When it comes to a project whether it’s a film, TV show, or video game it doesn’t matter how epic the action is since it all boils down to two things: the story and the acting. A good story can make an already good experience that much better and a good performance from an actor can help elevate the experience to new levels, especially if everything else is mediocre.
We may have only seen two episodes of Halo: Forward Unto Dawn so far but one thing that is helping to make the series so good is the acting. Sure, it’s cool to see the world of Halo recreated in real-life with actual sets, costumes, and some slick CG, but if we had characters roaming around that were cardboard cutouts then I’m sure Halo fans would have as much excitement about the series as they had playing the dreaded library stage in Halo 1.
Helping to make Halo: Forward Unto Dawn an enjoyable experience are actors such as Osric Chau. A veteran of the industry despite his young age, Osric is one of the many actors in Forward Unto Dawn who is playing a talented cadet that’s struggling with various issues, some relating to his time at the Corbulo Academy while others are more personal.
Osric spared some time from his schedule to discuss Forward Unto Dawn as much as he could, along with his brief dabbling with voice acting in Sleeping Dogs, and his forthcoming role in the martial arts epic that is The Man with the Iron Fists.
Ian Fisher: This year you’re making quite a splash with a bevy of genre and video game projects so can you tell us what made you want to become an actor and how got to where you are now?
Osric Chau: I spent most of my childhood practicing martial arts and my original intent was always to become a stunt man. Acting was something I kind of dabbled in but I didn’t understand what it was until I got my first central role and that was in a Kung Fu movie. they hired me because I was an actor that could do their own stunts. So that was really my first look into what it meant to be an actor and from there I went on to bigger and better roles and different genres. Eventually I fell in love with acting and the whole process of film making in general.
Ian: As an actor what sort of elements do you find appealing in a character, whether it’s something you’re doing for a TV show, a movie, or even a video game?
Osric: For characters I always enjoy trying something new that I haven’t done yet. Everything else is not worth doing unless I have to work hard for it. I enjoy a challenge. I look forward to the hard days or the days that really make me uncomfortable.
Ian: Growing up was gaming ever a huge part of your life or would you occasionally check out a video game when either with family or some buddies?
Osric: Oh yeah I grew up as a major gaming addict. It’s probably a problem for me. I’ve played all the consoles but one of the first games I really got addicted to was Final Fantasy Tactics. I played that one several times over and I just had this weird obsession of needing to collect everything, mastering it a few times, beating every possible thing and the game just had so many options.
Then I got into Harvest Moon which is a little farming game that was pretty awesome. And then it was Starcraft and World of Warcraft took two years of my life that I’ll never get back.
So gaming is definitely a huge part of my life and growing up I would go over to a friend house and play the N64 and it’s something I’ve had to wean myself off of because after High School I found out that I was very unproductive from playing so much.
Ian: Are there any upcoming games coming out that you’re excited to try out when you have some free time?
Osric: Yes actually. I’ll try this but it has to be in a different city than I where I live since it’ll be all I would want to do, but I love the NHL games. I’m a big hockey fan and they’re so good to play.
Ian: One of your upcoming projects is “Halo: Forward Unto Dawn” which finally sees the Halo series brought to life in a proper live-action setting. Now I don’t know if the folks at Microsoft and 343 Industries have everything on complete lockdown, but can you tell us a bit about the character you portray in that project and how you came to be a part of it?
Osric: How I got onto Forward Unto Dawn is just like any other project. I went in for an audition and all we were told was that we were auditioning for a web series. Usually that doesn’t really mean anything and you would just tackle it like every other audition. They really didn’t tell us anything other than besides that they couldn’t give us anything on our characters. Then I got the role, went in and saw the costume and the set and it was a really big surprise when I found out what it was. It was just surreal.
My character’s name is J.J. Chen and I’m a cadet at the Corbulo Academy. The story pretty much follows one main character that will end up in the new game. There’s drama and conflicts and that’s definitely put to perspective even though we have all these issues but none of that really matters when the aliens are trying to kill everyone.
Ian: In the world of video games Halo is basically the video game equivalent of Star Wars as a huge number of people love it and take it very seriously. So did the popularity of the Halo series make it daunting to be a part of Forward Unto Dawn at least in the sense that millions of people will see you perform, subsequently critique your performance, and then notice you when you’re out walking down the street?
