Ask Lee main page
My name's Ian, I'm a huge
fan of your work. It was cool to see you on the series
premiere of "Hack," great job as usual. I'm an actor
living in Toronto and plan to work with you someday. I
was wondering about any training you've had, and also if
you've read "Respect For Acting" by Uta Hagen? If so,
what did you think? Take care.
I went to a musical theater school called AMDA in New
York, the American Musical and Dramatical Academy, and I
studied the Meisner technique, and I studied privately a
little bit. And yeah, it's a great book. It's like
anything -- there are things you take from it, and
things you don't take from it.
After watching you play Beecher for six years and
completely inhabit that role, it's easy to forget that
you're playing a character who isn't really you. Of all
the characters you've played, which one would you say is
the most similar to you personally?
Beecher! [laughs] No.
No. I don't know, probably Terry in Wayne's World. Or
maybe... I can't remember the character's name, but that
movie I did for Showtime with Laura Linney. Black Iris,
or Wild Iris.
In one of your previous
answers you said that acting can be a cathartic thing
because you get to explore human experiences that you
might not otherwise explore. I thought that was such a
great insight into the art of acting, and why people are
compelled to do it. With that in mind, what would you
say you've learned, as a person, through the roles
I think I learned that... hmm,
what did I learn? That everybody is the same in some
ways, and that we all are doing what we're doing because
we think we're right. And that we're all flawed.
Along the same lines.....
now that you have years of experience behind you, what
have you learned about acting that you didn't know going
I think when I was starting
out, before I was making a living at it, I thought that
it was gonna fill something in me that I felt was empty.
And I found out pretty much as soon as I started doing
it that it wasn't going to fill that, you know? It was
just what I loved to do.
Dear Lee, let's say a bunch
of us are considering getting together and organizing a
convention for Tergesen fans. A Lee-Con, if you will.
What types of things should we do, to honor and
Let's see. Strippers,
karaoke... and did I mention strippers? And everybody
bring a joke. And everybody do an impersonation of me.
I'm a huge fan like everyone
else and I'm sure you're busy, so I'll just ask 3 simple
questions in hopes that maybe you will answer it (unless
it was already asked and I missed it):
Out of all the roles you've done, is there one you
aren't especially proud of?
No, I wouldn't say that. There's different levels of
everything. Some are more fun to do, some are a pain in
the ass, but ultimately I'm proud of what I do in
general. So even if I have fucked up certain things,
things I thought I could have done better, I try not to
judge it. It's not really mine to judge. I'm proud of
having done what I set out to do.
Has there ever been a role
you were offered that you turned down then later
No... although I just turned
down this independent movie, and only time will tell if
I regret it.
Do you have a favorite part
of Connecticut? (I'm originally from Mansfield and now I
live in Hartford)
Well, one of my favorite areas
is probably Lyme. I spent some years there when I was
in my pre-teens. You know, it's famous now for Lyme
disease... it's really beautiful, right on the water.
Sorry if my questions are
There are no stupid questions!
Only stupid people.
Hi Lee. I saw you in The
Exonerated last Sunday, actually I saw you before The
Exonerated outside the theater when I made a fool out of
myself by practically coming to a dead stop on the busy
sidewalk when I saw you! I didn't have the nerve to
approach you but if I had I would have told you that I
am a big fan of yours, especially on Oz. I love
Beecher!!! Unfortunately I saw you more outside the
theater because, just my luck, there was a huge pole
blocking my view of you!! Anyway, on to my question.
"Listening" to your performance in The Exonerated, I
noticed there was a lot of similarities in Kerry and
Beecher's stories - the "branding" is one. So, I
wondered if you were asked to do the part because of
that, or if you pursued the part?
Yeah, I think that the
similarities were part of the reason why they asked me
to do it. Also, I knew the casting director, and I
think they knew that I could do something with it. It's
funny because the actual guy, who I played, who I think
is still living in New York, I got to sit down and talk
to him at one point, and at first he was kind of
dismissive of the show. And I thought, wow, that's
weird that he feels like that about the show -- and it
turns out that he had never seen it. So I started
telling him about it, about what my character went
through, and he was like, "Holy shit! I've gotta see
And also, I've read previous
answers about the physical transformations you've gone
through as Beecher and I was curious about the last
season where Beecher/you were very thin, frail almost -
like a delicate little bird!!!, especially the first
couple of episodes (and the short hair). Was this a
Beecher "look" or did you just happen to be really thin
and decide to cut your hair?
Yeah, the hair thing was sort
of Tom Fontana's idea. And I was sort of thin then.
But, yeah, I lost the weight for the part. My idea was
that it was taking its toll on Beecher. Oz was taking
Thanks for your time Lee - I
hope to get to actually see you The Exonerated. Bye bye.
I discovered your great acting performances in OZ--and
missed your book signings and other performances this
past year in NYC. Will you be in any other plays this
I don't know. But there's
gonna be another DVD signing, so...
What about another guest
spot in THE EXONERATED?
Yeah, I don't know about that.
I recently talked to the casting director, but the guy
who actually went through it has been doing it recently,
so I don't think they need me.
