Sydney Meyer never intended to be an actress. Like much of her family, she assumed her future lay in either science or law. Thankfully, via school audition, Meyer unveiled a simmering passion for performing, and the rest is history.
Now, Meyer commenced her foray into the world of entertainment with a guest spot on Canadian teen drama Degrassi: The Next Generation. From there, she steadily curated a bullet-proof acting resume. In 2018, Meyer had a memorable guest role in The Expanse as Ensign Larson opposite Nick E. Tarabay‘s Cotyar. Then, 2019 kicked the doors wide open for Meyer with yet another memorable part in Shadowhunters, wherein she portrayed Helen Blackthorn. Ian Somerhalder‘s V-Wars gifted her with the plum role of Ava O’Malley. A recurring role, at that.
Fast forward to 2020. Meyer is set to debut in a starring capacity in Netflix’s Grand Army. Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Meyer regarding Grand Army, its relevance to current events, her experience on The Expanse, and what lies in store for her.
Melody McCune: We at Geek Girl Authority love a really good origin story, whether it’s superheroes or villains. So, what’s your origin story? How did you contract the acting bug?
Sydney Meyer: It was kind of by mistake, honestly. I come from a very academic-based family. My mom is a doctor, my dad’s a teacher, and both my brothers are engineers. I thought I was going to go into either science or law. I was just unhappy at the school I was at in grade school. My parents encouraged me to audition for this school for the arts in our town because it was the only way that you could go to a school that wasn’t your home school. So I did. I auditioned because I play piano, and I danced, and I did a couple other things. They let me in.
So, I transferred over to that school and we started putting on plays every year, and I just fell in love with it. I started studying it more. I would go to school. Then, I started going to Shakespeare School at Stratford in the summers, and when it came time to go to high school, I had to shoot for a typical school for the arts in Toronto. I moved out when I was 15 and moved to Toronto by myself to keep going to school for acting, because I just realized I wasn’t going to be happy at a normal high school after that.
And then, from there I got my agent and I took some classes — the studio type that you take in LA to train and I just kept going with it. It took on a life of its own at a certain point.
MM: You went to NYFA (New York Film Academy) as well, right?
SM: Yeah, I went to NYFA, and then I went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in LA.
MM: Excellent. Now I want to switch over to Grand Army. I just watched the trailer. The first thing that really struck me about it was just how realistic it feels. It opened with basketball players taking a knee during the National Anthem. I thought it was a really poignant way of introducing the show to audiences. Can viewers expect Grand Army to hold fast to that realistic tone throughout the series?
SM: Yeah, absolutely. We were all excited to see what they chose to focus on for the trailer because it follows five storylines and each of them are incredibly realistic. They follow different issues that are prevalent today, but also just in high school in general. So there’s a lot of that within the different storylines. We were interested to see which one they were going to focus on for the trailer, but there’s a lot of that. It covers sexual assault and it covers Black Lives Matter. And it covers students figuring out their sexual identity and all kinds of different things through the different five storylines. It does this in a very realistic, true to life way.
MM: Yeah, that’s what really stood out to me. It’s really rare to see a teen show covering realistic themes like that, especially things that are happening right now. Let’s talk about your character, Anna Delaney. She’s described as a “motherly figure” to her circle of friends. Without giving too much away, how is she affected by the goings on of the show?
SM: I think it’s really hard for her because she’s the most responsible one of the group. She’s the motherly figure, and she’s Joey’s best friend and she’s Tim’s twin sister, so she’s incredibly close to both of them. Anna’s incredibly loyal to them and she thinks it’s her job to take care of everybody. She’s very smart and she wants to just help everybody and make everyone happy.
And I think it’s really hard for her when there starts to be friction within her own group and within a school based on the events that happen throughout the show. I think it’s difficult for her to make peace with, and who she’s going to be loyal to. Where does she stand? What does she really believe? She’s made choices about who she’s going to be and what she’s going to stand for. And she’s faced with that with no warning. So she has to really come to terms with those decisions very quickly and decide what she does believe in.
MM: Do you think this show will resonate with audiences as a true portrayal of teen life, especially with racial injustices and the depiction of school shootings we saw in the trailer?
SM: I think it absolutely is going to resonate as a true teen experience. It’s not always something that people are comfortable with, but I think that’s a good thing. There’s going to be characters that people are going to see and relate to and go, “Oh, that’s so me.” And they’re going to love that. I think there’s going to be characters that they’re going to say, “Oh my gosh, I hated that person in high school.” And there’s going to be people that make them go, “Gosh, I hope I’m not like that.”
