Interview: Osric Chau
The BBC America series Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency is unlike anything that is on television right now. It’s quirky, it’s violent, but one thing you can say, it’s definitely entertaining.
The season one finale will air on Saturday, December 10th at 9/8c only on BBC America. Fans can rejoice as the series has already scored a season two renewal.
One of the reasons for the series success is the work of actor Osric Chau, who plays Vogle. Osric is no stranger to film and television as he is already building an impressive resume. On the big screen, he’s been seen in films such as 2012, Fun Size, The Man with the Iron Fists and Beyond Redemption. On the small screen, he’s appeared in series such as Cold Squad, The 100, Mister French Taste and Blood and Water. Many of you will recognize him from his arc as Kevin Tran on the hit CW series Supernatural.
We sit down with Kevin today to talk about his work on Dirk Gently, his love for the character Kevin Tran on Supernatural and his thoughts on diversity in Hollywood.
Pop Culture Principle – Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is definitely a different and quirky kind of show. Is that what initially attracted you to the project?
Osric Chau – Yes. We all read the script and fell in love with it. There is something so fun with how he laid it all out. It’s very quirky and we all just fell in love with what was written on those pages. It’s cool to see how well we can hopefully translate the scripts into a television show.
Pop Culture Principle – This series is based on the books of the same name by Douglas Adams. Did you get a chance to read them and how did you prepare for the role?
Osric Chau – No, most of us haven’t read the books unfortunately, but from what we understand, the series is loosely based on the books. The only character that is carried over from the books is Dirk Gently himself, but everyone else is an original creation. So, we didn’t have the pressure of staying true to the characters from the book. We did Dirk Gently in the style of Douglas Adams rather than try to do a one to one scale adaptation.
It takes off a tremendous amount of pressure whenever you are doing something that so many people absolutely adore. We are doing something Dirk Gently, it’s in that world and for the fans, it doesn’t step on anything that you’ve come to love already. Our show is the BBC America version which is completely different. We are our own thing and it’s just more content for the fanbase. If you are a fan of Douglas Adams and that style, then you will certainly love the show. It’s not for everyone and I get it, but I think the people that are into it are going to be really into it.
Pop Culture Principle – You didn’t originally audition for the role of Vogle. How did you end up with that role in the end?
Osric Chau – Initially, I had auditioned for Friedkin who isn’t the nicest guy right now, but Vogle is a super dumb character and it was a really fun thing to have an Asian actor play a dumb character. I really loved what they are trying to do with the diversity and they saw my tape and said that I was Vogle. I had no idea who Vogle was because the project was so secretive at the beginning. We had no idea what it was, what is was about and we didn’t see any scripts until after we got the roles. It’s kind of cool to fall into this wonderful project.
Pop Culture Principle – Looking over your career so far, it seems you have never played a character quite like Vogle. What have you enjoyed most about playing this character?
Osric Chau – There is something so fun about getting a weapon and we just go destroy things. It becomes one of those fun things and people show up just to watch the destruction. It’s such a wonderful job to have a bat, a sledgehammer and a crowbar to tear up an apartment and you can’t really complain about that. Every day is a riot and we show up with big smiles on our faces. My character gets to enjoy it and everything is bright and shiny for Vogle. He gets to smash these things and gets to enjoy it while he is doing it. I’ve never been able to be this destructive and not angry which is nice.
Pop Culture Principle – For a show like Dirk Gently, are you allowed any improvisation or do you stick strictly to the script?
Osric Chau – For the Rowdy 3 stuff, we actually get to do a lot because none of the stuff we say makes sense anyway. For the most part, the scripts are so well-written that we don’t really want to change it that much. Of course, there’s a lot of constraints and stuff and sometimes it doesn’t work out and that’s when we do have to get a little creative with it, but for the Rowdy 3 we can say whatever we want and it kind of makes sense regardless. In the first half of the season our characters are non-seneschal and it’s not until later on that we kind or start to talk and say full sentences. It takes some time, but we will get there I think.
Pop Culture Principle – How would you describe Dirk Gently to someone who hasn’t seen the series to get them interested in watching it?
Osric Chau – It’s very much like Sherlock, Doctor Who and Supernatural all together. If you are a fan of any of those three shows, this is something for you. It’s surprisingly violent and I keep forgetting how violent it is. It’s a Sherlock kind of a character and he goes around and assumes that everything he sees is a clue and everyone he runs into is supposed to help him or is somehow related to these clues. It’s funny to watch him come across all these weird things and people and him just assuming that they all have to do with him solving this grand mystery. He seems like an idiot, but the entire show is about how all those crazy things and people are actually connected to that mystery and that’s sort of his super power. So, it’s really fun to watch that happen.
Also, because it is a mystery, there are so many Easter eggs littered everywhere that kind of come back within that episode, within that season or within a couple of seasons that we get to find out later. It definitely has a lot of rewatch value. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s not for everyone, but if you like this kind of show, you are going to love Dirk Gently.
Pop Culture Principle – You are also involved with the project Demon X playing the character Damien. What can you tell us about that series and your character?
Osric Chau – That was done with some of the production people on Supernatural. I got to play a villain in this series. I know they are putting it together right now, so I really can’t say much. I was really deep into the writing on this one which was kind of a nice challenge. It was very much an indie production and I really enjoy those because I get to do more than just act. I get to help out on the other creative side and you really get to be part of that team. I enjoyed it because I got to work with a lot of new people and I got to fill in some gaps and learn some new skill sets that I never really get a chance to do on a larger set. It’s really fun to do these projects and learn and soak in everything. In terms of what is going on with it, I am still waiting to hear more about the status of the project.
