Actress Serinda Swan plays a not-so-innocent superhero in the upcoming series,
THE MARVEL TELEVISION SERIES filmed on O‘ahu and debuting in IMAX theaters Sept. 1 and on ABC this fall. While transforming into her new role as a Marvel superhero, the British Columbia-born star was still playing Dwayne Johnson’s love interest on HBO’s Ballers, and just finished working opposite Jessica Lange on FX’s new show Feud: Bette and Joan.
She still remembers getting that life-changing call from Jeph Loeb, Marvel head of television and executive producer. “He said, ‘Serinda, welcome to Marvel,’ and I just started crying—I was so excited,” she recalls. “I fell to the floor, I’m very dramatic.”
“There’s something about being in the Marvel world that is so special, and it’s something I always wanted. I always wanted to play a superhero.”
Add that filming was in Hawai‘i, and it became an extra-special project for Swan, who lived on Kaua‘i with her family during her early teens, and attended Kula High and Intermediate School.
“It was an incredible experience,” she says, noting her family lived on Kaua‘i on and off for about seven years. “I got to love the island, the spirit, the people and the culture.
“I’m really connected with it, so it was really important for me that when I came here [to shoot Marvel’s Inhumans earlier this year] that I tried to do everything as local as I possibly could.”
Instead of staying at a hotel in Waikiki, she rented an apartment in Diamond Head, where she could walk to Da Cove Health Bar & Cafe for her favorite acai bowl. She shopped at neighborhood stores, supported local brands, and let out her kama‘aina vibe. Despite a hectic film schedule, she made every effort to make this interview and photo shoot with HILuxury because connecting with local press was important to her
“Hawai‘i has always been a place that I wanted to come back to,” she says. “When I got to guest star on Hawaii Five-0 five years ago, I thought I was the luckiest person in the world. And then when they told me we’re shooting in Hawai‘i [ for Marvel’s Inhumans], I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is the best job in the world.’”
Created by comic book legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Marvel’s iconic Medusa character was introduced in Fantastic Four in 1965. She belongs to the Marvel’s Inhumans, a race of superhumans with diverse powers—Medusa’s is her luxurious prehensile hair that can be used as both shield and weapon. She also is a member of the royal family, serving as queen of Attilan, and is the interpreter for the mute Black Bolt, ruler of the Inhumans.
“One of the things I love about Medusa is how strong she is and being the person who speaks for Black Bolt,” notes Swan. “Together, they built this relationship and incredible language, and they strengthen each other.”
“This is an absolute dream to play. I’m having so much fun and I love it. I’ve always been a fan of comic books and superheroes in general. When I was younger, I was a total tomboy. As far as I can remember, my favorite was Catwoman. Now, it’s Medusa because I’m playing her.”
In real life, Swan has some impressive tricks herself. She was a gymnast for about a decade, and can still break out a back flip or spring. She also loves to surf, although a clause in her contract prevented her from getting in the water much during filming. And while she can’t share too much about the show until it airs, she’s surely grateful for the opportunity.
“My mom was an actress, and I did a few small things when I was younger
because of her, but I never got back into acting until nine years ago,” explains Swan, whose previous jobs include working at a restaurant and clothing store, and as a nanny and jewelry designer. “It’s not that easy to get into, and at a young age, I got a little scarred by it, so it took me awhile to get the courage to get back into the industry.”
Then, when she was about 22, she decided to go for it, and within the first year booked a show in Toronto. Since then, it’s been a steady flow of work ranging from small guest roles to regular appearances and starring cast member standings. She portrayed Erica Reed on A&E’s Breakout Kings, had a recurring role on Chicago Fire, and played DEA agent Paige Arkin on Graceland.
“I just kept going until I found a job that they said yes, and once they said yes, I just kept pushing for more jobs,” says Swan. “This is what I was working for. Ten years and someone finally said yes, and finally somebody took a chance on me, and it’s Marvel and IMAX and Jeph Loeb.”
