Actor Osric Chau chatted to Courageous Nerd about his two major roles on The CW – ‘Kevin Tran’ on Supernatural (2005-2020) and Ryan Choi in the Arrowverse superhero franchise (2019-2020).
Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to do this.
Osric Chau (OC): Absolutely, my pleasure.
How would you describe the beginning of your professional career as an actor?
OC: I would describe it as accidental – a series of fortunate events. It was a lot of things. My mom pushing me into all of these things that she thought would open doors for me. It was me trying things that I never thought I would want or like. Pursuing other things that just seemed to tie into it. My first career choice out of High School was more along the stunt performer side. I wanted to be a stunt man and do action movies specifically. I was really studying martial arts, that would be my focus. I would go to college, but I dropped everything to do a semester at the Beijing Sport University, for martial arts.
After that, I had an agent because of my mom pushing me to do things. One day, they found out I could do martial arts, to the degree that I could do it. Within three months, I was offered my first big, leading role in a Kung Fu movie. It was shooting in China and needed somebody that could do their own stunts. I was the only one that kind of fit everything. Because of that, I got to not only do an action movie, I got to do my own stunts and act. From then on, having an agent and not understanding what it meant to be a freelancer in the stunt industry, I started auditioning a lot more… he saw me as an actor, whereas I still saw myself as a stunt performer. I was doing more auditions, got better at acting and then I landed a couple more roles. Before you know it, I’m like: “Guess I’m an actor.” At some point, it just doesn’t make sense to do stunts, as much as I love it. There came a point where they were like: “Uh, you probably shouldn’t do that stuff anymore.”
You played recurring character ‘Kevin Tran’ on Supernatural for 20 episodes. Could you describe the process of landing that part, and what it did for your career?
OC: I hadn’t really heard of Supernatural before. I’m pretty sure I auditioned for it, but just chalked it up as any other show. I actually turned down the audition. I didn’t wanna do it, for a couple of reasons. Kevin was a super stereotypical Asian character. It wasn’t like I had my pick of the litter and could do whatever I want. That, along with [the fact] that I had a flight to LA that I was ready to catch for a series regular on another show that I was really excited about. Why would I spend time to do this? Sure enough, my agent who usually has really sound advice, he was like: “Well, it’s a director-producer session. Jim Michaels, Ben Edlund are going to be there, you should meet them.” I looked into it and it was going to cost me $600 to change my flight.
At the time, that was all of my money. It was such a big risk. I was like: “Do I really want to do this?” I just took my agent’s advice, because he’s usually a very smart guy, and I did it. Because I had a monetary figure on this audition, normally you don’t, it just stuck in my head: “This is a $600 audition, I’m going to make the most of it.” I prepared more than I had ever prepared before. Went in, did the thing and got offered both roles. The other one didn’t end up working out. I did Supernatural, like: “Ah, wish the other one would’ve worked out.” I’m happy for a job anyway. It just turned into this amazing thing. They didn’t kill my character as originally intended, not early, anyway, and turned into the role of a lifetime. Kevin got to play such a cool arc that I never foresaw. Those are some of the coolest people in my life, not just my career.
All of these friendships that I made throughout the show, I never could have predicted. It just kept happening – as soon as you thought you had everything figured out, here’s something else that you didn’t know about this show, about the fandom, the actors. A lot of the actors who I’ve never been with on set for a single day have become really close friends. It’s weird to think of how that has happened. On this show, it just made sense, for some reason.
How much do you remember about your first day working on the set of Supernatural – do any memories stand out?
OC: Oh, yeah. That was the day that Jared [Padalecki] became a father. It was very different that day and I didn’t really know. A lot of congratulations and stuff, I was like: “What’s going on? Oh, he’s going to be a Dad.” Trying to Jared and Jensen [Ackles]’s names sorted, because I didn’t know the show or who they were. Why did they both have to be ‘J’ names? Coming from a stunts background, I loved doing physical scenes. I got to do my only physical scene on that first episode. Honestly, all of my favourite things happened on that first episode. Then, I got pretty much stuck in a bunker for the rest of the time, which was still fun, just in a different way.
As Supernatural recently came to an end, what will you look back on the most from your time working on the show?
OC: I mean, just the friendship. There were talks about us all hopping into the last episode, as a send-off. That would have been really nice, but then of course, the pandemic happened. Even though the show is over, for a lot of us, it’s been over for a while. For me, I’m glad that it’s ending on the writers’ own terms. I’m glad they got to call the shots as opposed to: “Alright, getting cancelled! Wrap it up now.” I’m glad they got to find their own ending. Again, it’s been over for a long time in a lot of our heads – because we’ve been dead for so long or many other reasons. We still hang out so much, for people who have not been on the show for as long as a lot of us have.
It is a weird thing, because the show’s over but also… the show goes on. It’s a weird place in a lot of our heads, especially with the conventions. Even without the conventions, some of the people I hang out with the most are from this show.
