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Interview: Secret Obsession’s Brenda Song

by Charles Trapunski

Netflix is our obsession and every so often a film or series takes the streaming world (and us) by surprise. This is kind of what took place with the Brenda Song-led movie Secret Obsession. The film was only just announced but we had a feeling it would be super popular, so it was a priority that we speak with the gregarious and friendly star of the movie.

Despite not being able to talk about it directly, Song was still able to make us want to watch the film greatly (streaming tomorrow!). With her upcoming Hulu series Dollface, Disney Animation’s Amphibia, Changeland, Brenda Song is busy! And perhaps now others can stop calling her London Tipton, because Song is so much more than that one role. In short, she’s a real talent and get ready for a condensed and edited version of our fun phone interview with Secret Obsession‘s Brenda Song.

Brief Take: You have a lot of projects being released at the same time! 

Brenda Song: I feel very grateful that this is a crazy summer and year for me. A lot of things on which I have been working for the last couple of years, like Amphibia and Changeland, the movie that I did with Seth Green…I shot that movie two years ago, and Amphibia we’ve been recording for the last almost three years, and they all decided to come out in the same summer. [laughs]

BT: I love that Secret Obsession is a bit of a secret project. Do you think that there will be a moment after it begins streaming where you’re going to get a bunch of shocked and amazed responses to the film?

BS: I have no idea. I hope that happens, but at the same time, it’s one of those things in which, even for me, I jumped on late to a lot of shows, like The Crown. I think that people have already seen it and all of a sudden, I sat one day and watched all two seasons, all at once, I was like “Oh my Gosh, I’m obsessed! I’ve got to spread the word”, and they were “Brenda, we’ve been watching this show for the past year”. [laughs] That’s what’s great about Netflix or Hulu or any streaming service, is that you’re able to jump along these trains, whenever and wherever. I know so many people that started watching Friends and The Office now, we didn’t have the opportunity before because we’d have to buy it on DVD or something like that, and who’s going to go out and buy all eight seasons of The Office? That’s what’s so amazing about them, you can test and see if something is to your taste. And so, yes, hopefully we have that moment for Secret Obsession, I would love that. I hope that people watch it! [laughs]

BT: Do you think that it will be a word of mouth type of project?

BS: That would be fantastic. I hope so! The way that I’ve described the movie, without giving anything away, is that it’s kind of like a new twist to Misery, a version of Misery, which I think is really fun. Mike Vogel is fantastic. I was a little bit in awe when I was working with him because he’s been in so many projects that I absolutely love and he’s such an incredible actor with so much prestige and gravitas. He’s such a pro and it was amazing, I had a great time. It was a very, very small cast so we got to know each other very well. We were in crazy circumstances [chuckles] doing pretty intense things in a short amount of time, so we got to know each other very well. I literally started to trust these men with my life because a lot of the time we were shooting in crazy conditions, lots of night shoots, rain showers, we were shooting in sort of desolate areas. We were shooting in a completely abandoned campus in Pomona and night shoots there were so eerie, walking around, going to craft services was scary because everything was pitch black and everything was completely abandoned. So it was actually really scary. It was definitely creepy vibes, even off-set, and Mike Vogel loves to scare me on set. [laughs] He loves to tease me.  He’s amazing and he has quite a silly side and because we were shooting such crazy hours, we got a little delirious by the end of it. I think that by the end of it, he was going out of his way to find times to scare me. I was like: “I can’t take this! I’m too emotional right now, Mike. Leave me alone!” [giggles]

BT: And you recently wrapped on Dollface

BS: Yeah, we just finished the first season on Monday actually, and it was very, very exciting. It was one of my dream characters, and working with Kat Dennings was such a dream, she has become one of my closest friends. Working with Esther Povitsky and Shay Mitchell, it’s such a dream cast. And Jordan Weiss, our creator, she’s 26 years old and so we’re really getting to hear this story told from someone our age and I think that’s so incredibly rare. Then our showrunner is Ira Ungerleider, who has been doing this since forever, so it’s a fantastic balance of a millenial and someone who’s been doing this forever and is an old hat, and that really was my dream job. I got to do a lot of things that I never thought that I would be able to do, and this character is a character that I’ve always wanted to play, but I’ve never had the opportunity, so I’m very excited and I hope that people enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it.

BT: And, as you mentioned, it’s a show that’s driven by women, including Kat as a producer and star.

BS: It’s amazing. Kat is not only an incredible actress but she’s such an amazing hands-on producer. And this is I think the first time that she really put on that E.P. hat and she really took it on and faced it head-on and did an incredible job. She was so collaborative. If we ever needed anything, she made it happen. It was also a Margot Robbie-produced project, with Luckychap, and Brett Hedblom who is one of her producing partners, this was one of their first television projects and so we felt so incredibly grateful to be able to be one of the first because they have so many projects in the works. And they were so wonderful and so collaborative and it really did feel like a dream project. I feel so incredibly lucky to be a part of this and I can’t wait for people to see it because it’s something that I’m so excited to see myself. I haven’t seen anything so it’s one of those ones in which I’m so excited to see it.

