Interview – Parry Shen

Interview – Parry Shen

Deep inside, there is a little bit of theatrics in all of us. Some more than others, New York native Parry Shen harnessed his creative energies into acting, and two decades in, has starred in a list of films and television series. Starring in Comedies including 2002’s The New Guy, Horror flicks including the appearance in each of the Hatchet series, and Drama TV including General Hospital, Shen relishes in the challenges each role brings. Hard-working, dedicated, and bringing something unique to the screen, what will he be in next? Recently we caught up with Mr. Shen to talk his inspiration to act, working with Adam Green in the Hatchet franchise, the fun of voice-overs, plus more. – You have been involved in entertainment professionally for over two decades now. In that time, you have starred in a list of  films and television series. First, briefly tell us, what inspired you to pursue a career as an actor?

Parry Shen – I think it pretty much just came from growing up watching television and movies. My mom was working two jobs, so my brother and I were at home doing our homework, watching the TV while we were getting our work done. I think a lot of that storytelling seeped in from that medium. When I would play with my action figures and stuff like that, I realized I was telling a story within terms of acts. In the first act, my brother and I would play with our G.I. Joes, we would show them at their best, in the second act something would happen, a conflict, then it would get resolved in the third end. That seeped into wanting to be in that world. 

Paramount Pictures

Columbia Pictures – That is really cool, and something many of us can relate to. In your career, you have taken on a variety of different roles in Horror and Comedy related films. Are these genres you enjoy working in?  

Parry Shen – I pretty much view any medium as a challenge. I am not at a place where I am able to be as picky as I probably would want to. On the other hand, being picky, sometimes you think too much. There is always a reason not to take something. You always hear actors who are really high levels, and all the roles they missed out on because they are trying to make “the right choice.” It’s sort of a double-edged sword. I am at the point in my career where I can say “no” to things, but not everything.

I pretty much have an open mind to everything. I look at the material and see what I can bring that is unique to me. Usually it is some sort of humor. That works for anything and in varying levels. Even in Horror – I think that is why I have worked so well with Adam Green, because he infuses Comedy into his Horror. It’s not slapstick, but the humor of situations come from frustration or sheer terror or being uncomfortable in that moment. I think that is relatable to people.

Even something as dramatic as a Soap Opera – I have been on General Hospital for the past 5 years. My character is overall pretty humorous and that brings a lot of levity to dramatic situations. It’s kind of the common denominator of what I bring. – It certainly works well in the roles you play. You mentioned working with Adam Green, some of your most recognized roles come in the Hatchet series. Recently releasing the 4th film in the franchise, Victor Crowley, how did you initially become involved when it all began over 10 years ago?

Parry Shen – It was 10 years since it was in theaters, but started casting and shooting in 2005. It was a big day for auditions, I had three that day – one in the beginning, one in the middle, and one at the end of the day. It’s kind of exhausting, it doesn’t sound like a lot, but that is three different characters in three sets of material you have to memorize and be on point. By the end of the day, I was kind of tired, which was actually good, because you stopped overthinking, and you actually just do it without being self-conscious.

I read the scene where I was the boat driver, I lose my “Asian accent” and that got a huge laugh from Adam and the producers. That kind of took me back – still to this day, that was one of the best reactions I have gotten in an audition room. I got a call back, I did it again, and the rest is history. He liked me so much, he said, “I wish I could work with everyone else again, but I keep killing them off.” I told him, “Well, you did mention he had a brother in the first film, just saying.” I think I sort of inceptioned him and that got the ball rolling to have me back.

Anchor Bay

Dark Sky films – That is great that he did bring you back. The Hatchet films are really a great throwback to Horror of yesteryear. Funny enough, while you have been in each of the films, as mentioned, your character has changed – that is withholding 2013’s Hatchet III and the latest, Victor Crowley. Adam had mentioned in an interview with us that he did not think the latest film was ever going to happen.    

Parry Shen – Yea, after the third film I asked, “Is this really it?” He said, “Yea, this is it.” He had no intention of doing it. Things came about in his life… I am sure he told you the story of George Romero and how he gave him inspiring words to continue the franchise.

With anything in life, there comes a time where you grow tired, or just want to explore something different. Then you can circle back to find a renewed and refreshed inspiration and energy. That is probably what he needed to say, “Hey, I think I have some more in me.” I think that’s what happened. – It worked out great, and fans are excited to see the series back. It is nice to see a Horror film franchise continue. You are also not limited to Horror and Comedy, as you have done your share of Drama too. Speaking of which, you have had some recurring roles in television, such as General Hospital. How do you like working in TV opposed to feature films?  

