Credits + Pics

Buyer's Guide

Lee Links

Ask Lee

Site Info



Lee Tergesen sinks his teeth into second-season return of HBO's Oz

By Gail Shister
The News-Times online edition, Connecticut
July 7, 1998

When Lee Tergesen read the script for Saturday's second-season sneak preview of HBO's grisly prison drama "Oz,'' he thought: "Oh, dear God. Another TV first.''

In a bone-chilling scene, Tergesen's character, Tobias Beecher, a lawyer-turned-psycho serving 15 years for a drunken-driving accident, bites into an appetizer only Lorena Bobbitt could love. As production of the episode approached, "everybody got more and more freaked. It was so intense," he recalls.

Tergesen says he called "Oz" creator Tom Fontana and told him he was "the sickest" guy he knows. Not one to be deterred by a compliment, Fontana "asked me what I thought of the script. I said, 'For you, I'll do it.' ''

Having lived through a season of unspeakable degradation on "Oz," Tergesen steeled himself and did his dramatic duty. In retrospect, he labels the scene "a great moment for my character. He's drawn the line. He will do anything to keep himself from being killed."

Cynics might argue that starring in "Oz" could get an actor's career killed. Particularly one whose most memorable credit is "Terry, the cameraman" in "Wayne's World."

Instead, the acclaimed "Oz" - which takes over its regular 10 p.m. Monday slot next week - has garnered kudos for Tergesen, along with Ernie Hudson, Rita Moreno, Terry Kinney, Eamonn Walker and Dean Winters.

"We were all surprised it was a hit," says Tergesen, 32, whose brother, Chris, is Oz's music supervisor. "I was pretty humiliated in the first eight episodes. As horrible as the show is, we care about it. I'm working with some of the greatest actors I've ever met.''

Over the course of last season, Tergesen's Tobias Beecher was slowly transformed from a naive, slaughter-bound lamb to a hardened, mad survivor.

"At first, I saw him as a poor guy in the wrong place," muses Tergesen. "Now, after having everything stripped away from him - his freedom, his family, his profession - he's evil. He's using what's at his core. Lawyers play with power. They're opportunists, and they can be vengeful."

Truth be told, Tergesen is not a complete stranger to prison.

He says he spent a night in jail in L.A. and lost his license for 18 months after being arrested for driving while intoxicated in April 1992. Tergesen had been sentenced to 10 days, he says, but because the incident occurred just after the riots that followed the Rodney King verdicts, "they sent me home after one day."

After "Oz's" exhausting intensity, Tergesen will take a breather with a "fun" project - as a bad guy in Jean Claude Van Damme's big-screen "Inferno." ["Desert Heat"] Production begins this month.


Oz main page