|Parry Shen. Photo Credit: Jim Warren|
He's also a producer for his latest project, sci-fi thriller UNIDENTIFIED, which is available on Digital Download and DVD starting today.
We Love Soaps caught up with Mr. Shen to find out more about the film, his career and his thoughts on GH's Brad. Read our exclusive interview below:
WE LOVE SOAPS: How did Unidentified come about for you? You are a producer on the film and a writer as well?
PARRY SHEN: I've been friends with the other actor and producer in the movie, Eddie Mui, for about 12 years. We've always done stage productions and small things together, but have been looking to work together on something new. He came to me with about four ideas and the I guessed the ending of the first three before he finished the pitch. Then he pitched the fourth idea.
When you drive to Vegas there's that dark part before you get to the Strip. These guys are on a road trip and they actually see something supernatural. What would you really do if those circumstances happened upon you? In this day and age with mobile phones and YouTube, what would realistically transpire? I thought that was pretty interesting. He's such a UFO buff, I told him I was interested in that because he knew so much about it.
As we started hashing out the story, we brought in a guy I knew named Jason R. Miller. We did The Hatchet horror movie franchise together, and he is a great writer. He was the second unit director, and would do rewrites on the fly. I always thought he was underutilized and he ended up being the director for Unidentified. All three of us were on the same page with creating a story that gets you to care about the four characters before bad things start to happen. The first part of the movie is kind of The Hangover-ish, then it becomes very much like Paranormal Activity.
WE LOVE SOAPS: I got that sense from watching the trailer. It looks like a buddy comedy at first and then totally changes. How would you describe your character in the film, Jeremy?
PARRY SHEN: Jeremy is probably the logical person the audience would connect with. You have Jody, the guy who is the owner of the camera, who is kind of a third-wheel, even though he's the fourth guy. These three guys go on an annual Vegas trip and they bring over this one other kid who is really into his YouTube channel. He is documenting what's happening so that's why he's there. My character is the voice of reason. The audience may be wondering why this guy's camera is always on, so that's Jeremy's role. When we see weird things it's me saying, "Let's get out of here!" Someone else will say, "No, we can make a lot of money from this."
WE LOVE SOAPS: What do you like about making films versus doing television or voice over work or the other mediumsy?
PARRY SHEN: I like how much time you can take with it. I like the time frame of having a month to three months. I shot a lot of films and then jumped into primetime TV and it was just so fast. The rehearsal process was pretty much non-existent, mostly it's just the blocking. And it's even faster in daytime, blazing speed. But I like it very much and it reminds me of theater. The negative aspect of film might be having too much time. You can rewrite and rehearse forever and do that to death. It's nice having a deadline to get things done.
When people ask me what I prefer the most, I actually say video games. They are really fun and fuses together all the different aspects. You can do retakes as many times as you need, and it's like a stage production because you are interacting, and you don't have to worry about how you look. You basically have an avatar created so you don't need any makeup. Also, I get to play characters that I would never be able to play on camera. In the latest video game I did, Sleeping Dogs, my character was 6'3" and a menacing guy; all you have to do is put on a menacing voice. My physical restrictions don't matter so it's kind of the best of the acting mediums, and it's a lot of fun.
WE LOVE SOAPS: You debuted on GENERAL HOSPITAL nine months ago as Brad Cooper. What did you know about the character when you first started on the show?
PARRY SHEN: Basically they said the character is recurring, which could mean two episodes from my experience. Brad was a smarmy, opportunistic character so I went in there and was the sleaziest guy I could be. When I booked the part, the note from Frank [Valentini, Executive Producer] was he could be even a little sleazier. I thought, "It's on now. I'm going to crank it up to 10." And the scale only goes up to 8. [Laughs]
In the second episode I was in, I had all my clothes off and was on top of Felix (Marc Anthony Samuel). It was great that happened so early on because it was so outrageously inappropriate that I understood where this guy lived. He really didn't care, and had no filter. It was great I learned that personality aspect very early so I could just hit the ground running. I got him. The first couple of times I thought no one could be this much of a douche, but Frank's notes were that he was a bad guy and I was still too nice. I thought, "Really?"
Frank and Ron [Carlivati, Head Writer] watch to see what's working and not working and after a while Brad was kind of different. Frank would say I was doing well with what they were giving me and the writers started having him do this or that to see how the character would work in different scenarios. With a character like that, some sort of redemption is usually in order. They tried softening him up and then they had the brilliant idea of tying me into the Asian Quarter storyline from the '80s, and now I'm in a love triangle with Lucas (Ryan Carnes) and Felix. I'm usually on a show for 2 to 6 episodes so it's nice to do something long-term and watch this character grow.
WE LOVE SOAPS: Many fans were excited recently when Brad mentioned the Asian Quarter. That was a big story on GH in 1985. Some of the characters from that story, like Anna (Finola Hughes) and Robin (Kimberly McCullough), are still on the show today.
PARRY SHEN: I told Finola the other day that I've been watching a lot of her work from almost 30 years ago in that story.
WE LOVE SOAPS: Brad said the Asian Quarter was where the hipsters live now. Are we going to hear more about that?
