Meet Astrid Berg่s-Frisbey, Syrena the Mermaid in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your character and how she fits into the story?
A: My character is a mermaid and she spends a long time with the pirates because they need her. And she has a special relationship with Philip, who is played by Sam Claflin. I’d say she’s very interesting because she is a mix between a creature and a human.
Q: How did you get the role?
A: I did the first audition in Paris. One day my agent called me and said, “They want you to audition for ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’!” And I said, “Are you serious?”. I was really nervous. I went to the audition thinking, “Well, I just don’t want to be ridiculous because of my English.” But I guess it was okay because three or four days after the first one they asked me to go to L.A. Rob Marshall [director] and Jerry Bruckheimer [producer] and everybody was there. And then I did a third audition here [London] with guys they were seeing for the part of Philip and I knew I had gotten the part the night before. I was really surprised and excited but I could not really enjoy the excitement because the next morning was the audition for the guys. So I went straight to bed to focus on it because I wanted to give my best for them.
A few days after that I was starting work on another film—I was playing the lead —and so I had to focus on that. And it wasn’t until I was on my way to Hawaii to start on “Pirates” that it really sank in and I suddenly realized what it means to be a part of a movie like “Pirates of the Caribbean.” It’s unbelievable and I still can’t believe it!
Q: You’re playing a mermaid, so presumably that means you spend a lot of the time in the water?
A: Yes, most of the time.
Q: So do you have a mermaid tail?
A: I don’t really have a physical tail because it’s going to be CGI. So I have a special costume—a CGI costume—and it changes depending on what I have to do. It depends on whether I’m completely in the water or only half in the water.
Q: Are you a good swimmer?
A: Quite good, I think.
Q: Do you have any scenes underwater and did you have to have special training for that?
A: Not really, because the interesting thing is that it’s not a typical mermaid—or at least not the kind of mermaid that people have seen in other movies. It’s not a pretty girl with a tail. It’s more of a kind of fantastic creature and when you see the mermaids swimming, it’s completely a CGI world used to create these movements. It’s more like when fish are swimming rather than humans.
Q: Can the mermaids talk in the movie?
A: Yes, the mermaids talk. And sometimes we take human form. We’re something very mysterious—the mermaids are special creatures, really magical. And they can be quite dangerous too. Sometimes they are more like monsters.
Q: Which of the actors do you share most of your scenes with?
A: I do a lot with Sam Claflin. I also have some scenes with Johnny Depp and Ian McShane and Penélope Cruz.
Q: What was it like when you met Johnny Depp for the first time?
A: I remember when I came to Pinewood for an audition and I saw the costume room. In there were all Johnny Depp’s costumes, all the wigs, everything. And it was “Wow! That’s Captain Jack Sparrow!” And Johnny keeps in character when he’s on set as Jack. I’ve seen lots of Johnny’s films and I’ve watched them since I was a teenager and so it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to work with him. When you first see the pirate ship—it’s incredible and very special. It’s a real ship! To have the pleasure to work with actors like Geoffrey Rush, Penélope Cruz, Stephen Graham or Ian McShane is great.
As a young actor you have so much to learn and so you watch the way that they work and try and soak it up. And you know, it’s unbelievable how much fun they have.
I remember the first time I went on the set, one of the things that surprised me was to see Kevin McNally [who plays the pirate Gibbs] and Johnny having so much fun, it was the first day of the show. They love their parts so much and they were clearly just so happy to be back together, to be acting these roles again.
I wasn’t expecting that excitement—but everybody was excited about the script. This script is wonderful; it’s amazing and everybody was really happy. They have taken their time to get the script and the story right and everybody can feel that. And that’s a very positive feeling to have on a film set—it kind of drives you on.
Q: How old were you when the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” film came out?
A: I was 15 or 16 and I went to the cinema to see it in Barcelona with my family. I loved it. It’s such great fun and Johnny, of course, is wonderful. I’ve seen all of the films. I’m from Barcelona but I live in Paris now.
Q: And when did you start acting?
A: I started working four years ago and I’ve been really lucky because it’s going well. I can’t believe how lucky I am. I’ve done really different movies from very small productions to this one—and you don’t get bigger movies than “Pirates of the Caribbean.” I also have the pleasure of acting in different languages. I’ve worked in French, two years ago I did a movie in Spanish and now English. That’s been a challenge because when I arrived on set, my English wasn’t so good, so I’ve had to learn more.
Q: Has that been hard?
A: Well, I don’t know, maybe because I knew a few languages it’s easier for me to pick it up. I think I have a good ear for language.
Q: What is your first language?
A: There are three of them! Because I speak with my mother in French, I speak with my father’s family in Catalan, and everybody in Spain speaks Spanish. So, it’s the same for me.
Q: And are you a fan of Penelope’s work?
A: She’s an incredible actress. I love how eclectic her career is.
-- Posted March 25, 2011