Interview: Osric Chau on conventions, cosplay and individualism

Canadian actor and filmmaker, Osric Chau is best known for his roles as Kevin Tran in Supernatural and Vogel in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, as well as starring in The Walking Dead, Sherlock and 2012. Also, a seasoned con-goer and cosplayer, he returns to our shores this weekend for Melbourne’s Oz Comic Con.

You’ve been to Melbourne – is there anything you’d like to see this time around that you didn’t get the opportunity to last time?

I literally got to see nothing last time! I think [this time] I have a couple of hours or at least a day where I can wander around a bit. I hear the coffee shops are great. I hear the food is great. Then I have a couple of friends I’m going to visit that will hopefully take me around to some cool spots because I’ve done zero research [laughs].

You’re appearing at Oz Comic Con this weekend, thanks to Geelong retailer Gifts for the Geek. I read in a previous interview you were originally reluctant to appear as a convention guest. Why did you question it in the first place and what made you change your mind?

I hated the thought of people paying anything to meet me. I was like, “Why would I want people to pay for something I would do for free on a daily basis?” Eventually someone explained to me that a lot of people would appreciate that, except that a lot of them would never ever get the opportunity to actually bump into me. Once he explained that to me that way, it made sense.

So I did it, and it was such an incredible thing to get feedback on something you wouldn’t normally get feedback on. Usually you only get this experience when you’re doing theatre, but cons have opened it up for someone in film to feel the impact they’re having on people’s lives and I’m forever grateful for that.

Having said that, it is a lot of travelling, it is a lot of time away from my everyday. For me, it’s a balance I’ve got to find because as much as I love cons it does take me away from the work I really want to do. So finding that balance where I can travel, take some time for myself, do the cons but also still being on track with getting everything I need to get done done.

You mentioned giving people the opportunity to meet you when they wouldn’t otherwise get to. As a regular attendee of conventions yourself, have you shared that experience of meeting a celebrity you wouldn’t have met if not for a convention?

All the time. There’s not one person in particular, but every single person I meet a con, I know, I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. A lot of people live in LA, but rarely bump into each other. I have a lot of con friends who I see, because we end up in the same cities together. We all stay the city together, go out as a group and it’s a fun bonding experience. I love it! In terms of people in particular, I can’t really think of one. I know there’s been plenty; I’m just blanking right now.

Having experienced a convention from the perspectives of both a guest and an attendee, has that changed the way you interact with fans in any way? Especially knowing that having a negative experience can be as impactful as a positive one.

I mean, I still don’t consider myself a celebrity. I’m popular in certain circles and I always maintain that in my head. But one of the moments that really clicked for me when I first started cons; I remember this one time I was walking down the hall, making eye contact with people and smiling. The effect it had on people was incredible! It took me so long to make sense of it and get it. But then it also taught me, if this is the power that a look or a smile has – that’s huge! I remember Spiderman and Uncle Ben said, “If that’s a power, then you have responsibility to use it, because it can change people’s lives.” It’s cool to see the effect you have on people’s lives.

What is it about pop culture conventions that appeal to you?

I love Artist Alley at the conventions. Especially at the bigger conventions, for the most part, all these big companies, you see the same ones over and over again. But it’s the Artist Alley that you really get to see the local flavour, the different art styles of the people that create their own original stories and comic books. That’s the stuff I get excited to see, because that’s what really sets a con apart. I try to make time to wander around. If I have a break, even if it’s like 10-15 minutes, I’ll drop by and buy some stickers or something.

Cosplay is defined as the practice of dressing up as a character from a film, book, or video game, especially one from the Japanese genres of manga or anime. From Princess Bubblegum, Rapunzel, Ariel from The Little Mermaid, Captain America, Loki of Asgard – your list goes on and on. So, you’re obviously a very seasoned cosplayer (seriously, Google it!), what do you like about it?

It’s kind of like acting. You get to put on a character, have fun with it and envision these characters in different situations. One of the best things about cosplaying is meeting random people that are maybe cosplaying your counterpart, so right away you have that icebreaker that opens up a conversation with someone who might be your next best friend. It’s such a cool thing. And it’s an easy way to get people talking and connecting which is the main thing at Comic Con. You’re probably very similar to everyone else there and at least have a couple of things in common, so there’s a lot to talk about. And cosplaying is another one of those things that’s a big flag saying “Hey, I like this – who else does?”

You’re passionate about Asian representation and diversity in entertainment, which lead to your involvement in campaigns against media stereotyping, including the Proud to Be Unique merchandise campaign with Represent. I mention this in terms of conventions, because I took it as although one can be proud of being unique, it’s also about bringing people together through celebrating, recognising and accepting their individualisms.

Yeah, it’s kind of a paradox. But I definitely believe as a community we want to encourage people to be themselves, speak whatever words they want to say, have their own voice, and it’s a hard thing to do. We’re constantly trying to put ourselves in a category or a box because we’ve been told that throughout our entire lives. I feel like one of my favourite things of life is figuring out exactly what it is I like, not what I think it is I like. Because then I know exactly what I want, who I am, what are the things I’m going to do and allowing myself to do those things; instead of going with what is conventional or what has always been told of me.


To meet Osric Chau and his fellow Supernatural star Alexander Calvert, as well as a whole heap of other guests check out the Oz Comic Con official website.

Oz Comic-Con Melbourne – Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre – 8-9 June