Dennis A. Amith interviews Parry Shen - Page 1 (2001)

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     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, California.

     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" and "Shrieker".

     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".

DENNIS:  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 mom.

DENNIS:  You graduated from SUNY in Buffalo with a Degree in Marketing.  When you told your parents that you wanted to pursue a career in acting, what was their reaction?
PARRY:  My 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 career.  

DENNIS:  A few actors and actresses I know have talked about their transition 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?
PARRY:  New York made me  street smart.  I grew up having to walk down the street  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

professionalism.  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.  

DENNIS:  What does New York have that California doesn’t?
PARRY:  Personality.  Which sometimes isn't that great because I do like sunshine 365 days of the year and there are just some WEIRD ASS people in NY.

DENNIS:  Why don’t you have a New York accent?
PARRY:  I think it's because I went to Catholic school for 12 years.  So I 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%.

DENNIS:  What do you miss the most about living in New York?
PARRY:  Manhattan during Christmas...the brisk cold air, the atmosphere, Rockefeller Center.  That's what a winter should be. 

DENNIS:  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.

DENNIS:  If anyone was going to Queens, NY is there a restaurant or place you 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 world.  Another invention that I've thanked god for many times.

DENNIS:  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 work ethic.

DENNIS:  Let's now talk about acting.  How did you get involved in acting?
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.

DENNIS:  What was your first acting role?
PARRY:  It was “Caroline in the City” (An NBC show that aired from 1995-1999 starring Leah Thompson and Eric Lutes). 

DENNIS:  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.

DENNIS:  What was your family and friend’s reaction when they saw you on TV or film?
PARRY:  It was like phone tree. People were calling their friends and family. It was just pure excitement and exhilaration.

DENNIS:  When you first saw yourself on TV, do you remember your reaction?  Were you calling up all your friends?

PARRY:  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.

DENNIS:  So, I'm guessing that you don't like watching yourself on film or television?
  No.  I grown accustomed to the fact that I don’t look the way that I think I do. (Laughing) I’ve accepted that. 

DENNIS:  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.

DENNIS:  From the movies that you have been a part of, which film sticks in your mind the most?
  “Better 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.

DENNIS:  If there is an actor or actress you would like to work with, who would that be and why?
PARRY:  Gene 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 unassuming.

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