We last spoke with the very humble and wonderful Osric Chau in October about his time on Supernatural, and now’s he already off and running with the new hot show Dirk Gently’s Holistic Intelligence Agency.
Luckily, he made time again in that crazy busy schedule of his to give Lynn quite a chunk of his time as you can see in the interview below. It’s less an interview than a chat between old friends.
I had a chance to sit down with one of my favorite people in the universe recently, Osric Chau. His amazing new show Dirk Gently’s Holistic Intelligence Agency is airing Saturdays at 9 pm EST, so I wanted to share our chat in celebration.
The first part of our interview, as often happens with me and my interviewees, was not an interview at all. I was flustered and rather miserable, since my phone had died right smack in the middle of the Creation con in Whippany, New Jersey, that day. I raced to the nearest Verizon store, only to be told: “oh yeah it’s broken.” NO KIDDING! The replacement would be delivered on Tuesday, which needless to say, did not help me at the con. So I wasn’t my usual upbeat self when I sat down with Os.
Gotta say, I feel very lucky that the Supernatural cast are the actors I usually interview – because when you sit down with one of them and you look miserable, they are suddenly your friend instead of your interviewee. Osric is wise beyond his years, and empathic as any therapist I know (and that’s what I do, so I know a lot), which was lucky for me – he spent ten minutes calming me down, talking me through the remnants of my technology-failure-induced panic attack and just generally reminding me that the world won’t end because I can’t live tweet a convention. I don’t like feeling like I’m letting people down, but he also reminded me that the Supernatural fandom is a family, and that means everyone understands when bad stuff happens to you.
Of course, he was totally right.
He then proceeded to fix my iPad, which was also malfunctioning that weekend. (You see why I was a bit panicked, right? Multiple technology failures in one afternoon? Too much for me!)
Interestingly, that’s not the first time Osric has had to fix my technology in the middle of an interview. Have I mentioned I feel lucky??
Lynn: Thank you for the therapy and fixing my technology. Ok, let’s talk about Dirk Gently.
Osric: Yes let’s talk about Dirk Gently!
Lynn: So far (at the time), I’ve only seen the pilot, but I loved it! You play one of the Rowdy 3, who are indeed aptly named.
Osric: So the whole idea is it follows this detective, who doesn’t use clues or evidence or anything. He’s trying to solve this mystery, and he thinks that everything is connected.
Lynn: Right, I got that.
Osric: So we’re introduced to all these crazy characters and instances that happen that are just so random and weird. And the fun of the show is to watch as the season progresses how they’re all connected.
Lynn: So they’re really not all random?
Osric: Exactly. So he seems like a complete idiot and then we find out that his power is that everything really is connected. He doesn’t know how or why but he just goes with his instincts and that shows the connections. So on the surface we see this blubbering idiot following all these random things like a puppy chasing a ball, but later on we find out that is his power.
Lynn: You start to see that even in the pilot, you’re like wait a minute, maybe this is connected…
Osric: It’s such a fun show because of all the little Easter eggs they throw in there and how everything is connected. Even for all of us who made the show and have watched it multiple times, we still miss things. Like the first episode, the girl crying in the hotel?
Lynn: The one Elijah sits beside?
Osric: She’s the lady on the news.
Lynn: The one that talks about the lottery?? OMG, that’s weird. I totally missed that.
Osric: Right. And the guy that they almost hit is the weird guy with the dog.
Lynn: I love the dog! And the cat.
Osric: I mean, there are so many random things that happen, and it all comes back around. So I think because of that this show has really high re-watchability because of all the things that you miss.
Lynn: And guess, what, I missed a lot!
Osric: Every time I watch it I’m like OMG I remember reading that and now that makes sense. Especially if what we know is going to happen later on actually happens — if it gets picked up for Season 2. It’s like OHHHHH that connects to this, and this connects to that… it’s really fun being part of creating it and watching it. We’re all very proud of it.
Lynn: It must be brilliantly written to connect everything like that. It reminds me a little of The Sixth Sense. You watch it the first time and then you get to the end and go WHAT? He was dead the whole time? And then you have to go back and watch, and it’s so brilliantly ambiguous.
