Hawn Tran is the kind of actor you’ve probably seen in several different things without even realising. The Asian-American, who hails from Louisiana, has featured in plenty of horror over the years, both in movies and on TV from Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens to Benson and Moorhead’s Synchronic.
With Scare Package, the diminutive, and deceptively innocent-looking actor almost steals the show out from under Byron Brown and Jeremy King, with whom he shares many of his scenes. Tran’s try-hard new employee at a video-store is actually hiding a dark secret and the actor rises to the occasion with aplomb.
Wicked Horror nabbed Tran for a quick chat about scary movies, being typecast, and his ingenious trick to convince as both younger and older than he actually is.
WICKED HORROR: So I just spoke to Jeremy [King, who plays Rad Chad] and I’m going to start by asking you the same question I asked him; was this movie as fun to make as it was to watch?
HAWN TRAN: Oh yes. It was a lot of fun to make, particularly because of all the practical effects and all that stuff.
WICKED HORROR: How was the experience of working with him and Byron [Brown]? ‘Cause you guys are kind of in the video store together just riffing for a lot of the movie?
HAWN TRAN: It was a blast. In fact, I knew Jeremy before, but that was the first time I met Byron. Jeremy and I were in Camera Obscura together a few years back but this was the first time we got to actually share scenes together.
WICKED HORROR: You guys have such a natural rapport. Jeremy was saying you guys did a lot of improvising too. How difficult was it to find that chemistry, or did it come naturally to you guys?
HAWN TRAN: It was actually very natural for us. We went out and had dinner together the night before, when we all first turned up on set, so we had the opportunity to get to know each other a little bit more before we shot anything. But those guys are quite outgoing and silly, and I’m playing more of the straight man, so it worked out perfectly.
WICKED HORROR: Was that your favorite part of the shoot, working with those guys?
HAWN TRAN: So, I would say yes but most of my segment is in the video store so I spent most of my time on set there, so yes. But on the other hand, the other segment I didn’t really see as much of them, I was kind of in the facility.
WICKED HORROR: What about your death scene, how was that to shoot?
HAWN TRAN: It was fun. I’ve never been killed onscreen before, so that was interesting.
WICKED HORROR: How did you end up using your own name in the movie?
HAWN TRAN: Basically, like I said, I’ve worked with Aaron and Cameron [Burns] before, on Camera Obscura, and so they reached out to me and they were like “we’re working on this movie, and there’s a part in it that you’d be perfect for” so I was like “cool, what’s the character’s name?” And they told me they were still writing it, but they asked me what name I would choose and I said, “well, it doesn’t really matter” so they were just like “okay well let’s just call the character Hawn” and I was like “that’s perfect.” It’s a really unique name, so it was pretty cool.
WICKED HORROR: I’m guessing it wasn’t too much of a stretch for you then?
HAWN TRAN: [laughs] No! But that’s really cool that you noticed my character’s name is Hawn and my name is also Hawn in the movie.
WICKED HORROR: Well, like you said, it’s a unique name so it stuck in my head but then I thought maybe I was misremembering it.
HAWN TRAN: No no, you got it!
WICKED HORROR: What was it that attracted you to the role? Aside from it being named after you of course.
HAWN TRAN: Just being able to work with Aaron and Cameron again. Also, I’m not sure if you know what In-N-Out Burger is, but I’m from New Orleans and we don’t have In-N-Out but I love it so much that whenever I go out of town I have to have it. Aaron told me if I agreed to be in the movie he would buy me In-N-Out. So I was just like “I’m in, say no more.” So Aaron, Cameron, and In-N-Out burgers.
WICKED HORROR: I think that’s the best answer I’ve ever got to that question.
HAWN TRAN: The power of In-N-Out!
WICKED HORROR: I noticed you’ve done a lot of horror, both on TV and in movies. Are you a horror fan yourself?
HAWN TRAN: I get this question a lot. I do love watching horror movies but I’m one of those people who closes their eyes when they watch them, because I get scared so easily. But I keep getting cast in all these horror movies and TV shows, I don’t know what it is. So I’ve done a lot but I would say that yes, I am a fan of the genre because I grew up watching, you know, IT and A Nightmare on Elm Street.
WICKED HORROR: I wonder if it’s because you have such a sweet, innocent look to you, so people just naturally want to put you in darker stuff?
HAWN TRAN: Yeah, and it works! “There’s Hawn, he’s so innocent, let’s scare him.”
WICKED HORROR: It’s funny, though, when I talked to your co-star Zoe Graham she said the same thing, that she finds horror movies really scary and tough to watch. It’s an interesting disconnect for people who actually star in horror movies.
HAWN TRAN: Yeah, but it’s a love-hate thing for me because I’m scared of it but I also want to keep watching because I want to know what happens next.
WICKED HORROR: Totally. What was the biggest challenge for you with Scare Package, if any?
HAWN TRAN: I’m not used to dealing with all the blood, so the biggest challenge for me was any time I had to have a lot of blood in my mouth. That was the first time I’ve ever had to have fake blood in my mouth so that scene where I’m gagging, that was actually a real gag. I gagged because it tasted so bad. There was no acting involved in that scene, I was gagging for real.
WICKED HORROR: What do you think is your character’s greatest strength?
HAWN TRAN: This character seems so innocent and then it’s flipped around, a total 180, towards the end. So I really liked how this character flips.
WICKED HORROR: Was that more fun to play, being a bit crazier at the end?
HAWN TRAN: Yes, I actually enjoy playing bad guys but this only my third time playing a bad guy. The past couple times were in TV shows, so this is the first time I’m playing a bad guy in a movie. I always get cast as the good guy.
WICKED HORROR: It’s because of how you look! You’re so sweet and innocent!
HAWN TRAN: You know what’s funny? I actually played a 16-year-old in a movie and then like a year later, I played a 30-year-old in a TV show. I can go from looking like 16-year-old kid Hawn to bad-ass 30-year-old Hawn really easily.
WICKED HORROR: That’s quite a talent.
HAWN TRAN: I’m not sure if you’ve seen Santa Jaws, the movie on SyFy, but I play a 16-year-old kid in that and then a year later I played a 30-year-old in Watchmen on HBO.
WICKED HORROR: So how do you go about choosing roles, then?
HAWN TRAN: Now I get to choose a little more. A few years back, it was all typecasting, but now I’m a lot more comfortable, I know myself better, I know how to look the right way. Basically, my secret is this; if I need to play younger, I grow my hair out a bit longer and shave. If I need to play older, I just won’t shave for two weeks, cut my hair a little bit, and then I can play mid-twenties to thirties. That’s my secret!
WICKED HORROR: That’s impressive.
HAWN TRAN: As far as choosing roles, though, I just rely on my agent because I trust my agent and my manager 100 percent. So whatever they think is best for me, they’ll pitch me for it.
WICKED HORROR: Do you feel like you’ve been a victim, or are a victim, of typecasting as an Asian actor?
HAWN TRAN: Yes, definitely. You have to just embrace it. But I have to say, it’s a lot better now than it used to be, now it’s a lot more diverse. Typecasting is much better now than it used to be, that’s my honest opinion.
WICKED HORROR: Even Scare Package is a good indicator of how things are changing. There are lots of women involved, POC, queer people.
HAWN TRAN: It’s definitely…been a journey. Let me just say that, it’s been a journey.
RLJE Films will release Scare Package On Demand, Digital, DVD, and Blu-ray on October 20, 2020
** This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity