Osric Chau is a workaholic. But if you had the opportunity to speak with him, you wouldn’t think it by his level-headed and cool demeanor. Working in everything from television, film, and video games, 2012 was a landmark year for Osric. He made his first feature film debut acting in a supporting role in Roland Emmerich’s, “2012″. He went on to work on his first Chinese film, a remake of the 2000 hit, “What Women Want”, for Asian audiences, and just recently, he was a part of The RZA’s directorial debut in “The Man with the Iron Fists“, Sleeping Dogs and in Halo 4 as cadet JJ Chen. Currently, he is in Montreal filming a fan video for the movie AKIRA! Read below for the full interview…
This year alone you have appeared in television, video games, AND movies. How are you able to achieve balance and at the same time excel in so many different levels as an actor?
Osric: If only it was something that I actually planned. This happened to be a series of fortunate events with one project opening the door for the next. It started off in Beijing before flying to Shanghai for The Man with the Iron Fists, putting myself on tape for Fun Size in Hong Kong before flying down to Los Angeles for casting and then Cleveland for filming. Vancouver after that for Supernatural, which kept me in town long enough for Halo 4 and somehow everything just happened to be released all at the exact same time. The biggest hurdle I went through was learning how to fly to a new place at a moment’s notice with absolutely no solid plans. It’s definitely paid off and has helped me make friends in cities all over the world. I love doing what I do and I never forget just how lucky I am to be able to do this for a living. What’s more is that every project I’ve worked on has been such tremendous experiences with amazing people involved. And that makes it all the easier to step up and do all the prep work necessary when you don’t want to disappoint everyone else who’s working so hard.
Last week we spoke with your cast-mate Byron Mann who said The Man of the Iron Fists was a very fun experience due to the collaboration with director, RZA. Being cast as his assistant, what was your own experience like working so closely with him?
Osric: It was very fun indeed. It was RZA’s directorial debut and I wouldn’t have guessed it. He was very prepared every single day, quick to jump in front of the camera and then behind it again, he had a great team whom he communicated very well with and it seemed like he was very practiced, even in that first week when everyone was finding their groove. He’s a smart guy and loved to teach as much as he loves to learn, easy to talk to and a friend to everyone. One of my favorite things on that set was that the RZA and I spent most of it in a forge. Being such a fan of medieval lore, I just loved having a real forge to play with, a blazing fire, iron ingots and all. The fact that it was a very cold winter and our costumes not being the warmest was another bonus to spend time in a forge.
After Iron Fists, you switched gears and shot a comedy, Fun Size. What was it like shooting such different projects back to back?
Osric: Day and night, these two productions were so different it’s a little jarring just to think about. Weather was a big thing. In Iron Fists everyone would huddle around the heaters, for Fun Size the costumes would be loosened and ice cubes would be handed out along with the fans. My character in Iron Fists was mute and my character in Fun Size was a loud mouthed aspiring ladies’ man. From muted colors to bright primary colors. From horses in bamboo forests to metal humping chickens outside a fast food joint. From a tri-lingual set to one that was just English. The differences are endless and the types of people involved are certainly a part of that. One nice thing about Fun Size though was that there were a lot of people around my age. I haven’t really worked with many people my age before, so that was very pleasant.
Your character Kevin, in Supernatural, is definitely a person with many layers. As the season progresses how do you see this character evolving?
Osric: He started off as typical as your overachiever teenagers go, but with each episode he’s been exposed to different monsters and creatures and all the dangers associated with them. Knowing that he’s the only one able to read God’s tablets, I see Kevin coming to terms with his situation and power and taking responsibility for it, doing all he can to keep his mom, his friends and humanity safe.
Halo 4 is doing things in the industry that haven’t been really attempted before, which is tie in a live action series to the games chapters. What was that process like, and knowing that it is one of the biggest game franchises of all time, did you experience any pressure?
Osric: Cool is the only way to really describe this project. Everything from the sets, the costumes, the people, the story were all just so cool. Interacting with the fans has also been such a cool thing; I just wish I could play the game more. There’s always a lot of pressure when you jump into such an established and loved franchise. Luckily with Forward Unto Dawn, we were really telling an entire new story from a part of the world that hasn’t been explored yet, so because of that it was a huge load off our backs in terms of pressure. Still, you don’t want to disappoint the fans, so luckily we were given ample time and resources to really get into our characters and just learn about the Halo universe. There is still so much to know.
In the last few years, you have learned Mandarin and shot a film in China. Culturally speaking, how does this change your career in terms of opportunities? Does this add to your versatility as an actor?
Osric: I certainly think so. Apart from acting in another language, working in China is a whole different process completely. From the way people work, the way they hang out, to the way they deal with conflict, there are a lot of things that people never really consider when they try to work in China. I find that understanding these differences allows me to work better with people, helps me appreciate them more and keeps me happier. Filmmaking is a collaborative process and actors are a part of that collaboration, having one that can understand the culture and work ethic of the crew can’t hurt.
After appearing in such notable features and shows in the past few years, are you still attracted to Indie films and projects?
Osric: Yes! And I have plans to do a few of my own in the future. What I love about indies is that you really get to see the extent of passion. With a studio production you certainly have a lot of passionate people onboard but they are sometimes limited by what they can do because of budgetary reasons and their requirement to pay everyone. There is something special about seeing a crew working their butts off in zero degree weather on the 24th hour at the end of a workweek; no one getting paid and some of them still needing to go to day jobs shortly after wrapping. It’s on those projects that I don’t retreat into the warming tent. Those are the ones where I trudge back into the cold after my take to help move lights and sandbags, and loving every moment of it.
What are some of your favorite Asian films and/or Anime?
Osric: This list could go on for a long time. Films – Infernal Affairs, Shaolin Soccer; classics. Vengeance, used all four languages that I speak in it. Hero – just beautiful. And animes – where to start? Pretty much all of Miyazaki’s, Princess Mononoke, and Akira. [It was] absolutely insane but so groundbreaking and influential. And for series, well I have a big stack of them that I’m trying to get through and simply not enough time. So much good anime to watch still. Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Ghost in the Shell, Fullmetal Alchemist, etc.
Robert Downey Jr. used Wing Chun in Sherlock Holmes a few years ago. We really haven’t seen too many films utilize this fighting style. As someone well-versed in the artform, is this style effective in a cinematic environment? Would you like to have more roles that pushed your fighting capabilities?
Osric: The very first thing my Wing Chun instructor told me when I took my first lesson was that Wing Chun is not for show. He said that because Wing Chun is a style of simplicity, preaching the most direct and efficient ways to fight. That lesson still holds true except that the art of filmmaking is constantly evolving and these days, the trend in action is a less flashy and more realistic and direct style of fighting. Not everyone wants to see a show anymore, they want to see truth and grit, and so I think the principles of Wing Chun are perfect for that and can be applied very effectively for film. The efficiency in the movement and look of strength from proper body geometry certainly gives a character a no nonsense vibe.
2012 was a landmark year for you. Any surprises in 2013?
Osric: I love surprises, so I certainly hope so. There are a lot of projects that I want to undertake for 2013, I would like to spend some more time in Asia as well but I’m planning to do a few more in North America first. That being said, I really have been pretty terrible at planning which way my life is heading. I could tell you I’m going to Los Angeles next week and end up in Taipei tomorrow instead. Life’s been funny that way, so I try not to plan too far ahead into the future.
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