Article By: Maria ShamkalianPAFIA Vice-Chair
Our first featured PA Actor is Lyman Chen, based in Philadelphia. He has worked on the following PA projects:
What is your most recent success and how did you accomplish it? I just completed 3 different television series in the same month (CBS, HBO, & AMC). By having representation in different markets throughout the country, I’ve always had different opportunities at all times. This was amazing because it all lined up at the same time.
How did you get started in the film industry? In 2002, at 30 years of age, wanted to explore film acting. I had never had any acting experience whatsoever, but had spent my entire life enamored with watching TV and Movies. I found an intro to Film Acting class at Mike Lemon Casting in Philadelphia. He was the prominent casting director at the time, and was casting for the CBS Drama Series, Hack. I found out that I filled a very rare niche (Asian American Male) and started working immediately in various commercials, industrials, and used being a Background Actor in Hack for a year to learn to realm of Film Acting.
If you are union, how did you become one?
I got my SAG Eligibility through background work on CBS' Hack in 2002. I did not join until 2004 when I booked my first national commercial which actually filmed in Philly.
What are some of your favorite shooting locations in Pennsylvania?
The Rocky Statue at The Art Museum for Creed was amazing and got to meet Sylvester Stallone and of course Michael B. Jordan. My entire family was in the scene too, so it was great to give them a taste of what it’s like to film on a movie set. Filming on the Schuylkill River on a River Boat for It
What do you love the most about your job?
I love to watch the process of a TV show or a film being made. From the different styles of actors I work with, to the crew that works on them. Getting to know them and their unique stories and journey is so intriguing to me.
What is your most memorable, most awkward, or funniest on set story?
My very first day on a set was as a Background Actor on Hack. One of the stars, Andre Braugher came up to me and asked me to run lines with him and handed me his sides. I had never seen a script or sides in my life and had no idea what to do. After fumbling about, and reading his lines, the other dialogue, and everything else wrong, he grabbed the sides out of my hand and politely said, “I’m gonna relieve you of the burden…” and walked off. The other background actors (who are now my dear friends) just laughed their asses off and couldn’t believe I blew it so bad. I said my career was over before it started….
Do you have any upcoming Pennsylvania-based projects?
Yes. Had the pleasure of working on AMC’s Dispatches From Elsewhere with a small multi-day player role.
PAFIA has been working hard on increasing the film tax credit in Pennsylvania and bringing more film work to our local crew and talent, but we must all unite to really make a difference. What can you tell our elected officials about the importance of PA film industry and the difference it has made in your life?
I would not have EVER EVER EVER decided to pursue a career in Acting if Hack was not filming in Philadelphia. The opportunity to work Background my first year was instrumental in giving me the experience to take it to the next level.
What is your advice for the aspiring actors and filmmakers? Some steps to take? Some mistakes to avoid? This is truly a lottery and you need to have your stuff together, but you need a lot of luck also. Enjoy the journey and the moment. Treat every person on a set, from the director, to the background actor, to the caterer like they way you would want to be treated. Good Karma is your friend.
What are some good strategies to find more gigs?
I audition a great deal and make sure casting directors know what I’m up to and what I’ve been working on. Casting Workshops have been very beneficial for me, such as Actor’s Green Room in NYC.
What are some of the most valuable lessons that you have learned about this industry and wish you knew earlier? Don’t ever write or post anything negative about anyone or any project on social media. It WILL get back to that person!
What is your favorite film shot in Pennsylvania?
I’m a huge Trading Places fan!
What is your favorite project that you worked on? The Departed was the greatest and first principal role I had. The success of the film was my break and opened the doors for every job I have worked since.
What is your biggest aspiration in this industry? Would love to be a series regular on a series.
Pennsylvania Film Industry Association (PAFIA)461 Cochran Road, Box 246Pittsburgh, PA 15228(717) 833-4561 firstname.lastname@example.org