6 Things You May Not Know About "The Whale" Star Hong Chau
Though it took almost 10 years for her acting career to take off, actor Hong Chau has notable film credits that include "Inherent Vice," "Downsizing," and "Treme." She's also appeared in a handful of shows like HBO's "Big Little Lies," "Bojack Horseman," and "Watchmen." Currently, Chau is garnering significant buzz for her roles in Darren Aronofsky's "The Whale" and "The Menu," the latter of which she stars alongside Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, and John Leguizamo.
Chau started acting in the mid-2000s and mainly landed minor roles in TV shows like "NCIS" and "How I Met Your Mother," but she wouldn't get her first major film role until 2014's "Inherent Vice." While Chau had been circling in the Hollywood scene for nearly 10 years at that point, acting gigs were few and far between. In 2017, however, she exploded into the spotlight upon being casted in the film "Downsizing," and her performance later garnered Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations, among other accolades.
Since her big break in "Downsizing," Chau has had an incredible stride of success and shows no signs of slowing down. If you fell in love with Chau's performances after watching "The Whale" or "The Menu," keep reading to learn more about the acclaimed actor!
She Had a Child During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Chau became pregnant with her first child at the start of 2020. While some people were discouraged about welcoming a child into the world amidst a global pandemic, Chau was the opposite, and had a pleasant pregnancy until the birth of her daughter in November 2020. What was more difficult, according to Chau, was taking on roles as a new mother. She explained to Vogue, "I also had a really great pregnancy — the lockdown was great for me, and I was just really happy and excited to be a mother, so whenever I got these wonderful opportunities, a part of me was sick to my stomach. I just didn't know how I would be able to go off and do such a demanding role and still be the mother that I wanted to be."
Acting Was Initially Not on Her Radar
Some actors are born with a passion for being in front of the camera, but for Chau, the desire to act came later in life while she was in college. Per an interview with UpRoxx, the "Treme" actor had aspired to be behind the camera, but a number of improv classes in college changed her perspective. "I was very introverted and had trouble just communicating and talking to people, and I started taking improv classes to help with that. So it was in an improv class that my teacher was very encouraging, for whatever reason," she told the publication.
Chau Is a College Graduate
Chau is among the small pool of Hollywood actors that took the route of higher education before pursuing a career. According to a 2020 interview with Rolling Stone, Chau attended Boston University with her sights on being a documentarian. While at the university, she majored in film production. During her time at B.U., Chau took her first public speaking and improv classes and also starred in a number of student films, which led her to eventually get comfortable with becoming a professional actor.
“Downsizing” Was Her Big Break
For the better part of 10 years, Chau took on smaller roles in various TV shows. After her appearance in "Inherent Vice," Chau got her big break in the 2017 film "Downsizing," in which she shared the screen with veteran actors Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, and Laura Dern. She revealed the impact of the film to UpRoxx, saying, "Even though I had done 'Treme' and 'Inherent Vice,' I struggled to get auditions and I was still in the youth department of this agency that I was with because nobody in the adult department wanted to take me."
She continued, "It wasn't until 'Downsizing' came along that I had an opportunity to, I guess, showcase myself. And the people who did see it saw that there was an actor there who was making choices, and they weren't confusing me for the character."
Her Childhood Wasn't Easy
Born in Thailand, Chau moved with her parents to the United States as refugees following the Vietnam War, according to Rolling Stone. As she grew up, she lived with her two brothers in subsidized housing and relied on subsidized lunches at school, but these experiences only motivated her to be strong and independent. "My parents didn't baby me, even though I was their only daughter . . . If anything, my mom encouraged me to be really strong and not rely on other people," Chau explained to the magazine.
Chau Never Saw a Brendan Fraser Movie Before Filming "The Whale"
The hype surrounding Brendan Fraser amidst his "comeback" role in "The Whale" is strong, but Chau, who stars alongside Fraser in the film had actually never seen a single movie of his upon meeting him. "I had not seen a Brendan Fraser movie before, so I didn't have this buildup in my head about who he was," she revealed in an interview with Cosmopolitan. "He was so open and gentle and kind. We talked about our families for a bit, and I got to know him as a person . . . I see now, having gone to Venice with him, the outpouring of affection for him — it's really very touching. I'm so happy for him, it really couldn't happen to a better guy."