Shattering Boundaries with Brenda Song
From Get a Clue to her new roll-on Dollface, Brenda Song has grown up and flourished in the spotlight. Mellenials all remember her as the hotel heiress in the The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and from there Brenda has been gaining popularity working in film and TV, landing a role in David Fincher’s The Social Network and securing some guest arcs on New Girl, Scandal, and Superstore. But now, she returns to television with a series regular role on Hulu’s Dollface, a sharp comedy about a young woman named Jules (Kat Dennings) who, in the wake of a breakup, must re-learn how to be one of the girls again
Long Sleeve Blazer with Matching Joggers: Juun J | Shearling Fur Coat with Purple and Orange Trim: BALLY | Red Harness Leather Belt: POP PR | Black Strappy Sandal Heels: Botkier Sterling | Silver Thin Hoop Earrings: Aqua | Gold Chain Necklace: Model’s Own
How did acting begin for you? Was it something that you’ve always wanted to do or was there someone or something that inspired you to follow the path of an actor?
I honestly can’t remember wanting to do anything other than act and entertain. I used to love watching this show called Star Search and would practice my “model walk” in front of my stuffed animals and force my family to watch. Haha. I also have always had a huge imagination, loved reading, and would act out chapters and scenes I saw in movies.
Being a Disney channel star for so long, was the transition of moving from such a popular TV Channel to the big screen an arduous one?
Of course. Growing up is a hard period, so imagine growing up on TV. I was very sheltered having spent most of my adolescent and teen years on a set, so when Suite Life ended, not only was I trying to figure out my career, I was also trying to just figure out Brenda. I was very lucky to have amazing opportunities right after Disney that helped me slowly transition into more adult roles without feeling like I was forcing things or doing roles I wasn’t comfortable doing yet.
Being an actress I’m sure you had to travel to various locations, from state to state, country to country. Is there anyone you wish you could take with you, anywhere you go?
My mom and my animals. Haha.
From the beginning of your acting career to where you are now, out of all the roles you’ve played, is there a character you can relate to?
Um, honestly probably my character in Dollface, “Madison.” It’s what attracted me to the show in the first place. It felt so relatable to me. There is a lot about Madison that is very different from me, but her drive, honesty and dry humor is very me. And of course I’d like to steal her wardrobe.
Long Sleeve Blazer with Matching Joggers: Juun J | Shearling Fur Coat with Purple and Orange Trim: BALLY | Red Harness Leather Belt: POP PR | Black Strappy Sandal Heels: Botkier | Sterling Silver Thin Hoop Earrings: Aqua | Gold Chain Necklace: Model’s Own
Is there a specific realm of acting that you’d wish to accomplish? Something you personally have wanted to try but maybe hasn’t had the time to do so at the moment?
I would love to do some more action again. I have a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, I box all the time, and have firearm and combat training that most people would be surprised to hear about. So, it would be fun to do something more physical and just different that people wouldn’t expect from me.
Do you ever get nervous when preparing for a role, walking onto a new set, or reading a script about a character you’ve yet to study or portray? Is it something that gets easier as you do or is it a recurring sensation at the start of something new?
I’ve been acting for 26 years and I still get jitters on the first day on set. It’s so silly but it’s a new cast and crew and you’re just feeling everyone out and still figuring out your character. I do think with time, those jitters’ lesson. They are still there but they do lessen.
As a child star, and I’m sure many are curious to know, did you feel like your childhood was slipping away, if you were too focused on your craft, or was there always a balance between your acting career and your normal life outside of acting?
I honestly don’t feel like I missed out on anything in my childhood. A lot of people don’t know this but the acting was just an after-school activity for me until my mom got breast cancer for the first time and she could no longer take me to my auditions. It was then at 16 that I made the choice to make it my career. Up until then it truly was an after-school activity. You hear the stories where kids got bribed to go to auditions, I was the opposite. Auditions were my rewards. If I misbehaved or got in trouble I wouldn’t get to go to my auditions. I’ve always been obsessed with this industry from a very young age. Hahaha.
If there was one thing you could tell your fans about yourself that no one would ever expect of you, what would it be?
That I’m such a nerd. I never went through a “clubbing” phase or anything like that. I’ve always preferred to be at home with my animals, reading, baking, or knitting. I’ve been a grandma forever.
Nude Transparent Sequins Tank Top: Nude | Cream Colored Teddy Bear Maxi Bomber: Sfizio | Black Knit Glitter Trouser Style Shorts: Nude | Mega Chain Choker with Beatle Detail: Alexander MCQueen | White Patent Leather Tall Cowboy Boots: Jeffrey Campbell | Stone Ring with Black Onyx and Gold: ALDO
Long Black Wool Coat with Fringe Detail: Juun J | Interlocking G Pendant Chain Necklace: GUCCI | Interlocking-G Calfskin Leather Belt: GUCCI | Leather Ankle Strap Pumps: 27 EDIT
Navy and Bronze Floral Tuxedo: AZZARO Couture | Bronze Gold Snakeskin Print Heels: Botkier | Colorful Flower Stone Studs: ALDO
On “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” you played the ditsy heiress, London Tipton, whom we’ve all come to love and appreciate. Was it hard breaking away from such an iconic role or was it something you felt was easy to move from when offered different roles?
By the time Suite Life on Deck came to an end, I was very much ready to grow and explore other characters. I had so much fun portraying London, but I played her for 7 years. It might surprise people but I’m not actually London Tipton (haha) and we are so very different in real life. So the personal transition wasn’t hard at all.
What initially caught your interest in wanting to be a part of “Doll Face”? Was it the character you’re playing at the moment? Perhaps the overall theme of the show?
