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May 2002

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Two questions, if I may... First, I was wondering if you could tell us about "Bark." I saw some write-ups on it from Sundance and they say that you had the lead role and that you did a great job (of course!). Will we get to see it soon? And second, I read that you just finished filming a movie called "extreme dating" and would like to know more about that too. Thank you Lee!  -- electra

I think Bark is going to come out in September. I'm not clear right now on what is going to happen with Extreme Dating.


Is there a role/character that you have portrayed that you are most proud of? And if yes, which one? -- Kelly


I think the character's name is Tobias Beecher


Dear Lee: Being a huge fan of all of your work, it was a huge thrill of mine to get to meet you in person at the Oz DVD signing. I was torn between wanting to gush all over you and wanting to respect your personal space.  So my question is, there a right way and/or a wrong way for fans to approach you, in your opinion? How do you feel when they do?  -- Liza


I truly appreciate it.


Do your wife and family members watch Oz? How do they react? -- n.

Like you do I would imagine. They support me fully.


Hi Mr. Tergesen --
Thanks for many fine and nuanced performances over the years! (Okay, particularly Beecher...) A question that's fascinated me since I began watching OZ-- from where do you think, having played one of the most complex characters on OZ, fans' general love for the bad guys of the show comes? I don't mean just Beecher and his nuanced development, but complete love for guys like Adebisi. I get ragged for liking McManus, because he's just not seen as smart or clever like the guys doing the shanking. Is OZ appealing to a darkness in us or are we simply fans of power, people who show power like Vern? Because man-- the only con in OZ I can imagine having to dinner is probably Hill-- and he's not in good shape now! Then again I know some guys like the OZ characters. Sorry for the length -- good luck this year! 
--- Sam Lopez

I think the show works on a lot of different levels, and I think that it's fun to watch, for instance, Adebisi -- just to see a character who is sort of, you know, they're so distinct. Everybody has their own agenda, everybody is really working out of a belief system, and we all have a belief system. One of the things that's good about the show, that I think I said last time, is that you watch it long enough and you're going to find some connection to all the characters, understand why they do what they do. And I think that there's just something, you know -- I think even in real life, people who just completely live by their own rules and seem to stand outside society are fascinating. Like I was just reading this article about Mike Tyson. It's like, why does anyone still let him get in the public eye? They are fascinated with it. The animal part of ourselves, that we all to some degree understand that we were. I mean, we're "civilized," but there are a lot of times you want to cut somebody's head off. But we don't. And so I think it's a release, to watch characters like that do those horrible things. And it's also like a car crash; we all slow down to take a look, even though it could mean that we're about to see somebody whose life has just ended. But we have some kind of sick curiosity, we want to take a look.

My dad used to say, about life, I just want to not judge, and keep my eyes on it, whatever it is that comes in front of me. And I think it's like that. We're here, we want to see the weird twisted shit because we know it exists.

Lee, you were so wonderful in "Shot in the Heart." You captured the bewildered despair of Frank Jr. so well. How did you prepare for that role? Did you meet the real Frank? Were you familiar with the story of Gary Gilmore before you took on the role?
--- ATL

I knew who Gary Gilmore was. I hadn't seen or read anything really about him, I didn't see Executioner's Song, but one of the most important things was that I read the book "Shot in the Heart," and there's a lot in that book dedicated to Frank. And I also met with Mikal Gilmore, who wrote the book. And I think as you see in the movie, Frank is somebody who was reclusive. I really never even thought to try and hook up with him, and it was never offered to me. I'm not even sure Mikal knows where he is, exactly. I mean, I'm sure he does, but it just seemed like he's such a private guy, and he's trying to put all that behind him... it would have been an invasion.

