Grimm Preview: “Mommy Dearest” [VIDEO and PHOTOS + Reggie Lee INTERVIEW]
Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been waiting for a Wu-centric episode for ages. I’ve always loved his sarcastic edge and have wanted the show to dig a little deeper into this character. Well, the wait is over. “Mommy Dearest” is such a great episode. Can’t wait to hear what else the show has in store for Wu? TV Goodness participated in a press call with Reggie Lee. He talked about the show, working on this episode, what’s coming up for his character and gave us a few hints on what’s up with that royal baby.
How important do you think it is to the story that there is someone who doesn’t know about Wesen?
Reggie Lee: “It’s a constant back and forth. I think it’s important that there’s some kind of a balance. They’ve strung it along up to this point because of that particular reason. Who knows what they’ll do from here on out? Who knows what will happen? If everyone knew, I think it would be less of an effect, right? The balance wouldn’t be there. I think that’s really important for the show. That being said, you had shows like Buffy [the Vampire Slayer] where kind of everyone knew. So everyone was in the fray and doing their thing. So these creators, I think they’re kind of weighing the options in terms of that and seeing what would be best. But I think for the audience point of view — and I think you’ll agree with me — that it’s kind of interesting to have some kind of balance in the show where someone doesn’t know and some people know. It needs that because if everyone knew it would just be all about solving the crimes versus, ‘Oh, God, we’ve got to keep this secret from some people and not tell them.’ So with this episode you’ll see what happens.”
Wu finally does see something and it’s based on something that his grandmother told him. How real does that make it to him and is it based on a real Filipino myth?
Reggie: “Yes, it is. The creators are so wonderfully collaborative. They actually came to me and said, ‘Do you know any Filipino folklore?’ I said, ‘Yes. We have actually quite a bit.’ So I gave them a list and it included the aswang — which is probably the most popular one in Filipino folklore. It was always told amidst relatives. It’s told now, it’s big in the Philippines. So it’s very real. As to what I saw and how real that is for me, I mean as a kid you’re growing up- you grow up thinking that this stuff is real. Of course, like anything, it’s like Santa Claus, right? At some point you’re like, ‘Oh, no. Whatever.’ So, and ‘That’s not real.’ I think for me — now I’m speaking as Wu — I think what I saw seemed pretty real to me. So I’ve got to figure that out for myself. You’ve seen the episode and I’ve got to kind of figure that out at this particular point. But for me it was real. So how [Nick and Hank] couldn’t see that, I don’t understand. That’s what I don’t understand right now.”
I know it’s sometimes unnerving for actors to take a different route with their character, but you totally nailed it. It was just really fun to watch.
Reggie: “Thanks. That was different. I’m very appreciative of what you just said because it was a question in my mind. Wu is so known for his sarcasm and being sardonic and that’s in my body now at this particular point. Then to get this script. You don’t ever see him in a state of being out of control. So to blend the two was a real question and a wonderful, wonderful fulfilling time for me to actually work on outside of shooting it. So the stuff that I did beforehand to prepare was really fun for me. So thank you for noticing that.”
What did you do to prepare for it?
Reggie: “You know, Silas [Weir Mitchell] and I have gone to the same acting coach for over ten years. We’ve studied with each other. Before we even got this show we were doing a scene together in acting class. When we got this show together it was just really kind of cool. When I got this script, the way we both kind of prepare is- there’s no shorthand how we prepare. We imagine for hours on end. So when I saw this script I actually went through it and marked it and logged about 100 hours of homework before I started shooting this particular episode. I was doing homework for about eight to ten hours a day where you would literally sit and imagine. This is the way we usually do it — if you’re a kid you stare at the closet wall and say there’s a monster in there, after about 10 minutes you’d actually think that there was a monster in there. It would feel as real to you as possible. So that’s how I work now. Once I got on set I could let it go and really just fly and have fun. So I’m appreciative that you’ve noticed that.”