There’s so much that’s going to make you uncomfortable, I think. But that was the hope. That it was going to start conversations. It does talk about a lot of things that are difficult to talk about and there’s no easy way to discuss them, but it’s very true to life. It’s very true to the teenage experience in a lot of places today. And I think that people are going to find that it’s very honest, but I don’t know if it’s going to always be entirely comfortable to watch.
MM: I definitely think that through being uncomfortable we can experience the most change, or the most change can happen.
SM: Yeah, that’s the hope for sure!
MM: Was that what drew you to the show?
SM: Well it’s funny, actually. I worked with some of the casting directors in town, and I worked as a reader in Toronto. When we’re casting shows, sometimes there’ll be a person that actors come in and read with in their audition. So basically what happened was I was working as the reader for this show when they were casting it. And I said, “Oh my goodness, this show is amazing!” It’s so incredibly powerful. And I had never really seen a teen show like it before. I asked my agent if I could audition for it. They basically said no, “They’re only seeing proper teen students. They don’t want to see anybody that’s as old as you are for the show.” So I didn’t get to audition for it.
They hired me for the table reads. When they were reading through the first two episodes of the series, I was brought in to fill in all the extra roles at the table read. So I went in to do that, and I read all those roles. Then, whenever they were seeing some people for callbacks, I went in and did that with the showrunner as the reader. And it just so happened that they hadn’t been able to find Anna yet.
I was reading Anna’s role as the people read. Then, I was reading some stuff with the callback, with other people. The showrunner just asked me if I could audition for Anna while I was there. She gave me the scene for Anna and I read it for her. And the next day they called me and gave me the job of Anna. So it was a show that I was very drawn to during auditions, tried to get in, to audition, and it didn’t work out, but somehow I happened to be in the right place at the right time. And I happened to get on the show. I feel very lucky for that.
MM: You actually answered my next question, which was about the audition process. That’s such an unorthodox way of getting the role, but that’s awesome.
SM: Yeah, it definitely was. I know a lot of the other people did months of callbacks and stuff in New York. It was a long process for a lot of other people. And I just got very lucky in that way. I happened to fall into it at the very last moment when the cast had already been brought down to Toronto and they were about to start shooting.
MM: So this show is debuting while shows like Euphoria and Sex Education are on the rise. Long gone are the shows that I grew up with, like the UK Skins. Do you think Grand Army differs from teen shows of the past because of how it tackles these real-life topics?
SM: Yeah, absolutely. I think Euphoria Season One came out when we were filming our first season, and that was a show I was like, “Oh, wow, this is so similar to ours in a way that we had in mind.” Then, we watched it, and we were like, “Oh, it’s very different.” It is similar, but it’s almost like a dreamscape, and it’s visually stunning. It’s almost like an elevated visual plane, it’s so visually stunning as a dreamscape and it deals with some of the real issues. The performances are phenomenal, but it’s very different from the way we’ve approached our show I think. And I think also the fact that we aren’t following one story so closely. I think even a lot of the ensemble shows have one storyline and a lot of come secondaries. Our show moves so quickly because there really are five main storylines.
And I think whoever the people relate to the most, that’s what they’re going to see as the main storyline. But it follows these stories so deeply and so intricately, and it deals with a lot of different issues through different sociopolitical realms and racial realms and so many different issues in a very gritty, truthful way. And I think the way it’s shot, you feel like you’re in the show. I think they did a really good job of breaking that barrier of feeling like you’re watching a show. You feel like you’re really there with them and it’s happening.
MM: Yeah, that’s a very unusual thing for a show to capture, but it definitely draws in the audience and it feels visceral.
SM: Yeah, absolutely.
MM: So, you had a recurring role on Shadowhunters, which has a very strong fan base. Did you initially feel intimidated by that aspect? How did it feel bringing an already established character to life on a TV show?
SM: I was kind of intimidated by that. Funnily enough, I ended up on Shadowhunters the same way I ended up on Grand Army. I worked for Shadowhunters as a reader for two years. So, in a way it was nice because I knew the cast very well and I had hung out with them before. They felt like a family in a way, which was nice. And that helped cut down some of the anxiety, I think. I knew the showrunners and directors were trying to find a role for me on that show, and I was obviously very excited to be a part of it. And I had read the books and all that. But when they told me they were thinking of me for Helen Blackthorn, I was a little terrified because I knew that it was a fan favorite role.
And I was a little bit intimidated to bring that all to life because I just wanted to do right by them. I was concerned that maybe I wasn’t the person that could do that. And obviously I wanted to. Helen is a character that I thought was so incredible from the books. But I think there’s obviously that element of fear. There’s such an incredible fan base for the show. They’ve worked so hard to build a family and you want to do right by that. You want to protect that.
