Interview with NBC’s Grimm’s Reggie Lee on bad guys, quirky roles, and Asian stereotypes

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Grimm’s midseason of Season 2 premieres tonight on March 8th at 9/8c. I had the opportunity to chat with Reggie Lee, who plays Sergeant Wu on the show. You may have seen him in movies like Drag Me to Hell and The Dark Knight Rises (you know, one of the many cops who got stuck inside the tunnels).

John “Spartan” Nguyen: How are you?

Reggie Lee: I’m doing good. Just chilling here with my pajamas.

That’s how you do interviews. Just chill, relax and wear pajamas.

[Both laughs]

So Grimm is currently shooting?

Yeah, what episode are we in? We’re shooting episode 18 of the second season, and we’re chugging right along. We have 4 more episodes after that, and then a break in the Summer.

I must admit, I haven’t been caught up with Grimm.

Oh no, do I need to hang up now?

This interview is over!

[Laughs]

I appreciate it. It’s good and honest. You know, there are so many shows out there. It’s completely understandable. But [the show’s] fun. It seems like if you don’t pull in the ratings within two episodes, you’re out. We’ve done pretty good with ourselves and we’re pretty lucky.

That’s good. Many fans were wondering when the show would come back to finish the second season.

I know, it’s been like three months! But we’re ramping it up. Fans were left with a pretty big cliffhanger. It’s so odd that you don’t usually get that in the middle of a season. Nowadays with all these television shows, it’s like anything goes. They put new TV shows on whenever; there’s no longer a Fall season/mid-season. There still is, but it’s all over the map. I think what they wanted to do was refrain from putting it at a time when all these mid-season shows were coming out. They wanted to wait a little bit. Hopefully the suspense is making it a little better and making people want to come back.

Is Sergeant Wu in the know yet?

At this moment that I’m talking to you with the episodes you’re going to see…no. They’ve got a plan for everybody. The question I get asked quite a bit is, “Do you want to be in the know?” There’s a part of me as an actor that wants to be a part of the party. Then there’s a part of me that loves him being quirky and oblivious. If everyone knew, then it wouldn’t as much fun.

As a minority, we’ve been doing films here for quite a while. Television has just started with Asian-American characters as regulars on a series. In that respect, I’m happy to play somebody that is normal. He’s not a nerd, bad guy or doctor.

Are you saying you didn’t enjoy your role in The Fast and the Furious?

[Laughs] Dude, I enjoy those things. I just did a movie called Safe with Jason Statham that just came out on DVD. My character’s a bad guy, but nowadays I get to pick my bad guy role pretty well. I love playing bad guys only because they never think they’re bad guys. They’re just trying to do their thing to get by in life. But a far as representing Asian characters, I love bringing out characters who are just normal people. Aren’t we normal?

In previous movies you’ve played characters who everybody loves to hate, especially in The Fast and the Furious and Drag Me to Hell.

It’s funny when I was reading for Sam Raimi for Drag Me to Hell. [He said] “That seems a little too real. You must have a little bit of that in you.” But don’t we all? I mean, it’s that part of us that wants to get out, but we can’t. We have to be politically correct and say things properly. There’s that devious side of all of us that we can tap into.

And then there’s Better Luck Tomorrow, a movie where the main characters are young Asians living a dangerous lifestyle to achieve their goals.

Isn’t that awesome? It’s like, “We’re smart, and we’re going to use it to do what we want to do.” I think that’s really cool. I think it was genius for Justin Lin [director] to do that, and that’s why he is where he is now. He’s taken advantage of it. What is it like now, we’re moving on to the sixth Fast and Furious movie? He’s doing pretty well for himself. But yeah, that’s a great example, and I think we need more of that.

I’ve turned down a lot of auditions where “You’re portraying the Asian man who’s somewhat of a nerd.” Are you serious? It’s still happening at this day and age? It’s a little off-putting with the types of roles that come up. Fortunately we have films like Better Luck Tomorrow that show us being strong and cool. At least I think we’re cool…aren’t we?

Then you probably don’t want to see the upcoming movie Olympus Has Fallen with Gerard Butler. Rick Yune (The Fast and the Furious) looks like he’s playing a typical Asian bad guy.

Yeah, there’s not a lot written for us. This role in Grimm was written for me. It was written after I had auditioned for the part of David Giuntoli’s partner, Hank Griffin, which Russell Hornsby got the part.

Is there a role that you’d like to do?

I feel like we never get to play normal characters. I’ve had this dream that I would play a romantic quirky lead. It would be opposite of Octavia Spencer, who’s a friend of mine. Something interesting like that, and it’d be kind of cool and different.

Since you’re busy shooting, do you have time to watch other TV shows.

Are you going to ask me what I watch?

No…okay, yes.

My favorite show right now is Homeland. Do you watch Homeland?

I haven’t seen it yet.

Dude, you’re missing out. It’s so good. There’s so much on TV right now, especially with the offerings on cable network. There’s a lot of really good television that’s shot like film. There are things that can be shot on cable that can’t be shot on network TV. They’re catching up though. There’s a scene in this upcoming episode that’s pretty risque. There’s a lot of stuff on our show that’s pretty gruesome that NBC allows. But yeah, Homeland!

We have a lot of guys on the show, and interestingly enough, we all watch Downtown Abbey.

John “Spartan” Nguyen

John “Spartan” Nguyen is the editor-in-chief at Nerd Reactor and is based in Orange County, CA. He is a graphic designer and illustrator.

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