The ending of the episode…
Reggie: “I know. There’s some peopleI’ve talked to that have seen it and I [asked] ‘How did that feel to you?’ And they’re like, ‘I was sad. I was sad.’ But, when I saw it written that way and knew I had to preface -Â at the beginning of the season – how this was going to go and I prepared myself for it. But it was never the way I thought it would end or the way I thought I would react. Let’s put it that way. So it’s definitely one that I’ve had to take into account because it’ll linger on for a little bit. So we’ll see.”
It’s going to be a tough wait to see what happens next.
Reggie: “Gosh, I love this character so much. I mean I really do, and I think that’s part of the reason that I really work my butt off. I’m so appreciative to all you guys that have watched and been so detailed about watching Wu’s journey. Not Wu’s journey, but the entire show really. But those of you that have really been so attentive and know him to the point where you do get affected, in the way he’s affected is really – I feel very – it’s warming to me. So I’m touched right now.”
We’re getting to see more focus on Wu and it looks as though there’s more of an arc to this, right?
Reggie: “Wu’s a sharp guy. We’re shooting episode 19. You’ve seen 14, but he’s a sharp guy and the writers are smart. So there are little hints here and there that you’ll see. And yes, this effect on me lingers. It’ll linger for quite a bit. It’ll probably linger through the rest of the season. There’s some real wonderful moments here and there as we go through the season that he’s like, ‘Hmmm. Hmmm. What are you doing here? Why are you spending so much time with this person? I have no idea why, but something- there’s something here.’ So I just laugh at those moments in the script because I’m like, wow. For you guys that follow the show on a very close basis it’s going to be a treat. It’s a treat to see these little moments that Wu has through the season.”
Wu didn’t get to be his typical sarcastic self that we usually see, but when it comes to those moments, do you have any input in that? Do you have a sarcastic bone in your body?
Reggie: “This is akin to when I played bad guys. I never say they’re bad guys. They’re just doing their job. But people will meet me and go, ‘Let’s go out for coffee again’ or ‘Let’s go talk again,’ and it’s a different human being. Claire [Coffee] is the sweetest person in the world, but you can allow those things on-screen. I think the further away you are from that particular thing, the more you can do it. For me, I had never, ever considered myself sarcastic. I think maybe my friends think I am. But I have never considered myself sarcastic. These witty, sardonic moments that he has- I always wanted to be so witty and sarcastic and this is my chance on this show, which is why I think I really enjoy doing the work for it. They write all that stuff. So those writers are really great at coming up with these one liners. They’re fantastic. Now I’ve grown more comfortable, Wu has grown more comfortable being this person. So I think it gets even better as we progress. It sits in my body more. So in that sense, it’s much more fun once I get on set to be that person.”
Is there a romantic interest coming up for Wu? Would you want that for him?
Reggie: “Of course I want that for him. Of course. People always ask me what I’d love to do in the future. That’s actually on my bucket list of things I want to have in my career, something on-screen like that — a love interest in one way or another. I think that you may see it. Again, we all have our lanes on the show. There’s a certain lane that we’re in and I think that the balance – for me at least,Â let’s say separate from the show – I think there needs to be a balance on the show of couples and people that are not coupled — like people that know and people that don’t know about Nick. So how they keep that balance? I don’t know. I know they’ve said he’s a single guy. We like that. So there may be that, but it’s inevitable for the future that something like that will happen. That’s so vague, the answer that I just gave you. But it’s something that I want. If they want to tip the scales they will and they’re not afraid to. But I really enjoyed this episode that was so much of it, this back-story of having feelings for this girl and seeing if I still have them, if I didn’t have them, but I loved it so much. I loved experiencing that again within the show.”
You can’t say whether or not Wu’s going to find out what’s going on or how that’s going to end. Can you just talk about if he does find out that there’s this secret world of Wesen, how do you think that will affect him, change him, as a character?
