Opening the front door of his cute LA Griffith park neighborhood home on a rare rainy afternoon Raymond Lee greets me and my camera crew, I think, ‘He cannot possibly imagine how his life is about to change.’
This young talented charming man just found, or rather earned, a golden ticket in Hollywood. Alan Ball, in all his creative wisdom, has cast Ray in his new unnamed HBO Series that begins filming late Spring.
For those who do not recognize the name Alan Ball, a couple of brief highlights…he is the respected writer of the film ‘American Beauty’, creator of the hugely successful television series “Six Feet Under” and fan fav “True Blood”. These being only a few of Ball’s projects, gives you a good idea of the ride that awaits Ray.
Full disclosure, I am a big fan of Raymond Lee; he bravely worked as my first co-host for an arts program I produce for PBS SoCal.
Since then it’s been fun to catch him on commercials and guest star roles, each time applauding his talents. Watching his career blossom gives me faith good things happen to good people. Perhaps, it’s because he believes in good people too.
Ray is quick to say he never focused on fame “I’ve just really tried to focus on who’s my director who’s my writer, what story am I telling, am I working with good people. Are these people lying to me.”
Speaking of good people, South Coast Repertory Theater’s casting director, Joanne DeNaut, met Ray when the comedy troupe “Four Clowns” performed at the theater. She began to give him a chair at table readings of new works. One project showed great promise. An idea became a one act and a one act, a full-length original play… Ray had a starring role; “Vietgone”
“Qui (*Nguyen) the playwright of Vietgone, he was initially going to write about Aliens invading Orange County, and it was probably going to be really awesome. And then he came across the UC Irvine, an archive. UC Irvine has this giant archive of all the refugee camps during the time of the Vietnam War and he couldn’t help but think about his parents. And he was just sifting through every photo to see if he could find a photo of his parents from Camp Pendleton, anywhere. And that was like ‘it’s time for this play’ about his parents and how they met.”
Produced in association with the Manhattan Theater Club, the show not only enjoyed its SCR run in Orange County, but went to New York City as well. And Ray found himself getting a taste of the Big Apple.
It was NYC, all fired up and living the theater life; Ray made his audition tape for the Ball project. He figured it was good when the response was immediate and crazy positive.
Cast as the eldest son of a contemporary multi-racial Portland family the characters include: a philosophy professor, his lawyer wife, their three adopted children from Somalia, Vietnam and Colombia, and their sole biological child.
“I secretly cast all the other actors in my head too when I was just sitting around the waiting room with them. I was ‘oh you would be a great Ramon; oh you’d be such a great Ashley.’ And they all got it; the ones that I thought would be perfect. I thought, ‘I’m a great casting director in my mind.’
His first personal contact with Alan had Ray a bit nervous.
“The first, my first interaction with him was over the phone, so that phone call was terrifying. All the moments leading up to it, I was like ‘ok, just know your questions, ok just don’t sound dumb’ and like and don’t take up too much of his time. And that was really nerve racking, but after having that conversation with him, meeting him in person was really nice. Just to be like, oh yeah…hey”
Honest to a fault, when I ask if he always wanted to be an actor…
“No…I knew when I was acting out people liked me. So then I was like, how do I do this so I can make a living…and I’m still trying to figure that out.”
I think he already has.