For former child star, Nickelodeon regular, and Philly native Sydney Park landing a role in the horror movie Wish Upon wasn’t about wishing — it was about working.
Park, whose lineage is African American and Korean, was born in Philadelphia, grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and gained early fame as comedy’s youngest stand-up star — she appeared at the Hollywood Improv at age 6, billed as Syd the Kid, and had a guest spot on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno at age 10.
That led her to Nickelodeon, where she starred in That’s So Raven and Instant Mom, and more recently the youth-oriented documentary series The Halo Effect, about young people doing charity work.
Now, at 19, she’s making the jump to more grown-up roles. She’s appeared in The Walking Dead and, in Wish Upon, plays Meredith, best friend to a high school student (Joey King) who finds herself in possession of an antique box that grants wishes — for a ghastly price.
Making the transition from child star to mature performer can be tricky, but Park feels she has the right foundation, thanks to an “ordinary” upbringing.
“My parents were always going to improv with me, and when that was over, it was always back to ballet class, or back to elementary school,” said Park. At school she was just another kid — if she hadn’t done her homework, the teachers were on her case.
“They didn’t really cut me any slack, and I think that helped me keep things in perspective,” she said.
Park was able to balance school and career, which got a boost from friend Nick Cannon, who ran into her way back in her stand-up days and who gave her the “orange carpet” job at the Halo Effect awards show, leading to the hosting gig.
Now she’s in Hollywood competing with other actresses for grown-up roles — not easy for anyone, and Park has her own set of challenges.
“Being biracial has definitely helped me in a lot of ways, but it does kind of hinder you sometimes,” Park said. “Casting directors might hesitate to put me in an African American role because I’m not black enough, and I can’t go for the full Asian or full Korean role.”
“That’s one reason why I love my character in Wish Upon,” she said. “You don’t necessarily think of her in any racial way. She’s just a great girl, who speaks the truth and is loyal and is not afraid to tell people how she feels.”
At the same time, the movie’s long roster of black, biracial, and Asian characters makes it believably contemporary.
“It’s speaking to the world that teenagers live in,” she said.
Park can next be seen in the movie Altar Rock, shot recently in New England, now in post-production. She was in Philadelphia last year to visit relatives and do promotional work for a shoe company.
And she’s auditioning all time — like Emma Stone’s character in La La Land.
“Oh my goodness. That’s been my whole life. That movie definitely hit home for me. I’ve had countless auditions like that.”