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Exclusive TV Goodness Q&A: Instant Mom’s Sydney Park [INTERVIEW] 

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Sydney Park is a 16-year-old actress who once tested out her comedy skills at the Hollywood Improv at the oh so early age of six, making her the youngest performer to ever grace that stage. And she hasn’t slowed down since. She competed in the first season of NBC’s America’s Got Talent. You may also recognize her from her appearance on an episode of Hannah Montana or maybe from her guest star stints on That’s So Raven and CSI: NY where she played Ellie, the adopted daughter of Sela Ward‘s character, Jo Danville.

Currently, she’s starring in season one of the Nick-at-Nite comedy, Instant Mom, opposite powerhouse Hollywood vets Tia Mowry-Hardrict [Sister, Sister, The Game], Michael Boatman [Arli$$, Spin City, The Good Wife] and Sheryl Lee Ralph [It’s a Living, Designing Women, Moesha].

TV Goodness recently talked to Park about Instant Mom, her favorite TV shows and learning from some of the actors she’s worked with including Miley Cyrus and Raven-Symone.

TVGoodness: Tell me a little about Instant Mom and your character.

SYDNEY PARK: Instant Mom is about a former party girl, Stephanie Turner, played by Tia Mowry-Hardrict. She married my father, played by Michael Boatman. His name is Charlie Phillips. He’s a cardiac surgeon in Philadelphia — he has three kids. He thinks that Stephanie is very energetic, young and hip. And she has a funny dynamic with the kids. She wants to be like their best friend and their mom at the same time. She just went from a weekend mom to a full-time mom. So my character, Gabby Phillips, is like 14 going on 20. She’s really sassy and she’s very head strong, she has a funky style. [Stephanie] has an interesting dynamic with Gabby, because they are both trying to grow and find their dynamics in the family so a lot of hilarious situations kind of pop up and it’s really, really cool.

TVGoodness:  Speaking of Tia, Michael as well as Sheryl [Lee Ralph], what is it like to work with these TV veterans?

SYDNEY:  It’s really an incredible experience working with all of them. You’ve got Tia, you’ve got Sheryl, and Michael Boatman, and they are such talented people. We all just really connected. They’re great people to work with. There’s lots of laugh and that is so important. Because when you are working with people every day and many hours, you want to have a good experience. I’ve been having a great experience with everyone.  Learning from Tia and Sheryl and Michael, their comedic timing and how professional they are and to just be in their presence — they are really great people.

TVGoodness:  Did Tia give you any advice?  She was a child star with her sister.  You’re pretty young yourself so I wanted to see if she has given you some guidance on how to deal with all the pressures of being a kid in the business.

SYDNEY:  She really has, you know? And not only to myself, but to my younger brothers on the show played on the show by Ty Williams and Damarr Calhoun. She’s given us some really key, vital information like make sure you always stay grounded, be kind and professional. Never get into drugs, never get caught up, that you are a grounded person, that you focus on your business and you continue to be a kind person and genuine. It’s so great because she doesn’t really have to say much because she portrays all the incredible positives, the positive side of the industry.  She is the perfect example of a young, female actress in the industry.

TVGoodness:  So you would say that it’s a pretty family oriented set and everyone works like a family.

SYDNEY:  Yeah, definitely. We’ve really bonded. Just hilarious moments, it’s so great, it’s so, so great. And I’m so happy that we are coming back for a second season. And it’s going to be really great. I’m just proud of everyone.

TVGoodness:  Congratulations on that! I want to switch gears for a second.  So I read that you were the youngest comedian to be on stage at the Hollywood Improv. True?

SP:  Yes it’s true. I was six years old and I had just moved here to LA. And my mom was working at the Hollywood Improv. I used to do little pre-shows in the dining room while people were eating. I would just be my spunky six year old self with my pixie cut, it was really funny. So one night, I told my parents, I said, ‘Look, I want to do stand up and I just want to do it.’ And my parents said okay and put together a three-minute set. And I wrote it and they helped me tweak it. And the first comedian that put me up was DeRay Davis. To this day I call him my Uncle D. He put me on stage on one of the toughest nights. It was Mo Betta Monday. It’s the toughest crowd and it’s always the most crowded. And it was great and I just loved it. It kind of kicked off my career.

TVGoodness:  And do you still do stand up?

SYDNEY: Actually, I want to get back into it. Mark Curry, who is working on See Dad Run, actually did a guest spot on one of our first episodes. He was saying that I should definitely get back into stand up.  I want to, it’s something that definitely sets you apart from everyone. You know, there are not a lot of 16-year-old female comedians. They’re really are none?  So it’s important. I feel it’s an important part of my career. That’s how I got started. And it’s great and now that I’m a young lady, there’s a lot of stuff to touch on.  So I want to get back into it.

TVGoodness:  Yeah, I saw you do stand up on America’s Got Talent. I couldn’t believe that this kid comes out there and just nails it.

SYDNEY:  Thanks. Whenever I do standup it’s always really fun. It’s liberating because it’s such a personal thing and it’s so intimate. To be able to get up on stage …..there has been many times that I have bombed and just did a horrible job but that’s what comes with stand up. That goes with anything. You’ve got to learn. It makes you stronger, it makes you better. It’s great. I definitely want to get myself back into it.

TVGoodness:  That’s awesome.  We are called TVGoodness so I was really curious, what TV shows do you have to watch?  That you love?

SP:  Hmmm. Okay, I really love…I’m actually kind of getting into Big Bang Theory.

TVGoodness:  Oh, so good…

SYDNEY: Yeah, and Vampire Diaries and Breaking Bad. I know Breaking Bad has had the [series] finale and everything but I am obsessed with that show. And I think it’s one of those timeless shows because the actors are just amazing and they’re so committed to their characters. And I just really love the show. Those are my three main ones.

TVGoodness: You’ve worked with some pretty big kid stars: Raven-Symone and Miley Cyrus.  When you are working with these kids going into their adulthood what did you learn from them?

SYDNEY:  You know, I’ve had the opportunity as a young kid in the industry it’s important to surround myself with people around me that are a good examples. And I had the opportunity to obviously talk with Miley and Raven. Raven was really a grounded person and so was Miley. And Miley was so sweet and her whole family was so welcoming. And people can say all they want about her, my personal experience with her was really, really positive.  I still have a letter she wrote to me while we were in rehearsal.  She was saying that I hope you go so far in your life and I see so much light in you. She was really a genuine person. I think that being kind to people and making sure you are grounded and real, really goes a long way. One thing that I have learned in this industry — your relationships with people can get you really far. If anything it’s probably the most important thing in this industry. You know…actors…..if you have a good relationship with someone, a good reputation, you can go far. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some really just great, genuine spirits.

TVGoodness: That’s a nice story about Miley. Is there anything else about the show you want people to know?

SYDNEY:  Instant Mom is one of those shows, you really can just sit down with your family. It will make you laugh. It’s real and every family can relate to it. There’s so many hilarious scenarios that are going to come up.

Check out the talented Sydney Park on Instant Mom, which airs Sundays on Nick-at-Nite and NickMom. New episodes return in 2014.

Connect with Sydney

Interview edited for space and content.

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