Interview With 'Pretty Little Liar', Sydney Park
You know that feeling you get when good things happen to good people and you genuinely think to yourself ‘good for them’? I can imagine this being the case for almost everyone that gets the pleasure of watching Sydney Park’s career gradually unfold. It is silly to think, but even as mere spectators we feel proud of the little comedy girl that once made us laugh - and like a parent, we find ourselves smiling just a little more wider these days, knowing full well that our Syd the Kid grew up to be a Pretty Little Liar.
It is a sweet story to say the least. She had watched every episode with her mother on the couch; she read all the books when no one cared anymore and best of all, she used to imagine herself playing in that Freeform world. Flash-forward to today and Park is now literally living out her fantasies.“Being cast, has been a dream come true and I don’t mean that to be cheesy I’m a huge fan” she says, still gleaming from the fact that she professionally gets to do the now iconic ssshhhhh gesture.
At first glance, when her character Caitlin walks on screen - there is almost an instant captivation. Her subtle charm and obvious beauty suddenly renders us silent, making us think “who is this girl? Is that the little girl from back when?” Then she seamlessly moves from scene to scene like a tenured professional and no matter how unrealistic these storylines can be, we find ourselves temporarily believing that college is not really a path of education but rather in fact a murderous adventure filled with young angst and delayed hormones – a believability and credit very much so due to the talent of our very own Sydney Park.
Her life thus far may seem to be a wonderful story of a young girl reaching her dreams, but like all good things not everything is what it appears to be. In reality, despite the laughter that came with her naïve one girl shows or the applause she receives role after role, Park was just another bi-racial child facing a racism and indifference she did not need to learn. Her father is Korean and her mother is of African decent, and despite this interracial relationship still being considerably unique - the most peculiar factor of this family dynamic is that they all consider themselves to be best friends.
Admittedly, it is slightly odd to hear anyone so young speak so highly of their parents - even weirder to describe them as a sort of brother and sort of sister. Yet from that alone you can quickly see where the strength of her backbone comes from. Being ethnic in a western world can already be a struggle - but to have both feet in two minority nationalities, is easily a recipe for an identity crisis. Then add in a pursuit for a career, where there is little to no evidence that you will walk on the road to success is almost a guarantee to a failed experiment.
Yet instead of making due with the cards she was dealt, Sydney has reshuffled her hand and has wonderfully made something for herself. Her mixed race was never viewed as a set back but more so a motivation to do better, and for that we are the fortunate ones to watch her career unfold. Thank you Mr and Mrs Park.
Congratulations on being cast in Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionist. Were you a fan of the original series and how did you react when you found out you were cast in the role of Caitlin?
Sydney: Thank you so much! If you aren’t a fan of Pretty Little Liars- you are truly missing out! I read about eight of the books when I was in middle school. At the time that I was brought in to audition my mom and me were binging the series on Netflix! I was super happy to have gotten such a juicy role in a show that already has a built-in fan base.
Of all the characters you have played including Caitlin- which has been your favourite?
Sydney: I’d definitely say it’s been an honour to be able to portray so many different types of characters throughout my career; especially being biracial and so young. I’m going to go with Caitlin as my fave thus far! I really grew as a person being on The Perfectionists.
You are of African- Asian decent- have you faced any blatant ignorance in the industry?
Sydney: I most definitely have faced racism and indifference in this industry and in the world period. However, I’m proud of who I am and I would never ever want to be anyone else but myself. I love my brown skin and my Asian eyes. It’s what makes me unique. I don’t look at my ethnicity as a setback but more of an asset.
Did you parents have any scepticism with you entering the industry?
Sydney: My parents have always been super supportive of me and my dreams as they still are. They are still very protective and I’m thankful for that! They know this industry inside and out – I’m lucky that I can call them my best friends.
Can you tell us what it was like growing up watching television and movies and seeing little to no representation?
Sydney: To be honest, seeing little to no representation of who I am never discouraged me. It motivated me to go out there and do better – to never look back and face all of the obstacles despite the small chance of me really making it. My goal was and still is to make people feel like they belong somewhere.
What does diversity mean to you?
Sydney: Diversity means love of all people. The love of every difference, every skin tone, every personality & culture. I hope we can truly accomplish this one day!
You started your career on an almost completely different path- what was it like being the youngest person ever to be doing improv at Hollywood Improv?
Sydney: I actually just had a meeting with my new stand-up agent today about writing more material and going back to my roots! I miss that part of my life. Doing stand-up at six-years-old and six years after that was a whirlwind! I love comedy and I respect the craft of it. I can’t wait for the world to see twenty-one-year-old Syd The Kid.
When you were just 13 years old, you wrote, produced and directed a one girl show called ‘Young, Gifted and Half Black’- can you tell us about that experience?
Sydney: Wow!! I remember it vividly. I wrote stand-up, sketches, and had my comedian friends make cameos. Like I said, I’m very excited to get my creative juices flowing again and possible revamp “Young, Gifted, Half Black.”
Do you have any plans on returning to comedy whatsoever?
Sydney: 1000%!!! I can’t wait.
What is one piece of advice you would give to your 13-year-old self?
Sydney: I would say to thirteen-year-old Syd, “Don’t let people break your spirit, mama. What you spend five minutes dwelling on won’t even matter in five years.”
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Sydney: I see myself successful in music, acting, and directing. I just want to be free and creative until I can’t be anymore! Hopefully I’ll be happily married by that point too! My parents are going on twenty-three years of marriage this year – I’ve admired their love my entire life.
Words / QUADE AU
This PIBE online exclusive has been produced by:
Talent / Sydney Park
Photography / Shelby Goldstein
Styling / Dani + Emma
Make up / Dana Delaney @Forward Artists
Hair / Amber Duarte @Atelier Management