Joey King, Sydney Park & Shannon Purser – Wish Upon
By: Yael Tygiel
Wish Upon writer Barbara Marshall and Producer Sherryl Clark combined their love of horror films like Final Destination with their love of John Hughes classics like The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles, which feels quite evident after talking to the stars Joey King (Claire), Sydney Park (Meredith) and Shannon Purser (June).
Q: How did you get involved with Wish Upon? What drew you to the project?
Joey: I worked with John Leonetti on The Conjuring. He was director of photography, back a couple years ago, so he brought this project to me and asked me to do it with him. And I love John so much, I jumped at the chance to work with him again and the script was so dope. It was so scary and it had just some lovely elements where you care about each character.
Sydney: I’d definitely say this film had a lot of great characters in it, great storyline. I feel like it’s such a classic format – we’ve got like teen movie in there. Also, it’s a summer film so you’ve got that summer horror vibe. It’s just really cool and great people attached. I’m a huge fan of John and Broad Green Pictures. So, it was definitely a win-win.
Shannon: I love horror movies, all types. And The Conjuring has been one of my favorites. So, knowing that he worked on that, I was really excited.
Sydney: And Joey King. Duh.
Shannon: She’s the best.
Joey: Don’t even play.
Q: How much did your characters change from when you first got introduced to them to what we see on the screen?
Sydney: I’d say Meredith McNeil kinda evolved a little bit. When I went in for the first audition, I remember we just kinda ran it a little bit. It was in casting. And then I came back and read for a different character, with Joey actually. Then, finally we went back to reading with Meredith when I was Facetiming with John, he was prepping in Toronto at the time for the film. It was cool. We just ran through the character about how Meredith isn’t really mad at the world per say, but she’s a little cynical – we’re not making her this bitchy character. That’s not the direction we wanted to take it and we were kind of on the same page. So, when it really evolved during the film it ended up being a really fun character and great role to play.
Shannon: The script was so detailed and I feel that we got a really great idea of what our characters were before we even got on set. I think that I really got to sink my teeth into June and flesh her out a bit more. It was really cool to think about her motivations and her backstory.
Q: What were some of the challenges you faced with these roles?
Joey: I would say there’s a lot of emotional stuff, which was great. I love doing that kind of thing. I’s one of my favorite types of acting – it’s just get down and get nitty gritty – just get all sad and shit. There were definitely a lot of days – it was just like days and days of that, where it gets exhausting. There was also this acting with an inanimate object who has such a life in the movie, which was a challenge. But it was amazing. I mean, I have this costar that was a box. It was so much a costar. For sure, it wasn’t just an object. It was very much a part of my process and everything I had to do. So, that was very exciting for me. And there was also like seven different boxes on set – for like a bunch of different things. There was a cement box, a rubber box, a hollow box, the real box…It was very, very neat to act with all of those boxes.
Sydney: Clare had to go through so much emotional damage, but I feel like for Meredith, my biggest thing was not making her too mean. I remember a couple times I’d say a line and then I’d go up to John and be like, “John, I don’t know man. This just feels a little mean. Would I really say it that way? I feel like it’s too harsh.” But it was cool, I felt like it we found a good happy medium and I soon became comfortable with just being Meredith and being matter-of-fact. It’s not her being an asshole, it’s just her being her – telling it like it is.
Shannon: For me it was, I’ve never lost anyone very close to me so in this movie there’s a moment where my character has to deal with that. So, getting into that emotional place was a really good experience for me as an actor and it was a bit challenging, but working with Joey really helped a lot because she’s such a natural. I had a really great time and I feel like I learned a lot of really valuable things.
Q: You seem really close…
Shannon: We are close!
Joey: We are close, we bonded a lot. It was just us three. Like most of our scenes Shannon and I shot, it was just us three, really. So we really got a chance to bond and find these characters together and find that dynamic with each other. It was really awesome.
Q: It feels rare to have a female led teen horror film. Do you feel any pressure now that you’re doing it?
Sydney: I feel empowered.
Joey: Pressure? No. Excited? Yes. Of course there’s a little bit of nervousness there. We want people to love the film just as much as we love making it and we love seeing it. But I feel like, if you fret too much, what’s the point? Why not just enjoy the moment and I just really, really hope people love it and I think they will. I love that there are three female leads in this film, I think that’s so awesome. We really had so much fun with it –
Sydney: And that’s going to translate on screen. People are going to see that we had fun making this movie.
Joey: We crushed it!
Shannon: The friendships are super natural it’s great.
Q: Super natural? Or Supernatural?
Shannon: I didn’t intend that, but as I said it, it’s perfect.
Q: In this current political climate, what can actors and all artists of entertainment be doing to push boundaries and share in the support of resistance?
Shannon: I think that, as of late, women haven’t been treated the way that they should be in terms of equality and I think that it’s a really amazing opportunity for us to do work that we’re proud of and to really be an example. That’s really important to me, that young girls can look up to me and know that any dream that they have is achievable for them and that they are just as talented and capable as anyone else. I think that we’re living in a very important time right now and we are the next generation that’s going to make a difference in our country and we have the power to do that. I think sometimes the arts are overlooked, but they’re hugely important and I’m really excited to be part of that.
Q: I may or may not have spoken with a parent of Sydney’s before the interview where I was told that she was born on Halloween, but was afraid of trick-or-treating…I was told to ask about what happened when she was ten years old…
Sydney: This is so embarrassing. I used to be afraid of trick-or-treating, but I used to make my mom – she would make the best costumes for me. I was such a little brat. I was like, “Okay mom, I’m gonna go out. I’m gonna be the last unicorn, you know that movie. I’m gonna have my hooves and everything.” And I would freak out every time. That’s what I wanted to do. When I was ten, I dressed up as Nellie Bly – I’m sure you don’t know, but she was actually one of the first female reporters to go into an insane asylum and just do a whole bunch of journalism on it. I don’t know, I did a dead Nellie Bly. But I was also constipated on my 10th birthday. And I was walking around in heels, trick-or-treating like a bent over old lady. It was horrible.