BT: What do you enjoy about streaming services?

BS: I think that the wonderful thing about streaming services is that they’re so open, there are no limitations left. Working on Dollface, the sky is truly our limit. Standards and Practices is very different, I joke around that we don’t have an F word count [laughs] and that’s something I’m not used to. The opportunities are incredible, like the fact that Netflix is allowing me to star in my own thriller is incredible. A couple of years ago, I never thought that they would be so open to an Asian-American lead. I know that Disney – I will say this, they were ahead of the curve with always doing colour-blind casting. I was really young and obviously that’s where I got my start and they were always very open to giving opportunities to everyone. It didn’t matter what color you were – if you were black, green, yellow, blue or white, it didn’t matter to them, and it’s kind of nice to see everyone else catching up to that.

BT: Who were some of the key collaborators with whom you’d like to work again? 

BS: Oh my goodness, I’ve been so lucky. I mean getting to work with Seth Green on Dads and then getting to work with him on Changeland was incredible. I mean that cast was one of my favorites, I would love to work with them again. I would love to work again with Giovanni Ribisi and Martin Mull and Wellesley Wild’s so outspoken and has done Family Guy for years and it’s such a fun group. I loved working with them because they approach comedy in such a different way, I learned so much on that project. I loved working with Jason Katims and the whole cast of Pure Genius– Dermot Mulroney, Odette Annable, it was incredible, they really felt like a family when I was working with them and it was such a different kind of project for me. They full-on embraced me, it was incredible.

I would always think that it would be fun to always jump back to a Disney day and work with the twins (Dylan and Cole Sprouse), who are so cool. I’ve known Aly Michalka, from the Disney days, I’ve known her for years and years and years and I just did a cameo in Aly & AJ’s music video, and it was fun to be on a set with one of my friends again because we stayed friends for…since we were 14. So the last 17 years, we had never worked together again, and it was fun to jump on set with her. God, I would love to work with Fincher again, with Andrew Garfield, Jesse Eisenberg, that’s such a fun group of people. I could go on and on. I was very fortunate to have worked with incredible people that I would love to work with again. So yeah, there aren’t many people who I have come across that I wouldn’t work with again. Yeah, you have to shut me up, Charles. [laughs]

BT: You have passionate fans and supporters. What is the best way for them to have a dialogue with you?

BS: I feel social media is the easiest and most successful way. I will be honest: I don’t always go through all my messages, because I make the mistake that not everyone is kind and respectful. And for me, a part of my own mental health and my own well-being is having to be really careful and that’s unfortunate, because there are probably so many messages that I do miss that are so wonderful and so kind and so positive and inspiring. People are so wonderful and it’s lovely to be able to actually have a conversation with them and ask them what they think, because that is something that I see in today’s world, which is that everyone wants a photo and to walk away, which is great, I get it, but I have had some wonderful fan experiences in which people walk up and they want to tell you what your project has meant to them, for me that’s the most meaningful of experiences. I think it’s so lovely to be able to really hear fan responses and the responses of the audiences.

There’s a reason that I continue to book jobs and there’s also a reason that I’m here and I’m doing this interview with you, so it’s really nice to hear what they have to say. I think that social media is a really easy way to get an idea and I really wish that there was a better way in which we can filter out the scary. I’ve opened so many messages in which I’ve seen photos of things that I do not need to see. [laughs] And it made me really scared and I wish that there was a way to filter that because I know that I’m guilty of missing so many amazing messages. But I’m actually scared to open messages sometimes because of those negative experiences and I’m trying to find a better way to be able to filter that because it’s really unfortunate because I love hearing what the fans have to say. I will say this: direct messaging me is probably not the way to go because I don’t always read those, but I do go through the comments. I feel that comments are a little more filtered. I do read the comments and it’s always really nice to see what people have to say in them.

BT: Tell me about your charity work with Stand up to Cancer.

BS: For me personally, Stand up to Cancer is very, very important because my mother is a four-time breast cancer survivor, my grandpa he passed away from esophageal cancer four years ago, so awareness and research are very important to me. I’ve had a lot of health issues in my family. American Red Cross, diabetes runs on my dad’s side. St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, the Special Olympics. I think, especially when I was working on Suite Life, I was able to reach a younger audience, and whether it’s visit hospitals and brighten their day or spread awareness, it was good to know that there is a way through this, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, whatever that may be. It’s really changed my outlook on life. I really want to spread awareness and work towards research and tell people to really take care of themselves and to listen to your body.

 

Secret Obsession begins streaming on Netflix globally tomorrow! 

 

*Cover photo credit: Nate Jensen*

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