Maybe you know her by her Suite Life character’s trademark catch phrase, “Yay me!” Or maybe you remember her kick-butt moves in the Disney TV movie Wendy Woo: Homecoming Warrior. But I bet you don’t know what Brenda Song’s favorite books are, why she’s no way like her TV character London Tipton, or what she plans for the future. Well, get ready to find out!
Scholastic got the chance to sit down and talk with the multi-talented Miss Brenda Song to find what’s going on in her life right now, what’s happening on her hit television series, The Suite Life on Deck, which recent honors she’s received, and what’s up next in her career.
Q: What three books would you recommend to other kids?
Brenda: A Wrinkle in Time. I love that book. Twilight [for ages 12 and up], because who shouldn’t read that book?
Q: What book would London recommend?
Brenda: London wouldn’t even know a book. London wouldn’t even know what a book was! She’d probably recommend a fashion magazine.
Q: What kind of books do you like to read now?
Brenda: Everything. From true crime to Twilight and everything between . . . Literally, I can go to a bookstore and pick up a book and read it. I really feel like there are no bad books out there. Everybody has a story to tell and I want to give everybody that chance.
Q: Is there any special place that you like to read, like flying somewhere?
Brenda: Many times, I always have a book in my purse . . . I’m sitting at a table, we’re waiting for food or something, and my mom doesn’t think it’s rude for me to pick up a book for 15 minutes. Well, that’s what I love about my job, as well. Hopefully, I can just give that person an escape for 22 minutes so they can escape reality, because that’s what a book does for me — whether it’s reading a chapter or reading an entire book . . . My mom, when I was in trouble [growing up], took away my books. I was that kid reading under the covers. I started reading at four. I was such a geek. I was reading Baby-sitters Club. I just always grew up reading. So it doesn’t matter where I am — what I have in my hand, I’ll read it. Whether shampoo bottles or the dictionary, I’ve read it all.
Q: If you could play any character from a book, what character and what book would it be?
Brenda: I would be Bella from Twilight. [laughs] Just because.
Q: Who would you like to see guest star on your show?
Brenda: Well, Matt Damon came to visit, but I would love to have him guest star because he’s such an amazing actor as well as a phenomenal person. He’s so wonderful. His stepdaughter, a kid, watched the show, and he’s just such an amazing person and such an inspiration because he sat down and talked to all of us. He was just a good person, and he’s also so talented, so I would love to have him on the show.
Q: Are there any similarities between you and London?
Brenda: Besides that we’re both girls? You know, it’s really tough because of course we lead very different lives. I have two brothers who drive me insane, but they keep me very sane. I think the only thing is that I really admire her confidence in the fact that even if she’s right or wrong — if she’s wearing a blue-feathered coat or she’s wearing a gorgeous gown — she rocks it and she loves it. And she’s confident in herself in that sense. I would love her closet. I think it’s amazing. I wouldn’t wear all of her pieces, but I would mix it up. But as far as everything else, London and I are quite opposites.
Q: What do you dislike about her the most?
Brenda: She doesn’t really have a family in her life, because family’s so big for me . . . Even though she’s very confident, her insecurities and the things that she goes through — it comes through that money doesn’t buy happiness. And that’s the message that I love — that London transcends — is that money can’t buy you everything. It can buy you nice things, it can’t buy you friends, it can’t buy you love, it can’t buy you happiness. And I think that that’s the hardest thing for London — she lives in her own bubble, so I wish I could pop that bubble and step outside of it.
Q: How did you feel when you were hired for the role of London?
Brenda: Well, it’s actually really funny. London was actually just the mean girl. And I was like, “I don’t want to be the mean girl forever.” So I watched Legally Blonde, I bought Paris Hilton’s book, I watched Megan Mullally [from Will & Grace], and I was like, “I’d rather be dumb than mean. I’d rather be oblivious.”
Q: How does the boat setting for The Suite Life on Deck compare to the hotel setting for The Suite Life of Zack and Cody?
