Grimm star Reggie Lee turned down Harvard to become an actor, and his decision has paid off: he’s booked roles in The Fast and the Furious, Prison Break, two Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and now NBC’s fantasy-procedural series, where he plays Sergeant Wu. BFTV recently caught up with Reggie to talk about what brought him to Grimm and how playing Wu has given him a chance to do something a little different.
“When you’re a kid, you think ‘Oh, it’s so great. I’m going to go to Hollywood. I’m going to go to Broadway.’ For a long time it was such a novelty,” Reggie said of his career choice. “I always had a pretty good work ethic, and even now when I’m not working, I’ll go to class. It brings you back down to earth and makes you realize what matters is the enjoyment of it. It’s a tough business, it’s really hard – and I’m so happy. I cannot see myself sitting at a desk from nine to five!”
He’s most definitely not sitting at a desk on Grimm, where Wu helps hero Nick Burkhardt (played by David Giuntoli) and his partner Hank Griffin (Russell Hornsby) with their unique caseload. As season two of Grimm progresses, things could get rather, erm, grim for the sergeant. “He is definitely in danger,” teased Reggie. “Some things happen that cause a lot of peril. Because Wu is what I would call the wild card of the show – you could take him any direction.”
It’s a definite change of pace for Reggie. His first big film role was as Lance Nguyen – the cousin of Johnny Tran who guns down Dominic Toretto’s friend Jesse – in The Fast and the Furious, and playing the guy you love to hate has been par for the course. “There’s this list on Internet Movie Database that I’m on, and it’s called ‘Actors with High Body Counts,’” he said with a laugh. “I’m always playing the bad guy. This is the first time I’m really playing the good guy.”
“I think that one of my favorite movie roleshas been a film that I did with Jason Statham that was out last year called Safe,” he continued. “I played the main bad guy in that. But this was a bad guy that was very different, because he had kidnapped this ten-year-old Chinese girl to do his work for him, but after a year he kind of adopted her as his own child. He loved her like she was his own child. That character was so much fun to play, because he had a bad guy aspect, but I don’t think bad guys ever think they’re bad, and then you had this other part where he suddenly has a quote-unquote daughter.”
“It’s probably one of Jason’s best roles, too,” he added, saying of the action superstar, “He’s such a nice guy. He’s such a great guy.”
So, too, is Reggie, who is obviously nothing like a gun-toting biker or a member of the Chinese Triad. He’s much less lethal and much more down to earth, able to look back on his various on-screen deaths with a laugh. He’d be the first person to tell you all those characters deserved it.
Do people recognize him more now as Sergeant Wu than his past bad-guy parts? “It’s definitely the show,” he said. “I get surprised because people recognize me from Pirates of the Caribbean, [where] I was in a lot of makeup. I think ‘Really? You recognize me from that?’ Prison Break has been huge, but [it's] mostly now Grimm. “
And Reggie is perfectly fine with that, because he loves his job and the fantastic things he gets to be a part of every week. “There are definitely times where I look at the script and think, ‘How are we going to do this?’ It’s like a big-budget movie with the stuff they want to achieve action-wise,” he reflected.
While there’s been no official word on a next season of Grimm, he added that “We’re very, very optimistic. It’s become a show that’s become a stalwart for NBC. One of those shows that they can rely on a Friday. We’ve come back even after a four month hiatus to pretty good numbers.”
Ask him what he’d like to do in the future, and Reggie has no shortage of ideas. “I’m right now with a friend of mine writing a pilot. I’m a big foodie so it’s going in that direction,” he said. “I’ve played a lot of cops and a lot of bad guys, so I would like to play a regular person and just live a regular life with something interesting about it. I love the idea of television and kind of infiltrating that. TV has been very few and far between, at least in terms of being a series regular,” said the actor, who’d also like to return to film and produce in his career.
But all those goals don’t mean Reggie wants to leave Sergeant Wu behind anytime soon, as he added, “I love the ride that this little show has taken.”
Grimm is all new tonight at 9 PM ET/PT on NBC. You can also keep up with Reggie on Twitter (@MrReggieLee).