Lynn: So you have to be careful when you’re writing, I guess, all these things are being set in motion. Has he written all of it already?
Osric: Pretty much. Max Landis is like the hottest spec writer at the moment. He was writing the Pokemon movie even at one point. It’s like, you can’t sell specs anymore unless you’re Max Landis, he’s the only one who’s still able to. It’s just not viable. But he’s such a kooky character, and his ideas are so crazy, but it works.
Lynn: it does.
Osric: So for a couple of years he just kept selling spec scripts, but none of them got made. Then he made Chronicle, which was like the teenagers with super powers, and Dirk Gently is his baby right now. He’s the EP and main writer, and it’s been really fun just to listen to him talk about everything that’s going on in this show. Before our first day, he sat me and the other Rowdy 3 down, and we had no idea what we were going to be.
Lynn: How did you get cast for it?
Osric: I was in LA, they were shooting in Vancouver, so I sent a tape in for another character originally and apparently he was like, that’s Vogle! Completely different character, so I got a straight up offer. And I was like, I don’t know who that character is, but sure.
Lynn: Did you know anything about it when you took the role?
Osric: (laughing) Nothing! It didn’t even seem like a real project at all, it was so like last minute, and everything just happened. Even reading the first script, the day before, none of it made sense. None of the Rowdy 3 knew how to say any of our lines. And then we went in for a meeting with Max and the director, and Max just pitched all of our characters, their back stories, the entire season’s arc.
Lynn: So he did, he knew everything!
Osric: He knew Season 2, 3, 4, and we were like OMG now it all makes sense! The director was like ‘Oh, that’s how we’re supposed to do it.’
Lynn: It’s like Eric Kripke, who knew the 5 season arc of Supernatural when he started. I think that really gives a show a coherence.
Lynn: It lets you know who your character really is because it goes into the future.
Osric: Exactly. It’s been so much fun and knowing where it all goes is a luxury that we as actors hardly ever get. It makes me even more excited.
Lynn: So all we saw in the premiere is the Rowdy 3 beating the crap out of a room, and there’s one close-up of you that’s just terrifying! So different from Kevin (on Supernatural).
Osric: I mean, it’s fun just smashing things…but the more we see the Rowdy 3, the more we get a feel for them. Yes, they’re all crazy and destructive in their own way, but we all have our own personalities. So I’m the smallest, I’m super manic, really high energy. So I move really fast – honestly probably too fast, because most of the time, the camera can’t catch up to me.
Osric: I should probably slow down, but it’s been so much fun.
Lynn: It reminded me a little bit of A Clockwork Orange, like the old ultraviolence a little.
Osric: A little bit. The cool thing about our characters is we’re not a big part of it at the beginning, we’re part of the grand mystery of things. As the season progresses, our role increases and then we talk all of a sudden and I probably shouldn’t say too much more than that…
Lynn: No spoilers…
Osric: (laughing) It leaves me really excited for Season 2 if we get picked up.
Lynn: How many episodes in Season 1?
Osric: Eight in Season 1, only in America on BBC America on their website. December 10 is the eighth episode and then it’s going worldwide on Netflix except for America which already saw it.
Lynn: So we won’t have it on Netflix?
Osric: No, it will be on BBC America I think. I’m fairly confident that BBCA really believes in it and loves it. Netflix I have no idea, but if a lot of people watch it, they’ll probably go for it. But even if they don’t, it came together really nice, and I think they’re very happy with the product. I think that TPTB knows that even if it doesn’t get big numbers, it’s a show that will bring in a powerful fandom. It’s just a quality show.
Lynn: It’s just very unusual too, even from the first scene. Very innovative in the look of it even and the music too.
Osric: Yeah and it’s very much a Douglas Adams style. He’s got his own fandom and every time you do an adaptation, it’s tough. If we did a straight up adaptation of his anything, he’s known for that quirkiness but also all those details. And you can’t possibly fit in all of them. So if we did a straight adaptation, it would fall short. That’s something the writer wanted to avoid, so he did an homage to Adams in his style with Dirk Gently, who is the only character who carries over from the book.
Lynn: The others are original characters?