You have a great web
site--please give us fans a lot of notice where we can
see you in person. Also, Fontana will be a guest
lecturer in Buffalo State College this Fall 2003--will
you ever make your way up there for any productions?
Thanks and good luck.
I was actually up there for one
day, but... that was actually last fall, now. But
we're catching up!
I have been watching re-runs of OZ on HBO-Zone and (like
many others) find your acting incredible. As someone who
has never acted can you tell me how you prepared for
your OZ. I know you have addressed this before, but how
much preparation does it take on your part to be so
multi-faceted. You play so many different roles, from
being polite, drunk, tearful, depressed, hateful,
loving, sacrastic, vengeful, innocent, bitter, etc.
Question: where do you draw your moods from--you really
can take on so many situations (unlike any other OZ
character). Did your initial training as an actor teach
you this stuff?
A lot of that is just a
combination of what I'm given in the script, and
intuition. And trying to keep it different and explore
as much as I can. A lot of it was in the writing,
Do you personally do
research to play unique roles?
It depends on the role. Certain
things you don't really need to research, some things
you do. Ultimately, the research is so that when you
get on the set you can feel comfortable and do what you
have to do. So, depending on the part, I make my
decisions from there.
Also, I saw you on HBO "STRETCH" before some OZ
episodes. Can you tell us about that?
Yeah. Dean Winters knew Angie
Martinez, the host of the show, and the last episodes
were airing, I guess, and I think Angie wanted to do it
and HBO wanted to do it, so... It was a blast to just
hang out and bullshit with Dean in the limo.
I was re-watching Season 6, more than recently, and
was comparing "Pro-bono Beecher" to the many
incarnations of the character and realized 'he' is my
favorite. But most importantly I have taken note on how
gorgeous you are. Not that I've ever thought other wise
of course, but during this past season your look--as
well your phenomenal acting which always continues
1. Aside from the sexy buzz cut & baby-face-shave you
were sporting during Season 6, you looked (slightly)
different to me. I'm wondering is this due to you losing
weight? Or am I just crazy?
Your therapist should answer that question! [laughs]
But I have to say, I'm like fine wine, you know? I get
better with age. You know, until I turn rancid.
2. There was an article in
The Advocate where you, Chris, and Tom were interviewed.
One of the paragraphs (if I remember correctly) depicted
a scene where both you & Chris had to "push the
envelope" which left one of the directors uncomfortable
and had caused him to yell "cut" several times-- which
you called him out for. Can you tell me which exact
scene and episode this occurred in? What made this
insane director feel so uneasy?
The scene was, I think it was Season 4? Well, you'd
probably know this better than me. The one with the
French guy with the shoes? Chris had gotten shot, and
we were in the pod, and I take the bandage off and start
kissing the wound at the end of the scene, after we
talked about my kids being kidnapped and stuff like
that. He [the director] actually came running in, and I
said to him, "Hey can you just let the scene run a
little longer?" And he goes, "What are you gonna do,
blow him?" And I was like, "Maybe." [laughs]
3. Are there any scenes in Season 6 that come to
mind, involving your character along with Keller, that
were cut due to time?
Well, Tom Fontana is a smart guy. He very rarely cuts my
I'm in complete awe of your immense talents and am
very much looking forward to seeing you in future
projects. Stay cute, sweet, and irresistibly funny-- my
yearbook shout-out to ya, lol.
Thanks for your time, it's greatly appreciated.
Hello, I'm French, and I'm a big big fan of Oz and of
Tobias Beecher, your character. I just wanted to know
if it was difficult for you, as a man, to kiss another
man. Thank you to answer me and don't change because
you're one of my favorites actors.
No. It was tres jolie.
My name is Melissa, I am
from Cambridge, Ont, canada. I have a couple of
Are you working on anything new? Haven't seen you in a
bit. (I understand that you were on a few episodes of
Law and Order:Criminal Intent, and it figures that I
don't watch that one).
I'm in "Monster," which is out now, I just finished a
movie called "The Forgotten" with Julianne Moore, and
I'm in a movie called "Thief of Time", which will be on
sometime in the next couple of months.
There was a computer commercial a few years back( I
think it was IBM, but not totally sure), the actor
looked alot like you, and I have been wondering ever
since, was it you?
No. But I am the voice of Advil!
I realize that you get A LOT of questions about Oz,
so I apologize, but I am going to ask you one. To play
the part that you did, you have to have tremendous
acting ability (which you do), was it a little difficult
at first to get into it (the role!)?
No, no. It wasn't difficult. It was more difficult to
You and Meloni played the roles so well, you made
guys I know turn their heads because they couldn't watch
it (homophobic maybe)!!!
Some even refused to watch
Oz all together after they saw you two.(their loss!)
Anyway, thank you for taking
the time to answer my questions.
Hi, Melissa from Cambridge
,Ont, Canada again. I had one more question for you that
I did not submit earlier, my apologies.
A lot of actors are primarily judged on their sex appeal
and/or the sex appeal of the character that they play,
and not always on their acting ability. For instance...
