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Osric Chau: Choosing the Risks to Reap the Rewards

*****

"Every single day, there are decisions to be made in life. I see two options, the safe choice that comes with a guarantee, and the hard choice with an unknown potential.  It’s as if I’m blowing up a balloon that seems pretty big already and between each breath I have a choice of either tying it up and having a pretty balloon or breathing in that extra breath for a more spectacular balloon but knowing that it could pop at any moment and be lost forever.”        
                                         - Osric Chau

                              (source:  http://osricchau.com/)

 

True to his words, up and coming Canadian actor Osric Chau is already surrounded by a significant balloon of buzz, but judging by his daring career moves and rapid accumulation of roles, he’s nowhere near done making the hard choices to become all the more spectacular.

Chau’s latest project is a Halloween-themed teen comedy called Fun Size, funded by major player Paramount Pictures and directed by Josh Schwartz of The OC and Gossip Girl fame.  It’s due out in October 2012, and represents Chau’s first sizeable role in a major American film.  But he’s no stranger to big-budget productions, having played a supporting role as the Tibetan monk named Nima in the blockbuster 2012.  Besides working alongside John Cusack and Danny Glover in that film, Chau has also had the good fortune to collaborate with megastars like Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu in The Man with the Iron Fists, Andy Lau and Gong Li in the Chinese re-make of What Women Want, and David Carradine and Daryl Hannah in Kung Fu Killer.  The last, a Spike TV miniseries filmed in Zhejiang province, was Chau’s first significant movie role, as well as his first opportunity to work in China, a place that would later prove pivotal in his career.

All of these coveted parts have come within the last five of Osric Chau’s mere 26 years on this planet.  Just how did he get so lucky so quickly, when many actors struggle to find their first breaks?  Actually, Chau’s career has already been nearly two decades in the making.  Almost on a whim, his mother took him to his first audition when he was only eight years old, and though he didn’t get the part, Osric caught the eye of the Echelon Talent Management agency, which immediately signed him up and still represents him today.  He then started taking acting and martial arts classes, and while many Asian actors feel pressure to learn martial arts for their resumes, it was the other way around for Chau.  Martial arts including Wu Shu, Wing Chun and Tai Chi were his first love, and he competed as a youngster all the way to the level of the Canadian Wu Shu National Team.  Especially gifted in the acrobatic aspects of kung fu, his first career choice was actually stunt work.  According to him, acting did not come naturally at first, and it took serving as student council president of his high school to finally perfect his public speaking skills. 

Chau did stunts for about two years before getting serious about acting, then landed parts in the Canadian television series Cold Squad and TV movie Dragon Boys.  He quickly found that he very much enjoyed collaborating with assorted experts in their various fields for these film projects.  One of the other main draws to acting for Osric is the chance to explore characters with completely different personalities and motivations than his own. 

After establishing basic acting skills in his home country, Chau proved that he’s willing to travel wherever the good roles take him.  Being a quick study, he soon realized that many more parts would open up to him if he added Mandarin to his Cantonese and French language skills… and how better to learn Mandarin than move to the Chinese mainland?  Positive experiences like making Kung Fu Killer, living in Shanghai for three months while shooting The Man with the Iron Fists, and the success of 2012 among Chinese audiences all reinforced Chau’s decision to relocate to Beijing.  Also, he shrewdly appears to have already caught on to what it takes many Asian actors from the west decades to discover:  there are often more and better opportunities for them in Asia than at home.  While this remains an indisputable shame and is much lamented in western Asian circles, Chau evidently wastes no time on regrets and accepts the current practicalities of his chosen career.  Again working in somewhat the reverse of the usual pattern, he has elected to hone his skills and build his resume in China, perhaps in preparation for returning west to claim bigger roles, rather than spend years struggling against the Hollywood glass ceiling that eventually forces many Asian actors to head east for work. 

While he has enjoyed a near meteoric rise to movies with the above-mentioned megastars, Chau’s flexibility and willingness to take any role that will build his skills has recently led him full circle back to working on a TV series in his hometown of Vancouver.  Supernatural, the long-running American CW Network production about the demon-hunting Winchester brothers, is largely filmed in British Columbia.  Chau has secured a multi-episode role in the show as Kevin Tran, a teen prophet who may help the brothers defeat the Leviathans with his unique ability to read an encrypted tablet containing the Word of God. 

But Osric is not just an actor; he also loves dabbling in all aspects of making movies, from writing to editing and production.  He has already collaborated on several short films, assisted with visual effects for What Women Want, and even worked as a motion capture artist for EA Gaming.  So far, these projects have been done mostly as adjuncts to his acting roles, or just as hobby projects with friends.  However, Chau apparently has serious designs on working the other side of the camera, and has stated in interviews that he hopes to be directing a movie within the next ten years.  His other more immediate ambition, like many actors of color, is to secure roles that don’t specify any particular race, and especially the types of characters that are rarely portrayed by Asians.  But whether playing a lightning-struck prophet or the less original role of a martial artist monk, at home in Canada or halfway across the world in China, Osric Chau’s gamble on the hard choices with unknown potential has already begun to pay off in spades.



Filmography


Fun Size - 2012

The Man With The Iron Fists -  2012

Mister French Taste - 2012

Supernatural - 2012

Return of the Dragon Returns in 60 Seconds - 2012

Best Player- 2011

What Women Want (China) – 2011

Elixir - 2011

2012 - 2009

Gardenseque - 2009

The Troop - 2009

Kung Fu Killer - 2008

Fighting Faith - 2008 

Dragon Boys - 2007

Cold Squad - 2002

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