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January 2004

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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 you've played?

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 in?

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 commemorate you?

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 regretted it?

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 stupid.

There are no stupid questions!  Only stupid people.

name unknown:

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 it!"

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 its toll. 

Thanks for your time Lee - I hope to get to actually see you The Exonerated. Bye bye.


Hi Lee,
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 year?

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!


Hi Lee,
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, though. 

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 to--captivate me. 

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 stuff.

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 questions.

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 get out.

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 going!

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 opinion!"?

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.


Hello Mr.Tergesen:
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 famously.  Surprisingly.

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 Tergesen!


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 not there.

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* heheheee...

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, motherfuckers!

Thanks again for your answers, if and when they come...it's cool that you're so accessible! You RULE


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