Back before NBC even announced time slot for their new supernatural cop drama Grimm, early comparisons immediately began to ABC’s new fairy-tale drama Once Upon a Time, as well as to longer-running fan favorites like Supernatural (The CW) and Fringe (FOX) due to the similarities in subject matter. Grimm centers on a homicide unit in a town where creatures from the famous Grimm’s stories walk among the “regulars,” and more often than not, wreak havoc. But the show has a few very specific differences that set it apart from any it has already been compared to. Here Reggie Lee weighs in on what those things are plus a few more that make Grimm— and his police Sergeant role– unique.
LA TV Insider Examiner: So many people didn’t grow up with these Grimm fairy-tales but instead were raised on Disney, so they might not be expecting such dark, and at times, twisted cases to come their way in your show. How do you strike a balance so as to make it accessible to a wider audience?
Reggie Lee: The shows [executive producers David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf have] done like Angel or Buffy have, like, a lighter feel, I think, than what this show is. This is more along the lines of The X-Files kind of thing. It is dark, and I love that. It brings a bit more reality to it, but there has to be some humor in the show, otherwise people will just– I mean, it’s a lot to take in an hour if you don’t have some humor!
So Sergeant Wu will be cracking some jokes?
R.L.: Apparently now I’ve become the humor of the show. It’s the eighth episode [that we’re shooting], and I’ve learned that Sergeant Wu is the one bringing the humor.
You have done so much intense dramatic work on television recently, is that something that you have always gravitated towards, or do you find now that it’s just what you get offered because of your resume?
R.L.: Definitely for myself, I find myself gravitating towards dramatic work. In terms of sitcoms, you know, I always tell my agent I don’t want to be seen. Especially if it’s three camera– if it’s multi-camera. I just don’t like that kind of humor; it’s kind of like doing humor for the sake of doing humor, and people love that, but for me it’s not so gratifying as an actor—to wait for the joke. I’ve been through that already, you know, I’ve done a sitcom before, and it’s interesting that if you’re funny your joke gets on, and if you’re not funny, the network is sitting there cutting jokes left and right, and it becomes all about that. I find myself more– I mean, the reason I became an actor is because I like to be put in different situations that are very real. And if humor comes out of that because of the writing, which I feel is the best kind of humor, I think that that’s what’s real.
Your role in Grimm was written for you–
R.L.: It was! How did you know that?
Well, I was at TCA. But does that mean you were able to sit down with the writers at the start and offer your opinion on where you want to see the character go or what you want to be able to do in the show?
R.L.: As an actor, I think they go ‘This is what we want to create for you, and how do you feel about this?’ It’s not like ‘Listen, this is what I want to do.’ It has to fall within the current frames of their story. It’s interesting: both Silas and I are becoming the comic relief of the show, and it’s interesting because we both did Prison Break together– we never worked together because we were on different sides of the set– but we both came from that really heavy drama background, but we’ve become comic relief of this show. They’re tuning into my strength of playing someone who’s kind of off-the-wall but very real. I bring this up because so many people come up to be and say this, but it is that kind of skeevy guy at the office who will take over your job and does it in a very passive aggressive way. They were like ‘I know you. I know someone exactly like you. You play a very real character.’…I don’t like to say sarcastic too much, but he’s very sardonic. He’s very dry and witty, and obscene, and he’ll say stuff that’s kind of like ‘How did that just come out of your mouth?’ but he’ll brush it off and just walk away from it as if he said nothing– absolutely nothing. And I love that! I love that!
Depth is so important in a long-running character, so what else will we get to learn about Sergeant Wu, past his ability to cut tension with a one-liner?
R.L.: All of us in some way are going to be involved in those storylines, however they may turn out, he has a very addictive personality and starts getting addicted to certain things that he, in the future, may or may not get captured– that he, in the future, because of his addiction, may wreak havoc on his personal and professional life, and one or two characters may start to say something and those characters get close. It’s not just going to be ‘Let’s solve a crime each week and figure out who’s good and who’s bad.’ Part of the drama on the show comes from who are these characters and how are they integral in each other’s lives? I think that’s going to be the fun of the show!
When did that issue of addiction get brought up to you as an actor?
R.L.: The initial pitch was ‘Listen, this dude’s going to have an addiction problem, and this is where we want to take that’…It’s interesting because obviously through NBC’s eyes, they definitely want a procedural because since then, maybe a tenth of it has come into effect, but very, very, very little, and we’re already in episode eight.
But we imagine it helps to know that right away so you can seed it from the start of your performance, even if we’re not getting a direct storyline about it for awhile.
R.L.: Absolutely. That’s why I wanted to know that because the more you can tell me! I immediately looked up people with addictive personalities and how’d they react, and you know, people with addicitive personalities are usually self-soothing, and they come from a place in their childhoods where they weren’t given love or they weren’t soothed by their parents, so I’ve already gone through my background…so in terms of when it comes out, I’ve already got something to pull from. That’s what’s exciting to me because in situations where, you know, I am basically the guy who describes the crime to them– that tells them what’s going on, and then we go and work on the case together. But this guy who has an addiction wouldn’t be just a regular cop. There are certain things that come out in his personality which I think come from the addiction. He’s very focused. He’s very focused on this one thing, in solving this case, in solving this one part of the case.
The “case of the week” element is ringing loud and clear as the focal point of Grimm, and yet the mythology seems so important.
R.L.: I think the pilot is really well done, but you’ve got to top it, though! You’ve got to go even deeper. It’s a tall order. That’s why episode two, I think, is really, really important. It follows the steps of the pilot but it takes it a step further. How can we take it a step further? And that’s when I think you start seeing how the relationships intertwine between these six people and who’s going to find out what, and who’s not going to find out what. And how is this guy going to keep everyone from knowing what he’s seeing– it can’t go on forever, it really can’t…Since episode two, it’s changed a bit. It changes because of the chemistry on the show. We’ve sent ‘These things work really well together, and these things don’t work as well together,’ and then we’ll get a direction like ‘We want to keep it really reality based but also a procedural.’ I think that’s NBC’s direction for us is to keep it that, which kind of takes the mythology and kind of puts it in the background…It’s still very much integrated in our show, but it’s almost the B-story to the procedural.
How much do Nick’s colleagues learn about what he can do and how he really solves crimes as the episodes unfold?
R.L.: How he’s able to solve a crime and figure out if someone’s bad or good, we think it’s just because he’s a profiler, but really it’s because their faces start morphing and he can see if they’re bad or good.
Since there is so much procedural focus, tell us about one of your favorite cases you’ve come across so far.
R.L.: It does get pretty gruesome. Let me tell you that!…But what I enjoy the most is when I get the script and not until the end do I go ‘Oh wow, it’s that fairy-tale.’ I don’t guess it until the very end, which fairy-tale it is. And that’s really cool, you know what I mean? They’re so ingenius about integrating a fairy-tale and yet not doing it spot-on so it takes an audience awhile to figure it out. That has been really great. And sometimes they combine a couple, you know? There was one where instead of the ‘Three Little Pigs’, it was the ‘Three Wolves,’ and those are the things I enjoy most about it– trying to figure out which fairy-tale it is.
Is there a fairy-tale from your childhood you’d love to see the show take on?
R.L.: You know, I grew up in the Philippines, and Disney was huge in the Philippines, so in my era, Pinocchio was really huge, and I would love to see how that is played off in this particular show. I love that fairy-tale; I grew up with it; and I would love to see how the show handles it.
Grimm airs on Friday nights at 8pm on NBC.
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