If you’re a Supernatural fan and you don’t already know the name Osric Chau, you will in a few weeks. The young actor burst on the scene at the end of the show’s seventh season as the prophet in advanced placement, Kevin Tran. The character’s three-episode story arc carries over into season eight, which premieres on The CW tonight at 9 PM ET, where the highly intelligent (and endearingly nervous) Kevin Tran will prove to be an important piece of the equation this season.
FEARnet recently sat down with the actor to discuss Kevin Tran’s important role in Supernatural, closing the gates of Hell, and becoming the latest Wu-Tang Clan member.
FEARNET: I have to ask you this first: After missing that big test and everything, do you think Kevin Tran is still in advanced placement?
OSRIC CHAU: (Laughs) That is, potentially, a spoiler. I think he will always be in advanced placement at whatever he does. I think all those kids in advanced placement, what they’re good at is learning and in life you should be learning always. Whether it’s in school or at work. Whether you’re doing hobbies. You’re always constantly learning so that’s one of Kevin Tran’s big things. He’s good at learning and he’ll continue to do that whatever he’s doing.
FEARNET: Do you get people recognizing you in the street now and asking you if you’re in advanced placement?
OC: No, no. If you’ve seen the promo, I got a haircut, so I look pretty different now. I’ve only had a handful of people that have actually recognized me with the new haircut. Mark Sheppard was one of them. That was kind of weird. We were at Comic Con and he pulled me out of a crowd of thousands of people and he said, “Hey, you guys don’t all look alike!” (Laughs) I met him once at that point and I had the haircut so I was pretty impressed by that. Apart from that, no. I can stay pretty low-key.
FEARNET: Tell me a little bit about what it was like to come on late in Season 7 of this hugely popular show with all these already-established characters and have to pull off a really important role. Were you terrified?
OC: You know, I had no idea what I was getting into and I probably still don’t. One: I didn’t know the extent of the fan base of this show. Two: Any time you go into a TV series, especially one that’s been running this long (this is eight years – a lot of these people have been working together for that long), it’s kind of like you’re walking into someone else’s living room. They have hundreds and hundreds of inside jokes and, on this set in particular, they like to have a lot of fun. So the first few days, I couldn’t tell when anyone was joking or serious. And now I know that they’re always joking. It was kind of terrifying because I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes. I didn’t know if, you know, “They’re doing that. Should I join in?” It was a lot of really weird situations and that’s because Jensen and Jared just cannot control themselves sometimes, I think. (Laughs) After eight years of working on that show, you do kind of have fun with it.
FEARNET: I was hoping you would show up on the Blu-ray’s gag reel, but I didn’t see anything with you.
OC: Oh, I definitely played it safe for the first three episodes. And they were pretty respectful for those first three episodes, but now that I’m back as a recurring character they’re really not holding back. Jared especially. He can be a lot of fun to work with, I’ll say that much.
FEARNET: Kevin Tran shows up and has this very big episode and then he fades away a little bit for the last few episodes. But now you’re coming back as an important part of Season 8. How does it feel to be engrained as sort of a series regular?
OC: It’s great. To be a regular on any show is a great thing for an actor and this show in particular is so much fun to be around. Just to be on set. It is like another family that you get to go to everyday. Everyone is really cool to hang out with and it’s very comfortable. It’s just so much fun. Every day we get to do different things. The nature of the show just allows us to have a lot of cool sets and props to play with so it’s definitely a fun one to be a part of.
FEARNET: Aside from just the joking on set, what was it like working with Jensen, Jared, and Rachel in those first few scenes?
OC: The first scene was great. The first scene I ever did was the running scene where Jared is chasing me. Honestly, that was my favorite moment still. One, it was the first one. Two, any time you start a project like that you’re kind of nervous and it was just a great way for me to go into it because I got to do some running. You can only do so much to be mentally prepared, but for me I’ve always been a really physical actor so just being able to run and get the adrenaline going, it was such a relief for me. Also, that happened to be the day that Jared’s wife went into labor so it was a different Jared then. It was a special first day, I guess.
FEARNET: Is there anything you can tell us about what Kevin’s going to be up to in the new season? Is he going to be a major player alongside the Winchesters now?