Osric: Oh for sure. That was the first thought that came in my mind. The one thing that makes it a little bit better is that we’re not playing characters that have already been established. If I was playing Master Chief for some reason that would scare the bejesus out of me and that’s not something I would’ve wanted to do since I would disappoint the fans. For this project, which is a whole new piece of the universe, we had the opportunity to explore that for ourselves and because of that it wasn’t as daunting. We’re telling a new part of the story so for that I hope they like the interpretation.
Ian: Since “Halo: Forward Unto Dawn” is a pretty sizeable project that involves unique sets, tons of special effects, and lots of action was there anything that took a while for you as an actor to adapt to or in turn was there one element that proved to be more fun than you could have ever imagined?
Osric: Well any time you’re working on a set it’s always cool to see whatever it is since you’re not actually there but it feels like it; especially with Halo since it felt like we were in the future with all that stuff. The hardest thing that we, or I had to adjust to, was the armor. It was pinching in the wrong places and by the end of the day I’m losing blood to my limbs and it was exhausting because of that; not because of what we were doing but because of the fit.
Ian: You’ve been in the acting industry for ten years so you’re rather lucky to see the industry constantly evolve. With that said and your involvement in projects with a video game background where do you think the movie/TV industry will go moving forward? As an actor are you excited to see more crossover things such as “Halo: Forward Unto Dawn” and is it exhilarating to see acting embrace more technological aspects such as using performance capture/mo-cap as a tool of acting?
Osric: These industries are so closely related. Many successful shows will have a game made for it and successful games are made into movies as well. So going forward I think the seams between all these formats will become less noticeable. So there’ll be turned more into a single entity than you know a really good movie with a terribly programed game that feeds off the movies success or the other way around. With "Forward Unto Dawn" I think they’re going to be breaking new ground. It’s always so exciting to be part of a project like this. We already have a huge fanbase that’s been demanding a movie for years and they’re doing it with this [Forward Unto Dawn]. It’s just cool to be a part of that project and I’m very excited to see what comes up.
In terms of the new technologies for performance capture, mo-cap and all of that I think it’s more exhilarating from the filmmaker’s point of view than an actor’s. As an actor it’s kind of cool to try all these new things, sometimes it might hinder you but at the end the basics are all the same – you’re just trying to live another person’s or creatures life for moments at a time. As a filmmaker you get a tremendous increase of options and capabilities in the types of characters you can portray and how you can capture those moments. I think it’s getting almost to the point where you’re animating a cartoon but with real people.
Ian: In the video game “Sleeping Dogs” things are changed up a bit for you as you contributed your voice to the project. What was it like working on “Sleeping Dogs” and was it relatively easy to do a project that limited your performance solely to your voice as opposed to doing something in front of the camera?
Osric: I really hadn’t done that much voice performance before but it was cool to work on games since I love games. It was a really weird experience since I’m a very physical actor and I like to move around. So when I was doing the voice sometimes I was moving around and no one was watching it but me so I felt a little stupid. It was a little weird but at the same time it’s really cool.
Ian: As you said you’re more of a physical actor so is doing more voice acting something you would be interested in moving forward? Does the ability of portraying characters you wouldn’t be able to portray regularly using the power of your voice entice you as an actor?
Osric: It’s not something that I’ll turn away from, but I don’t know if I would actively pursue it. But to answer your question from before about new technology and stuff, playing an alien is becoming more and more real. One thing that I always wanted to play was the Incredible Hulk and that’s becoming possible with all these new motion capturing systems. So I would be cool with doing voice over work but I wouldn’t just be able to only do voice over work.
Ian: A very cool upcoming film that you were a part of is “The Man With The Iron Fists”, the ode to classic martial arts films as envisioned by the RZA. I don’t know what you can reveal about that project and your involvement with it, but in general what was it like to be in a film of that nature and what was it like working with the RZA both on and off the screen?
Osric: Just having the RZA there, he’s such a chill guy. It’s so cool to see him there and be a part of the project. The character I play is the Blacksmith’s Assistant and RZA plays the Blacksmith so I’m along with him for a good chunk of the journey. I ended up filming from the first and last day of the shoot so I really got to see most of the filming process being done.
I was so grateful for being on that set and the training was a lot of fun. There were a lot of great fighters onboard so I took it upon myself to join in on the training sessions. It was my first extended stay in Shanghai and RZA really knew how to set up and what he wanted and I thought he did a great job directing.