Osric: Mm-hmm. But it’s still in that universe, in his style. And I think that’s the exciting thing – I haven’t met a Dirk Gently fan, and there are quite a few of the book series, that hasn’t liked what they’ve seen so far.
Lynn: So people who already were fans of Dirk are liking it?
Osric: I think those people liked it right away. Because coming in cold, it’s so weird and there are so many questions that are raised.
Lynn: Oh but I loved that, though!
Osric: Different is scary for some people though, but the people that understand that style and love it, love that show. It’s very exciting. Reading the first script, I immediately thought ‘this is SuperWhoLock!’
Lynn: I love that you said that – people were like oh, SuperWhoLock, that awesome thing we’ll never have, and then along comes Dirk Gently.
Osric: It’s Sherlock, but in a Doctor Who way, with Supernatural elements.
Lynn: And it’s weird, they didn’t cast you because they knew your work on Supernatural.
Osric: No, not at all!
Lynn: What a weird coincidence that you’ve ended up on the SuperWhoLock show – another show with the potential for a super passionate fandom.
Osric: I think that’s been the biggest surprise – people are like, who the hell is Osric and why does he have so many followers?
Osric: And for me, that’s been really fun, and I’ve been able to explain fandom to them, and social media.
Lynn: Well good, because they might need it soon.
Osric: I don’t know how much of this I should say, but I’m pretty sure that knowing that has helped for Season 2 for my character.
Lynn: Well yeah, that’s the way it goes.
Osric: And that is another gift that the Supernatural Family has given me
Lynn: That’s true. And I noticed that they include the Rowdy 3 in the teaser from the start too.
Osric: I don’t think even the network knows the importance of the Rowdy 3 because we’re such minor characters to begin with. But we’re a pretty big part of the whole thing, so that’s been fun to see that journey. Everyone making it is still figuring out what it’s all about.
Lynn: I really love that they’re the Rowdy 3 and there’s four of them.
Osric: I know, there’s a backstory, but I don’t know if they’ll ever get to it.
Lynn: They can’t count?
Osric: (laughing) No, it’s that they were the Rowdy 3 and then I was the fourth member.
Lynn: Oh, so you’re the add-on, but they didn’t change the name. They did have that one really obvious close-up shot of you too which made it look like yours was an important character.
Osric: That’s true. That whole scene, we shot that for an entire day. It’s 30 seconds onscreen, but we destroyed that apartment four different times, resetting it each time. I thanked the crew for putting all that back together. I felt so bad. It was like okay, don’t throw the television out the window just yet…
Lynn: Yeah let’s save that one for the last take…
Osric: Right, it was so much fun just smashing things though.
Lynn: You know what? Today I’d love that. (Hey, I’d had multiple technology failures. And it was just after the election.)
Osric: You know, in Japan they have those smash rooms. It’s like a private karaoke room, and they play like heavy metal, and they have stuff you can smash in a safe place.
Lynn: You know, usually I would just be like, what? But today?
Osric: Now you understand.
Lynn: That holds a lot of appeal for me today.
Osric: Yeah, there’s something therapeutic about that.
Lynn: So you really do have written in your contract that if Supernatural wants you back, you can go?
Osric: Mm-hmm. Well, my contract is over, so if we get picked up for Season 2, I need to get that put in again. It might be harder if I have a larger role, but yeah, it’s something I insist on.
Lynn: I love that. And maybe it could be, you know, like for four episodes or something.
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Osric: I owe so much to Supernatural. And it really does feel like home with the crew and the cast, so I always want to keep that door open. Even it’s not necessarily the smartest move, for me it’s like a loyalty thing.
Lynn: If they wanted you back for a year, you probably can’t run back and forth, though…
Osric: Even if it’s one or two episodes, I just want to keep that door open.
[Osric wrote a chapter for the new book I have coming out in the spring, Family Don’t End with Blood: Cast and Fans on How Supernatural Has Changed Lives, and that’s what the book is all about – how being on the show or being a fan of the show has impacted people’s lives. The actors as well as the fans.]
Lynn: Obviously you wrote your chapter in the new book before Dirk Gently, but that would have been an interesting postscript because it has also launched people into other things that they might never have done. You have social capital with all those twitter followers, it’s like weird legitimacy.
