'Suite Life of Zack and Cody' star Brenda Song opened up about trying to make it in acting as a kid: 'We had no money'

Brenda Song Suite Life and present day side by side
Brenda Song regularly appeared on Disney Channel from 2004 to 2011.Disney Channel, Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images
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  • Brenda Song famously played London Tipton on "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody."

  • She had other memorable roles on Disney Channel in the early 2000s, but had to make some sacrifices.

  • Song opened up about what life was like as a child actor back then, and how her family helped.

Brenda Song played memorable roles on Disney Channel in the early 2000s, most notably London Tipton on "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody," but also on the network's original movies, like "Stuck in the Suburbs," and "Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior." All grown up now, Song has since carved out space for herself as an actress in several TV series, like "Scandal," "New Girl," and "Dollface."

While Song had a supportive immediate family as a child actor, she opened up in an interview with Glamour about some of the struggles she faced in pursuing her childhood dream. "I have a very different experience as a child actor," Song said, "My mom had me at 17 and my dad was a teacher and still in school. My grandma was a maid working at the Marriott hotels. We had no money."

She said her mom had no experience with show business, but she did the best she could. "I was so fortunate to have my mom. She didn't know what she was doing. I was that kid by the door with my portfolio and headshot ready to go. I had a little brother, so my mom would have to sit in the car and I'd sign myself in."

Song recently had a child of her own with "Home Alone" actor Macaulay Culkin, and said her mom is still a big help. "My mom lives with me right now," Song said last May. "She's here because of my son." She added that her mom had gotten sick right around the time she landed her first big role. "Acting didn't become a career until I was 16. That year my mom got diagnosed with breast cancer, and I booked "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" and got accepted to Harvard University, all within a few weeks."

Song said that Harvard was a goal of hers, but she was "enthralled with acting." Ultimately, she sat down with her parents at the time and made her choice. "There was no hesitation to choose acting, but it was hard because Harvard was a dream of mine. Working for Disney Channel, I was still able to get my education in a different medium and do what I love to do."

Even though Song went on to avoid many of the pitfalls other kid actors faced, she still felt the pinch that comes from being recognized. "I was just on people's TVs all the time, so the public felt like they knew me. During that crazy Disney phase, it was very jarring for me and started a lot of anxiety because I was trying to figure out who I was at 16."

Her anxiety only worsened over time — she added, "Suddenly you feel like you always have to look great when you leave the house because what if someone takes a picture? I didn't go out for a long time. I wasn't Miley Cyrus, but I was getting recognized at the mall."

Song is happy with the choices she made, however, since her love of acting hasn't wavered. That doesn't mean she's never had second thoughts. "But in this industry the highs are so high and the lows are so low. It's so inconsistent. There's so many times where I've questioned myself: Should I have taken my degree and done something a little bit more steady?"

Inconsistency is a frustration a lot of actors face, but actors of color face an exacerbated form of the problem. Song has been open about struggling even to get roles written for Asian actors, like when she called attention to being told she wasn't "Asian enough" for a role in "Crazy Rich Asians." The actress said she won't let scarcity define her: "My new lesson I've learned is saying no, which has been really hard because it's still ingrained in me, being an Asian American actress in Hollywood, that this opportunity may be my last one."

Song said she's gotten to where she is by not compromising herself, and she plans to continue that way. "I don't think you have to compromise yourself to be successful. I felt so much pressure. I thought, Do I need to change myself to take myself to the next level? Honestly, I know some very successful people who are the most unhappy people because they've spent so much time being what everyone wants them to be."

Read the original article on Business Insider