INTERVIEW: Sydney Meyer on Netflix’s ‘Grand Army’ and the Real Life Issues it Tackles Including Diversity and Privilege, the Importance of Self-Care, and New Projects
Sydney Meyer is opening up about her role in the new Netflix nine-episode series Grand Army and the way it addresses topics and themes that matter.
Sydney stars in Netflix’s Grand Army, which premiered on October 16. Grand Army is loosely based on the 2013 play SLUT, which borrowed from playwright and teacher Katie Cappiello’s students’ personal experiences. The show focuses on a group of students at Grand Army High, the largest public school in Brooklyn. The actress portrays Anna as smart, opinionated, and acts as the group’s motherly figure. The series could not be more timely and will undoubtedly resonate with viewers as it tackles the hard-hitting issues facing young adults today such as racism, sexism, homophobia, slut-shaming, poverty, mental health, allyship, immigration, and gentrification to name but a few.
Meyer is no stranger to Netflix; she’s starred in both V Wars and Shadowhunters. Read our exclusive interview with Sydney Meyer below to find out more about what started her love for acting, Grand Army, her character, the Shadowhunters fanbase, self-care and listening to your body, her songwriting process, and isolation.
GLITTER: What started your love for acting?
SYDNEY: The first thing that really sparked my love for acting was Shakespeare. I fell In love with the language of Shakespeare and performing it on stage was such an incredible experience for me that I really became more curious about the art of storytelling in other forms and the different variations of acting.
GLITTER: Was there a show or film that inspired you to get into acting?
SYDNEY: There were a few. I really loved Garden State; it was a hugely impactful film for me. I loved Elliot Page’s performance in Hard Candy. Seeing that really inspired me and made me want to challenge myself and grow as a performer. Also, White Oleander. That film was so impressive and inspiring for me as a young woman.
GLITTER: You star in Netflix’s new series, Grand Army; what drew you to the project?
SYDNEY: To me, the honest, messy portrayals of young people trying to find themselves and making mistakes along the way were so true to life. The issues that were being tackled were so important it was clear to me right away when I saw the material that I wanted to be a part of it.
GLITTER: Who do you play, and do you have anything in common with your character?
SYDNEY: I play Anna Delaney. She is Joey’s best friend since childhood and Tim’s twin sister; she is sort of the motherly figure of the group and a bit more reserved than the rest of her friends. I relate to the nurturing side of Anna for sure. I think there are many things that I had to work to understand about her character, but I relate to that part of her that wants to take care of the people she loves and wants to make people happy, so I tried to ground myself in that.
GLITTER: The show tackles the hard-hitting issues facing young adults today, such as sexual assault, disparity of privilege, and more. Why do you think it is important for shows to bring attention to these issues?
SYDNEY: I think it’s important for true to life portals of these issues to be represented on screen to start conversations about people’s experiences with these issues. Seeing these things on screen can start a dialogue, empower young people, and inspire young people to educate themselves further on these issues. Media is a great starting point for social-political change, and I think that bringing attention to these issues in media that appeals to young people paves the way for conversations to be started that change the way we deal with these issues.
GLITTER: The series definitely will resonate with viewers; how does it resonate with you?
SYDNEY: It resonates with me in that none of the characters are perfect. When you’re young, you’re still finding out who you will be, and these big events in your life give you a reason to make decisions about who that person will be. The truth is we don’t always get it right right away. I think the series does a great job of showing how those brief moments can change us and really the fact that everyone just wants to be heard.
GLITTER: The series also highlights racial inequality and the significance of the Black Lives Matter movement. What do you hope viewers learn from this?
SYDNEY: I think that this is obviously an issue that has been prevalent in our society for a long time. It just so happens that there’s been a moment in our society of “enough is enough” with the Black Lives Matter Movement coming to the forefront of conversation in so many households and across the media. This is something that was a topic in our show beforehand anyway because it was happening beforehand. I think we need to remember that this is an ongoing battle. It has always been an issue. For as long as our countries have had names, racial inequality has never been dealt with. It will take time to heals these wounds because they are deeply ingrained. We must not let this be a momentary response of outrage. We have to really work to dismantle the system that allows for this oppression, and we have to continue to do that work until there is meaningful change.
