been done and now we have mermaids. I certainly was aware of shows like H20 but I personally didn’t know a darker one. I think what they’re doing is great, the cast is awesome, they’ve done a really good job with the design, and so I’m excited to see it. It seems to be creating a bit of buzz in the fan culture, which is really good, so hopefully the show will do really well.

Tell us about your character.

I play the role of Janine. She is the girlfriend of one of the main fisherman characters. My character is a friend of one of the main lead characters and she basically gets involved in the drama and it just sort of goes from there. But I can say she’s sort of a fun and sassy kind of character.

You’ve been in a number of genre shows – Supernatural, The Magicians, Colony. Is that something you seek out, or is it what’s currently prominent?

I think that genre’s been big for a while, but there’s so much being produced in TV right now that every genre has far more in it than it probably ever did. I don’t know statistically how many shows have been made in the history of television, but now that there’s less being made for cinematic release, there seems to be more happening with television. There’s just more shows in general and sci-fi certainly seems to be popular.

I’m based between Vancouver and Los Angeles and there’s certainly a lot of sci-fi that gets shot in Vancouver, so that probably also lends to it as well. And once you’ve done one show I’m sure it does influence how you get cast in another. I’ve been in a show called The Magicians which is again another magical kind of show, and it starts to kind of blend together!

What prompted your move to Vancouver?

I was living in LA and I began to spend some time up here filming. I love LA but the work/life balance seemed much better here in Vancouver. I’m also interested in creating some of my own content – I went to film school in Australia after drama school. I just kind of felt I would be more able to do that in a city like Vancouver where I’m not so… LA’s such a hustle all the time. I miss that sometimes about it, but now that I continue to work in Vancouver so it’s kind of hard to leave now.

It’s been great. The industry up here, it’s largely American content being shot here, so it’s not that dissimilar to living in the US. And it’s been really great for me as an independent filmmaker – I’ve been able to tap into all the resources of that industry here.

Is there a large Australian acting expat community there?

Yeah, there are more and more coming all the time. I certainly knew more of them in LA, but that could be changing. Obviously immigration-wise it’s probably easier to be in Canada. I’ve always said that you should go where you’re gonna be the happiest and hopefully success will flow from there. But certainly, in Toronto and Vancouver there’s a lot of productions being shot here, but then I hear New York is going crazy – there’s a lot of production happening there as well. And Atlanta has the most production shooting of any city in North America. So there are other cities to live in beyond LA. I think a lot of Australians really like LA because it’s so sunny and it reminds me a lot of Sydney and our East Coast cities, so I love that about it. I certainly don’t love the rain in Vancouver, but I do like being closer to mountains and skiing – you can have a great life in Vancouver.

What else have you got coming up?

Hopefully we’re doing another season of Siren. I’m also waiting to hear about The Magicians – I was in Season 1 of that and came back in Season 3, so hopefully something will happen there. I have a few other shows coming up: I’m in a series called Colony, I’m working on Season 3 of that, and it’s a sci-fi show again, but more post-apocalyptic. It has Josh Holloway from Lost and Sarah Callies from The Walking Dead. It’s a really wonderful cast on that show. Then I’m doing something in UnReal Season 4, and that’s got a little while before it comes out.

Then it’s back to the audition circuit again. I’m jumping from show to show, so I’m an auditioning actor – that’s kind of my job, which is awesome. And I’m really working hard on creating my own film now, which has been a big focus for me, so that’s exciting.

That’s something a lot of actors don’t talk about – the audition grind. 

Well, it’s pretty intense in the sense that you get very little notice about auditions – for example, while I was chatting to you I saw an email from my agent come up for one, and I haven’t looked at it yet, but I assume it’s for tomorrow, and it’s just after 3pm now. It’s a lot to balance but I think most actors adjust – if you stay in it long enough you adjust to the fact that this is your life, and your job is to audition, and you hopefully become a pretty good auditioner. It’s like being an athlete and continually trialing for a team. You go, you do your thing, and then you find out if you’re in or not. I’m always grateful to get auditions because any actor will tell you there’s nothing worse than not getting auditions. It’s like sitting on the bleachers!

 

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