Brenda Song talks growing up in the acting industry at PPC, ASA event


Romita Das | Senior Staff Photographer

Brenda Song speaks during a Pitt Program Council event Thursday night at the WPU Assembly room.

By Shreya Singh, Staff Writer

When asked who she thinks had a better relationship with her character London Tipton — Maddie Fitzpatrick or Bailey Pickett — actress Brenda Song said it was a controversial question.

“At the end of the day, I would have to say Maddie, simply because there’s a longer history,” Song said. “Bailey’s more like a younger annoying sister whereas Maddie is more of a contemporary, you know? Boy, you did get controversial there.”

About 300 students gathered in the William Pitt Union’s Assembly Room on Thursday night to welcome Song, who Pitt Program Council (PPC) invited in collaboration with Pitt’s Asian Student Alliance. Song is an actress who started her career at age six as a child model. Song’s most notable acting roles include her role as London Tipton in “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” and as Wendy Wu in the Disney Channel original film, “Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior.” 

Most recently, Song acted in Hulu’s comedy show “Dollface” alongside actresses Kat Dennings and Shay Mitchell. Song also starred in the 2022 movie “Love Accidentally” on Amazon Prime and voiced the character Anne Boonchuy in animated series “Amphibia.” 

Josh Nguyen and Sophia Gill, ASA’s president and a lecture committee member of PPC respectively, interviewed Song in a 45-minute moderated Q&A session, asking an array of questions regarding her experience growing up in the acting industry. 

Song said she struggled to find herself after having a routine for eight years of her life while filming “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” and the “The Suite Life on Deck” from 2005 to 2011. 

“I was having these anxiety attacks, but I didn’t know what they were,” Song said. “I would wake up thinking I had to be at work. Anyway, we were at IHOP and the waitress came up and asked me how I wanted my eggs. I automatically said an egg white scramble. Then I thought, ‘Do I even like that?’ It’s just what I ordered for eight years in the morning because that’s what they’d given me for eight years. I just sat there tearing up and my dad was freaking out.”

Annabeth Collis, PPC’s lecture director, said they invited Song after brainstorming a list of public figures. 

“The lecture committee really liked the idea of bringing Brenda to campus,” Collis said. “I think she’s really interesting because she’s a figure we grew up watching. She has a really unique and rich experience as an actor in the industry. So, I feel like if people walk away knowing more about Brenda Song, knowing more about her experience as a woman of color in the entertainment industry, that would be nice.”

Song said she focused on representing herself rather than trying to represent the entire Asian community. 

“I didn’t look at it that way because you just can’t,” Song said. “I tried to represent myself as best as I could and hopefully be able to be a figure for young girls to watch. That’s one of the reasons I’m sitting up here. I’ve never done this before, but because this was presented to me by ASA, it was important to me that even if one person can take something from what I said about my experiences and my mistakes, then it’s worth it.”

Collis said PPC planned to collaborate with ASA since last semester. 

“I believe that ASA usually does a fall and spring speaker,” Collis said. “They wanted to know if we wanted to collaborate on one of those two speaking events and with the way that scheduling and stuff worked out, it ended up being the spring semester. We love to collaborate with other student groups. I think it enriches the program and it casts a wide net to bring in more students to events like this one.”

Lydon Pelletier, PPC’s public relations director, said one of her favorite moments during lecture events is the audience Q&A at the end.

“I think it’s super interesting to hear what sticks out to people,” Pelletier said. “Sometimes we will bring up really specific questions, like in the Jennette McCurdy lectures or Brittany Brosky lectures, and people always have super interesting questions to ask at the end. Sometimes they’re super specific and I’m like, wow, I wouldn’t have thought to ask that. So it’s always interesting to see what questions come out of left field.”

Ashley Kim, a sophomore undecided major who attended the event, said it was surreal seeing and listening to Song in person. 

“It was just so crazy to actually see her and see someone who I’ve always watched growing up, but not on screen anymore,” Kim said. “I really liked when she was talking about her career path and if there’s something you actually love, if you just work hard for it and strive for that, it could happen.”

Collis said her goal for lecture events is for the audience to have learned something new. 

“I think the goal of lecture events is to just have people walk away knowing more than they knew before,” Collis said. “Not just listening to someone they may be familiar with in the media but getting an even greater or more heightened awareness of this person. I think just getting the chance to see media and cultural figures and engage with them on a more personal kind of human level is, at least, my goal.”

Song advised the crowd to live life to the fullest and to embrace each moment — good and bad. 

“For me it’s important to remind people that you only have one life to live. There’s no first draft in life, you just gotta do it. You’re gonna make mistakes and you’re gonna fuck up, but it all brought you to where you are. So, you have to embrace that or otherwise you’ll live a life you regret.”

Editor’s Note: This article was updated to correctly spell Josh Nguyen’s name. The Pitt News regrets this error.