OC: I can’t say much, but I can say that Kevin has this nice story arc and he’s important because he holds the key to closing the gates of Hell forever. I’d say that’s pretty important.
FEARNET: Were you a Supernatural fan and viewer before you got to play Kevin or was this kind of your introduction to the show?
OC: This was my introduction to the show. I mean, I’d heard of it before just because it’s been shooting in Vancouver all these years and I’m from Vancouver, but I hadn’t seen it before. I’ve watched a handful of episodes now, but there’s a lot to watch. At some point, I will get around to watching all of them.
FEARNET: How did that affect the way you approached the character?
OC: That was a decision I made after I got the role. Usually I would go back and watch everything – especially for a character of this size – but because the Kevin character was an outsider as well, I decided that I wouldn’t. That way, I could just sort of figure things out the same way Kevin has to. It would have taken a lot more work to learn everything and then forget about it for my character.
FEARNET: Is there a different feel, or new sense of urgency, to this season as opposed to last season?
OC: It does for me. I’m still trying to figure that out. It might be due to the fact that last season I came on at the end of the season and now I’m starting at the beginning of the season. The mentality on set is different. You can tell that everyone is a lot more laid back right now. And the story feels more like a quest this season. It kind of reminds me a lot of the role-playing games we used to play. There are all these characters and you’re picking up puzzles and pieces and meeting new people that point you along in the right direction. That’s what it feels like right now.
FEARNET: What was it like shooting that final scene with the big, huge bone sticking out of Dick Roman’s neck?
OC: That was so much fun to film. The bone was real so he actually walking around all day with the bone in his neck. (Laughs) The first time I saw him, I was like “Woah, that looks really good!” And then they start pumping the blood. Yeah, anytime we get to play with props on set, it’s so much fun.
FEARNET: I want to talk briefly about The Man with the Iron Fists. How did you land the role on RZA’s directorial debut?
OC: I was in Beijing at the time and I knew the casting director. She told me that she was casting for the role and the word spread really quickly. I read the script and originally I auditioned for a few assassin characters and I was an assassin originally. RZA actually asked me if I would be his character’s assistant, which was really cool. The blacksmith’s assistant is a mute character and the reason why he asked me is because this character is going to be in most of his scenes. He could easily find a non-English-speaking Chinese guy to play that role, but he knew he’d be spending a lot of time with him and wanted to talk to him. It was a really nice compliment that he thought I was a cool guy, so when he asked me if I’d play that role of course I said yes.
FEARNET: So now you’re practically rolling with the Wu-Tang Clan. You’re the next member!
OC: (Laughs) I don’t know about that. They’re a little bit too hardcore for me, man. I’m a really mild-mannered guy who just likes to stay at home. So, not so much. (Laughs) But, yeah, he was a really cool guy to hang out with.
FEARNET: What was it like working with the amazing cast and crew?
OC: It was one of the most crowded sets I’ve ever been on. They had two units and both of them were packed. It was incredible what they were able to pull together. I didn’t know what to expect for his directorial debut, but RZA really did his homework, he came prepared, and he knew exactly what he wanted. He really took charge. As for the cast, everyone was just stoked to be on this production. The costumes and stuff were just crazy. The fight stuff we got to do was so much fun. And, for me, I hung out a lot with Cung Le, Dave Bautista, and RZA’s double (who was also Bautista’s trainer). I did a lot of martial arts training before and so I just took advantage of that and joined in on their training (even though my character doesn’t do any martial arts) as much as I could. I had a blast training with those guys. That was a great experience.
FEARNET: It seems like a real throwback to the old Bruce Lee films and things like that. Did you grow up with those films as well?
OC: A lot of this film is an homage to the old Shaw Bros. films. I definitely have seen most of these old Kung Fu movies that they refer to and were talking about on set all the time. It’s pretty cool to be a part of that as well. All the references. They did a lot of Tarantino references as well because he was on set for part of it. Tarantino was a cool guy to hang around.
You can see Osric Chau as Kevin Tran in “Supernatural” when Season 8 premieres on The CW on October 3 at 9 PM ET. Season 7 is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.