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Halloween has always been a special day for Sydney Park, but this year’s celebration was extra meaningful. Park was not only born on Halloween, but now, she’s a full-fledged scream queen thanks to her teen slasher film, There’s Someone Inside Your House, which Netflix released a few weeks ago as part of its Halloween programming. Produced by Shawn Levy and James Wan, Park wrapped the Patrick Brice-directed film in October 2019, but returned to set in August 2020 to reshoot a few scenes, including the reveal of the masked killer.
“We ended up changing the ending, actually. Originally, we found out who the killer is much sooner in the film,” Park tells The Hollywood Reporter. “So we ended up going back and doing reshoots because we were like, ‘Oh no, that [early reveal] kills it. That really makes it die out. So why not just reveal it when it’s time to reveal?'”
The Los Angeles native is quite grateful for Netflix’s support of the film, especially since additional photography during a pandemic was no easy feat.
“We had a couple other scenes that we ended up reshooting as well — scenes that Netflix was very specific about — so we were thankful for it,” Park says. “It meant that Netflix was on board and wanted us to put our best foot forward. They flew us out to Vancouver again, which was amazing. It was so weird, too, because we had to quarantine for two weeks, but the rewrites made sense.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Park also looks back at her time with Drew Barrymore on the set of Santa Clarita Diet. Then she explains how stand-up comedy changed her life at seven years old.
Since the Internet has a tendency to be wrong, were you actually born on Halloween? Happy Birthday, if so.
(Laughs.) Yes, Halloween is my real birthday. It’s a crazy birth story because I swallowed my mother’s umbilical cord. So when I was born through a C-section, I was not crying and I was actually dead. So they had to smack my back and get all of the stuff out of me… There’s more to the birth story, but Halloween is the day. (Laughs.) It was the scariest day of my mom’s life, as she always likes to remind me.
You were born to be a scream queen.
(Laughs.) I’m just so honored that I could even have that title. It’s amazing, but I guess it was meant to be, yeah.
And where did you grow up?
My mom’s side of the family is mostly from Philadelphia, but I’m originally from Los Angeles. So I’m a Cali girl through and through, but my parents have East Coast blood.
Does your mom pronounce water like they do on Mare of Easttown?
(Laughs.) That has kind of died down over the years. You can hear it when she says “orange,” so she still has her accent. But “water,” not so much. My grandmother, though, she’ll say, “Mondee, Tuesdee, Wednesdee.” (Laughs.) She still says that.
Shifting to There’s Someone Inside Your House, there’s a unique vibe to this movie that sets it apart from its predecessors, and I think it’s because the tone parallels the personality of your character, Makani. The movie is a bit melancholy, distant and pensive like her, and the tonal/character change at the very, very end seems to support this theory as well.
You are definitely onto something. You’re not onto something; you actually hit the nail right on the head. Our goal was to create this coming-of-age horror story, and in a lot of ways, it’s an American horror story. It’s psychological and it’s really dark in its tone. But then it’s got these woven scenes of love and insecurities of being a teenager. And then of course, the fun element of a teen slasher film. So we pay homage to the John Hughes Breakfast Club types of movies, while keeping the integrity of Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. Yeah, that’s exactly it.
If it was up to you, would you have preferred to not know the killer’s identity until the day you shot the reveal scene? I would be so worried about tipping my hand, inadvertently, in an earlier scene.
I actually really enjoyed knowing who it was the whole time. I enjoyed it just as much as I enjoyed not knowing who it was while I was reading the script. So I feel like there’s a dance when it comes to tipping it as an actor, and we worked on those character dynamics in the scenes. We had so much fun with Patrick [Brice], our director. He really led us to the essence of what we were creating, while still allowing us to play. So even though we all knew, it was so much fun to play up this suspicious feeling of it all. Who could it be? It’s a sort of whodunnit without it being too over the top. But we ended up changing the ending, actually. Originally, we found out who the killer is much sooner in the film. So we ended up going back and doing reshoots because we were like, “Oh no, that [early reveal] kills it. That really makes it die out. So why not just reveal it when it’s time to reveal?”
I was going to ask you about the reshoots since you went back to set almost a year later during the pandemic. It was always the same killer, right?
Yes, we had a couple other scenes that we ended up reshooting as well — scenes that Netflix was very specific about — so we were thankful for it. It meant that Netflix was on board and wanted us to put our best foot forward. So that was really, really exciting. They flew us out to Vancouver again, which was amazing. It was so weird, too, because we had to quarantine for two weeks, but the rewrites made sense. And Henry Gayden, our writer, is brilliant. He took Netflix’s notes and was like, “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. This is so much better.” And I think it worked out.