Reggie: “I think the way it’s affected him initially, that it’s affected me initially is because it’s something that I had heard of before. So it’s very different from anyone else’s reaction because I think it’s certainly things that hey hadn’t heard about before, but they’re seeing. This is – it’s so incredibly — in the Philippines — realistic. I mean it’s an island country so people don’t have a lot to do so they get really, really entrenched in these stories and believe them. So in the outcome that it has on me, I think it’ll linger quite a bit before I start to not want or want to figure it out for myself. But the effect of it being humongous for me. I think that’s going to have to subside before I decide one way or the other. And you’ll be surprised, I think, at which person in the cast sways me to one way or the other because it’s not one that you’d expect. And that’s to come.”
It sounds like everything is going to change with this royal baby coming. How is that going to change the landscape for everyone involved?
Reggie: “It’s going to be complete chaos. You can expect complete chaos to ensue. So it’s been forthcoming this entire season and people have been expecting it. It’s interesting because it’s such a part of a world that I’m not privy to, but privy to only in that I read. I read them in my scripts. But the things that I’ve read have really been fantastic in terms of the way this baby is used to sway emotion in so many different people. And it’ll hit probably almost every single cast member, this baby.”
The Rosalee and Monroe romance has been so wonderful and lovely and then all of a sudden with the parents coming into town it sort of fell to pieces. Where’s that going?
Reggie: “There is never an easy way, nor do they make it easy for us to get there. So that’s always the joy for them, is making it as difficult as possible to get to the ‘altar’ for the rest of us. It’s not going to be easy for them to get there. The parents- all that stuff is just going to be the beginning of everything. They hit it out of the park. I mean Silas and Bree [Turner], they’re fantastic. So I love that I get to see that. I feel for these guys. We’re all such wonderful friends that when we each get juicy storylines- when I got this one they all texted me. I text them when it’s like, ‘Oh, my God, I love it. You’re getting to go through that.’ But they couldn’t have been happier for me when they saw this entire script, which just shows you how close this cast is. We all love it for each other, all these things we get to go through. The tougher the better. Bring it on.”
In this episode you finally get a name. Were you excited about that? Did you have any input ?
Reggie: “Ultimately I think it was really up to them, but also up to what could be cleared. So a lot of times there are names that you want that can’t be cleared so it falls that way. But I kind of like this one. I mean it’s a different ring from what I thought it would be, but I like it. I like it. I’ve grown to like it.”
Obviously you’re not, but if you had found out your character was a Wesen, what kind of creature would you want to be?
Reggie: “A weasel. I’ve always said that. It’s interesting because the Grimm writers were tweeting. They were like, ‘I think Wu might be a marsupial.’ No. No. I am a weasel. I’m a weasel.”
With the great make-up department that you guys have. Did you have any input on the look of this creature?
Reggie: “No. Not at all. As a matter of fact, when I was doing my ‘homework’ for the show I wanted to see – and we usually aren’t able. I’ve never been privy to the creatures. So I’ve never really had to ask this, and I asked them, can I see what I’m going to see? Can you send me an email of what I’m going to see? And it was already fully drawn out. People have also asked me, is it what you thought it would be? It isn’t. However, I love what they came up with because it’s so much creepier than what I ever thought it would be. I always had envisioned this creature to be kind of woman-like, but having the long tongue as well. But this whole version of it, I didn’t have any input. But boy, what they came up with was pretty wham bam, scary, creepy.”
You guys have taken it up a notch this season. How does it feel for you when you get your scripts? Do you feel like they’re ahead of what you were last year?
Reggie: “Definitely. At the beginning of this season, I think they might have given us five scripts before we even started shooting. So they were way, way ahead which makes it joyous for the rest of us because you can do your homework, you can do your preparation. Especially David and Russell, who work every single day. I think it was really great for them to have that jump on it. The great thing is too, I think what they’ve decided this year – as they have little bits and pieces in the past several seasons – they’ve really decided to go international. I think that’s the key. They’re really scoping out all the folklore in different parts of the world, which is really great for me. I mean how often do you get a Filipino storyline in a show? Not very often. I can’t think of any. So how great for them to really focus on that. I’ll tell you what. The Filipinos are excited. So it was really a joy for me to be the one to break that kind of news to them and go,Â ‘Listen, Grimm‘s doing a Filipino episode.’ They’re real conscientious about that. We’ve got so many fans that love this show all over the world once it hits their country and their folklore. I mean, I’m sure they look forward to that. I’m sure that the closer to them it gets, the more they can relate. So I’m hoping that we do that even more, and I think they will.”
