18 for 18 skydive
18 for 18 skydive
"I tend to do quite severe things. I don't know how else to say it," Serinda Swan muses when asked about her fervent support of charitable causes.
"Somebody's like, 'Do you care about this?' And I'm like, 'I do.' They'll be like, 'Well how are you going to help?' And my first thought is, 'Well I can jump out of an airplane … or cycle across Cambodia.'"
Born in Canada to an actress mother and theater-director father, Swan started her career at the young age of three, appearing in the film Cousins with Ted Danson and Isabella Rossellini.
Television roles followed in hit series such as Smallville, Supernatural, Breakout Kings, Graceland, Chicago Fire, Marvel's Inhumans, and Ballers, as well as roles in several films, including Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief and Tron: Legacy.
Currently Swan stars as Dr. Jenny Cooper in the character-driven drama Coroner, based on the series of novels by M.R. Hall. The show, already a hit with two seasons under its belt in Canada and the UK, aired for the first time for US audiences on August 5th on The CW network.
On Coroner, Swan's character finds her life completely changed after her husband, a gambling addict, dies from an aneurysm.
Her new job as a Toronto coroner who investigates suspicious and unusual deaths is challenging, as is dealing with her grieving son as well as coping with her clinical anxiety, but Dr. Cooper never fails to keep humanity at the forefront of her work.
Other actresses may have worked with medical specialists to practice the complicated terminology required for the role, which Swan did, of course, but she also took it a step further - more "severe," if you will - by insisting she attend a real autopsy.
Serinda Swan: Look, I think for me to be able to better understand not only the character, but to be able to really honor the process of an autopsy and being a pathologist, I need to go see one.
"I wasn't sure what my director or my producers were going to think. Like, was I off my rocker?" Swan laughs, "But I said, 'Look, I think for me to be able to better understand not only the character, but to be able to really honor the process of an autopsy and being a pathologist, I need to go see one.'"
Her wish was granted, and Swan credits the experience with helping her portray her character as being able to separate the human from the being, but honoring both, and remembering that the person whose death she is investigating is not just a body, but also a mother, or father, or brother, sister, or friend.
Swan also spent hours studying the mental illness from which her character on Coroner suffers. "She has panic attacks and anxiety, and she's medicated and currently in therapy," Swan explains. "I want to show how capable she is, but also how she is processing at the same time. I love that duality of showing that capability mixed with just chaos."
It's the empathy for others that Swan particularly enjoys in her character. "I love playing that part of her," Swan says, "but I also just have so much empathy for her as well, because I'm like, 'You go, girl! You're doing as well as you can. Keep going to therapy. Keep screaming it out. Be a weirdo. I got you. I got you, babe.'"
It's no wonder that Swan focuses on the empathetic traits of her character when empathy is one of the cornerstones of her own life. That trait has led to a true passion for activism.
After first hearing about the horrors of sex trafficking while working on a show, Swan grabbed a backpack, bought a plane ticket, and traveled through Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand to learn what was happening firsthand.
When she discovered one of the rescue agencies needed an $18,000 van to help transport trafficking victims safely, Swan fundraised the money by jumping 18,000 feet out of an airplane -- and having people sponsor her for a dollar per foot.
She has fought for indigenous rights in Canada, installed mosquito nets and visited refugee camps in Sudan, and is a fierce advocate for women's rights.
Swan is also the CEO and co-founder of Deedly, an educational technology company that provides teachers and students with a month-long curriculum - for free - that raises awareness about world issues, and then allows students to earn money to donate to non-profit charities.
Swan: I think there's a difference between a platform and a pedestal. A pedestal only has room for one, and the industry loves to put people on a pedestal. But for me, a platform has room for many.
Why does she do these things? "Well if I didn't, then what would I be contributing to the world?" Swan asks. "I think there's a difference between a platform and a pedestal. A pedestal only has room for one, and the industry loves to put people on a pedestal.
"But for me, a platform has room for many. It has room to be able to shine a light, or illuminate issues around the world or people around the world, or stories around the world. This can be a very narcissistic industry, so I feel very positive building the platform bigger and bigger and giving it a brighter and brighter light."
She shares the story of a six year-old sex-trafficking victim she met while in Cambodia - a girl she remembers often. "I just remember the resiliency of this young girl, her capacity to care when everything in the world in her six years told her that it didn't care about her.
"Just to see that there was love and hope … I won the lottery at birth, where I have the right to my body, the right to my education, the right to my voice - and these women and children have the exact opposite experience only because of where they were born.
"So I have to ask, how can I use the platform that I have to be able to share their stories?"
"I want to learn," Swan continues with enthusiasm, "I want to know more. I think one of the most important things we have is our education, and whether that's life education or school education, or whatever it might be, I'm excited to continue educating others and being able to represent and help incredible women and children and humans around the planet."
Having already raised well over a million dollars for causes close to her heart, Swan's "severe" methods seem to be working.
Coroner airs on The CW Wednesdays at 9:00pm, and every episode is available the following day to stream for free on CWTV.com and The CW App.