Derek Goh has a supporting role in A Shot Through the Wall, but he makes a sizeable impact—as does the film itself. Based on a true story, the movie follows Asian-American police officer Mike Tan as he accidentally kills an innocent African-American man. Derek plays the role of Ryan Doheney in the movie and spoke about his initial reaction to the script as well as his thoughts on where the movie stands now that police reform and racial justice have become two of the most prominent issues facing our society.
Brittany Frederick: What initially attracted you to A Shot Through the Wall?
Derek Goh: Reading it, I got the emotional impact of the story right away. By the ending, I got a pretty big wash of emotion. It’s so rare to read a script and get that immediate feedback, and I knew I wanted be a part of a script that told this kind of nuanced, complex story.
BF: You get involved with the film and then how do you step into your character? You want to provide an honest portrayal of difficult issues, but you also don’t want to be overwhelmingly negative.
DG: You trust the director and you trust your team that you’re going in with. That’s the first step, is that you’re trusting them to tell the right story and that if you give everything that you’re supposed to do as an actor, as a professional, that it’s taken into the story and you think they’ll do something sensitive with it. You just dive right in as best you can. Whether this is a despicable character or not, you take the given circumstances and you act them as truthfully as you can, no matter what those circumstances are.
BF: You’ve done previous guest spots in a number of police procedurals, which are obviously a lot more cut and dried than this movie. But did having experience in that same genre provide you any help here as far as tone or any choices that you made?
DG: I think every project’s different just in and of itself. This was a film, so time felt like it’s a little bit looser; in television procedurals, you are on a time limit. They have to get this thing edited, put together and sent out so there’s not much time to chew the fat. By doing those at the beginning of my career, you get into the zone of you’re really focused, you only get a couple takes and you get it done. And then to do a film, you get to play a little bit more.
But as far as the mindset to be in, in these criminal procedurals you get sort of a steel. There’s kind of this iron behind everything where this character doesn’t play around, doesn’t really joke around too much. When you’re surrounded with those kind of people, you sort of begin to understand that mentality, that when you come up against the criminal justice system it’s not to be taken lightly. Everybody’s very professional with their jobs, as you would hope they would be. You learn that through that experience.
BF: You shot the film several years ago, before COVID and other current events, so what has it been like for you to revisit it now? To just realize that it’s finally being released?
DG: It’s completely unique to me. I’d never been a part of something like this before. We shot this almost five, six years ago, I hadn’t seen the final product until like last year. Then I hadn’t seen it again from that last year until a couple days ago. I’m very much on the outside, because I’m not a large character in the film and I was only on set for about a week and a half. But as you watched the world turn and the way everything became full center focus around the beginning of 2020, it was incredible to be a part of a film that knew what was going on and knew that these kind of stories were out there and risked of trying to tell something from a new perspective and in that very complex way. That is incredibly unique.
I’m so proud that it’s got on its feet and it got out there and people are able to go see it, because it was so long ago and there was, I think, a worry at one point in time whether it would see the light of day. And I’m so happy for [writer-director] Aimee [Long] and I’m happy for Kenny [Leu], because it’s their story and I thought they did a great job with it.
BF: Do you have another of your projects that you’d recommend to people who see A Shot Through the Wall? Or something else that you likewise found impactful?
DG: I Know This Much is True was probably my favorite thing and thing I was most proud of to have done. It’s a very heavy piece of material. Mark Ruffalo played the older set of twins in his storyline and we were the college-aged version of him—me and Phil Ettinger. And that piece is by far the most proud I’ve been to be a part of something, again daring and risky [but] in a different way, it’s more in mental health…It was directed brilliantly, it was all shot on film, and it was one heck of a creative experience. Made me better as an actor.
BF: When you participate in something as heavy as that or as this film, do you carry that with you moving forward? Or what kind of an effect does that have on you personally?
DG: I think that you walk away with a piece of something new each time. In your preparation, you do your best to know what you’re getting yourself into so that you’re working in a smart way. And then while you’re shooting, you’re still learning. After the piece is over, you get reflection time, and I’m someone that writes and keeps a journal of every project that I’ve been on.
You’re learning every single day you’re on set. Every single day you’re doing something new. And you’re interacting with people who also have their own interpretations of what you are doing on set, and you’re absorbing that in. I think it’s impossible not to learn something new as you walk away and have a new perspective on these issues. When you’re telling a story, they just kind of get inside you, and hopefully it makes you better. That’s why I love being an actor, because hopefully it gives you a greater understanding of the people in the world you’re in.
A Shot Through the Wall is now streaming on Amazon Video and other digital platforms.
Article content is (c)2020-2023 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr and on Instagram at @BFTVGram.