“In an industry of no, I had huge networks, huge creators, huge celebrities all come together and said, ‘We’re going to make this happen for her.’ I’m so humbled by their generosity, and for working so hard to give me this opportunity.”
Among those “huge” celebrities to have her back was Hawai‘i’s own Dwayne Johnson since filming for his show, Ballers, overlapped with filming for Marvel’s Inhumans.
“I told him about being up for the role of Medusa and trying to figure it all out, and he was like, ‘Where’s the shoot?’ I said Hawai‘i, and he was, like, ‘Oh, you have to get that,’” says Swan. “He’s probably the biggest movie star in the world right now and he made me feel included right away. We have so many things in common—we both have French Bulldogs and we both have Hawai‘i connections. And we had a blast shooting.”
Marvel’s Inhumans wrapped filming in June, and Swan is already onto a few other projects, but couldn’t break the news or share the excitement just yet. Even Marvel’s Inhumans is still a “hushhush” topic, and she was somewhat in hiding from the public during filming.
At least fans finally got to see her on the third season of Ballers, which premiered in July, and she also continues to be active with numerous charities. She also co-founded a company called Deedly, which will soon be launching an educational app designed to help children round out their views of the world.
“We started it a year ago, and it’s been incredible,” says Swan. “It’s launching in September, and it’ll be a way to teach kids the important issues that are happening in the world without putting more strain on our school system.”
Swan also is involved in multiple awareness campaigns, including ending sex trafficking. She cycled across Cambodia and went skydiving at 18,000 feet to raise money for charities in Nepal, India and Cambodia.
“We’ve been hitting the ground hard trying to bring awareness on the fact that it’s the second-largest criminal enterprise in the world and 1.2 million women and children are sold into it every year,” says Swan. “We have a war on drugs, but there’s also a war on the female body that we’re not acknowledging. It’s really difficult, and it’s something I felt—that as a Canadian, I won a geographical lottery at birth.”
“I met a girl in Cambodia and listened to her story and realized that everything I was born with, that I took as a right, to her was a privilege—the right to be educated, the right to be safe, the right to say ‘no.’ A lot has to do with female equality and female rights, but it’s not just a female issue. Young boys are being trafficked as well.”
Swan also is a founding ambassador for the international nonprofit organization, Friends to Mankind, and is involved with various environmental organizations, including an anti-malaria campaign and efforts to address extinction rates and water crisis. She believes education, especially educating children, is one solution to these issues.
“Acting is what I love, and I don’t want to stop doing it, but how do I use it to help other people?” she questioned “By using my platform, my voice and the light that gets shined on you as a celebrity, and reflect that light into the area of the world that is in darkness, that people don’t know about.”
“I want to make a difference, and I feel like there’s responsibility that comes with some sort of influence you get through this industry—that it’s your responsibility to make sure you give back.”
While she may not have the muscle strength to save the world, she has the heart—and that’s the most important power of any superhero. “I think it was instilled in me at a young age from my parents, and being born in Canada,” says Swan of her desire to help others. “Also, throughout my life I’ve seen things that have opened my heart in ways that I can’t look the other way.”
When she’s not working or saving the world, Swan, who lives in Los Angeles, enjoys being with her dog, Buddha. “I go hiking with my dog and take him on road trips,” she says. “Also, being able to pick up and go, and explore the world is one of my favorite things to do. While I was in Hawai‘i, I was doing a lot of hikes and exploring on the island.”
She also enjoys doing things that are creative, such as paint and tie-dye, and started a shoe line because she couldn’t find a sandal she liked. “I bought everything and sewed it to an existing sandal, and it kind of went from there,” she explains.
So, is there anything that gets on her nerves? Mismatched socks.
“I don’t know why, but if I’m at an airport and I know I have mismatched socks on, I would rather take my socks off than have people see me with mismatched socks,” she confesses. “I can’t handle it.”
“That and not holding the door for people. I really don’t get that. I think it’s such a lovely way to connect with a human and a beautiful gesture of ‘I’ll take care of you and you take care of me.'”