Chau was born in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, of Chinese and Vietnamese descent. When he was roughly 6 years old he and his family moved to Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). At the age of 7, Chau moved from Saigon to France due to the Vietnam War and after a year moved to Washington, D.C., United States. It was there that Chau and his family lived and where Chau was schooled. After he graduated from college, Chau moved out to Los Angeles where he has remained since and now lives with his wife and daughter.
Chau has had a number of diverse roles, playing Chinese, Japanese and even Hmong characters, most notably as Dr. Martin Ng in the American sci-fi series Gemini Division, and as Dr. Pierre Chang in 17 episodes of ABC's Lost. Chau has also taken on a number of smaller TV roles. He has appeared as Koo Yin, a Chinese consul in the drama 24 and a Chinese diplomat in Stargate SG-1. He was the voice of Quick Kick on G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and Dr. Shen in XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and he portrayed Lieutenant Winston 'Vagabond' Chang in the Wing Commander III and Wing Commander IV video games. Chau has appeared as a guest star in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., The Unit, NUMB3RS, ER, Baywatch, Alias, Shark, Criminal Minds, Grey's Anatomy, JAG, Medium, and The X-Files.
He was also featured in Chris Brown's music video Fine China, the 2013 film 21 & Over, the television film 9/11: The Twin Towers, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, where he physically played The Shredder. His latest projects have included a Syfy production, The Expanse, starring as recurring character Jules-Pierre Mao, father of main character Julie Mao, and a recurring role as Arthur's step-father Walter on The Tick. He has also appeared in the Disney Channel spy action comedy, K.C. Undercover, where he plays Zane, an evil villain who kidnaps K.C. and threatens to kill her family due to a checkered history with them. In December 2018, it was announced Chau was part of the cast for Cathy Yan's DC live-action adaptation of Birds of Prey starring Margot Robbie in an undisclosed role.