Horribly handsome, deviously devilish, frightfully fabulous, and salaciously sexy, actor Yan Birch has proven himself king of the horror films, starring in features including: “The People Under The Stairs”, a Wes Craven masterpiece where he portrayed “The Stairmaster”. He played the role of a transvestite in “Cyber Bandits”, with Adam Ant, Grace Jones and Martin Kemp, and portrayed a guardian angel in ” Bless The Child”. He also produced “Essence of Echoes”, and starred as the main villain. Most recently he played Coroner Bjork, in “Betrayed”, directed by Harley Wallen and released October 2, 2018.
Aside from movies, Birch had reoccurring roles in the popular soaps, “Santa Barbara” and “The Young and The Restless.” Yan is also recognized for his recurring role as Kane, head of the Warlocks in the Spelling hit TV series ‘Charmed.”
Son of a popular Swedish actor, comedian and one man show, Yan was meant to celebrate the entertainment world. Debuting on the stage at a young age in Sweden, Yan also won awards for playing the trumpet and orchestrated one of the first Swedish reggae bands before buying a one way ticket to explore the entire planet.
I spoke to Yan Birch regarding his exciting rise to fame, his unusually interesting childhood and intriguing stories that helped to make him who is today. More important Yan candidly spoke of his many up and coming projects, all exciting, intriguing, and something to look forward to.
How do you stand putting on all that make-up for all those horror films?
It takes a little bit of getting use to for sure. When I did “The People Under the Stairs”, way back when, 27 years ago now, I had six hours of make up every day. Then it was two hours to take it off. So I actually had an eight hour workday even before any acting.
You know it’s a little tough on the skin but I enjoyed the over-time. It was such a tremendous experience for me anyway working with somebody like Wes Craven. I was actually eager every morning to get to the set and sit in that chair, and the special effects makeup guy Mark Maitre, actually turned out to be one of the best special effects makeup guys in the world. He made the only real sized dinosaur in “Jurassic Park.” He was actually one of the groomsman at my wedding, that’s how close we got.
So you have a look, a great unique look, however with all that horror make up, does that really matter?
Whenever they do special effect make-up on my face, they tend to love my face to do it on. I guess the structure of my face with the high cheekbones makes it very easy to work with for special-effects make up person.
Yes you have a fabulous facial structure. You would make the perfect drag queen.
Thank you. I don’t know if you know, I did play a transvestite in “Cyber Bandits” with Grace Jones, and Adam Ant.
Yes I know, but I want to know how you got that role?
It was a normal audition initially with IRS media. They were quite big in those days. I went to the first call and I sat in the waiting room with a bunch of actual transvestites. It was basically me and half of Hollywood waiting for this part. I realized that I was the only straight guy in the whole crowd. When I first got the audition my girlfriend at the time said to me, “really”? I said, ” why not”? I got a call back, and the director was in the room. There were maybe 10 or 20 people there, and again, say there were 10, there were 9 actual transvestites there and me. I dressed up in my girlfriend’s clothes and she put make up on me. I felt good on the callback. The first call I didn’t do anything extra. On the call back I actually dressed up. I went into the room and I started reading, and I felt really good. I decided to just go for it. I started moving around a little bit and acting out the character. In the end I had a line to Adam I think, that was kind of flirtatious. I pretended the director was Martin Kemp, and I was talking to the camera like it was Adam Ant. At that point I didn’t know who was playing the part so obviously I was talking to one person in the script. I was flirting with the person beside me which turned out to be Martin Kemp in the movie. I just made a last second decision to jump into that character’s lap while reading, which turned out to be the director. So I threw myself in his lap with my arm around his neck, and that’s how I ended the scene. The rest is history on that one.
That was a good movie. I happened to see that movie because I’m an Adam Ant groupie.
We had a lot of fun. He was great. He was really going for an acting career at that time. I remember. He was in his trailer, studying. He wanted to run the lines 1,000 times, and he wanted to do really, really well.
When you go for a role, do you still have to read?
Sometimes. A lot of times now I get direct booking through my management or just from people I know. I would say the last nine movies they contacted me directly. But, when I go out for big shows like “Walking Dead” and “The Originals”, for television stuff, I’ll have to read.
Will you be involved in any way with the new “Charmed?”
Not that I know of. I would love to. They never killed my character so I’d love to come back. I haven’t really looked into it too much but I would love to be in the new “Charmed.” I really loved working on the old one, I mean the actresses were great.
Are you currently working on any new projects?
