THE TRIPLE THREAT
In the Limelight with Lawrence Chau
Whether you're pining for dark or white chocolate on Valentine's Day, or vamping it up for Mardi Gras this month, showbiz chameleon Lawrence Chau serves up a buffet of looks as we kick off the auspicious, quick-thinking Lunar New Year of the Rat in style.
"2019 was a whirlwind," reflects the award-winning actor, writer and producer of the Asian American anti-hate short film Justice For Vincent, which to date, has screened in more than 20 cities, has garnered more than 25 accolades including a prestigious Telly Award for creative excellence, and even qualified for the Oscars. "We didn't get the nomination, but for a first-time filmmaker I have nothing to complain about -- aside from jet-lag," surmises Chau. "Cheers to Team #JFV!"
As if being a triple threat isn't enough, Chau is also an award-winning TV host from Asia (Showbuzz, Hollywood Squares Singapore, Miss Singapore Universe, Citylife Hong Kong), though in America the Los Angeles-based Canadian is most recognized as the face of the hit global paranormal series Ghostly Encounters (Destination America, OWN Canada, YourTV UK, Crime & Investigation TV Asia). In addition to his film awards, Chau was named Best Male Host by FabTV.com for his red carpet hosting duties, most notably for covering the Hollywood premiere of Crazy Rich Asians.
2020 sees Chau hunkered in a quiet space writing, finishing off a few remaining episodes of his online Hollywood talk show In The Limelight with Lawrence Chau, and binge watching Schitt's Creek. "Hey, we 'nice' Canucks roll together."
We caught up with the jet setting Chau for a little Q&A! Read below...
How did you get started in the industry?
I went from Toronto to Asia armed with two suitcases, $2000, a journalism degree, and a lot of
energy and ambition. I managed to carve out a successful career in television, first in Hong Kong
then in Singapore. I've hosted entertainment news shows, game shows, beauty pageants, travel
programs, awards shows, you name it. I also acted in dramas, comedies and did a lot of
commercials there. I won several hosting awards and even became an Omega watch ambassador.
What was your main motivation starting out? Has it changed?
I've always been a dream-seeker and lived life as an under-dog, quietly breaking barriers, defying
stereotypes, cultural norms and familial expectations. My underlying mantra is to live life to the
fullest by pursuing your passion earnestly and honestly. For me, as a child, that passion was
entertainment -- how a performance or story could tug at your heart and mind, and whisk you away
into world of fantasy and escape. I knew early on I wanted to be a part of the industry, but buried
those desires in the face of strict conservative parents and friends, who thought I was infected with
wanderlust. Since childhood, though, I have always been drawn to great storytelling, whether it
came via a song, a book, a TV show, a film, or comics. At age 7, I wrote and illustrated a short story
called Crazy Witch that was made available for loan in the school library system, so you might say
the writings were on the wall early on. I just had to muster the audacity to assert myself to realize my
passion. It took decades. I've since been able to tell stories through hosting, acting, writing and now
What are your 2020 Goals?
2020 will be less of what the past two years entailed: producing and promoting my first independent
short film Justice For Vincent (JFV) was exciting, but brutally exhausting. I got JFV into more than
20 film festivals and wracked up -- at last count -- 25 awards, including a prestigious Silver Telly for
creative excellence. This year, I'll be hunkered away in a quiet space writing and possibly delving
into feature filmmaking. I still have a few more episodes of my online Hollywood talk show In The
Limelight with Lawrence Chau to release, as well. I am also waiting for Preacher Six, an action
horror flick in which I star as a modern day Monk, to be finished, and am hoping a western called
The Coop with me starring as an unconventional Asian cowboy gets off the ground. Both are
independent films helmed by some awesome friends.
What has been your favorite career moment so far?
Ooh, can I go with my Top 3 instead just 1?