The other thing that was really useful to me was the pictures that were in the book. I drew a lot from it, just the way he was in the pictures in the book. I actually, physically, was doing things that I saw. It's almost not noticeable in the movie because everything is so close, but there were things about the way he held himself that I thought told a lot about who he was. And the last third of the book, which is basically dedicated to Frank, when he finds him and Frank starts telling him. Frank mostly told him most of that book. And I was on a plane reading it, going out to LA, and I swear to God, I kept breaking down and crying on the plane. The guy is such a heartbreaking character. As opposed to Gary, who sort of....they were sort of living the same life, but Gary lashed out at the world, while Frank totally sucked into himself and tried to eat it all, you know? I think he's a really noble character. I think he's the hero of the book.

 From Jerry From Jamaica N.Y.:

What up Lee; I have been watching Oz for 4 years now. How do you and Chris Meloni work so well on screen?  

Magic.  I don't know how to explain it.  I have to say, the first time I met him, I went to Tom and I was like, this guy is a dick. But you know, we talked a lot about what we were going to do and we really got on the same page about what we wanted to do with it, and I think there's something about the way we work together and what we had to do that just is sort of unexplainable. I can't really say what it is. But we also spend a lot of time together, and developed... we took a couple of trips together and stuff like that, to develop a relationship of our own, which, you know, is very strong.

Will Beecher character help Chris Keller get out of death row?

Hmmm, I don't know.... Don't ask me fucking questions like that!  [laughs]

Hello! My question for Lee is: Having played so wonderful the role of a prisoner which tries to find himself, to find God and forgive the others (so few being capable of real forgivness) what do you thinck about the prisoners who are sent to death and about death penalty in the USA and of course all around the world ? Thanks a lot.
--- Andra

I don't know that I have a strong feeling about it one way or another. I'm not really clear on how it all works, how they decide that one crime is worthy of it and one isn't. Like in the case of Gary Gilmore, where he requested it, I think in that case I don't really have a problem with that. I mean, if the guy knows he's going to spend the rest of his life in jail, and would rather not, then you know... I don't know. I really don't know. And part of me feels like, if the guy is serving like four consecutive life sentences, what is the point? We decide we're just going to house him forever? I don't know. On the other hand, people can, even though they have done crimes to keep them in prison their entire life, they can turn around, and make a difference. It's a really tough question.

Mr. Tergesen, Mr. Meloni has a specific cute nickname for you which he uses often. do you have a similar adorable nickname for him?
--- Lizz

Well, actually, there's two. I like to call him El Moni... and I also like to call him "sir."

Dear Lee: On behalf of Tergesenites everywhere, I want to thank you for all the wonderful work you've done and sharing your gift with us. I first discovered you on Homicide and you just broke my heart in your scenes as Chris Thorman. It wasn't until after seeing Oz that I realized you were the same actor who played in Wayne's World and Weird Science, and I was awed all over again by your many talents! My question is, what's up for you next? Are you working on something new? We need you on the big screen and lots of Lee on the TV every week!
--- missy

Well, I think I mentioned that there's this movie "Bark" that I did, that I think is coming out in the fall, and I did a movie called "Extreme Dating" that I don't know when it's going to come out, and right now... I have been auditioning, and now that Oz is ending there's definitely possibilities. There's a lot of possibilities. Right now I don't know what I'm going to do when we're done, but I'll let you know when I do.

From everything I've seen, you seem to have a great relationship with Tom Fontana. And he obviously appreciates your talent as much as your fans do! How is it to work with him? 
  --- marianne f.

He's a dick.

My name is Pete and my question is for advice. I am an aspiring actor and writer [but a very bad one]. I have been off and on the streets since I was 10 years old and all I ever wanted to do is act. I was wondering if you could give me advice on how to go about getting a break into acting? Thank you for your time and I hope you can reply to my letter. Thank you for your time. P.S I love your show "Oz" and try to catch it when I can, but it is hard when I am bouncing around from place to place. I also have a character idea for "Oz" that I would like advice on.
 --- Pete

Well, my advice would be that your acting or your writing is not yours to judge, so saying "I'm not very good at this" is some sort of protective mechanism, and it will keep you from sharing it with people. You have to be willing to fearlessly expose yourself, you know? And I don't mean get naked, but to do it, and stay active. If it's what you want to do, there are always ways to do it. Just because I'm on this TV show doesn't mean that it's any more satisfying then some guy who runs a theater in the Midwest and acts in productions there, or directs there, or writes for it there, you know? It's about getting to the people.

