This television season, modern-day fairytales are all over the networks (okay, just two). The darker of those, Grimm, imagines Grimm Fairytales as real. The creatures wear human disguises, and only a Grimm can see through to their monstery filling. Grimm comes to us by way of Angel producer David Greenwalt, so you can expect a similar mix of monsters and humor. The humor portion is deftly handled by actor Reggie Lee (whose other gritty projects include Drag Me to Hell and Prison Break as well as a role in the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises). We chat with the gregarious actor about fairytales, Comic Con, and The Dark Knight Rises (well, we try).
Tells us about your role on Grimm.
I play Sgt. Wu. I'm kind of a go-between the captain and the two detectives, Hank and Nick. I am their superior. I survey the crime scene for them, then we three solve the crime together. I've come to realize - as we come to episode eight - that my character is the comic relief within all the seriousness of the show. I love that because I am a really... I don't like to say sarcastic; I prefer to say I am a sardonic person. This guy has such a dry sense of humor. I love him. Something we find out about him later on is that Sgt. Wu has a very addictive personality. He gets addicted to "certain different things" that wreak havoc in his personal and professional life. One of the other characters in the show comes to help him with that, and eventually I have to cover it up.
It has been such fun playing this character because he is so off-the-wall. You find out all his different interests, and they are so whacked-out, you can't even believe a person would be interested in all those different things, all at once. It's quite a blend, and I think you need it. With any procedural, I think there has to be a break from the "sameness" of things. Both Silus and I - who plays a character named Monroe - we actually both worked together on Prison Break, and we are both that comic relief amidst the drama.
It's always the quirky comic relief characters that pick up the cult following.
It's so funny because we're already [joking about] the spinoff. I think people relate to the quirkiness. People either choose or don't choose to show that side. Sometimes we are afraid to let other people see that because we will be seen as weird or whatever. That's why these characters tend to have such a following. I love it. And I love it when it comes to Comic Con.
Did you guys do Comic Con this year?
We did! It was weird, because our show hadn't premiered yet. We decided to show the pilot at Comic Con. The publicist from NBC was telling us to be happy if we got the room half-full, because nobody knows who we are. But we ended up having to turn people away. There was a line at the door. It was such an amazing response. And that's our audience. It's interesting going from Comic Con to the TCAs and deciphering the difference between the two. The TCAs are so understated, and Comic Con is so crazy. Comic Con was fun.
Looking forward to more, I imagine.
From your lips to God's ears! Yes, looking forward to more. I'm having such a blast doing this show. Plus, the six of us that are series regulars have become so tight that I think it's apparent on-screen. It makes the relationships between characters so much easier. When you have chemistry off-screen, you slip into [character] so much quicker on-screen. By episode two, which we filmed maybe four months after the pilot, we had already been through so much press together, gone to so many dinners together that it was easy. It continues now, that kind of connection we have with one another. Eventually, I think these characters have to have some kind of drama between them. We are starting to see a little bit of that, but I know it is firmly staying a procedural. That was a note from NBC, to stay procedural as we continue, then the mythological stuff will seep in as we continue.
Seeing as how there was such a lengthy gap, do you think there is a noticeable difference in tone or style between the pilot and the other episodes?
I think that what you're going to see in the second episode is probably a more fleshed-out storyline. Not that the pilot isn't fleshed out, because I feel that it is spectacular. I thought that would be the problem: how are you going to top the pilot? They had to figure out how to do that, and what you are going see is more of a connection between us six characters that will fit easier than [our relationship did] in the pilot. We have a familiarity with each other now. Aside from that, I think the show is very dark, and it has gotten darker as we go along. Within that darkness has to be little hints of humor. That's where David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf, along with Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner, that's where their humor comes in. They have such a distinct humor, as you can see in Angel and Buffy. But, I do feel that this show has more of an X-Filesish feel, with little hints of very real humor. You find humor in these characters, but not as people trying to be funny or quirky, but people that you would actually know. Someone from everyday life.
Grimm got pushed back to Halloween weekend. Do you think that will be a better premiere date for you?
Yeah, I think so. I think it's a good sign that NBC wants to hold back on this. A lot of things have already premiered - and already been canceled. We know that them holding on to us is a great thing, and now they've pushed us back even farther, to an even better release date. I think the closer you get to a Halloween date with our show, the better - it has that feel. I can tell you that people who have seen the show have uncontrollably screamed. It's unexpected. Oh wait - now you are going to expect it because I said it's unexpected! But you write for FEARnet, so I'm sure you've been through everything.
Yeah. We've covered some crazy stuff.
I'm sure! I'm surprised we didn't speak when I did Drag Me to Hell! That was some crazy stuff. But no, this is very different from [Drag Me to Hell]. Sam [Raimi]'s different. Sam has a very distinct flavor that is gross and humorous at the same time. Grimm will have its share of gross, but it's not as humorous.
It seems that Fridays are becoming the go-to genre night for television. You've got Supernatural on CW; Fringe on Fox; and now Grimm on NBC. Bringing it back around, I think you can give credit to The X-Files for that. That Friday night slot was where that show blew up.