GLITTER: You also starred in Netflix’s V Wars. What was the highlight of that project for you?
SYDNEY: That was truly the most incredible set I’ve ever been on. I have never been on a more supportive and loving set that created a safer place for us as actors to work and be vulnerable. Ian was incredibly generous and passionate and worked to create an atmosphere of support and trust. Adrian, who I had most of my scenes with, was such an amazing scene partner and so very patient and supportive. I learned so much from him. I also had the chance to shadow Ian while he was directing, and I learned so much. I’m so very grateful for the experience I had on that set. I will never forget it. They really set an example for me about how to set the tone for a set.
GLITTER: Netflix’s Shadowhunters had such a huge fanbase and still does. What does their love mean to you, and what message do you have for fans?
SYDNEY: It’s still shocking to me that the fans of Shadowhunters have offered me such love and support after my brief time on the show. Shadowhunters was my first recurring role, and it meant so much to me that I felt welcomed in by the fandom. These are people that are passionate about something we made and were affected by it, and that’s really the most that you can ask for as an actor. It means everything. That’s why we do this.
GLITTER: You are very passionate about health and wellness. Why is that, and what is the best advice you received in regards to self-care and staying healthy?
SYDNEY: I am chronically ill, so for me, the best thing I can do is try to take care of my body every day to not bottom out. For me, I have to take care of my body, my mind, my emotions to really make sure that I can do my job and live my life to the fullest. For me, the best advice I received is to learn to listen to your body. There is nothing that works for everybody. If you can learn to listen to your body and be sensitive to its needs, you’ll be able to check-in with yourself every day and make the adjustments you need to your wellness routine to keep you at your sharpest.
GLITTER: You mention that you have several auto-immune disorders. How has that impacted your life?
SYDNEY: It has affected everything in some way. At first, it impacted my mood, and over time I’ve adjusted and built my life around my illness in a way that I’m able to be happy. It affects what I’m able to eat; I don’t drink, I have to listen to my body in terms of physical activity and what I’m capable of, where my limits are. I need to be aware of my sleep routine. I have to work harder now when I’m on set to make sure that I’m taking care of myself during the long hours not to get ill and handle the long days. I spend a lot of my time checking in with my family doctor and my specialists to make sure I’m staying on track. It’s also really affected my relationships. I think I need people in my life who understand my illnesses and have compassion. People that understand I might cancel plans. I was worried it would affect my chances of finding a partner. I feel immensely grateful to have found someone who is so sensitive to that part of my life and works with me to take care of me and prioritize my health, and never makes me feel like a burden. I’m also very grateful to be in Canada. I get amazing health care here without having to worry about paying for it.
GLITTER: Our SCOTUS has recently debated the ACA. Do you have an opinion on how this affects people with pre-existing illnesses?
SYDNEY: The Affordable Care Act is crucial in America to allow people with pre-existing conditions to obtain health insurance coverage. These are people that need health care, and without the ACA they will be denied it. People will die. If I was in America, I don’t know what would happen to me. The cost to even get a diagnosis would be astounding. Let alone to track my disease and continue treatment. No one should be left to suffer and possibly die because they happen to be born with a condition. It is inhumane. I truly hope that the ACA will continue to be upheld. It is so desperately needed. It is the bare minimum of compassionate health care, in my opinion.
GLITTER: A new President-Elect and VP-Elect has been projected; any thoughts on having Kamala Harris as our first Female, Black, and South Asian American Vice President?
SYDNEY: I think it’s so important for young women and especially young women of color to have this moment in history, to be able to look to these positions of power as open doors for them. To feel that history turning in their favor to recognize and legitimize their strength and power. I think it’s also so important for young men to begin to see this as normal. To have a new standard of respect for women and women of color, to see them as equals. It’s a moment in history that is overdue and so very important. I’m thankful to see it happening and hopeful for what the future holds.
GLITTER: What do you enjoy about boxing?
SYDNEY: Boxing for me, has always been very empowering. As a woman, I feel confident that I know how to defend myself. I feel strong. I feel capable. I don’t like violence, but it’s been a great way to gain a control of my body and tap into certain emotions that I think are often quite shameful for women, like anger, pride, and confidence. It’s been very empowering for me.
GLITTER: When did you get into archery?
