The actor of Entourage fame co-stars in the new sitcom Young & Hungry, which premieres on ABC Family this month.
by LORNA SOONHEE UMPHREY
Fans of Entourage will be happy to know that Rex Lee, who played their favorite sassy personal assistant Lloyd to Jeremy Piven’s Ari Gold for eight seasons, is going to be gracing their screens again, in a film version of the popular HBO series and also in a new show on ABC Family. Viewers will have to wait a while longer for the Entourage movie, set for release next year, but they can catch Lee this month playing an entirely new character—and one much meaner than Lloyd—in Young & Hungry.
Executive produced by Ashley Tisdale (High School Musical) and Eric and Kim Tannenbaum (Two and a Half Men), Young & Hungry follows a young, enthusiastic food blogger, Gabi (Emily Osment), who’s starving, literally, for work. When she interviews for a personal chef position for a techie millionaire (Jonathan Sadowski), he gives her a trial shot for his engagement meal, much to his aide Elliot’s chagrin. Lee plays the bitingly sarcastic Elliot, who stops at almost nothing to get her fired.
KoreAm caught up with Lee by phone, during a break from filming Entourage and weeks away from returning to the Young & Hungry set to shoot additional episodes. He talked about the fun of working with both the old and new cast, his aha moment with acting, and the responsibility he now feels in representing.
So, you’re currently filming Entourage. What’s it been like being reunited with all of your old friends from the show?
Yes, I literally have one more day of shooting. You know, it’s been really cool. I’m not sure I knew what to expect, but it’s been really fun. It’s sort of been like putting on an old shoe—it fits really comfortably. We just fell back into it, and it felt really comfortable the whole time.
What it’s like working with Jeremy Piven?
It’s amazing. He’s so creative, and he has so much energy. I think anytime where you’re working with a really good actor, it’s sort of brings out the best in you. I love working with him.
Tell me about your new show, Young & Hungry.
The main character is a young 20- something girl played by Emily Osment, and she’s a food blogger and chef. She gets an interview to be a personal chef for this self-made 20-something tech millionaire, and I play his publicist/right hand man, and I really want my boss to hire a celebrity chef or someone with a lot of cache, credentials. So, I’m against this young girl from the get-go. I imagine I’m going to be very antagonistic toward her and undermine her at every turn.
Rex Lee, with his costars (left to right, Kym Whitley, Emily Osment, Jonathan Sadowski and Aimee Carrero) in ABC Family’s Young & Hungry
Is your character Elliot similar to Lloyd from Entourage?
Well, I wouldn’t say so. Maybe a somewhat similar vibe, but Lloyd was not very far ahead in the world himself. Lloyd was very ambitious without trying to undermine anyone else. I think that Lloyd probably has a truer, nobler heart, and Elliot is more conniving and sort of trying to trash people, and meaner in that way.
What’s the Young & Hungry cast like to work with?
This is such a good group of people. It’s kind of amazing. I really hope this show lasts a long time for that reason alone. We try to hang out. We talk about taking trips together, so it’s a good group of people, and we all get along.
Emily [Osment] is like my new best buddy. I love her. And I mean, I’m more than twice as old as she is. But she’s a cool girl, and I have so much to learn from her.
Did you have an epiphany or a moment when you truly felt like this—acting—is what you wanted to do with your life?
Oh, totally! I was in college when I took my very first acting class. Although, I will say when I was young, the idea of being an actor is something that intrigued me. I didn’t quite understand what being an actor was at the time, but I still said the words, “I want to be an actor,” when I was a kid. But I didn’t take my first [acting] class until college and, very quickly, I realized, yes, this is what I’m meant to do with my life, this really interests me and gets my juices flowing. I mean, for lack of a better phrase, it really turned me on. And then it took a year or two for me to say, not only is this what I love to do, but I would like to try and make a living doing this.
For me, it was almost a no-brainer. I just said to myself, there’s really nothing else in the world that I love as much as this. And yes, I’m taking the chance of it not working out, but … in a way, I thought this is my destiny, this is what I’m supposed to do.
Can you recall the craziest job you’ve done before becoming a fulltime actor?
I think the weirdest job was when I worked for a nonprofit organization. They had a group of people that would cold-call other people and ask for donations. I would drive around and pick up checks that these people had promised. I don’t want to get too controversial, but it was sort of like a nonprofit organization that had been formed as a response to a very controversial court case in California. So a good 30 to 40 percent of the time I showed up to pick up these checks, instead of actually picking up the check, someone would sort of lecture me on their thoughts about the court case. So that was a very strange life. To sort of not know what was going to happen every time I had to pick up a check—whether some [person] was going to yell at me or lecture me or give me a really long recitation on what they thought about the state of the court system. In hindsight, I’m sort of surprised that no one ever tried to harm me!
What does it mean for you to be a role model as an Asian American actor—and being an openly gay actor as well?
I’ve said before that it took me a while to accept that that was the case. I sort of fixated on living my own life and getting ahead in the world that, for a long time, I didn’t really connect myself to the larger picture. I obviously am aware that I’m an Asian man and that I’m a gay man, but it took a while for me to realize that … it has ramifications beyond my own life. For a good portion of my life, it was really just sort of about: I want a job, I want to work, I don’t care about anybody else.
But now I realize it means something, and that’s very humbling and sometimes overwhelming. I guess it means a lot. I realize I’m a citizen of this planet in Western society, and one person makes a difference. And anything that I do in my life has repercussions in the world. I understand that now, so therefore, it’s an honor. I hope I represent well. And I try to move forward in my life with the understanding that any success I have is a success for everyone in a way.
Young & Hungry premieres on ABC Family on June 25 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
Images provided by ABC FAMILY BOB D’AMICO
This article was published in the June 2014 issue of KoreAm. Subscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the June issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).