Your character has a rather dark backstory. Was it daunting to get inside her head and think about not only what she’d done, but also how she felt in the aftermath?
Yeah, in general, it’s always really heavy when you’re carrying shame and guilt in your personal life, so having to portray that in a character who I came to really adore and admire was challenging. She’s a departure from me as a person, but she’s also a departure from any of the roles I’ve ever done in my career. So I created a playlist for her and listened to that the whole duration of filming. I did my research, obviously, with the book, but I even created my own backstory and moments. “Okay, what am I going to be thinking today? What is sitting with me right now? What am I going to feel?” So it was really fun, but towards the end of filming, it was definitely hard to let her go because she is such an internal character.
Did they make molds of each actor’s face in order to create the masks?
(Laughs.) Yeah, we ended up going to this awesome special effects warehouse in Monrovia, California, and I had never been there before. I actually love to tell this story because it’s so silly. I showed up and I was so hungover. I have never been that hungover before in my life. I don’t even know what I drank. (Laughs.)
I appreciate your candor.
(Laughs.) Yeah, I ended up telling this to my director and everybody else. I was like, “Should I tell them this?” But that was the test because as soon as I did, they were just hollering. There was no judgment. They knew I was a professional. I was like, “Fuck, am I going to seem unprofessional if I tell them that I showed up hungover?” (Laughs.) And so I went to this crazy studio so far out; it’s like an hour away. So I was around all of these weird scans, and I was like, “Guys, I’m feeling like shit.” So they had a banana and a coffee mug for me. They were just like, “Sit still. We’re going to get your face.” So everybody got 3D scanned, and then our special effects and makeup departments ended up making multiples of each character’s mask. There was one that was specifically for camera so it looked super, super close to the character, and then another one was for our stunt performers in case the mask broke or fell off during a stunt. So it was a very, very intricate process.
Is one of the masks on your coffee table as a conversation piece?
Damnit! I did not get a single mask. I wonder if I still could. (Laughs.) People have asked me this and I’m like, “Dang! How did I miss that?” I should ask.
So ever since I saw Interstellar, I’ve wanted to drive through a cornfield. So please tell me you drove through that cornfield in this movie.
First of all, I love Interstellar, but we did not. We simulated that. Did you believe that we drove through it? (Laughs.)
I knew that some shots had digital elements, but some others made it seem remotely plausible.
But we actually had the fire going, and we did film at a corn maze. So we had controlled fire for that end scene where all of us pull up and we’re trying to figure out a game plan. So that was a real fire. In the distance, there was obviously some CGI, but we did that, which really helped with our emotion, especially that end scene. But we ended up doing that drive in a studio. I’m glad it turned out the way it did.
Santa Clarita Diet was a phenomenal show, and it’s criminal that it only received three seasons. Is there a day that sums up that experience for you?
There is a day that sums it up for me. First of all, thank you so much for saying that. I absolutely adored Santa Clarita Diet before I got the audition, and then when I did, I was like, “Holy fuck, this is amazing.” And everybody was so cool. We did film in Santa Clarita, and we actually had hour lunches. Drew Barrymore was amazing to work with. She was such a beacon of light on set and such a presence. She was just really, really cool and very casual and fun. She just made the experience super fun. I wish I had more opportunities to work with her, but we would interact walking around on set.
So there were actually two moments. One moment was at the table read for the first episode I did [season three, episode two, “Knighttime”]. Drew Barrymore was walking around the table and saying hi to everybody and hugging everybody. And then she hugged me and was like, “Oh my gosh, you are so sexy.” And then she grabbed me and embraced me. She was like, “I just loved your audition. I think you are hysterical.” And I thought, “This is insane. Drew is an icon and here she is calling me sexy.” So I just about shit myself. And there was another moment where I walked out of my trailer to go to set, and she came out in her robe and slippers. And she was like, “Hey girl!” She was just so sweet and so fun. She had the best energy.
Your character, Winter, had a great catchphrase: “Just because I have a shitty attitude doesn’t mean…” Did that uptempo, wordy dialogue take a minute to grasp?
I would say no because I grew up doing sitcoms. So I understood the rhythm, and Santa Clarita Diet was this single-camera show that was written like a sitcom. A lot of the time, people can do comedy, but understanding a four-camera setup type of rhythm is very specific. I also think that’s why a lot of people couldn’t really understand the kitschiness of Santa Clarita Diet and its tone because that’s what we were playing into. It was weird and dark. Essentially, you were watching this family sitcom, but, “Oh shit, the wife is undead and eats people.” (Laughs.) So it was this loving husband [Timothy Olyphant] and wife [Drew Barrymore] and their kind of offbeat daughter [Liv Hewson]. So that show was brilliant, and the writers were so smart.