I have been very fortunate lately and I have thankfully been quite busy. Right now I have another eight films coming out that have not been released yet. I have a movie called, “Agramon’s Gate”. That will be out January or February, with Harley Wallen directing. I’m really looking forward to that one. I play a demon with Laurene Landon. The trailer is already winning prizes. So I’m looking very forward to that film. “Sky Sharks” is another one I’m really looking forward to. It’s basically “Sharknado” meets “The Walking Dead.” It’s by these German guys and they were brilliant. It’s actually about Nazi zombies on flying sharks. It’s another one of those horror comedy’s, with a lot of stars, including Tony Todd and Robert LaSardo. I think that one is going to be quite huge. Another movie that is coming out that I’m excited about is “Waking Nightmare” with Diane Franklin. I actually got to play a war veteran with PTSD. The directors were really cool. Brian Farmer and Steve Craig. They basically told me, “this is the scene, this is the character, read the script, and do what you want”.
They basically told me to go crazy. So I sat in a room pretending to just drinking and doing drugs and went nuts. Then I was trying to kill this woman who was my neighbor so I was going up and down the hallway giving it that horror feel. I loved what I was doing so I’m really looking forward to it. Then “Terror Tales” is coming out any day now, where I play Satan.
You look like the perfect Satan.
In that movie I look both like myself and I also have a full blown Satan transformation. There was something that I had never experienced before, I had a horn wrangler. My horns as Satan where so heavy I had to have a PA walking and holding up my horns the whole time I was walking around. That was funny.The horns were too heavy for my head. Then Harley Wallen’s “Betrayed” just came out and it’s selling out everywhere. It’s selling out in Target and Walmart. I believe Fifty thousand copies went out in a day. It’s about human trafficking. I think Harley Wallen hit that out of the ballpark. It’s so current today. It’s so in time right now. I also did “Killer Rose” with Caroline Williams. We had a fantastic time. That is coming out sometime in the Spring.
We love Caroline Williams.
We had a blast on that film. Then I have another film with Harley called “Abeyance”, that will come out next summer. It’s also a very in time subject. It’s about if you are rich enough you can live forever. Meaning you can actually get the body of a younger person and transfer your brain over to the new body. Which they actually are doing experiments with now. An Italian doctor I heard just finished the first full blown head transplant. Now they are thinking of transferring the digital information of your mind into a new body without even removing the head. I heard of some Russian billionaire that has been researching it for a while.
Then I have a movie called, “Mr Blue Shirt-The Inspiration” where I play one of the four horsemen with Director Mike Stewart. That was interesting. And I just did a movie called “Portal” with Naomi Grossman. I can’t say much but me and Naomi Grossman, who just got nominated for an Emmy, actually play the same character. The character grows from small to big. She plays the smaller version and I play the bigger version. It’s another horror movie. That was a lot of fun to shoot. As you can tell there’s a lot of stuff coming out here and I am so humbled by all this…
You’re very busy.
Yes it’s been great lately. I actually have something else that I’m very excited about. It’s going to be shot in the early Spring. It’s a Viking movie. It is actually an international film. It will all be in English but it’s going to be shot in Sweden, by a main Swedish producer. There are a lot of top Swedish actors and crew involved and they are bringing in top US Actors as well. This will make it a bigger international and authentic Viking movie. The goal of the Swedish producer is to actually capture the authenticity of the Vikings. They even hired a Swedish historian to look through the script to make sure the names and places are right. We just went through a full blown rewrite where they had to change the names that were not being used at that time. Then they had to change words, because words like shit and fuck weren’t used at that time. Basically they are trying to make this the first ever 100% authentic Viking film.
That is very cool. Do you think you were destined to be in the entertainment industry?
Destined is a strong word, but I grew up in an entertainment family. My father was a showman. He did all kinds of cabaret. He played 27 instruments. He produced, directed, wrote and acted . He was more on the comedic side, like a Benny Hill type. He did that cabaret on stage and on television. He was very well-known in Sweden. He was like a Swedish Bob Hope almost. He was a full blown all around entertainer. That’s how I grew up and I am very fortunate to have such a Dad. I also have four older sisters that all sing. Basically my parents had three children first. They waited 11 years, but my Dad wanted a boy. They got another daughter. My youngest sister, who is still older than me, and myself were the second litter. The first three were performing and entertaining with my father. My mom is a singer as well. To answer the question in a short summary of all of this, yes maybe. This is funny. I used to come to class when I was six or seven years old, and they had phones around. So before the teacher came in I used to just pick up the phone and pretend conversations with people and entertain the class. I was saying words that I wasn’t supposed to say in that age group because I was doing my dad’s jokes. They weren’t jokes for six or seven-year-olds. Lol. My dad took me to audition for a play when I was five and it was called, ” Miss Julie.” Obviously it was in a children’s theater. The part my dad wanted me to read for was Julie, because that was the biggest part, even though I was a boy.