The trailer for The Man with the Iron Fists
Ian: Since you have a background as a martial artist were you able to show off any of your skills in the movie or is it lower key type stuff?
Osric: Originally they hired me to be an assassin but the casting director called me and said that the RZA asked me to be the Blacksmith’s Assistant. My character is actually a mute so I don’t have any lines, but it was one of those things where they asked me and actually reading the script it was one of my favorite characters since there are a lot of really good moments. And of course I’m not going to say no to the RZA. He asked me because I spoke English and as easy as it would’ve been to hire a Chinese guy, the RZA really likes the people around him so I was more than happy to do it.
Yeah, I was kind of disappointed that I didn’t get to do some action stuff but in the end I stuck around with the training anyways and it was just so much fun training with guys like Cung Le, Batista [former wrestler/actor Dave Batista], RZA’s double Maurice, and they’re just such cool guys so that was a great experience.
Ian: You’ve been lucky enough to see video games from both perspectives, thanks to “Halo” and “Sleeping Dogs”. So with that said and your own general knowledge about gaming do you think games should continue to push towards more mature subject matter, perhaps tackling things that haven’t been done before as movies occasionally do? Or do you think attempting such a thing is tricky since some people still look towards gaming as something that is either for children or that can “corrupt” the youth?
Osric: This is a really tricky issue. There are a lot of people that are affected by it and I can’t deny that. For me I definitely was but at the same time there are boundaries. You can have fun playing Final Fantasy but I would never go around holding a sword or something. It’s one of those things where you try to know your limit. With film I think it’s more a bit laxed since you’re not that character; you’re not the character that you go around controlling. But I think it comes down to the story. I think one thing that games definitely need is a good story. Even if you’re slaughtering all these things there has to be a purpose to it. In real life I don’t think there’s ever a reason for violence.
I think education is a big thing and I think that’s one thing that we as a society need to focus on. When I grew up I used to get into a lot of fights and stuff and when I first started martial arts I wanted to fight better, which obviously wasn’t the right reason. What happened was as I trained harder and harder the more confidence I got in my abilities and the less I felt to ever want to use them. It was more the fact that I had something to prove back then but once I had the assurance that I could stand a chance then I was like what’s the point. I think education is a big thing and you can’t blame the games industry but at the same time I think there’s a certain thing you can do with the storytelling.
Ian: Since you’ve worked on a major project based upon a video game in addition to acting in a game where do you think things will go from here? Do you think Hollywood will continue to go down a path of creating films based on existing games or do you think it’ll just be a case in which games are so good from a graphical perspective and are immersive that they just completely eclipse films?
Osric: For both games and films I think it all comes down to story. It’s got to be a good story, it doesn’t matter how pretty the pictures are the story needs to mean something. Halo is a great example since they focus so much on the storytelling and it really pulls you into that world. No matter how good the CG is it’s the story behind it that counts so if games focus more on the storytelling then they’ll have the feel of a lot of the great films out there.
In terms of films I don’t know if they will all want to do a game, but I think they’ll be more creative than how they make a movie interactive. How they’ll do that I don’t know but I think that’s one of the goals the film industry will want to do.
Ian: Throughout your career you’ve managed to work on a variety of projects ranging from things like “Supernatural” and “Halo”. So is there a certain type of project (existing or otherwise) that you would love to work on if given the chance, whether it’s live-action or even a video game?
Osric: That’s a really hard one. Indecisiveness is problem my middle name. I think I’m too happy to just work and I’m too thankful to be in this industry and honestly I can’t put myself in the position to say I wish I could have that or that. Obviously there are projects that I would like to work on but in terms of a type of project I think it comes back to good story. I would like to go on a project with a really good story that touches and inspires them. I want to move people and have a meaning in someone’s life for the better.
Ian: Besides “Halo: Forward Unto Dawn”, “The Man With the Iron Fists”, and the new season of “Supernatural” do you have any upcoming projects that you want to make people aware of so they can scope things out?
Osric: I’m one of the leads in a movie called “Fun Size” which is coming out on October 26th. It’s a Paramount movie that’s a Halloween comedy and it was an absolute joy to be a part of. I spent three months in Ohio shooting it and it’s got a great cast and crew. The producers have five shows on TV right now, the writer did the Colbert Report, and it stars Victoria Justice and it was an absolute joy to work on.