‘Entourage’s’ Rex Lee, on being gay and Asian in Hollywood, working with George Takei and why marriage equality still seems like a dream
While the TV series — and now feature film — Entourage has always been generously populated by bikini-clad bimbos and horny, boob-obsessed straight guys, for many gay fans of the show the secret weapon was always Rex Lee. The actor played Lloyd, the set-upon assistant to Jeremy Piven’s abrasive, insult-throwing blowhard agent Ari Gold. Lloyd endures strings of Ari’s hate-filled rants, which attack him as both gay and Asian in equal part. But through it all, Lloyd maintains his dignity and a demeanor that underlines a symbiotic, even loving (if dysfunctional) relationship.
“There were no obstacles for me [accepting Ari],” Lee says. The words that came out of his mouth and some of his actions were at odds with each other, but Ari showed his heart and love for his gay Asian assistant. I think he has a big heart.”
It’s evident in the Entourage movie, which came out Wednesday, that despite the tough game Ari talks, he cares for Lloyd — something Lee always kept in mind when the scripts would arrive.
“I was always aware that Ari was an equal opportunity offender — he insults gays and Asians and blacks and the mentally-challenged, and the physically-challenged and more equally. Not that that makes it better, but it’s harder to say he’s a homophobe when he’s that and so much more,” Lee jokes.
Being an out Asian actor in Hollywood certainly created its own challenges for Lee.
“Out of everyone, Entourage probably had the most significant impact on my life,” Lee says. “I was a struggling actor and it put me on the map. I always try to go through my life having a good attitude. I could have wallowed in this idea that no one would hire a gay guy or an Asian, but I realized that while there may be fewer roles for Asian actors, there’s maybe a smaller pool vying for those roles.”
The dearth of good parts often means making the most of what’s available, something Lee did excellently on Entourage.
“When I played Lloyd, it was always about who is this human being and how can I honor him as best I can? My hope was I wouldn’t seem stereotypical — I don’t want to play stereotypical characters — but you can’t deny that sometimes just getting the image of a gay guy, or an Asian guy, or a gay Asian guy, is significant and important. Just having that image us a stepping stone.”
Coincidentally, Lee shares screen time with George Takei, a pioneering actor who in the 1960s was one of the first given something other than an archetypical Asian role on series TV.
“I met George several years ago, and he’s so lovely and warm and complimentary to me. He really paved the way [for Asian actors], so for him to praise me was great.”
In Entourage, Takei officiates at Lloyd’s wedding to his same-sex fiancé, and while Lee was excited by the chance to show Middle America a well-adjusted gay Asian in a happy marriage (that stepping-stone again), it’s not something on his own radar.
“I just don’t think any group of humans should experience discrimination, so in that way, I am very supportive of marriage equality,” he says. “But in my own life, marriage is this nebulous dream that seems so far away. I am tragically single — I’m so far away from being married it’s not even funny. I can’t even get a date.”
Entourage is now playing in wide release.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 5, 2015.