So have you ever been recognized for your role as “Girl Scout” on Entourage?
I sure have! (Laughs.) Yes, I have. It’s so sweet. I’ll never forget that day, too. I mean, Pauly Shore and Kevin Dillon. They were just so cool.
It’s a memorable part because you extorted Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) for $200 and screamed that he stole your cookies.
(Laughs.) I did. I punked his ass. I really did. It was pretty savage, yeah.
You played another Girl Scout that same year in an unsold pilot called The Hill. Did you play that Girl Scout as if she was the same one from Entourage?
Wow, you’ve really done your research. You’re taking me all the way back, man. (Laughs.) Yes, The Hill was a pilot with Wendie Malick, but I didn’t even make the correlation. You actually made the correlation for me just now. Maybe in some way, somewhere, lost in translation, I did. Maybe I lived out that Girl Scout guest star role on Entourage through The Hill pilot. And maybe that’s why the pilot didn’t go because they were like, “Damn, Sydney, why are you recycling your roles?” (Laughs.)
Your Girl Scout characters are all part of a multiverse.
(Laughs.) It’s a never-ending thing because I also played a Girl Scout on That’s So Raven. That’s So Raven was my first professional gig. I’d done commercials, I’d done stand up, but That’s So Raven put me on first. I was a Sunshine Girl. Raven was trying to be a Girl Scout, but she was not outdoors-y at all. And wow, I’m finally seeing the common thread here.
I’ve talked to plenty of actors who grew up in the business, and some of them have said that once they got old enough, they really had to make sure they loved acting. They wanted to make certain that it wasn’t just something they did because their parents signed them up for it when they were too young to know better. Did you ever go through that thought process once you got older?
I was always such a crazy kid. I was so expressive in school, and my parents really emphasized education. So I did go to real school up until 10th grade, and then I ended up booking a sitcom and doing online school. But it was almost like I was living this double life. I was juggling honors classes and performing arts schools with going to set and then coming back. And having that separation was really healthy for me. It really shaped me as a person. I couldn’t even imagine not going to school. At 10 years old, I made some of my best friends there and they are still my homies to this day. So it’s something that has been looming over me now. Obviously, we’ve had a pandemic and lots of time to sit with ourselves. But now I’m in this position to be picky, which I’m so grateful for. Everything I’ve ever worked for, honestly, is to be able to say, “This isn’t a job. This is a career move. This isn’t me needing a paycheck. I’m passionate about it. It’s something that I want to do. It’s a story I want to tell.” And now, having done three projects back to back to back this year, it’s amazing, but here I am, kind of thinking, “Well shit, I’ve never been to Europe and I really want to do that.” So I’m excited to work on this new pilot I’m doing and put my best foot forward. And then I’ll really have time to figure out the other parts of myself that I do enjoy. I’ve been surfing a lot. I’ve been reading more. I’m getting into music now, which has always been a passion of mine. So I’m really appreciative that you asked me this question because I have no shame in saying, “Yeah, I want to take a break,” or, “Yeah, this feels good, but I’m tired and ready to have some fun in different ways.”
In 60 years, when you tell your family about your career, what audition will you tell them about first?
Man, I would probably say how it all started. I was seven years old, and I did a stand-up showcase at the Hollywood Improv, which is where I first performed when I was six years old. And Marc Warren — who I think, at the time, was the showrunner for That’s So Raven — saw me and asked to bring me into the Disney casting offices with Joey Paul. And they were like, “We just want to see Sydney do her thing. We want to see her do her monologues and her original characters.” So I did, and I remember at that moment feeling really free and accepted in a way that my teachers at school didn’t make me feel. It was in a way that only my family and my parents made me feel. And I was like, “Wow, I could do this?” I wasn’t even thinking, like, “Oh, I’m going to have credits now,” or, “I’m going to have money saved.” It wasn’t even that. It was like, “Oh wow, what a way for me to express myself.”
Did the Santa Clarita Diet writers take your own stand-up comedy backstory and add it to your character?
They did, yes. (Laughs.) I always get these kismet connections to my characters in some way. It’s really dope, and I’m just grateful for all of the experiences. It’s very special.
There’s Someone Inside Your House is currently streaming on Netflix.
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