Are there scenes that affect you or stay with you?
Reggie: “There was actually one episode. The freakiest thing that I’ve seen- I don’t know if you remember this storyline where the creature would cut people in half. So I would get to the crime scene and people would be cut in half. Because these make-up people are so unbelievably fantastic, it’s so real. If you pick up a hand of any of these people that are dead, it looks so real down to the hair and the veins. So that one really freaked me out when people were cut in half – which I think it par for the course.”
How many more years would you like to see the show go?
Reggie: “Listen, I think there’s always a certain life to a show. There are shows likeÂ Law & OrderÂ that go on forever. I really think the show could go on for a long time. If you can get to season 13 of a show I think the show could go there. It would just be up to the show runners to see if they would want it. There’s things likeÂ LostÂ that have a definite ending. But with this show I think there’s so many more creatures in Portland, so many more.”
If you could play any other character on the show other than the sergeant who would you like to be?
Reggie: “Definitely Adalind. Definitely Adalind. No, I’m just kidding. No, I’m not kidding. It’s fun. I mean I love playing that aspect of any person because I really don’t ever think that there’s a bad, bad person. I think that I’d want to be Adalind. Let’s not kid about that. But I think there’s a great deal to be said about the way the writers have really- there’s a gray area to everyone’s character on the show. There is good and there’s bad. It’s really moral ambiguity which gives the show its life because you’re like that in real life. Am I being good? Am I being bad? What am I doing? What am I trying to do? I’m trying to be a good person. And I think everyone has that. But boy, I think Adalind has a lot of fun. I’d like to step into those shoes.”
Baby and all?
Reggie: “That would be interesting. Then I’d feel more in tune with you women and really know the hardships that you go through when that happens.”
What were some of the initial acting challenges you found stepping into the Sergeant Wu character? Have you seen your character grow and develop since then?
Reggie: “I think the hardest part was there wasn’t a lot. That was the most difficult part because the more you’ve got on the page the more you can build. So when there wasn’t a lot it really – I needed them to give me some kind of spark. Even before I started to do any kind of homework on this particular character I needed them to give me where he’s come from. There are three bullet points; he’s been a cop for this many years, he’s good at his job, all this stuff. But where I really started to develop him was a line in the pilot where Nick just bumps into me — I still remember this — he bumps into me because he’s staring at a creature that’s morphing. He bumps into me and I go, ‘Well, I guess I should have worn my airbags today.’ And from then on I was like, this is a sarcastic dude. He’s sarcastic and sardonic. So I built from there. I actually researched sarcasm and I went, okay, psychologically where does that come from? People that are the most sarcastic are- it comes from an insecurity. I don’t know if you knew that or not, but it comes from insecurity. So I started to work on why am I insecure? Why do I do my job so well? Am I afraid? Am I wanting to be good because there’s that Asian factor that you’ve got to be perfect at what you do. Perfect, perfect, perfect, whatever it is. You’ve got to be beyond perfect. So I started to work with that and it started to get more exciting. So as they built upon it – and I think this episode has given me the most background. But even the stuff where I went through eating couch cushions gave me a lot of insight into who he is. Figuring out in second season that I was really good at video games, seeing my apartment and what was in it gave me a lot of clues and I started [to] get so excited.Â I can talk to you about this forever by the way. FYI. Because it excites me.Â And I think it almost became like a real collaboration that way because the way my performance would be from that build, then the writers would look at that performance and take from it and build even more.Â They could write more one-liners. They could see what kind of character he was becoming. I think this posed a difficulty for me in this particular episode because there are so many colors of Wu that I hadn’t done – I hadn’t touched base on. The vulnerability, the being out of control as I’d mentioned before were really new- it’s new territory for me. For that to be so evident and for me to show it to other characters, I don’t show that. I don’t show my vulnerability nor do I show that I’m out of control. So for me to experience all that was like candy. And I love candy. So that was like candy when I saw this episode. It was great.”