Like I said before when I first read the script I just found the overall story so relatable. It really felt like I was reading the misadventures of my girlfriends and me. I have definitely done what Jules did and ghosted my girlfriends for a guy. I’ve also been on the other side of that too. I also loooved that at the end of the day this show isn’t about these girls and their dating life, it’s about their relationships with each other. I love that.
As a veteran in acting, what would you like to tell a young boy or girl wanting to pursue a career in the arts, whether it be acting, music, dancing, etc.?
I would tell them that they are all unique and special, so don’t try to conform to what you may think people want you to be. Find what makes you different and steer into it. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do anything. Take it from the four-year-old girl from Sacramento who people thought were insane to have such gigantic dreams of being on TV.
What genre do you personally prefer, both on and off the screen?
Off-screen, I love dark thrillers, true crime, and documentaries. On camera, I love it all but comedy has such a special place in my heart.
What was the most challenging role you’ve ever played? Was it something you had to study and rehearse to get the character to where they needed to be?
Mentally, “Secret Obsession” was really tough. Not only getting myself into that mindset and being so emotional everyday, but also physically. I was doing night shoots, running in the freezing rain. It was so fun and different but it was tough. When it comes to studying for a character, Madison has so much dialog, I don’t think I’ve ever had to work so hard to memorize her speeches. Haha. It was a lot of work but also so fun. I love a good challenge.
Beaded Red and Black Ombre Fringe Gown: AZZARO Couture | Leather Black Pumps: Botkier | Gold Gemstone Stud Earrings: ALDO
Did you ever feel like you needed to step away from the scripts and movies? Did it ever feel like it was too much, to where you might have considered settling for life off of the big screen?
Honestly, no. There were times I was confused about where I fit in this industry, but I never once thought or wanted to do anything other than what I’m doing now. My mom always said to me, “If you can find what you love to do and make it your career, you’ll never have to
work a day in your life.” I love that and feel like it’s very true, at least for me. I feel very very lucky and grateful that I get to wake up and do what I’ve always dreamed of doing since I was a little girl.
When portraying a character, is there anything that you’ve ever done on set while recording that you considered unorthodox, to perfect the role? Something that no one would know until later on, where people would say, “Wait, that was real? That really happened?”
Onset? Not really, but when I read for producers for Madison, there was a scene written where Madison was on the phone with Jules while on a treadmill, and I did the whole scene running in place in heels. Hahaha. They told me I was the only girl to actually do that. Hahaha.
If acting was not on the table, what would have been your second choice?
I love human behavior, it’s probably why I’m an actor, so I’d definitely be a therapist or psychiatrist of some sort.
Glitter Knit Red Cardigan: Nude | Oxford Blue Glitter Knit Pencil Skirt: Nude | Nude Pink Jacquard Wool Sweater: Bally | Black Calf Leather With Quilting And Stud Accents Mini Bag: Bally | Nude Suede Pumps: Jimmy Choo | Pastel Studded Chandelier Earrings: ALDO
Maroon Knit with Racer Stripe Details Matching Two Piece: Bally | Floral Jacquard Bomber Jacket with Gold Detail: Bally | Gold Studded Cowboy Boots: Jeffrey Campbell | Neon Pink Gold Rim Sunglasses: GUCCI
Being on set with you, aside from how incredibly vivacious you are, I couldn’t help but notice how smooth your skin looked. Any secrets to share?
Thank you! I have to work really hard on my skin. I have combo skin and have always struggled with acne, even as an adult. Also, just having makeup on all day under those lights is brutal on anyone’s skin, so the one piece of advice I’d give? Wash your makeup off at night. I don’t care how tired or tipsy or anything I am, I will always wash my face and do my nightly routine. It’s made such a difference. Also, experiment with skincare. Just because something works on me doesn’t mean it’ll work on you. I’ve experimented a lot to find the routines that work for me.
Name the top three items in your bag that you personally can’t live without. Go!
My wallet, kindle, and lip balm. My phone is, unfortunately, usually in my hand. Haha.
Brown dressing gown in viscose satin with matching pants: | Beatrice .b Italia | Royal Blue Sparkle Knit Turtleneck: Junn J | Wine Red Buckle Booties: Jeffrey Campbell
Gamer, Movie Buff, or Book Worm?
Hands down, bookworm.
Are you “The Early Bird Gets The Worm” type of person or are you more of the “Eh, I’ll Get There When I Get There”?
The early bird for sure. I like being prepared and on time. I always want to be considerate of other people’s time.
From the way you portray yourself in front of the camera, have you ever been nervous during auditions or on sets when shooting shows and movies?
Of course! When you go into an audition, you have no idea what they are looking for, so you are putting YOUR interpretation on the line. All the work you put into it could be the opposite of what they are looking for. I’ve learned to let that go. I can only do MY best and hopefully it’s what they are looking for.
I have short-term memory loss so my question is, is it hard to memorize certain lines?
Not normally. I’ve always had a great memory, but I do think as I get older, I have to put in more work to memorize certain lines and speeches. Madison was a challenge at times, but it’s always fun to push yourself.
Voluminous Mesh Tulle Black Gown: Malan Breton | Gold Chandelier with Red Detailing Earrings: ALDO | Gold Stone Bobby Pin: ALDO
This spread appears in the pages of TB119 Shattering Boundaries with Brenda Song from This Bitch Winter 2020: Brenda Song out now and available to buy here.
Creative Director & Photographer: Alain Vasallo | @alainvasallo
Fashion Stylist: Jess Maldonado | @thepinkvixxen
Stylist Assistant: Kenneth Zapanta | @kenn_zap
Hair: Nathan Juergensen | @nathanjuergensen at @crowdmgmt
Makeup: Zac Hart | @zacmakeupartist
Interview by: Jorge Negron | @tomorrowismine
Talent: Brenda Song | @brendasong