So I think it was intimidating, but I was very lucky that I knew the cast and they were incredibly supportive of welcoming me on board for that role and helping me navigate that aspect of it. People were very supportive and receptive. I was grateful for that, ’cause I didn’t know exactly how that was going to go, but it was a very, very loving response. And I’m very grateful they welcomed me in that far into the birth of the show.
MM: It’s a really strong fan base, but they’re very positive and loving. So that’s definitely wonderful that you were accepted with open arms. I also wanted to talk about your role on The Expanse, which is actually what I recognized you from.
MM: You were so excellent even though you were only on screen for such a short time.
SM: Well, thank you.
MM: Whenever your character first meets Nick Tarabay, Cotyar, you’re thrust into this really intense, high-emotion situation from the get-go. How did you emotionally and mentally prepare for that scene?
SM: That was a tough scene because this character’s entire emotional arc is in three pages, but I was really lucky. Nick was amazing. He was such a generous scene partner. He was so supportive and I think he really was aware of the fact that that was it for me, that was my one scene on the show and it was tough.
So he was incredibly supportive in that sense, and him and I would step off before we started rolling and we would do some breath work together. We would get our heart rates up and we would do some kind of like ad-libbing of getting into the scene and syncing up together before we would start. He was really good about helping me make sure that I felt good about where I was at emotionally before we started rolling. I think that it also helped that I had this big fight scene before it started because that really helped to get your heart rate up and get you grounded in your body. And they were really great about that.
They let me do that fight scene, which normally I don’t think they would, if you had one scene. I don’t think most shows would spend the time teaching you that fight. But they were really amazing. They added a whole extra day of fight stunt rehearsals and let me do that fight scene because I really wanted to. And I think that really helped put you there and in the scene and get you grounded in your body. Nick was just such an amazing scene partner. We had a really great time. So he was just very, very supportive, which I think got me through it. He was very welcoming and he was a very generous scene partner.
MM: I imagine the intricate set work on the show probably helped put you in that place too.
SM: Totally. I mean, the sets are amazing and when you’re in the wardrobe and you’ve got the gun and everything, you very much feel part of the world. They are very good about it because it was supposed to be in zero-G and all that. They’re very good about leaving the wires out of it until they had to be there and trying to not over complicate the scene with those things so that it could be about the emotional aspect between Nick and I until it had to be about him being on strings and all those other bits and pieces. Because it can be hard when you’re trying to deal with all the rest of that. But they were very good about making it a pretty safe environment in terms of emotional work until it had to be about all the other business of being in space.
MM: So, that kind of leads into my next question. You’ve acted on genre shows like Shadowhunters, The Expanse, and V-Wars. As an actor in a genre show, sometimes you have to react to things that aren’t there or there’s a lot that’s left to your imagination. Do you find that to be a roadblock or is that a challenge that pushes you further as a performer?
SM: It’s definitely difficult, but I think it’s such a good and important challenge for an actor because I think the thing that makes it difficult is your ego, right? Because you’re doing it. You’re like, “Oh my God, I must look so stupid right now. This is so stupid. There’s nothing here. I’m reacting to nothing. I look like an idiot.”
And it gets in the way and it gets in your head and you don’t commit to it. I think it’s such a good challenge to have to just let go of that judgment, because I think that’s what stops us from doing good work so much of the time anyways, and just in life from being happy. So I think it’s a really good challenge to just have to be like, “Well, it doesn’t matter, I have things and I’m ripping this guy’s throat out.” That’s what’s happening and you have to just commit to it.
I think it’s a really important experiment. Just let go of that and be like, “If I look like a fool, I look a fool, that’s fine, but I have to do it. It’s going to look stupid.” You just really put yourself in that world and that position. And I think it was so fun like on V-Wars, we’d be in the ADR booth and they’d be like, “Okay, suck on your arm. You have to make sucking noises. You’re eating this guy’s neck.” I feel ridiculous, but that’s just what it is. It’s so fun and freeing to let go and be a part of worlds like that, you know?
MM: You mentioned earlier that you are a dancer. Did you ever think about pursuing that on a professional level or crossing over into theater?
SM: I did. I mean, I started out acting in theater, so I’ve always loved theater, but in terms of dancing, I danced with the Royal Olympic Ballet. I thought maybe that was what I wanted to do. But I remember going through the Royal Olympic Ballet and just being so miserable and the dancers in the company saying, “If there’s anything else that you could do and wake up and be happy doing it, you should go do that.” And I think when I got a taste of what it would be like to do that as a career I realized that wasn’t the lifestyle I wanted. The lifestyle that went along with it didn’t make me happy. And that was something [dancing] that made me happy, to do at home, but it wasn’t something I wanted to do the rest of my life.
