INTERVIEW: Megan Park Talks Cinderella, Miley Film, Her Music Career & Previews New SECRET LIFE

Megan Park is loved by primetime soap fans for her role as Grace Bowman on THE SECRET LIFE OF THE AMERICAN TEENAGER. Outside of SECRET LIFE, she starred in the feature film Charlie Bartlett, opposite Anton Yelchin and Robert Downey Jr. Her other feature credits include Some Things That Stay, Kaw, and The Butcher's Daughter. She has also starred in the Canadian series ACE LIGHTNING, BLOBHEADS, and LIFE WITH DEREK as well as the comedy pilot IN MOLLY'S OPINION and the Emmy-winning and Gemini-nominated series DARK ORACLE.

Park was born in Lindsay, Ontario, Canada, but she grew up in London, Ontario, and now lives in Los Angeles.

Her latest project is the role of Beverly Van Ravensway in ABC Family's original movie, A Cinderella Story: Once Upon A Song, which premieres on Sunday, January 22 at 8/7c!

Below is a transcript from a new interview with Park where she previews the new film and the upcoming season of SECRET LIFE, as well as updates us on her music and expresses her enthusiasm for another film she did with Miley Cyrus.

The premise of Cinderella is you can't sing and you need to be dubbed sort of like the movie Singing in the Rain. Do you sing in Cinderella?
Megan Park: I don't get to, which is such a bummer. I have to bad sing. I have to fake sing, which is actually really hard to purposefully bad sing off key. But, no, I don't get to sing in Cinderella Story. Maybe I'll get to sing in something else.

What's happening with your band, Frank and Derol, and how did you team with Codi Caraco and Brandi Cyrus?
Megan Park: Basically, to make a really, really long story short, Codi was a good friend of mine who I met through my boyfriend, and she's a really talented musician. She went to Berkeley School of Music, and we started playing music together. I play the guitar and I sing. I've been doing that since I was younger and it just sort of happened, I guess, organically as a friendship, and we were like, maybe we should start a band for fun, never thinking anybody would ever hear anything that we did. And so we started Frank and Derol just the two of us and started playing shows.

And then I was living with Brandi Cyrus at the time, and she's obviously is a musician as well as so we were like, hey, come play with us, come—you know she plays guitar so she started playing as well. And then people started really liking what we were doing, which was cool, and we put some stuff on MySpace and everything. And then it was kind of crazy because people started expressing interest in signing the band and all that sort of stuff. So then, once we got the opportunity to sign it sort of became—for me, acting is my passion and my main sort of focus and what I really love and music is more of a hobby. And for Brandi and Codi it was sort of their passion and what they really wanted to pursue. So we kind of sat down and had a conversation and I was like, well, why don't you guys try to do the thing, sign and do the band full on, the two of you and I'll still go hang out with you guys and write when I can and play with you.

And it just kind of worked out that way for the best because to be honest it wasn't something that I wanted to commit to fully, to take away from my acting because it was just sort of a fun hobby. And for them it was what they really wanted to do so I guess it was sort of fate that I met Codi and then introduced them, and we all sort of got to do that together. But it worked out for the best for everybody and they're still my great friends. And it wasn't like one of us left the band and it was all weird. It was just like, who wants to commit to the time of this, and it's not that I didn't want to commit. It's just that I didn't want to do something half-heartedly that I wasn't going to be able to commit to 100% and my passion is in acting and I really wanted to pursue that. So that's what happened, basically, with the band.

You’re no longer with the band or you're still doing things with the band?
Megan Park: No, officially the band is Codi and Brandi and they're doing the album. And I sort of play with them and write with them when I can, and some of the songs that I was originally writing are on the album. But I no longer am a part of the band.

Who did the band sign with?
Megan Park: They signed with Interscope.

We really love the character of Grace [on THE SECRET LIFE OF THE AMERICAN TEENAGER] and we've actually seen a lot of evolution with her character throughout the season. Could you talk about how you feel that Grace is going to evolve in the future?
Megan Park: Grace has kind of changed really drastically. And to be honest, this season is probably one of the seasons where Grace changes the most out of any year. There's a lot of like new relationships and some really crazy self-awareness things that happen to her and some major lifestyle changes so it's exciting. And I don't really know—what happens with our characters and I never really know what to expect because I've been surprised before. But from the looks of it Grace is kind of becoming more independent and really, really going in a different direction than I thought she would ever sort of end up. So my guess is probably as good as yours. It's kind of a surprise to me as well.

What's the biggest character difference between your role in this new film and your role as Grace?
Megan Park: Playing Beverley and playing Grace are literally complete opposites. Grace is a very compassionate person and she really wants to please everyone, and Bev is pretty selfish and just kind of wants to get ahead. I mean they're both really good people at the heart of it but Beverley is not necessarily the nice girl. So they're pretty polar opposites, which was really fun to get to do something so different than Grace. It was kind of fun.