SYDNEY: My older brothers went to an archery range with their friends when I was young, maybe 7, and I went along with my parents to pick them up. When we got there, I picked up a bow and found I had this sort of natural affinity for it. I really loved it immediately and found that I was a quick learner with it. I took it up right away, and it’s something I’ve always come back to in my life. I find it very calming.
GLITTER: What is your favorite thing to bake?
SYDNEY: Probably cookies; I think it’s just such a classic, I have such fond memories of it from my childhood, and the smell of them always cheers me up. I always loved baking trays of different cookies for the table reads for Shadowhunters and bringing them in. I think cooking and baking is a great way to show appreciation.
GLITTER: What is something you cook on a weekly basis?
SYDNEY: We cook salmon pretty much every week without fail in our house. We love it, and with my illnesses, it’s something that’s very healthy for me, so we make an effort to have it at least once a week. We have fun trying some different seasonings with it. It’s comfort food for us.
GLITTER: Favorite song to dance to?
SYDNEY: We will always bust a move to Lizzo. If “Juice” comes on, we’re dancing.
GLITTER: What is your songwriting process like?
SYDNEY: It’s different for every song. Typically I would say that I get an idea for a small part of the lyrics first, and then maybe a melody will come for that section of lyrics. It’s always a small portion of the song. At that point, I sit down at the piano and try to figure it out on the piano; once I’m happy with the portion I had written, I improvise along the feeling of the song and see what comes out and keep writing. It’s a pretty loose process for me. I get inspired by an image or a feeling or a sentiment or a flash of a memory and I kind of just work from there.
GLITTER: What is on your current playlist?
SYDNEY: Taylor Swift, Oh Wonder, Marianas Trench, Panic! At The Disco, Ed Sheeran, Lizzo, Something Corporate, Mayday Parade, all kinds of random things.
GLITTER: Last show you binge-watched?
SYDNEY: Ted Lasso, three times. It’s incredible. Currently watching Bob’s Burgers.
GLITTER: What is a day in isolation like for you?
SYDNEY: Right now, I’m filming, so I get up and go to set. But on my days off, I wake up; we make coffee, read a bit, do some work writing, try to get a workout in, clean up around the house, watch some of our favorite shows, have a bath, and get into bed and read!
GLITTER: Have you learned anything about yourself over quarantine?
SYDNEY: I’ve learned that I’m a lot more capable of clear communication than I thought. I think I learned how to put more effort into communicating. I learned to be patient with myself and with the people around me. I think I also learned I’m quite happy in my own little world. I didn’t really miss for much, truthfully.
GLITTER: Anyone specific you hope to work with one day?
SYDNEY: Elliot Page. Zach Braff. Charlize Theron. Benedict Cumberbatch. There are a lot of people I look up to and that that inspires me that I would love to work with.
GLITTER: What is one role that will always have a special place in your heart, and why?
SYDNEY: Playing Ophelia in Hamlet in 8th grade, truthfully. I think that was the moment I knew I wanted to pursue this, and that was the moment that my parents were convinced that I was capable of doing this, so it will always have a place in my heart.
GLITTER: What is your favorite genre to do acting-wise and why?
SYDNEY: I don’t know. There’s still a lot left for me to explore. There’s a lot I haven’t tried yet, and I’m still learning about what it means to be a part of each of those different genres. I’m excited to see what I can learn from each of them, and I hope I get the chance to explore them all.
GLITTER: Glitter has a celebrity #SelfLoveCampaign. What does self-love mean to you?
SYDNEY: Self-love to me means being patient with yourself, being forgiving with yourself, being honest with yourself. It means owning who you are even when you’re still growing. It means living from a place of love and acceptance instead of shame and embarrassment. I think it’s a process of learning as much as you can about yourself and being excited about your own self-discovery.
GLITTER: Do you have any new projects coming up that you can talk about?
SYDNEY: Yes, I do! Right now, I’m filming the fourth season of the anthology horror series Slasher. It’s pretty special for me because I’m filming the season with my fiancé Alex. It is so wonderful to get to work with someone that I trust so completely and that knows me so intimately. He is so talented, and working with him makes me a better actor. It’s a very special experience for us. It’s a great season, and David Cronenberg is joining the cast this season which is crazy.