Who is [legitimately] the toughest person on the set of "Oz"?

On the set? I'd have to say it's Tom Fontana! I mean, one false word and you're out! It may look like O'Reily kills a lot of people, but it's fucking Tom Fontana! He's responsible for every death in Oz. And even the toughest of the guys who are on the show do NOT mouth off to him.

The "I'm not Gay but my Boyfriend is" shirt he wore to a Season Premier... what was that about? Btw... I think he looked just beautiful in his and Meloni's scenes, and I'm not a guy.

Dean Winters had given it to Leslie as a present, and I just thought it would be funny for me to wear it, considering my relationship with Meloni.

Hi, Lee. My name is Roxana and I`m very, very fan of you. I have to tell you that I love OZ and a think that your character is amazing. I also saw you in others performances like an "Homicide", "Shaft", "Wayne`s World" and anothers. I would like to know how long do you take ready a character? Sorry, my english isn`t very good because I still learned it. I appreciate an answer. Gracias, Lee. Un beso para tý desde el Per¨. Your fan, Roxana :)

It depends on how much time I have. Sometimes you'll do an episode of a television show and you only have a matter of days, sometimes you have longer. With Oz, obviously, it's been an ongoing process, you know, so it's hard to say. I'm always thinking about things, and trying to figure out what is common with the character and I, and there's lots of different things I'll do, depending. And I don't give those tricks away. All that aside, the most important preparation is really so that when you get into the scene, you can be relaxed and have things at your disposal if you get lost. And really what's important is being present when you're doing the scene.

Hi Lee, I read on Steven Wishnoff's site that you stayed in the casts all day while filming the "broken Beecher" scenes. Steven said "Lee was such a trooper! He stayed in the plaster all day!". So um, who gave you a hand (no pun intended) in the bathroom? Enquiring minds want to know.......
 --- Beth

You know, I have to say I don't really remember the day that well, and it didn't seem to me like I was in it all day. I can't really remember. I thank Steve for saying I'm such a trooper, but... And also, compared to some of the things I had to do on Weird Science, that didn't really match up!

You have a lovely and beautiful voice. Your brother's the music supervisor. Will we ever get an Oz CD of the actual music/Poet's poetry played on the show? 
 --- young

I don't think so, but I don't know.

You are about 20 pounds thinner than in S1, was it the original plan that Toby should streamline? you were not fat or anything. How did you do it? You look great either way. 
--- young

Yeah, actually, I did lose about 20 pounds. I think I weighed like 194, 192, when I started the show, and one of the ideas that I sort of have been working with with the character is that as time went on -- who he thought he was, the changes he went through -- he would come more into focus, as a person. And so.. I mean, I didn't put ON the weight for the character. You know, I was living out in LA back then, and... [laughs]  But I did take the weight OFF for it.

Hi, Lee My name is Roxana and I┤m from Per˙. I love OZ and my favorite character is yours. Sorry my english isn┤t very good. You are an amazing actor and I wish very good things to you. I would like to know if you have a new project after OZ and what character do you like to play? Thank you for your answer. 

I like to play the kind of characters that they let me. And I've always been sort of attracted to characters that are damaged. Because you know, let's face it, we're all damaged.

From Beth:

Hi Lee, I asked Chris some questions about you over on his Q&A page and I wanted to ask you the *same* questions about *him*. 

1.  If you took a sip out of Chris' glass, would he still drink from it?


2.  If you were sick with a bad cold or stomach virus at work, would Chris stay as far away from you as possible or would he still hang out with you? 

He'd hang out with me... of course he'd hang out with me!

3.  Would Chris have a problem telling you any of the following: a) if you were in need of a breath mint b) if your fly was down c) if you had a booger that was visible 

Well, let me just say that I would never get so close to him without having refreshed my breath. If my fly was open for more than ten minutes and he hadn't sucked my cock, I'd close it. And I don't ever have boogers in my nose!

