Terry Chen is another rising Asian American actor starring in this summer's thriller "Snakes on a Plane". Terry Chen was born on February 3,1975 in Edmonton, Alberta to a Taiwanese father and a Chinese mother. His father was a traveling salesman, so the family never stayed in one place for long…Terry Chen is another rising Asian American actor starring in this summer’s thriller “Snakes on a Plane”. Terry Chen was born on February 3,1975 in Edmonton, Alberta to a Taiwanese father and a Chinese mother. His father was a traveling salesman, so the family never stayed in one place for long. By the time Terry finished high school, he had already lived in Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto, and California.
I’m throughout the film with Samuel L Jackson. I play a kickboxer (Chen Leong).
After high school, he attended the University of Calgary and bartended at nightclubs, where boozy, uninhibited clientele offered endless character studies and more fodder for his future career as an actor, although he was unaware at the time.
It wasn’t long before Terry booked his first movie role as a drug dealer in feature film Romeo Must Die (2000). At the age of twenty-four, he received an even bigger big break by landing a lead role in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous (2000). A year later, he quit his night gig as a bartender and has been a successful, working actor ever since, with credits that include The Chronicles of Riddick, I,40 Days and 40 Nights, and Ballistic.
Among his upcoming feature releases are a lead role opposite Billy Zane and Dennis Hopper in the psychological thriller Memory (2006), and a lead opposite Jet Li in suspense thriller Rogue (2007). Terry recently faced his fear of reptiles to play a K-1 Kickboxer in Snakes on a Plane (2006), a film starring Samuel L. Jackson about poisonous snakes let loose on an airplane to deter an FBI agent onboard, directed by David Ellis for New Line Cinema.
In between film projects, Terry has guest-starred and had reoccurring roles on hit episodic television shows such as Smallville, Robson Arms, The 4400, and Battlestar Galactica. Look for Terry this Fall in a recurring role in Big Day – an ABC pilot about weddings.
Terry trains religiously in his off time, so he is always ready to jump into any role that's physically demanding. He has been known to sky dive, jump off bridges and in his down time, he drinks tea…lots of tea.
ASIANCE: How was it growing up Asian Canadian/Asian American? Was there anything unique or different you’d like to share?
Terry: I’m second generation. I was born in Alberta and traveled lots to California as a minority. It’s interesting. It helped me adapt to different situations
ASIANCE: You moved around a lot?
Terry: Mostly western Canada and I lived out in Toronto for awhile and in California for awhile, I have cousins there.
I live in LA right now and I go back to Canada once in a while.
ASIANCE: Tell the readers about your role in Snakes on a Plane.
Terry: I’m throughout the film with Samuel L Jackson. I play a kickboxer (Chen Leong) traveling from Hawaii to Los Angeles and I get caught on the plane with a bunch of snakes.
ASIANCE: How was it working with Samuel?
Terry: It was great! It’s great working with him. It’s great to step on set and work with a guy like Samuel Jackson because he’s a professional. Really cool guy and a very approachable demeanor.
ASIANCE: Tell us about your role in Almost Famous. Most of us probably can’t place you in the movie.
Terry: I played a guy named Ben Fong-Torres in Almost Famous. It was at the beginning of my career, probably in 1999. I was real fortunate to play this real life character from Cameron Crowe’s life, the original senior editor of Rolling Stone magazine.
I sent a tape down from Vancouver to the casting director and lucky enough there was something in my tape that they responded to. I saw the casting director when I was down in Los Angeles for a little visit. She read me on tape again, then I got a call about a week and a half later and they offered me the role. I was really surprised.
ASIANCE: How did your parents deal with you getting into acting?
Terry: I did quite a bit of traveling after my university. They were quite happy when I decided to come back to Canada and commit. They were very supportive. I was the first born in my family. I definitely was a trailblazer and pretty rebellious when I was growing up. They had to go through certain tribulations with me but they came to trust my judgment and what I wanted to do. I was so stubborn about it.
ASIANCE: You were a bartender. You said you met a lot of characters which helped you in your acting. Anyone in particular stand out in your mind?
Terry: With a lot of nights behind the bar especially working at nightclubs, they all blend into one. Various people and characters that you meet along the way are just spontaneous moments. Nothing too specific sticks out in my mind because they all seem to meld into one. I believe thinking on your toes with these characters is a great exercise. Improvisation and making sure you’re dealing with them properly and levelheadedly. Multitasking and dealing with various situations helps because you have to deal with the film crew. So it’s similar.
ASIANCE: What actors do you admire?
Terry: Samuel L Jackson. He was so laid back and on the golf course every day. Gene Hackman. I love character actors.
ASIANCE: Any actresses you’d like to work with?
Terry: Jodie Foster, Meryl Streep, I haven’t worked with a lot of women but I hope to in the future.
ASIANCE: Which was your favorite role that you played?
Terry: I don’t know if there was a favorite but there were certainly memorable roles. The “Almost Famous” role was my first and got me into the business. That experience was so unique and everyone is so unique. “Memory” with Billy Zane and Dennis Hopper shot back last year was definitely a memorable role. You kind of take away bits and pieces of different characters.
ASIANCE: You’ve had a very significant career so far!
Terry: Yeah coming from Canada and being a minority, I’ve done very well. I have a great team working with me and I’ve been very fortunate to be in the right places and had some very significant roles. I’m hoping to keep that going.
ASIANCE: Do you notice a difference in Hollywood with Asian actors or with roles that aren’t stereotypical?
Terry: Things are happening the way they are happening. It is what it is in Hollywood right now. I think the perception is starting to change SLOWLY. Obviously not as fast as some would like, me personally. It’s going to take time. It is what it is!
I think Asian Americans have risen to another platform in the whole grand scheme of things. Hopefully we’re also breaking away from the stereotypes while we’re doing that. We’re getting exposure in television and film and that is definitely a good thing.
A television show like Lost is great to have that mainstream exposure of Asian faces.
ASIANCE: Is there an ultimately role you’d love to play?
Terry: I don’t think there is one role I’d like to play. Like I said, I take it as it comes and I welcome every opportunity to play every different character. It’s my passion as an actor to deal with these characters and make a life off the page. I think everyone has their own story. So right now I definitely look forward to a lot of other roles that I haven’t been able to play no matter what they are. As with life, there are some things and situations that present itself.
ASIANCE: If you weren’t acting you would be…
Terry: A musician. I love music. I would love to do something with that. It’s a great passion of mine. I have a great music collection.
ASIANCE: Who are your favorite artists?
Terry: I love Pink Floyd. Old school Hip-hop. I like all types of genres for all types of moods.
ASIANCE: Would you ever want to write or direct?
Terry: I think every actor after getting a chance to work with so many great people wants to direct. A lot of writing I do for myself. To see what a director does on set is quite a task. Right now I just want to master acting. Acting is quite a task. I’d love to focus on being in front of the camera right now and whenever I have the opportunity to get behind the camera, that will come in time.
ASIANCE: Do you have a girlfriend?
Terry: Yes I do!
Photos by: Mitchell Parsons [mitchellparsons.com]
Grooming: Ellen Pratt
Styling: Redia Soltis