‘Entourage’ Favorite Rex Lee Opens Up

by | August 25, 2009 at 12:37 AM | Celebrities, Cover Story, Interviews

(Alberto Rodriguez, Getty Images)

(Alberto Rodriguez, Getty Images)

Fans of ‘Entourage’ fall into two camps: those who love outrageous, expletive-spewing agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) and those who crave the delicious good looks of movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier). However, both sides agree the HBO series wouldn’t be half the fun it is on Sunday nights if not for Rex Lee, who plays Ari’s long-suffering, patient, openly gay, and brilliant assistant Lloyd.

An Oberlin College graduate who worked in casting while working his way up the full-time acting ranks, Lee joined ‘Entourage’ in its second season and immediately became such an important and enjoyable part of the ensemble that guest star James Woods sought him out on the set. “He said he loved my work and was so excited to have a scene with me,” recalls Lee. “I couldn’t believe James Woods was saying that to me. I was overwhelmed. It was cool.”

See ‘Entourage’ photo gallery.

This sixth season of ‘Entourage’ has seen Lloyd move from the background into the front line, where he has not only fired back at his boss’ incredible racist and homophobic outbursts, he’s also gone public with his intention to have Ari make him an agent – or else. Lee spoke to Fancast about this and more.

Watch Lloyd’s Video Blog

This is a big season for Lloyd. Yes, it’s good. The storyline actually goes somewhere. There are a few twists and turns that no one sees coming, which I am very excited about, because I love it when people don’t know what’s going to happen.

This season seems to have renewed vigor with Vince as a success rather than a failure. Do you have an opinion? It’s hard for me to answer. I am not objective about this show at all. I love the writing. To me, it’s all very interesting.

Watch more ‘Entourage’ highlights.

It’s nice to see you this season getting more screen time and facing more challenges. I want it. I love being part of this show. Like any actor, I want interesting things to happen to my character. I’m fortunate that interesting situations are always happening. But this year I’m really kind of excited about the interesting things that are going to happen.

Do you want to give us some scoop? No.

Fine, but what would Lloyd say if we asked him? He’d say no, too.

We do know that this season Lloyd is struggling with his weight. Ari’s on him about dropping some pounds. Uh-huh.

How is that affecting you off-camera? Did you go on a diet? For various reasons, some that are very deep and psychological and painful, the only time I’ve not been overweight on this show was way back in the beginning, in season 2. So as early as the end of season 3, [executive producer] Doug Ellin was asking me, “Hey, would you mind if I had Ari tell Lloyd to lose weight? And I – in all honesty – I said, “Doug if you make it funny, I’m there and I’m buying it and I love it. If you make it funny, that will excite me.”

But it’s only showing up now? For whatever reason, he didn’t do it until the beginning of season 6.

Do you know why? No, but I can tell you that I was I heavier than before when this season began.

What was your reaction? Once I read in the script that Ari was going to tell Lloyd to lose weight, I thought it was a perfect opportunity for me, Rex, to go ahead and lose weight. People would probably be expecting it. Clearly people were going to ask me about it. I might as well try to do it.

And? And it was the most difficult thing in the world.

What does that mean?
I did not succeed in losing weight.

Ouch, I’m sorry. I want to make something clear. Behind the scenes, in real life, I was never, never, never asked to lose weight. I wanted to try. Then, as I floundered in my failure, I started to wonder if perhaps they never had expected me to lose weight because down the line in episode 9, the beginning of one of Ari’s lines – and I won’t tell you the end of the line because that will give something away – but he starts to say, “Lloyd if you had lost the weight that I told you to… “ After I read that, I thought oh, maybe they never expected me to lose the weight. Maybe I’m off the hook.

What a relief! Well, yeah. Even though I continued to try to lose weight, I stopped stressing about my inability to succeed. I said to myself, “They don’t expect me to lose the weight, fine. Maybe it will get laughs.”

Have you made any progress now that the season has finishing production?
Funny you ask. I’ve been off a month-and-a-half and I’ve really been – I have really been serious about going to see my trainer and I’m really trying to eat right. And I have lost perhaps one pound in the last month-and-a-half.

Congratulations on the pound. Thank you. It was a struggle. I’m proud of it as well.

What is your off screen relationship like with Jeremy and the other guys? It’s great. I don’t think I feel like I’m anybody’s buddy, but it’s very friendly, it’s very professional. I hope that doesn’t sound cold, because that’s not how I mean it. It’s just when we go to work, we’re there to put out a product and we don’t mess around. Everyone is really nice, but we’re very work oriented I guess.

Are you ever offended or surprised by the things Ari says to Lloyd? I don’t really blanche too much. I am aware enough to read an insult and think, oh that is really bad. But I’m never offended by them. At least I can’t remember the last time I was offended by one. If I found myself constantly reading scripts and always being really, really offended by what I read, maybe I’d say something to somebody. But I’m not. I also understand that Ari is an equal opportunity insulter. He insults everyone equally. He spouts things that are offensive to all kinds of people, not just Asian people, not just gay people.

Do you have a favorite scene, one that stands out among all others? The one that comes to mind is at the end of season two. Lloyd drives Ari home after he’s been fired from the agency and he gives him the big speech, the pep talk. I love that scene. It’s been close to four years since that aired and people still mention that they enjoyed or were moved by that one.

How did your audition for the show come about? I had a friend who saw a casting notice, and the casting notice said something along the lines of Asian male a certain age. I was kind of a little older than the age they were looking for in the beginning. But it also said the words, assistant, gay, flamboyant. They used the word flamboyant, subservient. And just, you know, I’m an actor. I said I can do this. I know I can do this. There’s no reason why I can’t do this. So I submitted myself, which is a little unusual, and I was lucky enough to get the audition.