4. Does Chris feel comfortable enough around you to show you his true feelings? (tears, anger, fear, sense of humor etc.)

I would hope so.

Would Chris give you an honest opinion about something (if you asked him) or would he spare your feelings?

He's very honest. Almost too honest.

Thanks so much for playing! Be sure to go by his site and read his answers to these same questions about you. You're a sweetie.

From Carla and Lizz:

First of all, I wanted to thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, we're a greedy bunch, aren't we?


I have a few questions for you. We hear that you're currently filming the last ever series of Oz. If it were up to you, how would you personally like the Beecher and Keller storyline to conclude?

I would like it to end exactly the way it's going to. I go a!ong for the ride.  I'm not like, "God, it would be great if we ended up ballroom dancing!"

Do you have any favourite memories of working on Oz?

There's so many. Well, I have to say that maybe, probably the favorite moment was in the first season when I finally got to go crazy and I busted that glass which got into Schillinger's eyes. That was SUCH a release after what I had been through! It was fun. And actually, I don't know if you can really tell, but they had me hooked up to this harness, to the ceiling, because there was a section of it that was supposed to be trippy, because I was supposed to be on PCP. And I had to step on to the railing there, and I ended up with my feet on the railing but being parallel to the ground, which was a freaky feeling. So that was a pretty good one.

Are you planning on working with any of the actors or crew from the series in the future?

Never! No way. Nuh-uh. Unless something comes up... Actually, you know what? I would actually love to do a Starsky and Hutch movie with Chris Meloni.

From the webmaster  (I had to ask, I couldn't resist): "Which one would you want to play?"

Starsky!  But I'd probably have to be Hutch. [sighs]  

And one final question, how well do you and Chris really get along? Come on, tell us, we really want to know!

Well, you know, I have to say that this is the kind of question that to me, seems like it answers itself. I mean, do you think that it would be possible for us to have the relationship that we have on the show and not like each other? We have a very strong bond. And you know, it's the kind of thing where, because of one thing or the other, me being away or him being away, we won't see each other, and with him working on SVU and now with his family, you know, a long period could go by where we don't see each other, but whenever we do, if it's for twenty minutes or twelve hours, we immediately drop into the relationship we have. We have a very strong relationship. And we love telling each other stories.

From SP:

Actually, I would like to be so bold as to ask 3.  What was the most difficult scene he has filmed and why?

I really don't look at it like that. You know, so it's hard for me to say. I mean, sometimes things are difficult technically, sometimes difficult emotionally, but you know, there's a level of difficulty to everything.

Favorite CD's, movies, books?

CD's:  Kiss "Alive";  Fun Lovin' Criminals "100% Columbian";  Tool "Undertow";  Zeppelin "I"; and the No Doubt record "Rock Steady", I've been playing that a lot lately.
Books: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Swift Justice, The Stand, Shot in the Heart
Movies: Saturday Night Fever, Groundhog Day. Anything I'm in!  And I love "Hair". I could watch it a million times.

Dare him to take the intrusive personal question test [ from the leetergesen.net forum ]. 

webmaster's note:  It appears at the bottom of this page.

Dearest Lee, My question is fairly simple-- would you please come sit on my couch for about an hour or so? That's all, just sit there and look sexy. You wouldn't even have to speak to me if you didn't want to. I'll feed you, pet you and tell you that you're pretty, and gaze adoringly at you. What the hell, I'll even pay you. Doesn't that sound totally marvy? Yes, I thought so too. So, when I should I expect you? Don't take too long now, or I may have to ask Christopher Meloni to do it instead. You wouldn't want to be upstaged by HIM, now would you? Love and chocolate, Emily in MD

I'm coming!  What's your address?!  You sick fuck.

Hi Lee, My name's Teresa and I'm happy you have decided to answer questions for us. Okay here's mine. While playing Toby you have had to do some pretty tough things, what was the hardest for you to do? 
--- Teresa

Maybe the scene where I talked to Hill about how he should deal with the loss of his mother, and how he should picture her rotting.