Osric: Yeah, it’s hard to quantify that early on in this industry, but now the numbers are there. It can be measured.
Lynn: I think Supernatural fans will like this show.
Osric: This gives it that exposure, but the show still has to be good.
Lynn: Absolutely. I wouldn’t have a life if I followed everything all of you do, but I really like this show. And it happens to be a lot like Supernatural.
Osric: That’s why I’m so excited about it. I mean, one, it’s a show I would watch. Two, it’s a show I know my fan base will love to watch. It’s so perfect. I couldn’t have wished for a better situation.
Lynn: It’s serendipity.
Osric: I was talking to their marketing people about stuff to do, and they were like, we should just give you a job in marketing (laughing).
Lynn: That’s probably true!
Osric: It’s been fun, I’ve learned a lot through Supernatural and the SPNFamily. Hopefully, I can help foster the Dirk Gently fan base. It’s such a positive group of people and working with them kinda feels like Supernatural. Elijah Woods is an incredible lead, he’s overly generous, he takes the time when he doesn’t need to.
Lynn: Like Jared and Jensen.
Osric: Exactly. To have the number one and two be that generous is rare.
Lynn: He’s also much funnier than I realized.
Osric: He doesn’t do a lot of tv, he’s only done one other show. He said he was afraid to read the script for this one, he was afraid he would love it.
Lynn: And I guess he did. I think he’ll be happy with it, though.
Osric: And Samuel Barnett…
Lynn: He’s hysterical! I don’t recognize him, but he’s awesome.
Osric: He’s from England, he’s done Penny Dreadful.
Lynn: Oh right, right, a lot of people loved that show.
Osric: But he really is hysterical, I can just watch him talk and be mesmerized. Something about the accent, of course, and the way he carries himself, is so funny.
Lynn: And he and Elijah riff off each other so well, you have to have that balance to be funny. It’s like Rich and Rob – or Jared and Jensen. They click together.
Osric: Exactly. Very complementary personalities and that leads to a lot of funny situations.
Lynn: So will we find out more about your character’s backstory?
Osric: Yes, we have some big scenes coming up. This is an ensemble cast, and we all have incredible back stories that again are all connected. So depending on what they keep in and cut out, yes.
Lynn: And it films in Vancouver, so that makes it easier to go back and forth for you.
Osric: And there are some Supernatural crew members on the show, which is very nice – it’s great to shoot in Vancouver.
Lynn: So switching gears, let’s talk about the Supernatural cons. How are you feeling about the Saturday Night Special now? I remember we had dinner before your very first singing performance, and you were so nervous.
Osric: Oh wow, that’s right.
Lynn: And now, from my perspective at least, you’re out there just killing it. Maybe inside you’re still nervous, but..
Osric: Well, since I did the music fest in Germany (Rockwood), the Saturday Night Special doesn’t feel that way anymore, I’m not nervous, I just do it. And it’s fun to do all these covers, but at the end of the day, all of us are so supportive of the Louden Swain dudes. And we want this to be their show and to support them as best we can. I’m just like, I’m so happy to be part of it, what’s the best thing that we can do for you? Like I would be totally cool just doing Louden Swain covers if we didn’t already have Louden Swain there.
Osric: So it’s finding that balance of incorporating the rest of us but still staying in the theme, and the feeling of this is a Louden Swain concert.
Lynn: I think that comes through, but it’s also cool that each of you does a very different kind of music on your own. I think all of us love Louden Swain and that’s why we’re there, but we love some other things too. Debbie Harry, Nancy Sinatra, Eminem, all kinds of things.
Osric: And it is really fun actually, I don’t know how they do it – they haven’t even had time to rehearse in like six months, but still – most of the time we have a couple songs we’ve already done; and we rotate, and I’ll do whatever they feel is best for the concert, but every now and then we’ll do a new one. And I love a challenge, I get bored really easily, so I like to try new things especially if something feels just a little bit outside of my comfort zone. That’s when I’m like oh, okay, time to step up
Lynn: I know you’re like that, but I don’t get it. I push myself out of my comfort zone because I know it’s good for me, but I wouldn’t say that I enjoy it.
