Sydney Park was born on Halloween. It’s befitting that the 23-year-old actress, who has roots in Germantown, is headlining the horror movie There’s Someone Inside Your House, which is streaming on Netflix.
Park left town at an early age to work in the entertainment industry. Billed as Syd the Kid, she became the youngest stand-up (age 6!) to perform at the Improv. Via Zoom she said she is honored to be considered a Philadelphian and admits she’s overdue for a visit. (“It’s been four years! I have to get back.”)
She’s been busy — working as a child actor on That’s So Raven, becoming a regular (Cyndie, 2018-19) on The Walking Dead, landing a role in the Pretty Little Liars spin-off The Perfectionists, and now headlining the Netflix movie.
In the film, Park plays a high school student stalked, along with her friends, by a killer who wears a 3D-printed mask of each victim — it’s the last thing they see before they die, and it’s the movie’s diabolical hook.
We talked to Park about her fast-rising career (she has just joined the HBO series DMZ for showrunner Ava DuVernay), and about breaking barriers in Hollywood as an actress of Korean and African American descent. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
There’s Someone Inside Your House is hipper than your average slasher movie. It’s from the producers of Stranger Things, it’s adapted from a Stephanie Perkins novel, and it has interesting things to say the way social media diminishes private space and demands a curated public persona.
I really love the social commentary on cancel culture, the lack of privacy, and people being so quick to jump to conclusions and make assumptions about each other … You think people are who they are because they put out this certain image, how social media allows you to wear a mask.
But I also really enjoy that we are celebrating what it means to be a teen, and that aspect of the story is timeless, no matter what era we’re in. The inadequacies we all face as we come of age, navigating friendship and love.
You’re a pretty outgoing, self-confident person, with a big laugh and a quick smile, and you started out in comedy. You play the opposite of that in There’s Someone Inside Your House. Was that a stretch?
It was an amazing part — a complete departure from anything I’ve ever done.
(Her character) Makani is very internal, passive and soft. She’s not loud, doesn’t smile a lot. She has this weight to her … she has a lot of anxiety, and that makes her seem a little distant, and disconnected.
She’s also plagued by mysterious dreams and flashbacks, which keep the audience off-balance. Her boyfriend is a suspect, and there’s a suggestion that maybe what they have in common is a dark, sinister past.
There is this instability there, flashbacks, and we don’t know what it is. We think she could be the killer, that maybe she’s unstable — it was so much fun! Also it’s a love story that’s very unconventional, complicated, messy, and weird.
People like to write off horror movies as mere “genre” films, but horror paid the bills for movie theaters during lockdown What is it about horror that keeps people going to theaters, and streaming movies like this one?
It’s one of the very few genres that always incites a reaction from the audience, whether you are constantly on the edge of your seat or hiding away or screaming or jumping, you connect and you want to feel that connection and be immersed.
Most horror movies that I’ve seen really change my state (of being). They affect me to this day. You watch something like The Exorcist or Poltergeist or The Shining or Insidious and remember individual scenes and how they made you feel in that moment.
Horror hasn’t always been generous to characters of color. Do you feel there are more doors open to you today?
It’s definitely changed. I think our world is so different, and the industry and film and TV has gotten so much better, and so much, more open than in 2016 or 2017. And I find that I’m actually better at being comfortable with who I am, and not allowing myself to fall into that trap of: “OK, am I going to impress this person?” I can be myself, and be relaxed, and the type of energy I put out is what I get back.
So, I have attracted these groundbreaking roles where we have a half-Black, half-Korean scream queen who’s the lead of a Netflix project. So, I feel like I am breaking barriers and I’m also staying true to what the world really looks like.
When your talent speaks for itself, when you put the work in and are a good person you are bound to soar. Your time might come later, or sooner, everyone has a particular journey. Being a person of color, when you know your worth, you don’t have to beg people. You will attract people, who see you for who you are.