For actress Brenda Song, the backstage antics on her new Fox comedy Dads are almost as hilarious as the show itself. By Liz Armstrong. Photographed by Stella Berkofsky
In real life, Brenda Song is a psychology major with a four-part true-crime novel in her reading queue, yet as an actor she’s best known for playing dumb. After portraying the spoiled heiress London Tipton on Disney’s The Suite Life of Zack & Cody for three years, she realized people expected her to wake up wearing makeup and heels and be a ditz—which couldn’t be further from the truth. Now she’s taking on a much brighter character, starring alongside Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi in the FOX comedy series Dads (from Family Guy creators Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, and Wellesley Wild). And though the show—which focuses on the relationships between two best friends who own a video game company and their annoying, live-in dads—has generated a fair amount of controversy before it officially premieres September 17th, Song couldn’t be happier to be a part of it. “I go to work and every day I’m learning so much, she says, “not just as an actor but also as a person.”
FROM YOUR TWITTER FEED, IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU AND SETH GREEN ENJOY TEASING EACH OTHER QUITE A BIT.
He’s my long-lost older little brother. It’s kind of an all-boys club there, and he took me in. We have so much fun together—he’ll be pulling a prank on me and they’ll call action, and he’ll get into character and just nail the scene. And I’m like, “What are you doing? How are you doing this?”
WAIT, HE PRANKS YOU WHILE FILMING?
He likes to scare me! He’s a tiny, adorable, lovely man, and he loves hiding in places. I’ll talk to him and turn away, and he’ll be silently following just two inches behind me. He scares the crap out of me. He’s like a little ninja!
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CHARACTER?
Oh, Veronica. She started as Seth and Giovanni’s assistant, but she’s smart, and [it quickly becomes clear that] she’s running this company. She’s a go-getter and will do whatever it takes to get the job done, and that’s what I love about her.
DO YOU THINK YOU AND VERONICA ARE SIMILAR?
I feel like such an oxymoron, myself. Being on a kids’ show for so long, people expect you to be a certain way, to be your character. Veronica represents a side of me that has a really dry sense of humor. And I love her wardrobe. She’s not what you expect.
AND IF YOU’RE NOT WHAT WE EXPECT, THEN WHAT DON’T WE KNOW ABOUT YOU?
I’m a girl who collects shoes and handbags and designer jewelry, sure, but I also collect mugs.
Yes, mugs! [Laughs.] I’m such a geek. I can’t live without my coffee. It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up. I go to sleep just so I can wake up and drink coffee.
WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL SURPRISE PEOPLE WHEN THEY WATCH DADS?
The relationships really drive [the show]. Alec Sulkin and Seth MacFarlane are so incredibly brilliant that even through all this craziness, all these crazy jokes, all these crazy pranks, there’s such heart. And I don’t think people are expecting that.
THE SHOW HAS BEEN ACCUSED OF PROMOTING RACIAL STEREOTYPES, ESPECIALLY SINCE YOU DRESS UP AS A “SEXY ASIAN SCHOOLGIRL” IN THE PILOT…
That’s one scene out of the entire pilot. When we shot that scene, we had no idea that people would take it out of context and make such a big deal of it. If our writers were really racist, they wouldn’t have hired me in the first place. We’re not the Oprah show here—we’re trying to make people laugh.
YOU WERE THE FIRST PERSON TO BE CAST FOR THE SHOW, RIGHT?
I was! I couldn’t believe it when they told me that. I’m so humbled that I was first.
I READ SOMEWHERE THAT FOR AN AUDITION ONCE YOU HAD TO BREAK A BRICK WITH YOUR HAND. THAT SEEMS INSANE.
No! What? No! I don’t know where you heard that. I’ve done that to get my black belt, but never to audition.
I THINK THAT WAS ON YOUR WIKIPEDIA PAGE.
Oh my God! And IMDb has my middle name as “Julietta.” I don’t even have a middle name. I don’t know where the heck that came from. The Internet knows more about me than I do!
Stylist: JESSICA WILLIS
Hair: JARRETT LOVINELLA