In 2019 and 2020, you appeared as ‘Ryan Choi’ in the Arrowverse event Crisis on Infinite Earths. How familiar were you with the character or DC Comics before being cast?
OC: I loved the Ryan Choi character – and I actually tried developing a show for him, on The CW, in 2011 or 2012. It was just such a crazy thing. When I got the audition for that, they had this whole pseudonym. I was like: “Wait, this doesn’t make sense.” This character doesn’t do that. I literally asked them, in the room: “Is this Ryan Choi?” They froze up, because we weren’t supposed to know. Called it out, which was a pretty fun moment and got the job, so I guess it didn’t completely ruin my chances.
I still do love playing Ryan. I’m still hopeful that we can develop something for Ryan in the future, because I feel like there’s so many cool stories. Looking back on the pitch I had and continuing to develop that now, there’s so much untapped potential. I’m hopeful that Warner Bros, The CW and DC are open to talking about it, because I just feel like Ryan’s got such a rich world that he lives in, Ivy Town. I hope we get a chance to fully explore.
Without spoiling for anyone who hasn’t seen Crisis, your character shared the screen with some classic superheroes and villains. Did that feel surreal, in the moment?
OC: It was pretty cool. It felt a little like Comic Con, because there were so many costumes. Just really well, professionally made costumes. We’re on set and shooting this thing, but it also feels like we could be on the steps of Comic Con. It would’ve felt exactly the same – a bunch of costumed people and handlers trying to fix up the costumes. It was kind of funny in that sense. Everyone was so cool – and it was surreal, like: “Wow, everyone on this set right now has their own show – except for me.” It was just a really cool time, such a special little moment. In retrospect, you’re thinking of all these things like: “Wow, wouldn’t it have been fun if this happened?” I don’t think they’re going to do anything of this scale again, because it was so insane. I mean, I’m still surprised that they pulled it off at all.
You can’t really escalate it from there, they did pull out so many stops. Where do you go from here? I asked several times and they’re like: “We don’t”, is the answer. I’m so happy to have been part of that insanity.
Both Supernatural and Crisis On Infinite Earths were aired on The CW. Do you think being on Supernatural was beneficial in landing the role of Ryan Choi?
OC: Uh, no, that’s not a question… I can speculate on that. It helped that The CW know who I am and we have a positive working relationship. At the same time, sometimes when they have an actor on one show that’s very prominent, they’re like: “We can’t really have him on another show, just because we don’t want our audience to get confused.” One hour, this guy is this character, then the next hour, he’s someone else. That’s something they try to avoid too. It’s probably a mixed bag and this time, it worked out in my favour.
Another of your credits is Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency as “Vogel”. What did you most enjoy about playing that character?
OC: Dirk Gently, in my opinion, was such an underrated show. I really hoped that would go on a little bit longer. It’s such a crazy world and honestly, it’s a set where everybody got excited to read the scripts. It was so insane and no really understand what was happening. You couldn’t help but want to read the script. Because of that, even reading the script, we still wouldn’t know how to envision it. Then, you get excited to go on set because you’re like: “How did they figure out how to do this thing?” It just reads insane on the page and sure enough, they figure out a way.
Everyone was so sequestered into their area, so many different storylines. None of us ever really got to see the full picture, so we were excited to see the episodes. We have a fifth of the story, maybe, and you’re just excited to see what everyone else was up to. We only heard these crazy stories about it. It was a very exciting show to be a part of, because of all the mystery involved, us figuring it out and even watching the show, having read the script, we were like: “Oh, that’s what that meant!” We were discovering things as we were making it, the entire time.
As far as casts go, that one was pretty impressive. Elijah Wood, Samuel Barnett and Richard Schiff, to name a few. Was there any pressure in working with such an acclaimed group of actors?
OC: They were such a joy to work with. I mean, you have thoughts and jitters, then you meet them and they’re the coolest people. You don’t think about it anymore. It just becomes a really easy, pleasant work environment. Nothing bad to say about anyone on that set. It was just fun. A crazy, crazy adventure that I’m glad we had. For me, I hung out with the “Rowdy 3” the whole time – Vic Leacock, Michael Eklund and Zak Santiago. All three dudes were so cool and we ended up hanging out outside of set very often, just as a group.
If people want to find more information about you or your work, where could they look?
OC: That’s a good question. I suppose the social media handles are good. I try my best to post on Instagram and Twitter. I do have my own app that I post daily vlogs on, I don’t try to advertise that too much. It’s more like a journal, with people. That’s my current, every day project that I have on the way.
Lastly, what are you most looking forward to in 2021?
OC: The vaccine coming in, not hearing about all these people unnecessarily dying would be nice. Hopefully, if we can figure that out, because it seems too hard to ask our society here to fully shut down. I’d love for the vaccine to roll out and actually be effective. I have a bunch of projects, including a restaurant, that I’m building out with some of my friends here. I’m really looking forward to it. That should be next year. Hopefully, a couple of other projects but that remains to be seen.
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