Reggie Lee. Photo: Tina Thorpe/2019 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

All Rise’s Reggie Lee on Being a Filipino American Actor

Actor Reggie Lee, who stars in CBS’s All Rise, is part of the Asian community, being Filipino American.

Sometimes casting calls for a certain ethnicity and sometimes casting sends out a blanket casting call and figures out the rest after auditions.

Reggie also shares some great stories with us, including a behind the scenes look at when he was a backup dancer for Prince!

Let’s see how it all played out for Reggie Lee…

Reggie Lee in Grimm
Reggie Lee in Grimm

You star in the CBS series ALL RISE as Head Deputy District Attorney Thomas Choi. You were a featured cast member in the first season of the show and was upped to a series regular for season. How exactly does “being upped” work?

Season 1 of the show, my character recurred pretty heavily. I think it was around 13 of 21 episodes. Being “upped”, as they say to being a series regular means, basically, that you’re bound contractually to that particular show for the length of the season. It’s also a different contract. Whereas, with a recurring role, it’s usually contracted on a per episode basis as they need you. For this particular show, we found out a little closer to the start of the season. The decision is usually made by a team of people including the showrunners, the producers, the writers, and, of course, it all goes through approval with the studio and the network involved. Definitely such a pleasure to work with this team.

How do you adapt playing off of so many different actors?

Ha! Well it’s a little more difficult when you’re starting a role, especially in a series. As you begin a role and adapt to different character relationships, it starts to become second nature, as it is in life. But a lot of relationships are definitely within the story. I get everything from the text. If you’re prepared and know the story, it’s definitely more fun to play pretend and just let it fly.

You wear a lot of suits in ALL RISE. Tell us about wardrobe and fittings.

Each character usually has what’s called their “closet”. We’ll usually do one really long fitting at the beginning of the season. They’ll get me in numerous suits, shirts, shoes and build a wardrobe. And from there, everything gets tailored to fit you perfectly. That way, for each episode, they can just mix and match without having to have me come in and do another fitting. And boy, they do such a great job of costuming the actors on this show. I love my suits! And I wish I could keep them! BUT they are the property of the production, so back they go.

You star in the upcoming Netflix action film SWEET GIRL opposite Jason Momoa, Marisa Tomei and Adria Arjona. Tell us about your character AND about your audition(s).

Well a lot of the information for this film is still under wraps, but I can tell you that the film is about a husband, played by Jason Momoa, who vows to bring justice to those responsible for his wife’s death while protecting his daughter, who is the only family he has left. I can only say that my character is associated with that family.

I auditioned for Denise Chamian, who cast me in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END over a decade ago – a job that took a year to film, so it was a great excuse to go see Denise and say hi. I hadn’t seen her in a while. This was one of those auditions that was, luckily, a one-time taping and getting the offer from that! Doesn’t always happen that way. But it ended up being great fun filming with this cast in Pittsburgh.

Reggie Lee in Grimm
Reggie Lee in Grimm

At what point in your career did you choose a Legal Representative? What’s the importance of having an attorney on hand?

My manager, Adam Griffin, thought it was a good idea to bring on an attorney as soon as I started testing for pilots. Your contract has to be completely negotiated before you even go in to test, so you definitely want someone who knows the intricacies of that contract and what can and can’t be negotiated. I feel like these attorneys have good relationships with the Business Affairs department of the studios, who negotiate on behalf of the studio. I really started with my attorney several years before I did an NBC series called GRIMM. But now, I definitely use them for every big negotiation… from series regular jobs to films.

You are Filipino American. Please share your family background. How does being Filipino American increase or decrease your chances at roles?

I am proudly Filipino American! My family and I immigrated to the United States when I was five years old and we actually settled in Ohio. My dad is a retired physician so I’m very proud that he’s kept his calm after all three of his sons wanted to pursue something in the arts. My younger brother is a former professional artist and my youngest brother is a musician. And fortunately, we’re all now in the Southern California area.

I think that being Asian American, this profession, has definitely had its highs and lows.  Fortunately, I think that more opportunities have opened up mainly due to those who have paved the way. And we continue to pave the way because there is a lot of paving left to be done. I’ve definitely had my share of being specifically cast as an Asian character but I’ve also been cast in roles that where they just happened to cast me and there was no specific ethnicity tied to the character. I remember doing a film for Sam Raimi and my character name was Stu Rubin. But I DO feel like, lately, I’ve been cast in roles that didn’t specifically have to be Asian. What I appreciate, is that GRIMM and ALL RISE both honored my actual ethnicity after I was cast and made both characters Filipino American.

Show business is still considered a male dominated field, however, more and more women are becoming driving forces. Are there any differences in being directed by a man vs. a woman?

As many directors as we get in a season for episodic television, I’ve definitely been directed by many of both men and women. And it’s been very different experiences regardless of gender. I think the most fun directors for me to work with are those that are really really about the story. Ones that add some possibility of different thought for my character, and give you room for your own thoughts on your character and their journey.

Is it true you are a former backup dancer for Prince? What was *that* like?!

Hahaha. Answer: yes. Many moons ago on the MTV Awards when I first came to LA. I just remember him being such an advocate for the dancers. He was always pretty soft-spoken but man, his outfits definitely SPOKE and were pristinely put together from rehearsals to performance. I also remember rehearsing and learning a lot of choreography, but when we got there for showtime, he said he wanted to scrap it and just improv! Definitely a crazy time!

Reggie Lee
Reggie Lee

To break up the serious questions – what is your favorite type of coffee and how do you combat coffee breath? Important question if you’re doing a love scene!

I am definitely an Americano with a touch of Almond Milk guy. And always always have Listerine strips on hand. They fit discreetly in your pocket. Good for off-set or on set : )

Anything else you’d like to say?

Definitely: #StopAsianHate




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