Parry Shen – I like, with regarding television, how quick it is. Especially with General Hospital, I have to force myself to make my choices quickly and accurately. We only do one take at most, so it is actually pretty conducive in translating to other things that move a little slower where I am able to make my choices and later play around them when I have more time. I like the speed of television, but at the same time, I don’t like the speed. (Laughs) That is because sometimes if you want to continue playing around or do more, there is no time for that. To put it in perspective, with Hatchet, there was around 110 pages in a script, and we took almost a month to shoot that. In General Hospital, we do 110 pages in 1 day. It’s very abbreviated with television. 

Parry Chen in Victor Crowley. – Wow, that is very fast! Certainly a big difference.

Parry Shen – Yea, and at the same time, there is that double-edged sword. If you have too much time, you overthink things, and you sort of waste time instead of just moving on. You can shoot a scene in 100 different ways and get coverage. It’s sort of a curse and a blessing at the same time. It’s finding that happy medium in both different mediums. – Right, there are positives and negatives to both. Speaking of General Hospital, the show has been around over 50 years! It is amazing to see something last that long.

Parry Shen – Definitely, and there are a lot of people who have been on the show 30 of those 55 years. It’s a different type of audience that we are exposed to, people that have been watching for decades. Now, you have people’s kids who would watch with their mom or grandparent. We are also on every week day, so there is a different type of intimacy when you see everyone everyday as opposed to 13 or 21 episodes in a season. You are seeing it for 250 episodes a year. – That is a very high dosage, so you do become very close to the content. You have also done your share of voice-overs. What has that been like?

Parry Shen – If I had to do any one kind of acting, it would definitely be voice acting. You have the benefit of being a stage actor because you interacting with your fellow actors, usually if you are doing a motion caption situation. Then you also have the benefit of film where you get to do it take after take if need be. Then you have the benefit of not being limited to whatever you look like physically. A lot of times I play people that look very different from me, as long as I am able to sell it with the voice. In Sleeping Dogs (video game), I play the bad guy, Winston. I believe they are working on a live action movie, and I know for sure I would not be able to play my character on screen – he is about a foot taller than me, he’s ripped, and a hulking badass. I play more boy next door kind of guys. It is real fun being able to open up to a whole new range. 

Dark Sky Films

ABC – It sounds like a blast. It is a diversity that is good to have. It has to be a trip when you see it, and hear your voice matched up with a character. 

Parry Shen – Yea, I play video games, so it’s fun being able to play the game and either play myself or fight against my character. It’s pretty cool! – Absolutely. You seem to keep very busy, what are some of projects you have coming up?

Parry Shen – I just shot a movie with Brea Grant. She co-wrote a movie where she and I play husband and wife, we create a time machine, we sent her to the future for an hour, bring her back, and everything is great. The next day, another one of her appears, and we realize we have a looping problem. That is when it basically becomes a Horror movie because we have to start killing them off because there are like 3,000 more of her coming every day at the same hour. Until we get through the looping problem, that is the band aid solution. – That sounds like it is a pretty cool story. What is the film called?

Parry Shen – It’s a working title, right now it’s Death of a Thousand Madeleines. We are still playing around and working on the title. – We will have to wait for more details on that. Being that you are originally from the hustle and bustle of New York, there is no denying there is a difference between the east and west coast. Since transplanting out west all those years ago, how would you compare the two living experiences?

Parry Shen – Everytime I tell someone I am from New York, they are pretty surprised because of how at home I seem here – people just assume I was born here. I never really liked the energy of the city. I like going into it, but I never liked sort of living in it 24/7. I like the laid back kind of life. I don’t need scenes, I like it being summer all the time. (Laughs) I just don’t like worrying about the unpredictability of weather or what I have to wear. It just saves time and makes life easier. 

I actually have lived out here longer now than I did on the east coast. I visit every once in awhile, because there is no energy like NYC, but even in california, I live in the country area. I drive into the city when I need to, but if I don’t have to, that is what is great about MP3s with voiceovers. I just do it in my voice over booth, don’t have to drive in, it’s awesome. 

Dark Sky Films – That is pretty convenient and relaxing. Last question. We also cover Horror and Sci-Fi films on CrypticRock. If you are a fan of either or both genres, what are some of your favorites and why?

Parry Shen – I have come to appreciate Horror movies, be my association with the Hatchet franchise. I wouldn’t say I am as knowledgeable as I am with Science Fiction. I am probably more of a Sci-Fi fan. The Horror movies I do like have a comedic bend to it, like Shaun of the Dead (2004). I also like films like 28 Days Later (2002). I don’t always seek them out, sometimes, if it’s a good story, it’s a good story. One that I didn’t like was Event Horizon (1997), because I thought that was a Sci-Fi movie, but then when the guy’s skin started peeling off, I was mortified. I said, “I did not sign up for this!” (Laughs) 

I loved Gattaca (1997), that has always been my favorite. I thought it was able to brilliantly tell something very futuristic, but it was very low level without too much effects, they were still able to sell it with such simplicity. 

Sony Pictures

Focus Features

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