Osric: it’s a mentality. I’m pretty sure I’ve told you this before, but one of my mottos in life is I’m very comfortable being uncomfortable.
Lynn: (nodding) You are.
Osric: It took over a decade of reminding myself that these are the moments that I’m going to look back and be very thankful that I put myself in this position. And it’s all about delayed gratification – like when this is over, it’s going to be the best feeling in the world. When I’m sick and in pain and throwing up, I can’t wait, but it’s all about that moment when it’s over, and I try to appreciate that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. This is the feeling that leads to that feeling, so I try to feel the joy and serenity during the painful moments.
Lynn: Knowing it’s coming after…
Osric: And it took a lot of practice to the point where when I’m working out, I’m feeling that soreness and thinking oh this is gonna be good.
Lynn: Whereas I’m like oh shoot me now…
Osric: But if you focus on the pain you don’t end up doing it, so I’ve gotten to the point where it’s a good sensation.
Lynn: That’s a good reframe.
Osric: (laughing – at me, I’m fairly certain) Yeah, it is! And then I’ve become very productive because of it.
Lynn: You have, it’s true. I don’t know if I’ve already told you this, but I love that you made the decision to wear that awesome dress to the Leo Awards show and I loved the story you told about why you did it. It was so awesome, just awesome.
Osric: It was probably my favorite moment of this past year, that whole experience. Not only because of how much that award meant to me but everything – the show I was on, what that stood for and what that meant to the people making it and to the industry – and yeah, the decision to wear a dress. And me having to take a stand and fight for the normalization of that. (laughs)
Lynn: And it did! I heard from so many people for whom that was a big moment for various reasons. Your unwillingness to let it be pathologized or to let people’s expectations deter you from doing what you wanted to do to express your individuality, that meant so much to so many people.
Osric: I got this one message from this mother who said hey, my daughter wanted to wear this suit to prom this year and she felt like she was going to be made fun of, so she wasn’t even going to go to prom at all until she saw a picture of you and now she’s going, and I’ve never seen her happier.
Lynn: (scrambling for some tissues) Oh no, that just made me tear up…
Osric: That was one of those moments, that even if that was the only thing, that makes it all worthwhile.
Lynn: (sniffling) yeah.
Osric: It’s a freeing experience, and it’s such an honor and joy to be part of this fandom where they celebrate all of us being our authentic selves.
Lynn: True, so true.
Osric: And as an actor, that’s all that we’re striving for is to be authentic to our characters, to ourselves, because it comes through. And to be able to practice that all the time and be rewarded for it by all these stories and shared experiences, it’s incredible.
Lynn: It is. It’s mutually beneficial, that’s what the new book is all about – for the actors and for the fandom.
Osric: it is. And we start off in this industry, and our acting class teaches us to act but also tells us that you should have a stage name and you can’t do this or that for whatever reason and people are going to frown at that, and we’re constantly keeping ourselves in check. But being a part of this fandom, yes we’re giving people validation and permission to do the things that honestly they gave us permission to do first.
Lynn: It’s like reciprocal permission.
Osric: Yeah, it really is.
Lynn: And the interesting thing – and I think it comes through in the book because a lot of you wrote about it – I don’t think fans often realize that it goes both ways.
Osric: Very much so, and honestly? They started it.
Osric: Which is why we’re always so frigging thankful, and I don’t think they believe it, we’re not just saying that.
Lynn: Well, they will believe it, when they read Family Don’t End With Blood. That’s one of the most powerful messages in the book – I think it will be eye opening for fans. Like, wait, we changed them too? That much?
Osric: And it’s hard because you’re so close. It’s like politics, right? People think politicians are gonna say whatever or they’re gonna do whatever, and yes they have their own agendas, but at the end of the day, it should be what the people want.
Lynn: That’s why it’s so important for people to speak out about what they want and to be who they want to be. Otherwise, nobody will know.
Osric: And that’s pretty much everything that, as a minority actor, that’s what we’re fighting for. We’re raising the issues, and there’s a lot of things that I honestly wish were not an issue, but they are because there’s not enough of us. We’re speaking out because yeah, it’s a problem. And we’re making our voices heard, and hopefully one day people can make whatever artistic decisions without the need to address it because it isn’t an issue. Because there’s enough people who have done it.
