Saturday, September 05, 2009

7071: Asian-American Actor Gains Entourage.

From The Chicago Sun-Times…

Gay, Asian … and cool

TELEVISION | That’s the unlikely job description that propelled Lee to ‘Entourage’ fan favorite

By Paige Wiser

It’s not easy getting air time on the HBO hit “Entourage,” considering how large the cast is. There’s the movie star, his manager, his brother, his driver, his publicist, assorted love interests …

That makes it all the more unlikely that Rex Lee, who plays Lloyd the assistant, would be a breakout star. And yet things keep getting better for the fan favorite, who’s been rewarded with a “Lloyd’s Diary” blog and videos on the HBO Web site.

All this, despite the fact that much of Lloyd’s time is spent deflecting the extremely creative slurs of his boss Ari (Jeremy Piven). Lee gives Lloyd an unsinkable ambition that will pay off during the next four episodes. Lloyd may be disrespected, but he never loses his dignity—or his impeccable argyle style.

“I realize that a great segment of the viewership appreciate the fantasy element of the show,” says Lee, “how the boys from the ‘hood grow up to live the high life. But a lot of people can relate to my character. I’m the working man in this piece.”

It would be more heartening to report that the role of Lloyd was written without any ethnicity in mind, but it’s not true. The job description contained the words “Asian” and “gay,” and Lee’s first thought was, “I could play that role.” What was probably intended to be a disposable character—remember how long Ari’s assistant Emily lasted?—instead became a regular, complete with his name in lights in the opening credits along with the boys.

Fifteen years after Margaret Cho made short-lived history with “All-American Girl” on ABC, are more opportunities opening up for Asian-American actors?

“I think it is a tiny bit easier,” hedges Lee. “I wish it was more easy.” Growing up, he found no one on TV to identify with. But the problem with “All-American Girl” was the writing, Lee says, not Cho, who now has a supporting role on “Drop Dead Diva.”

“I wouldn’t say that progress hasn’t been made,” says Sarah Smith Nester, spokeswoman for the OCA, an Asian-American advocacy group. “It certainly has. But very rarely do you see an Asian-American man playing the love interest in an American film. Very rarely do you find a female role that isn’t stereotypically demure or very aggressive.”

At this point, Lee feels immune to Ari’s insults. Piven would repeatedly apologize to Lee during their first scenes together, when Ari would launch his flamboyantly offensive tirades against Lloyd.

Lee’s reaction? “Oh, please.” Further apologies would not be necessary.

But some of us are hoping that Lloyd, at least, will get his revenge.

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