Vic Chao, from the beginning, was a new experience for me. My good friend Larry introduced me to Vic’s site, where Vic’s sarcastic and flippant personality mirrored my own enough to make me take an instant liking to the guy.
With credits that include guest roles on hit TV shows including The Division, The District, Jag, Monk, Gilmore Girls, and Frazier, Vic Chao has more than proven his talent as an actor as well. Hopefully his upcoming role as Agent Hills in Sandra Bullock’s Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous will garner him more attention than ever before.
Packed with solid acting chops and a male model’s face and physique (indeed, he started his career in entertainment as a model), Vic is a truly rare commodity in Hollywood: a masculine, sexy, talented actor of Asian descent who could easily stand alongside Clooney, Pitt, or Farrell as a romantic leading man in film.
When Vic asked to conduct this interview via email, I was worried that the finished result would not contain the spontaneous give-and-take feel a live interview often provides (live, one question’s answers often spurs a whole new line of discussion never thought of before). In Vic’s case, however, the answers to my written questions that he emailed back were reflective of his personality: intelligent, thoughtful, and well articulated Ã¢Â?Â¦ with just a hint of sarcasm thrown in like seasoning.
Ya gotta love the guy Ã¢Â?Â¦
Born to traditional Asian parents in the “90 percentJewish” Chicago suburb of Highland Park (also home to Brady dad Robert Reed and “Friends” actress Lauren Tom), it was obvious from the beginning that Vic was going to be “different.” Though pressured by his family to pursue a more traditional career choice, Vic knew from a young age he wanted the spotlight – wanted to be a performer – and while still an engineering intern for Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati (he has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford, no less!), Vic Chao summoned up the courage (after one false start) to walk into his first modeling agency Ã¢Â?Â¦ muttering an almost apologetic, “Uhh, do you have any use for somebody like me?”
They did. The agency signed Vic immediately. To this day, he credits the kindness and enthusiasm his first agency gave him for jump-starting his dream career. His first job, a department store ad, “seemed like the most glamorous job ever.”
But a small role as a doctor n Pearl Harbor (which he almost missed due to a stage commitment) gave Vic his first taste of working on a major motion picture. Now, with some nice credits under his belt, I asked Vic what his most recent project – playing Agent Hills in Miss Congeniality 2 – was like to film.
“It was a great time,” Vic recalls, “especially because I worked on it for seven weeks so I got to know the cast and crew better than when I shoot a TV show for a day or a week.” He has nothing but glowing reviews for his coworkers on the set as well, calling star Sandra Bullock “a very friendly, approachable woman, which is probably why she is one of the few female stars who is liked equally well by men and women.”
Vic credits actor Diedrich Bader as “one of the most intelligent actors I’ve ever met,” and is equally generous in referring to Regina King, who he says, “plays a Strong Black Woman in all her roles because in reality, she is a Strong Black Woman.” He labels the director, John Pasquin, as “really talented Ã¢Â?Â¦ (he) has a great feel for directing comedy” Ã¢Â?Â¦ and is equally enthusiastic in his appreciation for working with great actors like Enrique Murciano and Treat Williams on the shoot, as well (Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous opens March 24).
But who inspires Vic Chao? Who is he a fan of?
Without hesitation, with all the actors out there, there is one guy Vic Chao would himself most like to emulate:
“Edward Norton is definitely the actor whom I aspire to be like. The intelligence, depth, and charisma that he brings to his characters is fantastic. I respect his classical training, and the way he manages his career by producing and writing projects. It’s something all actors need to do Ã¢Â?Â¦ especially the actors at my level who are trying to break through.” Other favorites of Vic’s include John Turturro, Kevin Spacey, Johnny Depp (“[He] eschews the traditional Good Looking Guy roles to go for far more interesting characters.”) and even Brad Pitt (“Pitt doesn’t get enough credit for being a good actor because people credit his stardom just because of his looks.”). And speaking of Pitt and actors like him, when asked Vic is quick to pinpoint the kind of role he’d most like to play in the future:
“Romantic Lead. There are plenty of female Asian romantic lead roles – not so much for Asian men. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle because if the media doesn’t create any romantic lead Asian male roles, then the general public doesn’t think of Asian males as sexy, and the media in turn doesn’t feel a demand to create that sort of role. We need to change that.”
Second choice? “A superhero!” Having worked on a shoot with Stan Lee (“Probably the best celebrity meeting of my life, because Spider-Man made me believe that a small, brainy kid who got picked on by everybody else could be something special.”), Vic may well day be good for donning the costume of none other than Sub-Mariner: “Because there weren’t any Asian-American super-heroes, I decided that Sub-Mariner was Chinese. Heck, he had dark features and his eyes were weird Ã¢Â?Â¦”
Works for me! With his star definitely on the rise, Vic lists a very simple, direct plan for others interested in a modeling or show business career. In no particular order, he feels that Talent, Hard Work, The Right Look, Knowing the Right People, A Business Mindset, and plain old-fashioned Luck are the main components for a successful career (“Don’t buy into the myth that it’s ONLY about whom you know, or how hot you are, or how lucky you are.”).
For minority performers, Vic is also a firm believer in that old adage, Create Your Own Opportunities. Indeed, he lives by his own words and is currently producing a new play for Lodestone Asian-American Theatre Ensemble (www.lodestonetheatre.org). One busy guy, Vic is also in pre-production (as producer) for a film he’s doing with his good friend, writer/director Prince Gomolvilas (www.princegomolvilas.com).
And for those of you used to seeing this great (and talented) guy on television, there’s also good news – Vic’s just finished shooting a new Nickelodeon show called Head to Toe Ã¢Â?Â¦ and is also guest starring on the “12-1am” episode of Fox’s hit show “24”! As the executive producers of both shows have indicated they may bring Vic back for future episodes, it seems word is indeed getting around fast that this is one actor who plans on being around a long, long time.
But not ONLY as an actor, as for future plans Vic says his plan is to not only act and write Ã¢Â?Â¦ but also work behind the scenes more, as both producer and even director. A side comment he makes sums it up best: “Incredible, how much work being an actor is. But the worst day acting beats the best day engineering, trust me on that.”
This very giving performer is also a very giving human being, supporting aid to victims of the devastating tsunamis in Asia. But another organization close to Vic’s heart is Smile Train, which provides low-cost operations around the world for children with cleft plates. Also supportive of his friends, and those who help him in his career, at holiday time Vic is quick to help out some of the favorite charities of his agents, including Heart of a Child, the American Heart Association, AIDS research charities, and more.
But the giving doesn’t stop there. When asked how he feels about being asked for his autograph -about fans in general, Vic counts himself as very “approachable; am flattered to be asked for autographs. I’m happy to comply, but due to the projects on my schedule, I’m sometimes slow to respond; but I follow through eventually Ã¢Â?Â¦ I hope someday to have a recurring character that is so strong that my fans are inspired to write into the show and get it turned into a series regular.”
Hmm, sounds like a possible letter-writing campaign to the producers of 24 might be due Ã¢Â?Â¦
You can reach Vic Chao – actor, writer, producer, and former Chicago Bulls mascot (!) at his website, www.vicchao.com. A future star in the making, it’s obvious he lives by one of his mottos – “Hard Work + Talent = Success, if you’re willing to give enough of both” –
And you know what? It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.