Pure Genius star Brenda Song on technology, Beauty and the Beast, and being Slytherin


Back in the day, Brenda Song is famously known for her pop princess style in Disney shows and films, but recently, Song has taken a more serious and emotional role on this fall’s CBS series Pure Genius.

It looks like she’s throwing up her tiara and putting on some scrubs-ish. In the new medical drama about a tech billionaire creating a state-of-the-art hospital, Song will be playing his assistant and tech extraordinaire, Angie. Of course, we know Song from her fashion-forward Instagram and her previous series like Disney’s The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and Fox’s sitcom Dads, but many do not know geeky side who loves to knit, collect mugs, and side with the Syltherins.

Nerd Reactor recently got to chat with the actress about her new series, her geek hobbies, and what fandoms she prefers.

NR: So you have a new series on CBS called Pure Genius about a tech philanthropist creating a hospital to cure rare diseases and the people surrounding the hospital. Can you tell me more about your character Angie?

Brenda Song: So the show centers around this hospital called Bunker Hill. Jason Katims created this show about the forward-thinking minds in medicine and the great technology we have today. Angie plays the tech side to that. My job at Bunker Hill is to sort of taking existing tech or creating new tech and incorporating it into these medical cases to help these doctors give these patients the best care as possible.

NR: Well, Angie is the tech person on the team. How are you personally with technology and the ever-changing media?

Song: I’m actually terrible at that. It’s quite ironic. I’m working really hard on it, but I think I’m just at that age where I didn’t grow up with Twitter and cell phones. I didn’t get my first cell phone until I was about 16 or 17. So social media isn’t my first thought. My first instinct isn’t to take a picture of something or tweet it or Instagram. I’m trying to slowly warm up to it because I do realize social media isn’t going anywhere and it’s kinda the new way of the world. So I’m trying to adjust and I feel like Angie is helping me through that because I’m having to learn so much. It’s given me interest in the tech world.

NR: Of course, everyone is now involved in technology like the show. How do you feel these changing media will change our world medically and scientifically?

Song: I think that on this show we’re really doing a huge pressing issue where we’re kind of dealing with today, which is, how much tech is too much tech? That’s a good question. If you look around, everybody is on their phone. Everybody is tweeting, sending messages, taking photos – doing something all on their phone and at Bunker Hill, even though it was created by a character James Bell ‘the tech titan’, we also have a surgeon, played by Dermot Mulroney, who is a traditionalist. They are constantly at battle about how much is too much. I feel like at this certain point of time in 2016, I don’t believe that we are taking full advantage, especially in the medical world, of all this tech that is available to us. On Bunker Hill, a lot of people don’t realize that all the tech that we are using on the show is actually based on real tech – whether it is being researched or actually being in the works now. It’s actually all real. It’s not science fiction. So, hopefully, with this show, we can have people thinking of [putting] tech and medicine together.

NR: Is there a tech you’d like to create to solve a personal problem of yours?

Song: Just in general, I would love a teleportation machine. I live in LA. I hate traffic. But I think, you know, I really feel like one thing I wish I had was a machine that could detect and find the stages of cancer. My mom is a three-time breast cancer survivor. So being on this show, reading the scripts, and dealing with these storylines every week is a really personal endeavor of mine. So yes, if we could find something to help cure cancer that would be amazing. If there is a tech out there for that, I would love to find it.

NR: Well, the first episode does deal with cancer (the removal of a tumor). Since you’re still filming, are there any other episodes that hit close to home?

Song: It really does. There are actually a lot of these episodes. [Pure Genius creator] Jason and the writing staff actually come to us and talked with us about our personal experiences, because unfortunately, everyone has been touched in some ways by the medical world. There are quite a few stories coming up in the season that are taken from our own personal stories. For me, I lost my grandpa last year to nasopharyngeal cancer. I lost my other grandpa through diabetes and my mom has battled breast cancer three times. So, for me, a lot of these stories, whether or not they’re specific, touches me in every shape or form. The wonderful thing about working for a show like this, whether it is all fiction or not, it gives me a little bit of hope of maybe what’s to come. After I finished reading the pilot, first of all, I felt smarter after I read it and I literally felt like I was part of a research group. I just went, ‘I don’t care what I have to do. I need to be part of this show.’ There aren’t not many ‘feel-good’ shows anymore, especially feel-good dramas, and that is what this show is ultimately about. It’s a ‘feel-good’ show. It’s about giving people a little bit of hope and a glimpse of the future of what technology and medicine can hopefully do.

NR: Jason Katims is known for his famous television shows like Parenthood, Roswell, and Friday Night Lights. Were you a big fan of any of these shows in particular?

