As a graduating student from SUNY Buffalo and working for companies
such as Marvel Comics and HBO, Parry Shen knew that he wanted to be
involved in the entertainment industry. He knew that he
wanted to be an actor.
There was no way to prevent the Queens native from staying in New York.
Parry was already determined and decided to take the risk. He gave up
his career in marketing to pursue the life of a thespian in Los Angeles,
After arriving in California, Parry worked several years at the Villanova
Preparatory School, a boarding high school in Ojai, California.
Working as a dorm parent guaranteed him free room and board. Parry
faced many challenges included commuting 160 miles everyday to Los Angeles
in order to audition for roles. Also, touring nationally with the Asian
American theatre company, "hereandnow".
Many Asian American actors are aware of lack of roles available in Hollywood.
A struggling actor must survive both financially and emotionally. Parry
Shen knew that in order to survive amidst mounting mortgages and lack
of roles available, he had the choice of either going back to New York
and work in marketing or to do whatever it was necessary and face the
challenges head on to pursue his dreams of becoming an actor.
With his determination and perseverance, he received his first credits
in the NBC TV show "Caroline in the City". He landed roles
on "King of Queens", "Buffy the Vampire Slayer",
"Party of Five" and "Suddenly Susan".
Parry then appeared in films such as "Starship Troopers"
Several years after making the decision to move to Los Angeles, Parry
continues to have that same positive focus on his career. The same determination
and perserverance has landed him a role in the upcoming film "The
New Guy" from Columbia Pictures starring DJ Qualls and Eliza Dushku
in which he plays the best friend of Quall's lead character. Parry is
also the lead character for Justin Lin's (director of "Shopping
for Fangs") upcoming film "Better Luck Tomorrow".
I recently had the opportunity to interview Parry Shen who just finished
filming "Better Luck Tomorrow".
You were born and raised in Queens.
Did you grow up in a strict
Asian American upbringing?
It wasn’t a traditional strict
Asian American upbringing.
My mom was very practical minded and wanted me to be taken care
of. But she let me explore other
practical venues. She’s very
open-minded. In fact, when
I was a
teenager, my friends thought she was so cool because
she gave me reams of condoms. She was a nurse and had access to them
and wanted me to be safe. I never used them but that just goes to show
that she's not exactly Ms. Make-you-play- the-piano-be-a-doctor Asian
You graduated from SUNY in Buffalo with a Degree in Marketing.
you told your parents that you wanted
to pursue a career in acting, what was their reaction?
mom was a little worried but I told her to trust me.
I had been
successful in everything I had
done and now I would apply the same ethic to this
A few actors and actresses I know have talked about their
from New York to California and told
me the differences of the lifestyle,
the people and the work ethic.
In the entertainment industry in California, I hear stories
about the lack of professionalism in California and how it is
very different in New York.
Do you agree with this?
New York made me
street smart. I grew up having to walk down the
looking behind my back.
When I came to California, everything was so laid back.
Things here are a lot slower, the people as a whole don't
know the meaning of
For example. Like showing up on time, doing things
that you promise to do. But
I feel fine with that because
I've got the edge here, while in NY it was tough keeping up with
people and that's already
85% of the work.
What does New York have that California doesn’t?
Which sometimes isn't that great because I do like
sunshine 365 days of the year and there are just some WEIRD ASS people
Why don’t you have a New York accent?
PARRY: I think it's
because I went to Catholic school for 12 years.
was among a different group of kids where education
and correct grammar and diction was stressed.
Not to bag on public schools, but it does say a lot that 95%
of catholic school kids graduate and go on to college as opposed to
public schools where the percentage is closer to 30%.
What do you miss the most about living in New York?
PARRY: Manhattan during Christmas...the brisk cold air,
Rockefeller Center. That's what a
winter should be.
What is your favorite memory of “Summertime” in New York?
PARRY: Pizza places sell Italian ices. $1.00 will
get you like 3 scoops of rainbow ice. I remember being so happy
walking down the street eating one of those in summer and thanking God
that this stuff was invented. That's how good it is.
If anyone was going to Queens, NY is there a restaurant or place
recommend people to check out.
PARRY: A few places. The View at the top of the Marriott
Marquee in Broadway--it revolves and has a great dinner special and
presentational desserts. There's the Water's Edge in Queens.
You can take a ferry across from Manhattan and since it's across the
river, it has the best view of the skyline. The chain of White
Castles, any pizza joint in NY. Not like Sbarro's. Usually
someone's name followed by the word pizza. For example, Sam's
Pizza in NY has the best pizza in the
Another invention that I've
thanked god for many times.
You mentioned your mother earlier. Was she a big motivator or
inspiration in your life?
PARRY: My mom divorced when I was 11 so she took care of my brother
and me on
her own money and hard work. We ended up
to be decent human beings. That strength and dedication is very
inspirational. The person I am today is because of her physically and
emotionally. She made me get those damn braces. (laughing)
My two strong points thought would be consideration and a hard
Let's now talk about acting. How did you get involved in
PARRY: I would watch
television around my homework.
When I was young I
was very proactive and I would
subconsciously learn things like the beats of a joke.
Or notice how an actor would pause during the applause, which
I later learned that was called "Holding for laughs" so as
not to step on your own jokes during the ruckus.
What was your first acting role?
PARRY: It was “Caroline
in the City” (An NBC show that aired from
Leah Thompson and Eric Lutes).
How was that experience?
PARRY: It was a
nice part because the part was integral to the story and there were
bloopers and outtakes from that episode that was used on
“Dick Clark’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes”.
So much came out of it.
What was your family and friend’s reaction when they saw you
on TV or
PARRY: It was like phone tree. People were calling their
friends and family. It was just
pure excitement and exhilaration.
When you first saw yourself on TV, do you remember your reaction?
calling up all your friends?
I thought I looked heavy. I wasn't used to the camera
adding the 10
pounds. I had a screening party with
all my close friends and we watched the whole
episode together. It was very cool of them.
So, I'm guessing that you don't like watching yourself
on film or television?
I grown accustomed to the fact that I don’t look the
I think I do. (Laughing) I’ve accepted
You have been on film, television and theater.
Is there a medium
that you enjoy the most?
PARRY: Film. Because it's a performance captured forever and you can keep
doing it over and over again until you get it perfect.
Plus I just love the way movies get me excited and enraptured
in the story. I want to be in someone's favorite movie,
where they quote lines that I say in the manner that I say them.
That's an awesome affect to stay with someone like that and
be somewhat a part of their lives forever.
From the movies that you have been a part of, which film
sticks in your mind the most?
Luck Tomorrow”. One of
my favorite movies is
“Goodfellas” and the role is like
Ray Liotta’s character who gets in a lot of trouble but you sympathize
for him and you see through his eyes and the justifications of why he
gets into the trouble and trying to get out of it. The voice over
is in the movie and you hear his inner thoughts.
It was a
lot of hard work of trying to show the
ups and downs that my character goes through for a hour and a half.
If there is an actor or actress you would like to work with, who would
that be and why?
Hackman and Natalie Portman. Because I looked at my DVD's and
I have most of their movies.
Hackman because he is never bad in anything he's in.
From being the cheesy Lex Luthor in "Superman" to a
complete drama such as "Crimson Tide", a thriller like "Enemy
of the State" , Insiprational like in "Hoosiers".
He can tackle anything! Natalie Portman because she's just such
a natural. I saw her play Anne Frank on Broadway and I was so
inspired by how easy she made it look, so
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