And then? They sent me the sides, the part of the script that they wanted me to audition with and I read them and I thought, I know exactly what to do with this. I wondered will it really be that simple? And it was. I got a call back and then – one of my best memories of my life – is I got a call back, and Doug Ellin and Larry Charles were seated on this very low couch and during my audition t hey were just giggling the whole time. And I knew – I don’t now how, but I knew that they didn’t think I was a joke. I knew that they were laughing because they thought I was funny. If I hadn’t gotten the job, I think it would still be a very good memory. But it certainly helped that I got the job.

How did you actually hear that you got the job? It was a couple weeks after Thanksgiving, and I was in the passenger seat of a car that belonged to this person that I no longer like. Now I would call this person like one of my mortal enemies. But at the time he was my friend and my roommate, and I was in the passenger seat of his car and we were driving somewhere and I got a call saying, “It’s you! You got it.” And I was very excited. This person and I high-fived in the car, and now I hate him.

At the time, were you working as an assistant to a casting director?
Yes, I was an assistant to a casting director, but that was not related to my knowing about the project and submitting myself.

How has having been on the casting side of the business added or affected your perspective on the business as an actor? A lot of the things that I saw and learned while I was in casting, were very helpful – helpful in allowing me to approach my career as an actor in the most healthy way possible, if it were gravy.

Please explain. Casting for commercials is different than casting for film and TV. But basically what I learned is that sometimes the difference between getting a job and not getting a job involved minor things that you really have no control over and it really has nothing to do with your worth as a person or an actor. And that was very important to learn.

You turned 40 this year. Thanks for reminding me, dude.

Did you celebrate? I had a very large birthday party. I basically rented out like a nightclub and I, you know, I invited all my friends over and I bought out the bar, so I had an open bar for my friends and made sure to coordinate with the DJ so that he was only playing music that I loved all night, and we danced all night. And it was really, really cool.

When did you decide you wanted to be an actor? I just knew. The first time I ever said I wanted to be an actor I was 3. But I was one of those kids where, depending on what day you asked me, I would give you a different answer. So as a result nobody really took me seriously when I said I wanted to be an actor. And the fact that nobody took me seriously sort of resulted in my not taking myself too seriously. So I didn’t really pursue it for a really long time, and I didn’t take my first acting class until I was in college. And then once I did, then I was like oh, I just felt like – I felt like my life was off the track and then when I started acting it felt like I was on track.

Did you have any favorite actors when you were a kid?
When I was a kid I didn’t really understand that actors were actors. I mostly thought…you know, I honestly thought that the ‘Six Million Dollar Man’ was a real person and somehow somebody brilliant in Hollywood found him and decided to turn the camera on him and his life adventures. So who was I inspired by as a kid? Lee Majors, ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’, Lindsay Wagner as Jaimie Sommers, ‘The Bionic Woman’, Linda Carter as ‘Wonder Woman’…do you know what I mean?

Funny. I used to watch Sonny & Cher when I was a kid. Do you remember the weird thing that Cher would do with her hand, like her arm was at her side, but her hand would hang down? I would just walk around doing that. I loved walking around pretending I was Cher.

That begs an obvious question or two. I know, I know…I didn’t actually become aware that I was gay until I was like 15 or 16. I didn’t know I was gay wired.

That doesn’t sound out of the ordinary. When I was a kid I honestly would meet girls and say I’m going to marry you some day. So part of my sexuality was definitely expressing myself in a very heterosexual way. And I don’t know what happened to that part of myself. I don’t think it was an act. I don’t think it was false. But it became eclipsed by the gayness later.

You’re among the few actors who have been openly gay from the outset of your career. For whatever reason when I was first sort of discovering that I was gay, and allowing people to know that I was gay, there happened to be a few friends in my life who were also gay. And they said these things to me, like, “You know, Rex, don’t ever bother trying to be in the closet, because everybody can tell that you’re gay.” And I believed them. So it didn’t occur to me to try to hide, because I honestly thought I was incapable of hiding. That really influenced my initial decision to not be in the closet as an actor. I just couldn’t see the point would have been of trying to keep a secret that apparently was not too secret.

Do you look back at that as a good thing? I do. I really do. And perhaps that is – I care more about myself and my happiness and my health than I do about any sort of conventional definition of success.

That’s impressively sane – and unusual. I’m not saying that I won’t have a career because I am an openly gay actor. But if I don’t, I’ll still be happy with a trade off, because I honestly believe that – that the energy it takes to be in the closest, and really the damage that a person in the closet is doing to themselves, I just don’t think is worth it period. So yes, maybe I have a strange notion in my head that prevented me from being in the closet, but now in hindsight, now that I’m not in the closet, I find I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Do celebrities approach you to say how much they love Lloyd? Yes.

Who? Can I ask you a question before I continue talking? Do you know any stories of celebrities approaching me?

No. there is a very good story that I would like to not tell you about a very, very famous person who approached me, and I sort of alluded to it in other interviews and I have decided to quit alluding from it, because it really is a very special memory of mine that I don’t want to – I don’t want to be pushing to read about it and decide that, you know, I don’t want them to regret ever having approached me. You know, because I don’t want them to think that I’m just trying to, you know, get publicity from it, because this person is clearly way more famous than I am.

I can’t believe your not going to tell me who it is. Sorry, dude.

Let me guess. No.

Male or female? Sorry. All I’m going to tell you is that it’s a great story.

I’m sure it is. Thank you for making the time for this interview. You are wonderful on the show. Thank you.

One last question. So who’s the famous person in your story? I’m not going to tell you.