You [acted in Cinderella] with Lucy Hale. What was the experience like and are the two of you still in contact?
Megan Park: Actually I just talked to her yesterday, I think, or the day before. She's great. We met years before—we actually met in the audition room for SECRET LIFE, which is so weird. And I guess you're supposed to be competitive, the people I auditioned with, but we just started chatting and became friends, and the she ended up doing PRETTY LITTLE LIARS and I did Secret Life so it's kind of cool. And she's just really easy going and cool, and when I found out that she was doing the movie that was one of the main reasons I wanted to be part of it, was to get a chance to work with her.

And we bonded pretty much within the first ten minutes of the read through the first day, and never left each other's side. Every day off we would go shopping in Wilmington and hang out, and that's continued since we've been back in L.A. She's just a really sweet girl and she's very easy to get along with and we ended up having a lot in common. And she's just really fun and dorky and goofy like I am and doesn't take things too seriously so we got along really, really well. She's a cool girl.

And we both have major online shopping problems and online shopped together nonstop when we were filming so that was kind of the only bad part, that we egged each other on with the online shopping.

For your character Grace, what can we expect in the new season of SECRET LIFE from your character?
Megan Park: Grace changes as a person the most this season than any other season. She really starts questioning like a lot of major things in her life and really wants to make some serious changes. And she gets confused and she's not really sure where her life is headed. So it's like a really big personal discovery for Grace and new relationships, kind of shocking relationships. There's a lot of growth with Grace. She really grows up this year.

What similarities and differences did you find between this Cinderella and the original?
Megan Park: The original was more sticking with the traditional Cinderella-esque fairytale, and this one was sort of like a modern day take on it, which I thought was kind of unique and creative. Obviously there's only one wicked stepsister and it wasn't keeping with the fairytale. It was sort of a more relatable story to modern day teens today, which I thought was really cool. And then, making it about the music, which is another cool aspect, and the music is so great and it's so pop-y and refreshing. It was just sort of a really refreshing take on the whole story.

Did you draw from the stepsisters in the movie or is there another villain that you got inspiration from?
Megan Park: I talked to the director about whether I should draw upon the original stepsister and how similar they wanted it to be to the original, and he really wanted me to like just take a fresh take on it. And I guess I could say that I probably drew on past people that I've met, personal experiences with, people that in real life, because I really wanted Bev to be as realistic as possible. And also in the original the wicked stepsisters are just purely, purely wicked, and Bev is not. She really does have a heart and she's insecure and she doesn't have a great relationship with her mother and so many different things. I wanted to add a lot of steps to her and make her not so completely one note. She's not purely, purely evil so I wanted that to show.

There seems to be an East Indian theme to it, in the home and in the party and what have you. I wanted to know if there is anything behind that. Was there a meaning to that, in doing that?
Megan Park: I don't exactly know because in the original script there wasn't really any mention of that, but then the director said that they wanted to do a fresh take on the dance in a way that Katie could have her face covered that was kind of unique and fun and fresh. So they came up with a Bollywood idea for the dance so she could obviously be wearing the outfits with her face covered. And then, it ended up sort of like infusing itself into other parts of the movie and with the character Ravi and stuff like that. So it was really cool, and it just kind of made for a little more excitement and a different take on the whole theme of the movie, and it ended up being cool.

What made you decide to play this vast different role from Grace on your other show?
Megan Park: I was in New Orleans filming this movie called So Undercover with Miley Cyrus and it was a character that's really sweet and really dumb and a different sort of take on a character more in the vein of Grace. And that's a character that I tend to play a lot because I really connect with those characters and I really like playing them. Bev is not purely evil and it was sort of a different approach to the character.

I thought it would be really cool and fun, and I just like doing things that I think are fun and exciting. And obviously, meeting Lucy and getting to work with Missi Pyle was a major thing for me. I'm such a fan and I love the comedy roles, and this movie is actually very funny. There are a lot of funny moments, and there was a lot of opportunity for me to do some sort of comedic work, and I learned a lot from working with Missi Pyle and that was a major drawing point for me. It was just really fun. It was an opportunity to do something new.

Did you guys have any jam sessions behind the scenes or anything fun like that?
Megan Park: We totally did actually. It's so funny that you ask that because Missi Pyle—most people don't know—is a great musician and has a band and has toured, and she had a good friend sing with her named Jenna who is also a musician, and it was amazing. And Lucy's boyfriend at the time was a musician. My boyfriend's a musician. So it kind of turned into like this crazy jam session a lot. And Freddie, of course, and Titus, everyone it seemed like, was sort of musical in a sense so it was really fun. Missi had this like great beach house and we were all staying down there, and we would play guitar out on the balcony. It was really fun. Everybody was like really into the whole music thing. It was great. Everybody had their guitar there at some point.