Lynn: There’s no other way to get there. It was like the universe and karma were rewarding you the night you wore the dress because a) you looked really effing awesome and actually pretty hot… and I don’t usually say that because I know you and that seems a little weird, but yeah, you look really hot in a dress….
Osric: (perhaps blushing) Well thank you.
Lynn: And b) You won! And it was so triumphant. You were you, you refused to not be true to yourself, and you won the effing thing.
Osric: Yeah. Did I tell you about my speech?
Osric: it was a long event, so I wrote a speech, because of everything that went on that night and what it had to do with the show. So I went up there and everyone was like, oh it’s the guy in the dress! And it was like, there was a lull and then when they announced me, everyone got really excited.
Osric: So I went up there super excited, with a lot of energy. Briana recorded it, but I said something like, most of you have not seen the show I won for. And I don’t blame you, because I haven’t seen it either. But let me tell you why I love the show so much and why it means so much to me. They told us that we couldn’t do a show with an all Asian cast. They told us we couldn’t do such taboo subjects because it’s a really dark show for Canadian tv. They told us we couldn’t do eight episodes on the budget of one episode. All these things they kept telling us, you can’t. and we just kept saying, why not? And that has everything to do with why I wore the dress.
Lynn: Because it’s the same thing!
Osric: And it was such an awesome moment and honestly it was the best decision I ever made. I had so many people come up and thank me and say I had no idea we were allowed to do this. Some people were like, I’ve been going to this event for like ten years, and this is the best thing that’s ever happened! All these people that I never would have talked to – it was a great ice breaker.
Lynn: Your speech makes it even more awesome. And honestly? I’m gonna take it back to Dirk Gently. Sometimes in the universe, everything really does sort of come together.
Osric: and it was funny, so two of the other Rowdy 3 were there.
Lynn: You’re kidding!
Osric: One of them was hosting the event and the other was there.
Lynn: And this was before you were cast?
Osric: This was right in the middle of it and we all had no idea the others were going to be there, we were like, oh hey.
Lynn: That just makes it more weird.
Osric: Everything is connected, right? And afterwards, they’re like, I had no idea – and I was like, thank you very much.
Lynn: This all just feels so good, I’m really excited for you.
Osric: I am too. Hard work pays off, but so does following your instincts and being true to yourself. At the very least if you do that, you are not disappointed in you.
Lynn: You don’t have regret. That’s one of the lessons I learned writing the books. Regret will eat at you. I said what I really wanted to say and whatever happens after that, is what happens.
Osric: Too many people make decisions based on fear, and then that’s where that regret comes in, that feeling of ‘what if’. That nagging itch that you’ll never know. But when you make decisions out of love and curiousity, at the very least most of the time it’s not that bad.
Lynn: And no matter what, you can say, I did what I wanted to do.
Osric: Exactly, and it’s an adventure and it’s fun and it’s so fulfilling, even if it goes completely wrong.
Lyn: Yes yes, it’s so fulfilling just to do what you wanted to do and be what you wanted to be.
Osric: Yes exactly. And you have to take that chance for the chance of that happening.
Lynn: Otherwise it’s impossible – it can’t happen.
Osric: I think the scariest thing is, we think we’re gonna crash and burn, we think oh, I’m gonna fall on my face, but people are capable of so much more than they think they are. And sometimes you do, but then you realize oh, I can crash and burn and fall on my face and still pick myself up. Huh. I didn’t know I could do that.
Lynn: And that’s the only way to learn that – like with kids, you have to let them fall down sometimes so they know they can get back up.
Osric: (smiling) It’s been a fun year. I’m really excited for Season 2 if we get picked up because it’s just going to be so weird and so different from Season 1.
Lynn: It’s weird that you know that before you’re even picked up!
Osric: (laughing) I know, I know.
Lynn: I have a good feeling.
What do you think of Dirk Gently? Be sure to check it out on BBC America on Saturdays at 9 pm/8 Central! Of course, we’ll let you know when that Supernatural siren song hits Osric Chau too.