I love your dad.
He was one of those guys who said that you could do whatever you wanted to do. In a good way he pushed me a lot in music and acting. I got a trumpet for my seventh birthday. I played trumpet for 25+ years. Of all things I actually became a world champion in a Big Band Brass competition in 1980 in Sontag Germany. It wasn’t like those big bands in the 40s, it was like big band orchestras. I played first trumpet and there were about 60 people in the band. We performed a lot and rehearsed three or four times a week. Then we went to competitions and we won the world championship, when I was 15 years old. I guess you can say I had a very colorful life in a good way and I am very thankful.
Do you also sing?
Yeah, I sing. I actually had the first all white European reggae band. We cut a record in Sweden and the record came out in 1985. At 15 I started playing bass as well. Then we formed a band right away, with some really close friends of mine. I was basically the only founding member left in the end. We had all kinds of different musicians in and out. We toured a lot. The only reason it stopped was because I left. I traveled out of the country, and I never came back to live in Sweden. I decided to travel around the world, like a lot of Europeans and a lot of Swedish people do. I started with a one-way ticket from Stockholm to Moscow, and then from Moscow to Havana.
Interesting way to start.
This was way back when, but as a Swede you could travel anywhere. I did it because I heard all about the beautiful, desolate, beaches in Cuba. I actually rented a house for $15 a night right on the beach. So I had a one way travel around the world trip. I only bought one way tickets. I never really knew where I was going. So I traveled for quite some time. I did the full 360 and ended up in China and Mongolia through Russia, and then back to Finland. On that trip I obviously stopped in the United States. I came from the Bahamas over to Miami. I bought a car, an old station wagon that was $600, and I drove through the United States. I went through like 38 states or something. I ended up in California. One night I was out having a good time in Marina Del Ray and I met a woman. I stayed at her place for a week. While I was doing that she kept telling me to go out and meet people in the industry. She liked my look for the business. I told her that was my plan long range plan and purpose but I wanted to finish travelling around the world first. So I met a couple of people on Sunset Boulevard. This sounds like a cliché but they gave me their cards and told me they could make me a star. I actually had some real meetings and hooked up with an agency. They told me I had to move there right away. I told them no I would not move to California right away because I have only done half the world yet in my travels. So I continued to the rest of the South Pacific, Australia and China and then when I came back to Sweden. To my mom’s dismay, I only stayed three weeks and then I went onto my move to Hollywood.
That is some story.
That’s how it all began. When I moved to Hollywood I didn’t know anyone, I only knew that agency. So when I got out of the airport, I took a cab to Hollywood and then I just looked for the best looking apartment building in this area that I could afford. Then I found this place on Sunset and Western. I didn’t know it was not that good of a neighborhood. It was called Harold Way. All the buildings around it looked crappy but this one had a huge purple overhang with nice flowers and bushes. I walked in there and asked if they had anything available. They said they had a single for $400 a month, and I asked if they took travel checks. He said yes, so that was my first place in LA.
Another cool story.
So when you asked if I felt destined, yeah! I think it all had to do with the few weeks I spent with my parents when I came back. I knew my dad was behind me 100%. Both my parents. Always. I am sure my dad could’ve been extremely successful here, but by the time he was successful enough to go he already had three kids, and then two more. So there wasn’t really a time for him to do it, so I basically went for him. He went through me.
Yeah. One thing I have to say that myself going here to try and make it as an actor without my parents, I can’t say I wouldn’t have made it but, they made a huge difference for me.
So I’m really looking forward to going back to Sweden and shooting this Viking movie. It’s going to be in my homeland, and it’s going to be a great movie. They approached me as an actor and I just loved the script. I’ve been wanting to do a Viking movie for 20 years. I wanted to make a Viking movie for a long time because it’s my roots. Once I was even I was going to write something “Viking” with a good friend of mine who is one of the main writers on the TV series. “The Goldbergs”. Anyway so when they approached me to star in this thing, I got all excited, the script was great. Then they started talking to me about a cast and crew. Fortunately I’ve made some connections over the years so I was able to hook them up with some people. Then they came and said that they needed a US production company. I said “well I have one.” So now my production company, “Pure Entertainment”, which is me and my wife, are actually co-producing the whole thing.
My wife just did a whole re-write, and I feel it’s amazing right now. Everybody’s talking about it in Sweden. It’s going to be great for Sweden as a country. I have even heard that this is going to be the most expensive film ever shot on Swedish land. The Swedish producer is Jonas Wolcher, a shout-out to him. As you can tell I’m very excited about this one!
Follow on Twitter @YanBirch