Reggie Lee is no stranger to the stage, having toured nationally in the musical “Heartstrings,” and later in “Miss Saigon." He was part of the original company of the 1994 Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel" and in 1997, Lee received a Drama-Logue Critics Award for his performance in “F.O.B.” at East West Players. In between his television and film roles he continues to be active in theatre. Now he finds himself portraying Sgt. Wu, the sarcastic cop in the Portland Police department that works alongside Nick and Hank in NBC”s hit show “Grimm”. In the upcoming episode “Mommy Dearest” airing this Friday, March 7, 2014, Lee talks about how his culture and his input helped shape this upcoming episode.
Born in Quezon City, Philippines, Lee is the eldest of three sons and, in addition to English, continues to speak Tagalog and conversational Mandarin and Cantonese. So this weeks episode, featuring a Wesen (variations of fairy tale creatures in the show), from the Philippines is something that he helped collaborate on with the writers. “The creators are so wonderfully collaborative. They actually came to me and said, ‘Do you know any of - do you know any Filipino folklore?’ I said, ‘Yes. We have actually quite a bit.’ And so I gave them a list and it included the aswang -- which is probably the most popular one in Filipino folklore. So it is something - it was always told, like, you know, amidst relatives, it's told now, it's believed in. As a matter of fact, very big in the Philippines."
One of the strengths of the “Grimm” mythology is that it is drawn from all over the world and that is something that Reggie is really a fan of exploring. “They're really scoping out all the folklore in different parts of the world -- which is really great for me. I mean how often really do you get a Filipino storyline in a show? Not very often. I can't think of any. So how great for them to really focus on that. And I'll tell you what. The Filipinos are excited. They're excited about it. So it was really a joy for me to be the one to break that kind of news to them and go, ‘Listen, Grimm's doing a Filipino episode.’ And just everyone's excited.’
So in a world where fairy tale creatures are real, and his colleagues (unbeknownst to him) are aware of this, how does he as an actor create his character? ‘I think that was the most difficult part because I think the more you've got on the page the more you can build. So when there wasn't a lot it really - I needed them to give me some kind of spark. Even before I started to do any kind of homework on this particular character I needed them to give me, you know, where he's come from, blah, blah, blah. Even that was very kind of, you know, there are three bullet points; he's been a cop for this many years, blah, blah, blah, he's good at his job, all this stuff.
But where I really started to develop him was a line in the pilot where Nick just bumps into me -- I still remember this -- he bumps into me, like, because he's staring at of course a creature that's morphing. He bumps into me and I go, ‘Well, I guess I should have worn my airbags today.’ And from then on I was like, this is a sarcastic dude. He's sarcastic and sardonic.
So I built from there. I actually researched sarcasm and I went, okay, psychologically where does that come from? And it comes from actually, you know, people that are the most sarcastic are - it comes from an insecurity.
So I started to work on why am I insecure? You know, why do I do my job so well? Am I afraid? Am I wanting to be good because there's that Asian factor hat is like, you've got to be perfect at what you do. Perfect, perfect, perfect, whatever it is. You've got to be beyond perfect. So I started to work with that and it started to get more exciting.
So as they built upon it -- and I think this next episode-- has given me the most. Figuring out -- like in second season -- that I was really good at video games, seeing my apartment and what was in it, you know, gave me a lot of clues and I started - I get so excited. I can talk to you about this forever by the way. FYI. This is what is exciting to me about this.”
To see this Sgt. Wu centric episode, and to see how Reggie Lee has expanded his character, and brings a story from his heritage to the screen, turn in to see “Grimm” on NBC on Friday, March 7 at 9pm!
Did you enjoy this article by the San Diego Theater Examiner? Hit subscribe at the top of the page for regular updates! Interested in having your San Diego theater performance, venue, event or other local activity in the San Diego Theater guide? Send details to ErinMarie at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @SDTheaternews and Facebook