Brenda: It’s funny because we’re on the exact same set, so it’s like going home every day. But the great thing about it is it’s really for all of our characters. It’s really let us kind of grow. Because what better way to be in a hotel than to be in a moving hotel, than to have to go to different ports, to different cultures, different characters? Throwing these characters that you know and love into extreme circumstances. I mean, we got to go to Greece, to Rome, to Parrot Island. We’re stuck in a lifeboat next week. So you get to see these characters thrown into these crazy situations. So it’s been really fun for us. We had a Disney Channel star from Rome, Jacobo Sarno, on our show. And it was so amazing because we wouldn’t have had that on Suite Life. So it’s been really cool. It’s been a fun adventure.
Q: Have you gone to any actual locations?
Brenda: The only time we actually got to do anything was when we went on the Disney Cruise ship to promote the show. We went to the Caribbean to Castaway Key. But everything else is on our Hollywood lot. Show business!
Q: What’s something your fans may not know about you?
Brenda: I mean, as you know, it’s funny because they always see a side of you — but I’m just like everybody else. I just have an amazing job. I have my insecurities. I have my brothers who annoy the crud out of me. I get into arguments with my friends. I have disagreements with my parents. I get grounded. I have chores. I’m just very lucky that I get to wake up every day and live out my dream, and it’s thanks to you guys that I get to do that. But otherwise, I am just like you . . . I’m so lucky that my job takes me to New York, where someone can do my hair and make-up and I get to sit here and do this [interview]. And when I go home I’m in my sweatpants and my UGGS taking out the trash, cleaning up after my puppy, just like everyone else.
Q: You have received the Asian Excellence Award. Do you feel a responsibility towards the Asian-American community?
Brenda: Well, you know, the funny thing is it’s been sobering to hear the response because for me it was really difficult growing up, going into auditions. I didn’t see a lot of Asian-Americans growing up besides Jackie Chan, and I wasn’t a boy! So it was really tough. And it’s so great for me for outlets like Disney Channel to see there’s no ethnic barrier any more — that you’re seeing kids of all colors, all over the world, internationally and locally. Because when you walk down the street, you meet someone from Japan, from Germany, from L.A., from New York — and that’s what the world looks like. And people are starting to see that. And so I think that’s great. So it’s not even about being an Asian-American actress. It’s not about what you look like, but it’s about what you do . . . And so I think that’s where people get kind of mixed up. It’s that you’re putting yourself in a label. You have to let it go and just say, “No, it’s not about that. It’s about what’s in here.” God made us different for a reason. Half the time, you do it yourself and you hold yourself back because of course it’s hard, because sometimes I’ll go, “Ah! They’re not looking for an Asian actress!” But if I always thought that way, I wouldn’t even [want to audition] . . . You don’t realize how much it is you hold yourself back when you put yourself in a mindset. I feel like life’s all about perspective. You wake up every morning, my mom always says, “You have a choice: to be either angry or happy.” You can wake up. It’s just like you can start your day over at any time. It’s all about a change of attitude. And that’s how I feel in everything in life. It’s all about perspective.
Q: What do you want to do five years from now?
Brenda: I love what I do. I love working and Disney’s been good to me, but I hope I keep working. And I’ve been really lucky with this show, especially it being so long — I got to really watch what goes on on the set. I have a great production coordinator who lets me sit upstairs and see how a set really works. I have a director that will let me shadow him and see what it’s like. I could never be a director because I’m too much of a perfectionist, but I’ve really gotten to expand my education and knowledge of Hollywood being on this show. Not just being an actress but being behind the camera. I never know — I like to keep all my doors open, but I love to work. Just keep learning and see where it takes me.
Wow! Brenda Song is nothing like her character on the Suite Life. In fact, I don’t think she could be any further from her character. I guess that’s how you can tell the difference between an okay actor/actress versus a great actor/actress . . . they can pull off anyone, even characters who are their polar opposites. Brenda Song certainly has a great career ahead of her.
— Carly M., STACKS Staffer
Photo of Brenda Song © Craig Sjodin / American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. (Disney Channel)
Photo of Brenda Song as London © Dean Hendler / American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. (Disney Channel)
Photo of Brenda Song and model boat © Dean Hendler / American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. (Disney Channel)