From "Nameless Lurker":

Dear Lee (or mr. Tergesen. or snookems. whichever.) Just a few quick questions:

Which feature do you like most on your body? Which do you hate?

Like:  My eyes.  Hate:  Hair that grows in odd places.

If you were on a plane with the Cast of OZ, and you crashed in the mountains, who would you eat first and why?  

Who would YOU eat first? 

Will you miss Beecher as much as I will? Will you? Because I don't think so, buddy! 
--- Maya

Dear, Beecher doesn't exist.

If you could keep something of Beecher's as a souvenir of your Oz experience, what would you keep?
--- Maya

Maybe one of the latex swastikas.

Hi, Lee. I`m Fiola and I`m your fan number 1 though I know you have a lot fans number 
1. I`d like to know what things do you like in a woman and are you a romantic person? Thanks a ton of kisses for you
 --- Fiola

A sense of humor, honesty.  I'd say I'm more sentimental than romantic.

From Danielle:

Hi Lee! I wanted to tell you what a fantastic actor you are and how nice it is that you would take time out to answer fans questions. Ok, here goes:  After careful scrutiny of that kiss on the season 5 finale, it appears that you may have slipped Chris tongue first, I may be wrong, could you clarify?

You tell me what YOU saw. I don't kiss and tell.

One more. Does he taste as good as he looks?


Thanks for answering, and next time, I promise they'll be a little tamer.

Christy's Intrusive Personal Question Test 
(from the leetergesen.net forum):

Name 5 things we would find in your bedroom.

1. A bed. Actually, we bought this really cool canopy bed that has these steel bars that I can do pull ups on. It's such a awesome bed. And I digress...
2. A lot of candles
3. A couple of elephant lamps
4. A rocking chair my grandfather made
5. A bottle of water. 

Gimme 3 small but great moments in your life (ie, gimme something more creative than my wedding or the birth of my kid or my college graduation - hey, I cut it down to three ):

1. When I went out to LA with Tom Fontana to help him move back from California, maybe seven months after I had met him, back in 1989. I had quit my job at the Empire Diner (where I met Tom, and also where I met Leslie, my wife, and actually my first wife, Tanya too). I had quit my job in June to concentrate on acting, and in August nothing was happening, and Tom -- we had just done a play together, and he said, "Why don't you come out with me, and you'll help me move my stuff back, and you can look out there." I was going to look for another waiting-on-tables job. So we went out on a Saturday, and on Sunday night we went out to dinner with a friend of his, Rick Pagano, who's a casting director, who said, "Hey, are you an actor?"  I said yeah. "Do you ride a motorcycle?" I was like, "Yeah...?"  "There's this part we've been trying to cast for about a month, on Point Break. You should come in and read for it in the morning." So I went in the next morning and I read for the thing, he put me on tape, and I went down and was sitting by the pool. Tom was out having a meeting, and he came back and he said, "Did you hear that strange message for you?"  And I go up to the house, and the message is:  "Hi Lee, it's Rick, I showed the tape to [loud static noise] and she thinks that [loud static noise] so give me a call!"  And I called him, and what he had said was that I had the job. It was five weeks work, and it was my first -- well, not the first time I got paid, but the beginning of me never having to do anything else but act. And I didn't leave California for nine years. I was like, "I don't have to be told twice! I'll stay!" 