PARRY SHEN: I don't know what they're going to do with it. I think it opens up more possibilities. Right now they are probably just using it as a connection with Lucas. I'm not sure if they plan on integrating it more, or maybe tying it in with another character, like Anna Devane.
|Parry Shen and Ryan Carnes on GENERAL HOSPITAL.|
PARRY SHEN: I think that's kind of the point. Lucas and Felix are very different people and it could go either way. It was smart of them to put Brad in the middle because probably no one would be rooting for me. You've got no choice, Brad is part of it right now. [Laughs]
WE LOVE SOAPS: With all the different roles you've played in various media, what do you consider the best work you've ever done as an actor?
PARRY SHEN: There's two, and I say two only because they were from different parts of my life. One was in 2003, a film called Better Luck Tomorrow, based on a true story. That was the project that kind of got me known. It's from MTV films and is the story of five Asian American high school students who are overachievers and basically commit all these minor crimes because they are bored and think they are smarter than everybody else. They ultimately commit a murder at the end of movie. Having five Asian Americans on screen but nothing to do with ethnicity was kind of groundbreaking. Colleges still show this film to this day to show how Asian American representation changed in the media. I was very proud to be part of that movement.
Most recently, the movie Yes, We're Open, the romantic comedy I did about a couple who is exploring an open relationship. Usually I play younger roles and this had a more grownup theme to it, a couple weighing the pros and cons. It sounds good on paper to have an open relationship but when you're in the middle of one the jealousies and logistics of the day to day could bring a couple closer together or tear them apart. It was a role that took a lot out of me but in a good way.
WE LOVE SOAPS: You grew up in New York. Were you interested in theater?
PARRY SHEN: I went to SUNY Buffalo, where Frank also went, then moved out to Los Angeles after graduation to pursue acting. I do like being on stage but I grew up on television and film so that was my focus. The opportunities weren't as great in New York besides LAW & ORDER and some of the soaps that were on the air. I thought I had a better chance to find work in LA.
WE LOVE SOAPS: If you could go back to the beginning of your professional career, and give yourself a piece of advice knowing what you know now, what would you tell young Parry Shen?
PARRY SHEN: I would say what Bryan Cranston said at the Oscars last year when asked about giving advice to young actors. It was kind of a breakthrough for me. He basically said there is so much out of your hands and your job is to act. You're not owed anything no matter how long you've been doing this. You're always going to have to sing for your supper. Your job is not to get the part, it's to make the best representation you can based on everything you've learned in class or your personal experiences, and present that in the narrative of the director or the writers. There's empowerment in that. Instead of saying, "Please hire me," you come in saying, "Me as a professional is presenting this. Do you think it matches your vision or not?" If not, thank you very much and onto the next.
That would have freed up a lot of inner turmoil but every actor has to go through that and learn by trial and error. You have to learn you have something to offer and not always at the mercy of someone else. If you put in the work and are a true professional, and maybe gotten knocked and learned some things, and picked up pieces of advice from older actors, you bring more empowerment to the job.
Four young pals set out to have a great time in Las Vegas, but soon all bets are off in the one-of-a-kind sci-fi thriller comedy UNIDENTIFIED. It arrives on Digital Download and DVD from MPI/Dark Sky Films on February 11, 2014.
UNIDENTIFIED, the feature directorial debut of Jason R. Miller (co-producer and second-unit director of the hit horror films Hatchet 2 and Frozen), cleverly mixes sci-fi, suspense and laughs to create a truly unique take on an otherworldly encounter.
During a wild weekend in Las Vegas, four young friends get into trouble with a loan shark and must skip town in a hurry. But gambling debts may be the least of their worries after they get stranded in the vast Nevada desert. One of the guys discovers a mysterious metal fragment and then promptly goes missing during the night. When the remaining three catch up with their lost friend, they notice something oddly different about him. As his condition worsens, the others realize that some unearthly being may be stalking them in the wilderness.
UNIDENTIFIED stars Parry Shen (the Hatchet franchise, Better Luck Tomorrow), Colton Dunn (Key and Peele), Eddie Mui (Call Back) and Eric Artell (Pair of Kings). Parry Shen and Eddie Mui are also the producers, along with director Jason R. Miller.
Special features on the DVD include:
Commentary with Writer-Director Jason R. Miller
Jodieman YouTube Videos
Unidentified Space Cam
Watch the UNIDENTIFIED trailer and a behind the scenes featurette below:
For more on UNIDENTIFIED, visit unidentified-movie.com.
Roger Newcomb is a producer and writer in New York City. Aside from co-hosting WE LOVE SOAPS TV, he has written and produced a full-length indie film, Manhattanites, and two radio soap operas. He has also made acting appearances in indie web series such as IMAGINARY BITCHES, and produces the annual Indie Soap Awards. He served as a producer on the first two seasons of Emmy-nominated THE BAY, and is executive producer on the indie short May Mercy Lie, which is currently making the rounds at film festivals. He appeared in FRANCOPRHENIA in 2012 and the documentary SOAP LIFE, out on DVD in 2014.