How Sydney Park went from Disney star to horror film cool girl

Sydney Park used to be a sweet and innocent Disney star, and now she’s a total horror film buff.

She’s currently promoting her newest movie, Wish Upon. We caught up with her to get the deets on her fears, standup comedy, Raven Symone, and Miley Cyrus.

We’re used to seeing you play comedic roles. Did branching into the horror genre push you out of your comfort zone at all? 

I always wanted to do it since I was a little girl. My birthday is on Halloween, so people always think I love horror. But growing up, horror movies used to scare me. I’ve started to appreciate the filmmaking behind horror movies and the horror genre in general. Making that transition from comedy to horror was kind of inevitable for me. It was interesting playing a character like Meredith from Wish Upon, she’s the comic relief, but she also has the scary scenes. It was an opportunity for me to show my comedic skills and have a chance to be in a really cool horror movie.

Have you gotten over your fear of horror movies? Do you have a favorite?

 I thought, “Wait a minute, Sydney. You’re in the industry, you know that this stuff isn’t real. Just look at it as [if] you’re kind of studying it.” Because there’s a real science behind making horror movies. One of my favorite movies of all time, horror genre aside, is The Shining

Wish Upon sounds like a fairy tale, but it’s far from it, right?

It’s definitely far from it. The lead character, Claire, played by Joey King, finds this ancient Chinese wish box, and you find out later that you can make seven wishes, but a blood price will be made. So there are consequences to this and it’s not just a coincidence that all of these horrible, tragic things are happening as she’s making these wishes.

My character, Meredith, and another character, June, who’s played by Shannon Purser, we’re all best friends and I’m seeing that my friend is kind of going down this spiral and she’s [taking] control of herself and changing a lot. So you’ll see my character Meredith kind of tell Claire off a couple times and be honest about what she’s thinking, because she’s very brutally honest in that way. It’s a trippy movie.

Could you go more in depth about your role as the best friend in the film?

Meredith is the sassy friend that you really want in your circle, because she is such a loyal friend, but she’s not afraid to tell you what she’s thinking. Sometimes her big mouth gets her into trouble, but she is kind of the “truth” in this movie as the director, John, likes to say. And that’s something we discussed when I was auditioning for it, he was saying, y’know, “I love how you portrayed her as not being super bitchy, she’s not mean in that way. She’s just really honest, she speaks the truth, she’s hilarious! She says some crazy stuff and I think people will get a kick out of her as much as I did.

If you were granted one consequence-free wish, what would it be?

That cancer never existed.

What’s the most irrational fear you have?

I’m afraid of finding a shark in a swimming pool. I can’t really swim alone in a swimming pool because I have this fear that a shark is gonna just pop up! I actually told someone that, and the next day, she says that she read an article that in Sydney, Australia, they found a small tiger shark in a public pool! And I’m like, “See! It’s not an irrational fear!”

Would you ever venture back into the world of standup comedy?

Yes! I’m actually writing a set right now. I definitely miss my stand-up comedy roots. I think it takes a lot of courage to get up on a stage and try to make people laugh, y’know? I think it’s just an art form. And watching all these comedians that I grew up with as a little girl and seeing how successful they are inspired me a lot. My comedian friends are like, “Syd, you thought it was cool for you back then, just watch how different it’ll be for you.” So, I’m excited to get back into it.

Do you remember a specific moment when you realized you were funny?

Uhh, when I came out the womb… [laughs]. It was probably just the continuous performances I would make my family watch as a kid. Seriously, I was two years old, and we were living in San Francisco at the time, and they put me in this ballet class. So I had my recitals, but I would come home, and a family friend of ours was coming over and I put on my tutu and I ran out, would chant, “You’re a loser.” In my tutu. And that’s when I was like, “Wow, Sydney, you’re ridiculous. You’re crazy.” I was like I have to do this, I have to be on TV. I told my mom, “Mom, I gotta be on that TV.”

What TV shows on right now make you laugh the hardest?

I would say Orange Is The New Black will make me laugh my ass off but also cry my eyes out. Bob’s Burgers. And sometimes even This Is Us will make me laugh, but I bawled my eyes out at this episode I watched last night. It was pretty intense. Those are definitely my top three right now.

Tell us about your new YouTube Red series with The Rock called Lifeline.

Lifeline is an action/sci-fi thriller, it’s kind of depicted in the future, it’s more of like a bleak, sort of setting, we’re in this city, it seems like Los Angeles, and it’s set in the future, where time travel exists. So it’s not too far-fetched from where we are now, but it also is in a way.

My character, Nora, is pretty punk rock and kick-ass, so I think it’ll be a chance for my fans to see me in a different light and to see me in a role I’ve never played before. So me and Zach Gilford are the stars of the show, and it’s just really cool. The Rock makes a cameo. We’re doing promos with him this summer. He’s gunna put a lot into it, he’s putting a lot of advertising into it. It’s gonna be dope.

What comes to mind when you hear the word “hilarious”?

Like, you laugh until you pee — I’ve peed on myself laughing! I’ve laughed so hard that I’m like, this is an ab workout in itself. I always think of people and their “happy sound.”

From your child acting days, who would you say was a cooler co-star: Miley Cyrus or Raven Symone?

Aww. That’s hard. Miley was so nice to me. She was amazing. I remember we were rehearsing, and we were sitting there and she like wrote me this letter. It was beautiful and I still have it. She was just so incredibly nice. I wish I had gotten to work with her more.

But, Raven was definitely the one to really show me the ropes at my first professional job as an actress on That’s So Raven. She was talking to me about remembering lines, blocking, the whole process of it, so I definitely say Ray was a great actress to be attached to starting out so young. She really just protected me and made me feel safe. I gotta call her up, though, and just bombard her and be like, “You gotta get Syd on the reboot, like, what’s up?”

What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you on a Disney set?

I remember I was on set of That’s So Raven and the director said, “You know what, Syd? Go for it, run with it. Say anything you want” — and this is crazy because I was literally seven years old. I was like, “Okay, what’s up with Disney and all these corny white girls?” And Raven picks me up off the stage and was like, “No! Sydney! They sign our checks!” It was hilarious. They thought it was so funny, that at the wrap party, the footage made it to the blooper reel.

You seem to be a proud Scorpio, what trait do you identify with the most?

Our fearlessness. I love being a scorpio. Scorpio women are definitely really fearless, and independent.


Photography: Skye Jones

Additional Writing: Mallie Koczon

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