In the US, it would be Justice For Vincent. JFV is inspired by the real life murder of Asian American
Vincent Chin. That hate crime sparked the first nationwide Asian civil rights movement America in
the 80s. As the writer, producer, executive producer and lead actor, of JFV, I can tell you we moved
mountains to realize that passion project -- from getting award-winning Andy Palmer to direct and
shoot the film in two days (!) to miraculously landing A-list stunt coordinator Steve Brown to
choreograph the brutal murder scene (he found time amid his hectic Avatar schedule to help us) to
having a talented cast and crew with credits ranging from The Shape of Water, San Andreas Quake
and Kingdom on board, to landing veteran actor William McNamara to nearly getting the late great
Elizabeth Sung (Joy Luck Club, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Young and the Restless) to star as
Vincent's mother Lily Chin. Elizabeth sadly passed away during pre-production, but was so
committed to JFV she helped us find her replacement, who came by the way of her friend Lee Chen -
- and let me tell you -- Lee delivers the performance of a lifetime. We have since gone on to win a
variety of best film, audience choice, acting, writing, cinematography and humanitarian awards. We
even got Oscar-qualified.
In Canada, it would be landing the gig as series host of the award-winning paranormal series
Ghostly Encounters. The show has gone on to air around the globe and can still be seen on cable
channel Destination America. Despite all this talk about diversity, you don't see many Asian male
entertainment hosts in North America, so that is an achievement I'm very grateful for.
In Asia, it would be anchoring and producing Showbuzz, Singapore's top English entertainment
news program. Talk about a sweet gig: jet-setting around the world interviewing A-list stars like
Tom Hanks, Mariah Carey, Halle Berry, Michelle Yeoh, Denzel Washington, George Clooney and
Johnny Depp, to name a few. I even got handpicked to emcee Tom Cruise's press conference for
Vanilla Sky way back in 2000, and also became an Omega Watch Ambassador.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
On the hosting side, people like Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Walters, Larry King and Mary Hart.
On the acting side, it would be Bradley Cooper, Chris Evans, Keanu Reeves, and Oprah again,
because they also helm their own productions and their hearts are in the right place when it comes
to philanthropy and spreading positive social messages.
Do you feel like your work has changed based on the people that inspire you?
Definitely. Oprah's riveting 2018 Golden Globes speech about Recy Taylor reverberated in my soul
when we were making JFV. Not every work has to be infused with a sweeping social, political or
philosophical message, but every now and then, if you can affect people through your art in a
positive way, do it. With JFV, it was about elevating people's consciousness about a brutal hate
crime from a rarely seen Asian American perspective; it was also about trying to foster compassion
and understanding to combat the rise of hate, particularly against immigrants and people of color;
and it was about promoting the unifying message that a mother's loss is a mother's loss, that hate is
hate, and injustice is injustice.
Looking back 5 years ago, did you think you would be where you are now?
That"s a good question. Honestly, I thought I would have had more luck as an actor or host in Los
Angeles given my portfolio, but the breaks didn't come readily. I was met with doses of
discrimination and dishonesty early on, but I don't dwell on those things. Ultimately, it was my
deciding to re-align the compass by taking charge of my own career path, as exemplified with JFV
and my talk show. I recall in earlier interviews how I saw myself writing scripts and making films
when I got older, so maybe life has turned out as it should be. Don't get me wrong, I still love acting
and hosting, but for some reason, my greatest successes materialize when I'm in charge in front of
and behind the scenes simultaneously.
What is something you hope to accomplish by the end of your career?
If I can write and star in some of my own feature films before I settle down in a recliner by the
fireplace with a dog by my side that would make me a happy camper. I have ideas for dramas,
comedies and horrors that I want to put to paper before the curtain calls.
How do you set goals for yourself?
I've never been one to sit on my laurels and have always lived life according to a checklist of goals.
For creative projects, I find a quiet space and go with what speaks from the heart. Then I let my mind
take over. I have a very disciplined work ethic. I research, analyze, ponder, strategize and then forge
ahead full force with laser sharp focus, often at the risk of burnout.
Any words of advice to people just starting out in the industry?
Hone your radar. Your gut is your greatest guide. Your instincts naturally serve you well as an actor
and TV host. As a writer and filmmaker, your gut will guide you with respect to who to work with and
how to balance protecting and modifying your creative vision. And always be humble, gracious and
work hard. Insecure egomaniacs and self-absorbed flakes are the worst.
Please list your social media links so our readers can follow you everywhere!
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: @lawrencechauact
YouTube: Lawrence Chau
Demo Reel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3feOq3xCfE
Robert Ha Photography
Hair by https://lenavhairstudio.com/
Miss Asian Global & Miss Asian America Photos by Andreas Zhou