Let me tell you, The X-Files was my all-time favorite show. I would have gatherings during it. It was so good. It was so freaky because it was so real. I think that is the difference between this-- People ask us how [Grimm] will compete with Fringe, with Supernatural, with Once Upon a Time. I think that the difference is that our shows stays incredibly real. It stays a procedural, and it stays in one world, instead of two different worlds. In Once Upon a Time, you have two worlds. There is a similar feel with Supernatural. Grimm is just one world with this guy who happens to see these people morph into different characters from fairytales. We are trying to decide how [Nick] solves these cases, and he is trying to decide if and when he can tell us any of this stuff, which is going to make us think he is absolutely, completely nuts. As we develop these relationships develop, I think we will see the tension between telling us what he needs to tell us, and not telling us. I think things are going to happen to each [of the supporting characters] that lead us to believe something else is going on. It creeps me out, because I don't know what is going to happen! It's an adventure because we haven't been made privy to a lot of [the scripts]. Little things here and there, but not a lot.
Do you like it better that way, or does it make it difficult to prepare?
I'm not going to say it's easier. I come from the world of film, where you know your beginning and your know your end. With this, they have given a very rough sketch of what is going on, but I can tell you that has already changed, up to episode eight. Things change as you see the chemistry change between actors, as you see things that don't work and things that do work. It's very difficult but I think we as actors have to stay on a guideline, by saying, "Here's what you gave us at the beginning, I'm going to assume that my life starts there, and I am going to build my character based on that. Because that's all you have. If you tell me I have an addictive personality, I'm going to work from that. I'm going to find out that those kinds of people are self-soothing and don't have a lot of love early in life. That has stayed with me even though that particular aspect has not come into play yet. There are certain things with this character that, if you have an addictive personality, you are going to do.
What do you think the appeal is of fairytales for "adults?" Grimm, Once Upon a Time, Snow White... where do you think that comes from?
I think it's the world we live in. To me, it's escapism. I certainly go to my television to escape. And why not fairytales? It's something you are comfortable with, and when you escape from such horrible stuff in the world, you tend to go to something familiar and comfortable. Although, I never realized that Grimm Fairy Tales were so grim!
No! I was born in the Philippines. It was like, "Here's the Three Little Pigs - it's fun!" I never read into that part of it - up until this show. Then I realized they are warnings. There are lessons to be learned, and it does get very grim. I have since reread them. I think that is the fun of the show, too. These guys have found a way to make it escapism, but not in an obvious way. Sometimes we will get a script, and it won't be until the end of it that I realize what fairytale it is. I couldn't really tell until the very end because they have put a twist on it, turned it on its head. Or they will combine two in one. I think it's fun, and I hope they never run out of fairytales. They told us they were going to go all over the world, and use fairytales from all parts of the world. I don't know how that is going to go over, but we'll see.
Have you suggested any Filipino fairytales?
Filipino stories are so into folklore and evil and ghosts. Almost all their programming has something like that. There is this whole thing about seeing evil elves. They are called duendes. They tell you they need to take you to their side, or else they are going to kill you. I suggested that one [to producers] but who would ever know that one? The little Travelocity gnome is evil!
Oh come on, you can totally see the evil in his eye!
I know, right?
Switching gears a bit, what can you tell us about your role in The Dark Knight Rises?
Hahahah! Oh no! You got your hands on that info! Oh boy.
Hey, it's on IMDB.
[Long pause]. I have signed a confidentiality agreement, so I can't tell you much. I can tell you I worked in London and Los Angeles. I can tell you that Christopher Nolan is pretty amazing at what he does. He is wonderfully direct. He doesn't need many takes before he has it. He's pretty amazing.
IMDB said your character's name is Ross. Is that true?
All this secrecy is interesting, because with such massive action sequences, there is only so much you can hide. I have a friend who lives downtown and he saw several days worth of shooting.
Okay, so you know that we were shooting down there. It's pretty huge. You can't hide it. The amount of extras... it's just amazing.
Have you had any crazy fan stories or experienced anything crazy on set?
No. It's been great. People usually recognize me from Prison Break, and I was very evil in that show. So In Starbuck's, I will get "I hate you"s. A lot. When I went to London to shoot, there were a lot of Prison Break fans, and they were wondering why I was there. So I would tell them I was there shooting a film for Christopher Nolan. Then they really freaked out because they knew what it was. London has been the craziest place for fans. It's interesting because in Los Angeles, people will come up to you and say, "We love your work." Comic Con was nuts because there were a few "We love you Reggie"s coming from the audience. That feels so good. I am a working character actor, and proud to be one. Especially as an Asian-American. You can get pigeonholed, and I am glad not to have been. It has been a great response.
Can you say if you guys have finished principal shooting for The Dark Knight Rises?
I think they are going until November. I am done. I am so grateful that they worked it around my Grimm schedule. They've been wonderful.
Are you a comic book fan?
I'm not, but my brother is. He's actually an animation artist.
Did he help you study up on Batman storylines?
I ask him all the time. Then for medical terminology, I go to my dad. I've got all my bases covered.