2.  This one is a double. The night of the wrap party of the third year of Oz, I was with Leslie (and like I have said, her and I have been friends since like 1986). We were hanging out a lot during that three month period I was back for the third season. And we went out dancing after the wrap party, and we were sitting on the couch somewhere in the back of the club, and I heard in my head, just crystal clear, just one voice -- you know, usually there's so much clatter up there --- that said, "Why aren't you with her?" The next day I decided I was going to move back to New York. And I was back in New York in less than a month after that. I went out to LA, packed up my stuff, and drove cross country to come back here. But I had decided I wasn't going to tell her that I was moving back because I thought something was going to happen between us -- because, you know, I was divorced, and my heart was just broken, and I was afraid of extending myself, and I was also afraid of rushing into anything with Leslie and ruining our friendship, which is very important to me. So I told her I was moving back because my family was here, and my work, my friends, blah blah blah. So on Memorial Day weekend, my friend Ivan and his wife Julie were getting married in San Francisco -- and this was before I drove back to New York with my stuff, it was right in the middle of it -- and I drove my motorcycle up there. Leslie came to the wedding too, because we're all, you know, like one big circle of friends, and the night of that wedding, her and I again went out. We went dancing with Dean Winters, and Dean left around 5 o'clock in the morning, and her and I were dancing... and I thought to myself, if I die driving back to L.A. on my motorcycle, she'll never know how much I love her. And about five minutes after that, maybe ten minutes after that, we had stopped dancing completely and we were just standing in the middle of the dance floor, holding on to each other, and she started to weep. And I said, "Hey what's wrong?" And she said, "Don't you feel this, what's between us?" And this moment was unbelievable for me, because I felt like the Grinch. My heart all of a sudden was like...boom. I couldn't bullshit anymore, or hide to protect myself. And I said, "Yeah, I feel it." 

And still, telling the story right now, I feel the same emotions. It's wild. We spent two extra days in San Francisco and basically plotted the course of our relationship. 

3.  When I was 24, my mother was dying of cancer, and I had had a plan to go down to New Orleans on my motorcycle with some friends who were going to drive in a car -- Leslie was one of them, although we weren't anywhere near together at that point. And we knew it was very close to the end of my mother's life, but she sort of encouraged me to go. And I drove down there; it took like three days to get down there, and I think I was there for like four days or something like that, and one day we did some mushrooms and it was like first thing in the morning and I was just starting to trip, and I was laying on the floor and The Doors song "The End" was playing -- there's a lyric in the beginning of the song and it's something like, "This is the end, beautiful friend, the end, I'll never look into your eyes again" -- and I started to cry, because I knew I was never going to look into my mother's eyes coherently again. So then when I headed back, it took like three days to get back, and the entire way I was having this intense migraine headache, this intense pain in my head. It was agonizing. And I got back, it was like four o'clock in the afternoon, and I went right up to the hospital, and my mother was in hospice, which is where they just, you know, keep you comfortable. We spent some time there, and then we went home and had dinner, and we were ready to go to bed, and the hospital called and said that her breathing was irregular and that it looked like it wasn't going to be long. So were were all a little dazed, and we just kept doing what we were doing, and all of a sudden we realized we had to go up to her. We got up to the hospital around midnight, and they tell you at hospice that the last thing to go is the hearing, and she was struggling, you know, she wasn't coherent -- and what you have to do is, you have to tell them it's okay to let go, so we were all doing that. And at like three o'clock in the morning, my mother rolled to her side, touched my hand, said "Lee", and died. And I thank her so much for waiting for me.

Three adventures you'd love to go on before you die (all things being ideal - don't get stuck in reality):

Go to London, hook up with Eamonn (Walker, who plays Said) and his wife Sandra. I'd like to go to an Asian place, maybe Japan or Thailand or something like that. And I'd love to do a cruise on a private boat, like a multi-week thing where you just sort of head out and sort of cruise, you could sleep in...

3 Guilty pleasures:

I don't experience guilt, but I definitely experience quite a bit of pleasure

Last great book you read:  

"The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon", or "Pursuit of Happiness" by the Dalai Lama. 

Favorite on-screen sex scene: 

That scene in "No Way Out" in the back of the limo.

If I could be anywhere right now, I'd be...  

Where I am.

What's in your CD player right now?  

Kiss "Alive!"

And finally, the infamous Inside the Actor's Studio questions: 

What is your favorite word?   acceptance

What is your least favorite word?  hate

What turns you on (creatively, spiritually, emotionally)?  relatedness

What turns you off?  closed-mindedness

What sound do you love?  waves

What sound do you hate?  whining

What is your favorite curse word? Jesus Cock!  I made that one up.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?  Rock star!

What profession would you not like to attempt?  Mortician.

If heaven exists, what would you like God to say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? "I've been waiting for you."


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