For you, what makes a career in this industry rewarding?
Reggie: “I think underneath the career is the actual art form. This career choice ain’t easy. We go through a lot of disappointments, a lot of no’s before you get a yes. I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve worked consistently. I’ve only focused on longevity. I think what breeds longevity for any career is staying interested. The only way to stay interested in what you’re doing is to dig deeper. So for anything, whether I’m describing a crime scene for the gazillionth time or whether I’m going through emotional things like I do in this particular episode, I work on it and get deeper. To stay emotionally invested. Especially being on a series, it’s easy for you to put yourself on automatic pilot. It can be a crutch to do it that way because I think then you start, you stop becoming interested. I always want to stay interested. So fortunately I’ve been around very healthy acting coaches and people that work and even our cast – a joy to work with because we’re all interested. We all are older and have been through careers at this particular point and hopefully there’s more. I feel like as I get older the roles are getting more interesting, and specifically being minority, being Asian, I feel like they’re getting- they are more Asian-Americans that are working that are older than younger. So I love it. I love where I’m going and I hope to stay interested.”
What kind of feedback to you get from people in the Philippines and Filipino-Americans?
Reggie: “First of all it’s been a pleasure and a joy to represent the Filipino community in this particular aspect. I could go on and on about all this. I haven’t been back since the show started. But my aunt and uncle went back and they all keep in touch and they were like, ‘You need to come here. Grimm is such a known entity and such a popular show here and people love you and we’re so proud of you. You need to come back here because it’ll really give a boost to people here.’ It kind of scares me and also kind of makes me really proud, and it’s time for me to hear that. Because you don’t ever think you’re affecting something so far away. But when you come from a small country – granted it’s over 7,000 islands – when you come from a small country with a lot of islands you don’t get this huge world aspect. So for you to be represented all the way in the United States – which has always been a dream for a lot of Filipino people – is really fantastic for that. So I would like to go back. I think we’re working on that internally – hopefully international publicity to try to bring me back to the Philippines sometimes soon. Maybe this hiatus that’ll happen. I haven’t been back since I was 10 years old. So it’s been a long time. I asked my dad this the other day. I said, ‘Do you have a desire to go back?’ He said, ‘Yes. I would love to go back, but it’s not a huge priority for me right now.’ For me,there’s something about it now as I get older that I’d just love to touch that Filipino soil. I think I’d love to get more in touch with my heritage. It’s just a time where I want to know where I came from. I really want to know. So I want to go back and kind of feel that out. In terms of here, I’ve gotten so many wonderful tweets from just the Asian community in general that have said, ‘Thank you for representing us so well on television.’ You know – a medium that is so widely viewed – even probably more so than film. I think kudos to the writers for this particular characters in particular that he’s someone that has no accent, that doesn’t really talk about his ethnicity, he’s a regular guy, he’s funny, he’s smart, he’s sarcastic, he’s strong, and the fact that they asked me if I would give them some Filipino folklore was more kudos to them than I could ever give them. It’s great that they’ve asked that. Brenna Kouf – who wrote this particular script – when I read this script I was blown away. And I’ve read a lot of scripts. I thought emotionally from the get go and even just in terms of Wu’s character and his journey – his emotional journey – she hit the nail on the head. So I had a lot to play with and that is because of what she wrote. I’m more in tune with my culture now than I ever have been in my entire life. And I’m so – I feel so proud to represent them.”
Edited for space and content.
“Mommy Dearest” synopsis, from NBC:
A horrible new predator creeps into Portland with its sight set on a young expectant couple who are close friends of Reggie Lee‘s Sgt. Wu. David Giuntoli‘s Nick and Russell Hornsby‘s Hank must figure out how to deal with Wu as the investigation escalates. Meanwhile, Claire Coffee’s Adalind prepares for a special delivery while her enemies are hot on her trail.
Grimm airs Fridays at 9/8c on NBC.
All photos courtesy ofÂ Scott Green/NBC.
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