Pop Culture Principle – From the first time we see Kevin Tran until the end, that character grew and matured so much. As an actor, how did you enjoy playing a character that had so many layers?
Osric Chau – It’s a really special thing and it doesn’t happen for a lot of minority actors especially, so being able to go through that journey was such a treat. Kevin quickly became one of my favorite characters who started off being the most stereotypical character which I wasn’t that proud of at the time, but as the seasons went on, you got to know him a little bit and he just became more fun to play.
I got to do so much with Kevin, not just in how he was mentally, but physical changes as I grew as well. It was really fun to have so many looks as Kevin. I think I was the only character whose hair consistently grew which was kind of fun.
Pop Culture Principle – Fans really enjoyed the interaction between Kevin and his mother Linda played by Lauren Tom. What was it like working with her?
Osric Chau – She’s great! She’s very much a mom and was basically my mother on set. I get to hang out with her every now and again in Los Angeles. She is very involved with the charity Homeboy Industries and every time I get a chance, I try and help her out with that when I can. She’s a super sweet lady and I hope I get a chance to work with her again in the future.
Pop Culture Principle – What do you think Kevin learned from Sam and Dean and what did the brothers learn from Kevin Tran?
Osric Chau – Nothing comes to my mind because Kevin was kind of the student all throughout. His life was always about the greater good. He didn’t really hangout with friends and have a life because he was trying to get into Princeton which was his goal and he sacrificed everything for it. When the world was at stake, he shifted that focus into translating the tablets, so he studied something else for the greater good and again, gave up his life. He was very much about doing what he had to do and he understood that and I think he kind of stayed the same in that sense.
Kevin literally sacrificed everything for this thing that never came to fruition and sometimes Sam and Dean would sacrifice literally everything except their brother because he is the only family that I have left. So maybe they learned that we don’t need to put ourselves above the rest of the world sometimes after watching Kevin slave away and make his sacrifices for the greater good.
Pop Culture Principle – The Supernatural fandom is one of the most dedicated and vocal fandoms out there. How has your experience been with the fandom via social media and conventions?
Osric Chau – As an actor, when I first started off, I felt like it was a selfish career choice and everything I do is pretty much for me. This is the first time where you get that immediate feedback and you see the difference you can make in someone’s life and you get to see the power that your influence can have on someone. There is something kind of wonderful about being able to provide a sense of confidence, acceptance and validation to people who have never gotten that before and just because of your time on this one show, everything you do is heightened like ten times.
It’s kind of a weird position to be in, but it’s also made us so grateful for the people who watch the show. The people who make Supernatural have the greatest appreciation for the fanbase because they’ve seen it. It’s a really big reciprocal relationship because we know we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them and a lot of fans tell us that they wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the show. So, we are constantly giving back to each other and it becomes this wonderful, rabid and intense family reunion every time. It’s kind of cool to see the communities and friendships that are built at these conventions and for that, I think we are very thankful for this thing we kind of fell in to.
Pop Culture Principle – Diversity in Hollywood is becoming a big issues these days. Do you see any progress in the industry and is there still more work that needs to be done?
Osric Chau – I think we are heading in the right direction. More and more you are seeing that they are looking to cast more diverse characters. It’s certainly something that they are very much aware of because a lot of minority groups are tired of it and we are making our voices heard and they are finally listening.
We understand that it’s a business and I hope that the people who are supporting the idea of seeing more representation on the screen realize that we can complain all we want, but at the end of the day it’s a business for them. We need to pay to see the shows and films that feature diverse casts and that’s what really speaks to them. We are going to go through growing pains. Not every diverse movie or television series is going to be amazing, but we have to support it regardless.
At some point, we will get to the point where we can make a diverse movie and if it doesn’t work out, the studios will say something wasn’t working and we will figure it out and we can try again. Right now, every single project that doesn’t work out, they’ll say that the formula doesn’t work out and we can’t have diverse characters as leads in the project. I constantly try to see movies with diverse casts and hope that we get better as a community and hopefully one day the studios will look more at doing projects with more diversity.
Pop Culture Principle – Do you see yourself writing, directing and producing in the near future?
Osric Chau – Yes, definitely. That’s part of my battle for diversity because I am constantly writing. I can’t complain that there aren’t good roles for Asian Americans if I’m not writing them myself. I’m constantly writing, I’d love to produce and also direct one day, but that’s not an immediate focus. I am absolutely fascinated by the whole filmmaking process and everyone’s job, so I definitely want to learn as much as I can on both sides of the camera.
Pop Culture Principle – Any other upcoming projects you can tell us about?
Osric Chau – Let’s see, right now I am working on a lot of my own projects and one of them I should keep a secret for now. Dirk Gently just got picked up for a second season and I am excited about that.
We would like to thank Osric for his time talking with us today. The Season one finale of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency airs Saturday, December 10th at 9/8c only on BBC America. If you would like to keep up with all of Osric's latest news and projects, you can follow him on Twitter @OsricChau or visit his official Facebook page here.
Professional photos courtesy of:
Photographer: Diana Ragland
Groomer: Nikki Deroest
Wardrobe Stylist: Yesenia Cuevas