Dean Winters sexy, yourself, sexy, Chris Meloni..sexy,
the characters you all portrayed on Oz, definitely had
sex appeal. Scott Winters is an amazing talent, not to
mention hot and very sexy, but his character Cyril did
not have that appeal. I have looked out of curiosity
and Scott Winters does not have websites devoted to him
as you all do. I can only imagine it is because of his
character, and not the fact that he is an extreme
pleasure to look at or a remarkable actor.. My question
is this... Do you as an actor think that it is
unfortunate that actors are judged on sex appeal and not
so much their acting ability? Or do you think by
choosing such roles (as Cyril) the actor kind of expects
such a reaction?
I don't know. The sex appeal thing, to me, I think it
depends on your point of view. I'm sure there are
people who don't think the people you think are sexy
are, and others who think Ernie Hudson is the sexiest.
People aren't doing it because they're sexy. And
actually, Scott didn't pick that part, Tom wrote it for
him. And Tom writes for an actor's strengths -- so if
you see that I'm doing sexy, well... you see where I'm
And finally, at the end of the day does it really
matter if you have such things as websites devoted to
you? Or is it more of a "I nailed it, fuck everyone's
Yeah, I don't think everybody sets out with a goal like,
"God all I want is a website!" [laughs] But it's
really nice to have one. Especially when you have a
wonderful webmaster like Dori. Web mistress.
Mistress!! [Lee makes a whip-cracking sound]
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my
question(s). I realize that it is long winded, and don't
blame you if you curse me.
I think you are an awesome actor and I am a huge fan of
the series, Oz. I had a question or two for you if I may
ask. I would like to ask you, in season 5 towards the
end of the season, there were some funny singing bits
with you and J K Simmons. How much fun was it to do a
light hearted scene with JK Simmons? And if I may ask,
are you and Mr. Simmons friends off the set?
It was a blast to do that. We
went and recorded it together in a studio. That's what
was so great about that show, you never knew where it
was gonna go. And I had dinner with J. K. a couple
weeks ago, he's living out in LA now. Yeah, we're
friendly. You know, he's not like one of my boys,
like Tom and Dean and Chris, but yeah, we get along
One more question if I may,
what was it like to work with so many great actors and
actresses such as: Rita Moreno, Edie Falco, Chris
Meloni, Ernie Hudson, DeanWinters, Harold Perrineau,
Eammon Walker, Luis Guzman, Kirk Acevedo, etc(too many
to name all)? I am willing to bet that the set of Oz was
a wonderful place to work.
You're right. It was great.
And you didn't name them all! But yeah, it was a great
set to work on. It was really enjoyable and it was a
rather uproarious set.
Thank you for your time, Mr
Dear Mr. Tergesen,
I know this question has probably been asked to death,
but do you think you and Mr. Meloni will ever work
together again? Preferably as a couple? :) You too just
have such great chemistry that it would be a shame not
to see you two together again.
Yeah, I agree. I don't know.
Hard to say. Only time will tell. I actually had an
idea that he and I should do a remake of Starsky and
Hutch, but you know, now they're doing a comedy version
of it with Ben Stiller, so...
Hey, Lee! First off...just
finished reading the latest installment of the ASK LEE
section of the site (all hail Dori, *grin*)...you're a
KISS fan? Dude, you ROCK!!! I'm a massive fan meself...I
loved Peter's role as Martin Montgomery (fear not, I
still love you and Chris the best of anyone on the
show...LOL!) I'm curious...what do you think of Paul &
Gene replacing Ace Frehley with Tommy Thayer? Any
thoughts on Eric Singer wearing the Catman makeup?
Dude! You mistook me for a
bigger KISS fan than I am! [laughs] I'm old school or
I'm nothing at all. If Ace and Peter aren't there, I'm
I'm also curious...do you
read a lot? Who are some of your favorite authors?
I do read quite a bit. I've
read a lot of Stephen King. I don't know that I have a
favorite author. I read a lot of biographies, so I
don't run into a lot of the same authors, reading
those. I recently finished reading "Taming the Beast,"
which is about Charles Manson while he was in jail.
Okay, now an Oz-related
question...I just got hold of the Season 1&2 DVD sets
recently...first off, you play crazy real well! Second,
I was curious, were those wrestling scenes
choreographed? I mean, do you have any wrestling
experience? Ya know if Chris has any?
First I'd just like to say:
"Got a hold of"? Whoever you took them from, you should
return them. Just because it's about prison doesn't
make thievery okay. Yeah, the wrestling things were
choreographed. And I do have a little bit experience
with wrestling. When I was living in LA, I worked at
the Tropicana in Hollywood as a mud wrestler.
And finally, inquiring minds
on the West Coast wanna know...when are you finally
gonna move to Los Angeles so "El Lay" folk such as
myself can bask in the greatness that is you? We got a
GREAT music scene out here! C'mooooon, come see us over
here! We wuv you! *insert big puppy dog eyes here*
I lived in HELL LAY for 9
years. And you know, I could end up out there at any
minute. But New York... ahh, New York. That's a city.
You wanna talk about a music scene? The New York
underground house scene, that's where it's happening,
Thanks again for your
answers, if and when they come...it's cool that you're
so accessible! You RULE