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Mixed Media

Breaking Brad

“At first Felix seemed like just another guy to conquer, but this time is different…”

Parry Shen. Photo: Dennis Kwan

By Lauren Newkirk Maynard

“My favorite part after the episodes air is getting a cup of coffee and doing a search for GH and watching as East Coast fans start tweeting. I have fun answering back.”
Parry Shen

Parry Shen (BS ’95) is one busy dude. Best known to fans around the world for his recurring role as the snarky lab tech Bradley Cooper on the daytime drama “General Hospital,” the Queens native has racked up dozens of other television and film credits as well, including “NCIS: Los Angeles,” “Criminal Minds,” “MADtv,” “The New Guy” and several horror movies. Most recently, he starred in the video-on-demand films “Yes, We’re Open” and “Unidentified.” He also produced the latter. Shen talked to us by phone from Los Angeles.

How is shooting a soap different from other acting gigs?
I’d never done soaps before in my 17 years of acting. It was all indie and studio projects, sitcoms, etc. I reached a place where I thought I knew it all, but when I got GH, it knocked me on my butt. It moves really fast. We shoot 120 pages a day. A feature film does 120 pages in three months. You have to be spot-on, so everybody’s done their homework. It’s taken all my tricks to prepare and keep up with the daytime format.

Did you study acting at UB?
I was a business and marketing major, with a media studies minor. UB has a great business school, but eventually my minor became a major. In my senior year, I picked media classes I wanted to try. My best professor by far was Tony Conrad. I learned so much from him about film editing, all the tricks and terminology. I still use what he taught us.

What’s it like to play Brad?
He’s opportunistic, ambitious, a real SOB. He fakes lab test results for his partner-in-crime, Britt Westbourne (Kelly Thiebaud); we’re infamous as “Britt and Brad.” Recently, Brad met a male nurse, Felix Dubois, and is falling for him [Brad, for the non-GH-fans, is gay]. At first Felix seemed like just another guy to conquer, but this time is different. Last summer, Brad broke down and confessed his feelings to Felix, admitting he was bullied as a child and was therefore always on the attack. It brought a whole other level to his character. But he’s still the same jerk to everyone else!

You also co-created two anthologies of Asian- American comics. Why is it important to you to represent Asian-Americans in arts and entertainment?
It was hard to break in. In the beginning I was going for delivery boys, martial artists, translators, gangsters. I thought, “Is this it?” I was fortunate that “Better Luck Tomorrow” [2003] had mostly Asian-American actors, and it was the No. 1 movie on opening weekend. The story isn’t about race, yet it opened everyone’s eyes to what roles Asian-Americans can play.

The industry has been slow to change, but as actors we have become empowered. It’s kept me in the game longer. I want to make Brad’s character more than it is, because I’ve never had the chance to develop a character long term before. Plus, he’s gotten some positive press reaction.

What are your fans like?
On Twitter, I can see that my fan base is basically gay men and African-American women [laughs]. My favorite part after the episodes air is getting a cup of coffee and doing a search for GH and watching as East Coast fans start tweeting. I have fun answering back. As fanatic as they are, they can tell the difference between the show and reality.