I think that was why I pursued acting with such full force because I was like, “If I keep trying it as a hobby, I’ll never know if it’s what I actually want to do or not.” Because I think in my head I wanted to do ballet. Then, I realized I didn’t, and I didn’t want to have that kind of late epiphany with acting. I wanted to know if all of that was what I really want to do or not. Because I think it’s a different thing when you’re doing something for fun and when you’re doing it as your job, you know?
MM: You don’t want to view your job as just a job. You want to find joy in it. Otherwise it’s going to turn into work.
SM: Absolutely. And if you do something as a job, you can keep that joy. If some things that you’re like, “Huh, that aspect of it kind of ruins the joy for me.” So you have to really look at it and see, “Okay, do I still love it when there’s this business aspect involved? And there’s all these other pieces of it. Does it still make me that happy?”
MM: Do you have a dream role? It could be in film, theater, TV, etc.
SM: I don’t know. That’s hard for me because I think there’s so many films or shows that I’ve seen that I’m like, “Gosh, if they were making that now I would die to have that role.” Or plays that I love or books that I love, that I’m like, “Oh, if they made that into a show, I would love that.”
At the same time, part of me thinks that at a certain level, that’s all been done before. So is it worth it? Would it be what I think it is in my head? Probably not. So a lot of those things, I mean, were awesome, incredible. And for a while it was Emmy Rossum on Shameless and Ellen Page in Hard Candy. Or White Oleander. White Oleander is one of my favorites.
So those types of roles I love, but at the same time, I think they were so amazing because they were incredibly unique at the time. I think that’s a part of the magic of it. I’m hoping that my dream role is something that’ll be new when it comes and that when it’s there that I’ll feel that excitement about it. And I think I’ve been very lucky with the roles I’ve played. I’ve been so excited about the projects I’ve been a part of. I felt very lucky in that way. So, my hope is that I’ll continue that way. That I’ll feel lucky with the projects I get to do.
MM: So what can we expect from you next? Besides Grand Army, of course.
SM: Well, actually my fiance and I are making a movie together, which I’m very excited about. It was funny because we just both auditioned for it and got it. So that’s like an actress couple dream come true. We’re making a film together and we’re the two leads. And so getting to play romantically with him, it’s going to be pretty fun.
MM: Have you binge-watched anything during quarantine?
SM: Oh my goodness. The world is just so sad, you know? There was all the heavy shows that I think normally we would want to watch as artists and stuff. Sometimes they’re just a lot, you know?
MM: Oh, I believe that. I feel that.
SM: We’ve been watching trash TV. So we’ve been all of Selling Sunset. We’re obsessed. We watched all Selling Sunset. He had never seen Friends, so we watched Friends — the first time for him. Now, we’re watching Gossip Girl, which is great. It’s so good. The best. It’s mostly shows like Selling Sunset and Gossip Girl and sitcoms.
MM: I think that’s been the case for a lot of people. For me, it’s either comedies or trash TV. I feel like I can’t watch anything that’s really heavy.
SM: Yeah. I mean we watched documentaries and Immigration Nation, which was amazing. But it was so heavy that we would watch an episode or two and we had to just stop because we were crying. and we were like, “Okay, we can’t keep watching this anymore.” It was an amazing docu-series, but it was just too much mental and emotional work to watch it all in one sitting. So I think we’ve been trying to watch things in little doses, but I think there’s just so much in the world and the atmosphere right now that is heavy. I think sometimes you need a break from reality.
MM: Escapism. I get that. So, last question! I want you to name your top five favorite films. Or just any five films you really love.
SM: Okay. Garden State, White Oleander, Hard Candy, and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
MM: I just watched that the other day! I love that one.
SM: It’s my favorite comedy of all time and we just loved it because the third one came out. We have to watch the first one. I don’t know what my fifth one would be. Maybe the OG Step Up film. I loved that film when I was a kid. That was dance and drama and everything. I thought that was such an amazing film. When I was young. I was like, “What? This is everything.”
MM: Sydney, thank you so much for sitting down and chatting with me! I really appreciate it. And I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day!
SM: Thank you so much. You too, Melody! Good talking to you.
You can follow Sydney Meyer on Twitter (@meyers48) and Instagram (@sydneymeyer48)!
Grand Army will take Netflix by storm Friday, October 16th, 2020.
This article was originally published on 9/15/20