Song: I loved Friday Night Lights growing up. I mean, who didn’t?  Not only is he an amazing writer and showrunner, but Jason’s such an incredible person. And, this story for him is also incredibly personal because he spent a lot of time in hospitals. That’s actually why he started writing this. This show is very different because it’s not just a medical procedural show, Jason focuses so much on the human emotion and just people. The story is driven every week on unique, new patients and you become so invested and he delves into the staff at Bunker Hill. We all are a family. He’s written storylines within storylines. There’s a lot to come this season. There are some love triangles and a lot of crazy stuff happening and Jason is the best at writing that. So I am so impressed that he’s speaking his words.

NR: Will we see Angie with any potential love interests?

Song: You’ll just have to wait and see. Angie is a very interesting character and she’s very, very nosy. If you tell her not to do something or not like someone, she doesn’t want to listen and you can’t keep a secret, because she will figure it out. So, she gets a little bit obsessed with another character from the show. She’s out to find out all of his secrets because she has a little crush on him.

NR: I’m rooting for Jason Bell. 

Song: We get to play with that a little bit in the season.

NR: Now to the fun part because we’re a geek site and we want to get to know YOU as a geek. People know Brenda Song as the beautiful and talented actress, but they don’t know the geeky side of you. Is there a role – maybe science fiction or geek-related like superheroes – that you would be interested in playing?

Song: Oh my goodness. Let me think. Growing up, I loved reading. I am such a nerd. Everyone knows on set I’m either knitting or I’m on my Kindle. I read all the time. Growing up, I was really obsessed with Nancy Drew and the Boxcar Children and Encyclopedia Brown. Those were my favorite. I know those aren’t comics, but if I could be any character, I’d like to be one of those. I would like to be solving crime somewhere.

NR: What is something fans would never know about you? Is there something you’re obsessed with?

Song: I don’t think people know that I’m a big knitter. I knit a lot. I’m such a geek. If you ask anybody, they will tell you I’m the biggest nerd. I stay at home. I bake. I watch Oxygen. I knit. And, I read. Here is another thing I don’t think people know about me is that I collect mugs. I love mugs and I have a million of them. Everywhere I go, that’s the one thing I collect. It’s all mugs.

NR: Is there a particular mug that is your favorite? 

Song: Well, actually, a mug that my brother just bought me. I was obsessed with Beauty and the Beast when I was younger. Of all the silly mugs, he actually got me Chip. He bought it as a mug. It’s probably my favorite thing because it’s also my newest mug and I love Beauty and the Beast. So, that’s my favorite mug right now. My Chip mug.

NR: That’s related to my next question. Since you worked with Disney previously, is there a particular Disney Princess that you’re fond of?

Song: It would have to be Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I didn’t realize until later that I took French in school and my love of reading and being at libraries that my mom goes I think you like to do those things because you were obsessed with Belle. I was like, I did! I learned French and my love for reading came from Belle. One of my favorite colors is yellow/gold and I think it’s from Belle. I’ve been brainwashed by Belle.

NR: Are you excited about the new live-action film version of Beauty and the Beast? 

Song: I really am. It’s really hard for me because I’m really excited about the film that I’m so nervous. Disney has done some amazing remakes. I could recite Beauty and the Beast from beginning to end. It makes me excited because I love Emma Watson. So I’m excited and at the same time, nervous, because it’s Beauty and the Beast!

NR: I’m going to ask you some geeky questions to see your preferences and just to know your answers. 

Song: Okay.

NR: Batman vs. Superman

Song: Batman.

NR: DC or Marvel. 

Song: Marvel! I know I picked Batman and one of my favorite out of five movies is Batman Returns. I love Tim Burton and Michelle Pfiefer, so I did pick Batman… but Marvel!

NR: Well, Marvel just had their CIVIL WAR. Whose side do you pick: Iron Man or Captain America!

Song: Can I tell you, this is a question I’ve had before… and I’m going with Iron Man.

NR: Everyone loves Tony Stark. 

Song: Who doesn’t love Tony?!

NR: Back to the Future vs Terminator

Song: Oh! That’s so hard! I want to say Back to the Future, but I love Arnold. Terminator.

NR: Time travelling or being able to fly.

Song: Time traveling.

NR: Which Harry Potter House are you?

Song: Slytherin. I always wanted to be a badass. Slytherins are just badasses and I’d love to be a part of that. And, they wear black!

NR: Last question, what would be your superpower?

Song: I would love to be able to teleport. I think that would be awesome. It really would. One thing I would love to do is to teleport to places.

NR: Thank you so much for answering our questions. We can’t wait for your new show.

Song: Thank you so much!


Don’t forget to check out Brenda Song in Pure Genius which premieres Thursday, October 27th on CBS.

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