What was it like working with [the cast of Undercover] and doing that movie?
Megan Park: That was probably the most fun four months of my entire life. We had too much fun. I look back I'm like, did we make a movie? Oh, yeah. I forgot because we just had so much fun the whole time. It was great. We were in such a magical city and to be there for that long and working with Miley and Kelly Osborne and Eloise Mumford. It was basically just all girls all the time. There was an actor Josh Bowman who is in it but he only came at the end so basically it was just a bunch of girls by ourselves the whole time. We all were staying together and we went to sorority boot camp because we're in a sorority but the real sorority up in Baton Rouge, and we had so much fun. It did not seem like work, and by the time it was all over I couldn't believe that we made a movie because we had so much fun. But we did so hopefully, people like the movie too.

What was it like growing up in Ontario and what route did you take to become an actress, and also how did you get representation by Paradigm, and how did you get this particular role?
Megan Park: Okay. Well, I did, I grew up in Canada. My whole family still lives there, and I just started doing local theater and it was something that I really love. And my parents would not let me do anything professionally. They were like, no; if you want to do it you can do it when you're 18. So I snuck it in a few years earlier. I found my own agent and they were like, well, if you find all the information yourself you can do it. So I would take the train into Toronto and audition for things, and I worked really hard and got an agent in Canada. And then, sort of broke into the industry that way, doing Canadian movies, Canadian TV shows, and just loved it.

And then I came down to L.A. four years ago, I guess, now, and I was here for a week to take this acting class that I really wanted to take. That I heard was amazing. And then, while I was down here, I got sent the script for Secret Life and the audition, and I went in and I went back every single day that week—and then by Friday I think I tested for the part. I didn't even know what a test or a studio test and all this stuff was and I think maybe it was a blessing I didn't know what I was getting myself into because I wasn't nervous. I just sort of like walked in and was like, uh, I guess I'll read for this, and then I ended up getting the part.

So I went back to Canada. I got my stuff and moved back like a month later and started filming and it's kind of been, obviously, keeping me really busy ever since then. I always had hoped and planned to move down here and do this but I didn't really know when and where it was going to happen. And I guess the stars aligned and timing was really on my side, and it just happened way faster than I thought it would, so I feel really, really, really lucky.

Oh, and you also asked me about getting into Paradigm. It just sort of fell into place as well. Once Secret Life started airing they reached out to me and said they liked my performance in the show, and I signed with them. It's been great.

About the Gloriana music video "Kissed You Goodnight," what was your experience like filming that?
Megan Park: It was so fun. We knew the band. My boyfriend knew them really well because he's a musician, and they came to us and they said would you guys want to do this music video for us? You basically have to just fly to Nashville for a couple of days, hang out with us, and then you'd have to kiss a lot on camera. I was like, wow, this sounds like pretty much the easiest job of my entire life. I'm in.

So we thought it would be cool and we loved the song. They sang it to us and obviously wanted to support and help our friend's band in any way we could. They're great and we like their music. And literally we got to go there and we filmed in this beautiful house in Nashville, a city that we both love, and we got to be in this music video and kiss. Obviously, he's my boyfriend in real life and so it wasn't awkward, and it was just a really fun thing to do. We had a great time. It was really cool.

Any future plans or would you be open to more music videos?
Megan Park: I think I would probably love to be in my boyfriend's music video, one of his at some point when his new record comes out. I think that would be pretty cool, but other than that no plans so far. We'll just have to see what happens I guess.

As an actress, singer, style star you're probably considered a triple threat right now in Hollywood. Do you have aspirations to grow the mini-mogul in the future?
Megan Park: I don't know. I guess I'm not versed enough in like the mini-mogul world to know really like what's involved. And I honestly really want to do projects that make me happy and hopefully make other people happy. I'm becoming more and more confident and am falling more and more in love with the whole world of comedy, and I think that's something that I really want to explore a lot more. But right now, you know, that whole thing isn't necessarily on my vision board of things that I'm aiming towards, but obviously being successful and reaching out to a lot of people is a goal. So if that means doing all those things that would be great but right now I just really want to make cool art that I like and work with people that inspire me, are kind of my main goals right now.

Would you ever consider writing a comedy for yourself?
Megan Park: Actually I am writing a comedy with Missi Pyle. We came up with the idea when we were working together on this movie, and she's obviously an extremely experienced talented actress. And she kind of approached me and she's like, I have this idea about this script. Would you like to work on it with me? And I'd never really written. I'd written in my free time but never professionally like we've been doing, and so I was like, okay. I'll give it a shot. I don't really know what I'm doing.

