James Chen – (Mr Popper’s Penguins – 2011).

I recently got the opportunity to have a quick chat with James Chen about his role in Jim Carrey’s new movie, ‘Mr Popper’s Penguins’. Here, James talks about the film and about his recurring role in ‘Law and Order: SVU’…

Hey James. Thanks for taking the time out to speak to me about your new film ‘Mr Popper’s Penguins’ – just coming to the end of its UK run in cinemas right now.

What is the general plotline surrounding the film?

A highly successful New York City real estate businessman, Mr. Popper, receives a mysterious delivery of penguins, which help him re-prioritize his life, re-connect to his family, and his humanity.

Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…

I play the NYC Fish and Game Officer that Mr. Popper calls to get rid of his unwanted penguin guests.

How would you say this film is different from other family comedies? What makes it unique?

Penguins! Really well done CGI makes it look and feel like these penguins are truly running around and interacting with the characters. Plus it’s set in New York City, which gives the film a distinct flavour and character.

The film stars the wonderful Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury, Ophelia Lovibond and Clark Gregg – with Mark Waters at the directing helm – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?

Fantastic. I worked with Jim and Mark in particular, and they were very down to Earth and obviously very good at what they do. Jim Carrey is a great guy and a really generous actor to work with. The crew was great – total pros and good people.

If you had six penguins delivered to you – what would you do with them?

Start a rock band… clearly.

Let’s talk a bit about you James. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?

Well, I’ve always been really interested in people, human behaviour, and stories. I started to act in college and it was a dream come true. People, we’re endlessly fascinating. And I love applying my imagination and creativity to making a story.

What is currently on your I-Pod / car stereo right now?

Oh my… Eminem, Adele, M.I.A., The XX, and the Grizzly Bears to name a few.

You’ve had a number of different roles on a range of different mainstream projects – who has been your favourite actor to work with so far and who has given the best advice to you?

I had a great time working with Donnie Wahlberg on this CBS show, ‘Blue Bloods’. He’s another really generous actor – open to whatever you’ll bring into the scene and really showing up to play. Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay on ‘Law & Order: SVU’ have also taught me a lot by being consummate professionals and showing how an actor always needs to be on top of their game.

What does a James Chen day usually consist of?

Well, it often changes, but certainly coffee, a trip to the gym, Facebook, script reading, and auditioning… you know, actor-y stuff. A good theatre show, concert, or film for the evening.

What has been the most interesting piece of local / national news you’ve heard in the last month?

The down-grading of the U.S. government credit rating.

We should point out that you’ve got a recurring role on ‘Law And Order: SVU’ – what’s it like to be working on such a recognised show like that?

In a word, fantastic. Chris and Mariska are incredible at what they do, as are Dan Florek, Ice-T, and the rest of the cast and crew – what any actor would hope for. Everyone is really nice, and they’ve all been doing it for so long there is a nice sense of tight teamwork. I grew up watching ‘SVU’ so I feel truly blessed to be part of it.

What else is coming up for you in 2011/12? I hear you’re currently in post production on a project called ‘Archaeology Of A Woman’…

Yes, we filmed that last summer here in NYC, and I had a couple of scenes with Sally Kirkland. She’s great – a force of nature and so deeply steeped in the tradition and training of the acting craft. We filmed in this abandoned hospital, which was very interesting. Currently, I am in a theatre show here in NYC at 59E59 Theaters called ‘The New Testament’ by Neil Labute, in which I play an actor of all characters. Some more TV work is in the pipeline as are some potential theatre jobs here in the city. I am also part of a film production company called Descendant Films (www.descendantfilms.com), and we are writing and producing our own material. It’s going to be a busy year!

Thanks for the interview!


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