Sydney Viengluang Is Kicking Zombie Ass For a Living
Remember Sydney Viengluang from “Jane the Virgin”?
She now plays a doctor in “Z Nation.” When she isn’t fighting zombies or finding cures for deadly diseases onscreen she makes her own short films in her spare time. Sydney Viengluang is one badass chick.
So you actually started in finance and accounting which led you to working at a movie studio which led you to acting, was it hard making the leap?
As far as making the decision, it wasn’t hard to. Once I took my first acting class I kinda fell in love with it. And making this decision was easy, but of course taking classes and learning the craft — it does take a lot of time and practice, like with any skill or craft.
So it’s probably safe to say you wouldn’t leave your acting career to do finance and accounting again?
Oh yeah, for sure. I am definitely in it to win it for not going back to the full-time corporate job.
This is probably more fun, I can imagine.
Yeah yeah… I mean I like the business side of it I do produce short films and I do enjoy ya know putting together a team, and the business side of the entertainment industry but as far as what I wanna pursue and what my passion is and what my calling is definitely being an actor.
Were you worried that your family and friends were going to get angry at you for “throwing away your talents” for something seen as less profitable and less traditional?
Hahaha, yeah. Being Asian, your parents are like, you’re either gonna be a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer. So I was definitely very hesitant to tell my parents especially because I didn’t want them to worry about financial stability and that I could take care of myself and everything. But I honestly didn’t tell my parents up until a year or two ago.
Yeah, I didn’t want them to worry. I’m in a big city, you already know I’m working accounting and finance and I didn’t want to have them worry about me and put that stress on them until I actually starting booking legitimate stuff on TV movies. Until I can tangibly so to them, “hey mom and dad, you can catch me on TV or watch this movie, I’m in it,” then I didn’t want them to worry.
So did you ever previously want to pursue acting or something else creative before getting a finance job in the entertainment industry? I know you mentioned producing so but before acting came into place did you want to just do producing or acting and producing went hand in hand for you?
I guess it would’ve been modeling. I am pretty tall, I’m 5’8″ and I’ve always been slender and there was something that kinda drew me towards being in front of the camera — not just being in front of the camera but kind of being the face for Asian Americans out there. Because growing up, I didn’t really see a lot of role models or Asian American actors that were on the cover of magazines or on TV or on film.
So that kind of appealed to me and I didn’t pursue a little bit when I was younger, but I realized that modeling wasn’t my calling and I didn’t really enjoy it. And I never considered even being an actor, because I didn’t think I had talent or was a possibility. So I just decided I’d work on the business side of the entertainment industry, and that’ll be the closest I get to being influential in my own way.
So in “Z Nation,” you play Dr. Sun Mei, do you feel that many Asians in Hollywood are typecast into roles like this? Does it bother you?
As far as playing a doctor, yeah. I mean I get it, I mean I get it’s not a bad stereotype to have, it’s like Asians being smart, they can play doctors or very white collar professions. But the reason why I love Z Nation and the reason why I love the character of Dr.Sun Mei is, yes I’m a doctor, I’m a biologist, and I have the degrees, and I have the brain side of it, but with Z Nation because it’s like an action zombie horror tv show I’m able to play like a badass, like a really strong kickass female character. And I’m not just like, “Oh, I’m the doctor and I’m making these vaccines,” I get to shoot a pistol and I get to fight zombies. It’s a very multidimensional character and that’s what I love about the role.
You grew up in Kansas, how did you adjust to the LA culture?
Actually, I didn’t have that much difficulty adjusting to LA because it’s pretty laid back. And being from Wichita, Kansas, Wichita is like a mid-sized city. So it wasn’t like I was from a super small town or anything so adjusting wise like about the energy and the laid back feel of it was not so hard for me. It was just more ya know getting to know the city itself and being such a sprawled out big city and I’m really bad with directions so I think that was probably like the hardest adjustment. But luckily in this day and age, we have GPS now so…
Do you find that it’s hard having friends in the industry because of the competition? For example, can you still maintain friendships with other actors without feeling egotistical about it?
I really don’t find it hard, I mean I’m speaking for myself but to me, I’ve always been the type of person to just focus on what I’m doing and my path and my direction. I feel like there’s plenty of room for everyone in the industry I mean it is a competitive industry and business.
But, I feel like if anything a lot of my actor friends who study at the same studio, we support each other 110% and if anything it helps me to have other actor friends that are moving in the same direction and pursuing the same career. That’s a big part of I feel, like part of my success is just having a solid group of actor friends in my acting studio so that we, you know so that we have a lot in common and we share the same struggles and we can support each other and provide a support system.
So what’s something that you want your fans to know about you?
I just want them to know that I feel like what I’m doing is just bigger than me. I feel like being an Asian American face out there is so important right now and I hope to continue to be able to be ya know play Sun Mei and other characters that represent just a positive image not just Asian American women but women in general ya know in film and TV.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you want to clue us in about so we could keep an eye out for you?
Yeah I actually produced a short film and I acted in it as well, and it got into its 2nd film festival which we’re actually gonna be screening it tonight. It’s gonna be screening at the NY/LA international film festival tonight and we’re just in the process of submitting it through short film festival circuit so hopefully we get accepted to more film festivals and ya know people can keep an eye out for it and hopefully go see it someday.
Fingers crossed, definitely want to check it out, what the name of your film?
It’s called The Letter.