But it's been the most amazing experience and so rewarding. And we actually pretty much have written a script and it's going to be going through rewrites and stuff like that. But I'm going to say that she's the brains behind it and I just sort of helped out in any way I could and sort of helped her voice the young character in this script. But it's been amazing and it's obviously a comedy and it's something that we hope will get made. It's been pretty rewarding and we're actually going to be taking a writing workshop together, I hope, at some point this year because for whatever reason our brains work really well together with writing. And she's been teaching me a lot. So, yeah, it's definitely something that I really want to explore more.

Is it easy to make the transition from actually being an adult and then having to go and play a teenager in your various roles?
Megan Park: It hasn't been frustrating. It's actually felt really normal because it's all I've ever known. I'm always really young for my age, just in life in general, I guess. I graduated high school, and then I just sort of moved on to the high school of SECRET LIFE and I've been doing that ever since I graduated high school, so it isn't something that I'm frustrated with. I don't really get cast for roles older than high school yet so I'm kind of totally fine riding this wave as long as it lasts. But there definitely is something in me that's looking forward to playing more mature roles and growing up a little bit, but I'm kind of taking it in stride. As long as I'll play high school, I'll play high school, and when the time is right and the roles start coming for me to play older I'm totally going to be ready and excited to do that too.

THE SECRET LIFE has a pretty racy storyline. But how did that work for you?
Megan Park: You know it's kind of interesting when you sign on to a show because you're basically signing on to play a character because you only really see the first episode of the show. And the pilot was just amazing to me, and it was kind of like shocking, the whole idea of—obviously the show is based on the secret sex life. I think that was the original title, was like the SECRET SEX LIFE OF THE AMERICAN TEENAGER or something like that. And it was sort of eye opening but I think that it was done in a way that was really real, educational, and it wasn't something that I was embarrassed by.

I mean I was really excited and proud to be a part of a show that was sort of breaking down the barriers of that. So no I wasn't nervous about it and I'm not nervous about it. I think that it's done in a really real way and that's always been Brenda Hampton’s focus, not just to educate and to show different choices that people make and how their lives sort of turn out when they make those choices, the positives and the negatives, which I really like. So no it hasn't made me nervous but it definitely is a risk when you sign on to a show and you don't really know what's going to happen, but I've just been really happy with everything so far, the way it's turned out.

Have you gotten any flack at all, any from either back home or just letters about this storyline?
Megan Park: No. You know what, I don't really read a lot of stuff because it's kind of out of my control in a sense, what happens on the show. But I put my trust in Brenda and ABC Family and they've totally made me feel safe and protected. And I think the show is really great and I don't think there's anything in it that's too controversial, and I do genuinely feel like if there is ever a storyline that I didn't feel comfortable doing then I would definitely have a voice and be able to talk to Brenda. She's really respectful that way, and she's really wonderful in wanting to make sure that everyone feels really comfortable. And I think I can speak for the rest of the cast with that too.

Where was Cinderella shot and can you tell us something of your experiences on the set with your cast, producers, and directors?
Megan Park: We shot the movie in Wilmington, North Carolina, which is a beautiful little town, and we had a lot of fun there. It's a cute place. There are lots of cute restaurants and we all were staying out by the beach. It was just amazing. Every night we were sort of like going out to dinner and hanging out with each other, and I really got to bond with Lucy and Missi Pyle the most. And the three of us spent a lot of time together, and they're both just really inspiring and unique in their own way.

I got to be goofy and silly with Lucy and just have fun and go out and be crazy. Then, with Missi I got to ask her a lot of questions and pick her brain and do lots of different things. It was really cool. We all had a really good time. Again, it seemed like I wasn't really working, which is the best feeling.

Could you talk about working on the set, the actual shooting?
Megan Park: It was great being on set. The director was really cool. We spent a lot of time rehearsing everything ahead of time so when we actually got to the set it felt like everybody knew what was happening and what was going on. Honestly it was just a really simple great shoot. It felt like a really creative set. A lot of times we'd film and then the director would be like, hey, let's just improv this one. Especially working with Missi Pyle, obviously she like to improv and it was hard to keep a straight face 90% of the time when working with her.

But it was great. It was just a really simple set and it went really smoothly and other than having to do a lot of dance rehearsal and Lucy, I'm sure, having to do a lot of recordings ahead of time, that was the only thing I was really nervous about, was doing the dancing because I hadn't danced a lot before. But it went well. It was just really smooth and effortless.

About A Cinderella Story: Once Upon A Song
It's a modern and enchanting twist on an enduring classic. Katie (Lucy Hale of PRETTY LITTLE LIARS) dreams of being a recording artist, but is continually thwarted by her cruel stepmother (Missi Pyle) and stepsister (Megan Park). When Katie falls hard for Luke (Freddie Stroma), the new boy at her Performing Arts school, she tries to get his attention with her singing. But when her stepsister takes credit for Katie's amazing voice and Luke falls for the wrong girl, Katie must learn to stand up for her dreams before her stepmother forces Katie to sing Luke into the arms of her wicked stepsister.

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