New Film, New Mindset for Osric Chau
May 9, 2019
Actor, martial artist, producer — these are just a few of the Osric Chau’s talents.
When he first started training in martial arts at 13 years old, Chau drew inspiration from the Ninja Turtles and Jackie Chan. Fast forward to today, and that inspiration has paid off — with his new film “Empty by Design” screening at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.
It surprisingly led him to his first big acting job, fitting the mold for what was needed; a Chinese-Canadian actor who could speak English, and to work non-union in China.
Born in Vancouver, Canada, Chau’s breakout role was in a miniseries for Spike TV called “Kung Fu Killer”, which to this day, he admittedly has still not seen.
“It was a lot of fun to film in terms of how crazy it was, but I’ll probably never watch it,” he said.
After making a big move to China during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Chau found himself working on a Chinese movie, and speaking Mandarin within three months of learning it.
“Part of the culture of Beijing was going out and meeting people,” he said. “It really helped my personal development, like adulting in another language.
In his more recent work, the 32-year-old stars as Vogel in “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency”. Chau admits that he was surprised the show ever got off the ground, and that the entire cast had the same reaction after reading the script: “We have no idea what’s going on, but we love it”.
While preparing to move to New York, he received the call that he got the part, and was able to film in his hometown of Vancouver. Over the last seven years, he has been in and out of Los Angeles, where he now resides.
“I’m constantly striving for something else,” he said. “I have to take time to appreciate how far I’ve come, I’m doing things that I never thought was possible.”
Nowadays, Chau is transitioning from an actor, to a writer and producer role, describing the transition as being “new and shiny.”
“You’re looking at the same puzzle, but from a completely different perspective,” he said, adding that his inspiration grew from the frustrations of being a minority actor, and not having certain roles available to him. “I can’t complain that people aren’t writing good roles for Asian actors if I’m not doing that. I want to lead by example.”
Chau produced his first feature film last year with some friends drawing motivation from the frustrations of another project: “I needed to turn the negative into a positive.”
His new film “Empty by Design” is a story about two people returning to the Philippines after being away for many years. Feeling disconnected from their own hometown, they reconnect with their friends, family, and the city. The lack of comfort was something Chau and his roommate related to, having felt like outsiders, to some degree, in every place that they’ve been to. He recalls one year in particular where he felt there was no sense of home — even in Vancouver, with his family and friends, he felt like an alien.
Chau’s roommate was able to write the first draft of the script in one month, just in time for the Sundance Film Festival deadline. His first thought after he read the script was, “We’re screwed.” However, after a few more drafts, it improved and Chris Pang from Crazy Rich Asians was pulled onboard.
For Chau, home is defined as anywhere that he can be for more than three weeks at a time. He and his roommate surrounded themselves with a wonderful group of people when they got to Manila, and they continued to do so at every Asian-themed event last year. Before they knew it, every single event had at least 20 to 30 people supporting them.
A little over two years ago, Chau landed a role in a project that didn’t end up happening, and while he wanted to also have support for the other actor who lost out on the role, he didn’t know if he could. For him, that was a discovery of internal self-racism against his own culture and the idea of competition.
He resented the feeling of seeing everyone as competition, and instead realized that he had a platform. He trained himself to support Asian-Americans in the entertainment industry, and grew this passion — learning to love his community and appreciate incredible talents.
“Just create, do your own thing, and bring people together,” he said.
You can catch “Empty by Design” at the LAAPFF from Thursday, May 2, 2019 to Friday May 10, 2019.