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Pinoy Hollywood actor Reggie Lee battles aswang on hit TV series ‘Grimm’

Reggie Lee as Sgt. Wu on 'Grimm'.

No one could have guessed that Reggie Lee, the Asian actor who plays sarcastic police officer Sergeant Wu in the hit fantasy police procedural drama “Grimm”, is actually Filipino.

One look at him and you’d easily think he’s either one of the Chinese, Korean or Japanese characters that he has played in his 15-year career on film and television. In fact, he finally got to play a Filipino character named Mr. De La Cruz only two years ago in the comedy “Here Comes The Boom”, starring Kevin James and also featuring Charice prior to her coming out as a lesbian.

Born Reggie Valdez in Quezon City to Filipino parents, the 40-year-old actor is both fluent in English and Tagalog. His family moved to the States when he was five, settling in Cleveland, Ohio where the acting bug eventually bit him as he started appearing in theater productions while still in high school.

“I sought out whatever was available to me, whether they were acting classes at The Cleveland Playhouse, auditioning for community theatres, commercials, you name it. My parents always took me to these activities, though they thought I’d grow out of it. But eventually, I wanted more,” Reggie told writer Anthony Maddela in a recent interview with the online magazine Positively Filipino.

Wanting more, Reggie passed up a chance to study college in Harvard and moved to Los Angeles to further pursue acting. Initially using his real surname, he had to change it to Lee (from his grandparents) as he kept getting calls to audition for Hispanic characters.

Reggie’s decision to change his stage name opened a lot of doors for him, allowing him to be cast in several high-profile projects, including films like “The Fast and The Furious”, two installments of the Disney franchise “Pirates of the Carribean”, “Tropic Thunder”, “Drag Me to Hell”, “Star Trek”, “Life as We Know It”, “Safe”, “Here Comes The Boom” and “The Dark Knight Rises”.

On TV, Reggie accumulated an equally distinguished body of work that includes guest appearances on hit TV series like “Diagnosis Murder”, “Babylon 5”, “ER”, “Mad About You”, “Walker, Texas Ranger”, and “NCIS”.

Prior to becoming a series regular in “Grimm”, he also had recurring roles in “Prison Break” and “Persons Unknown”.

In his feature on Lee, Maddela revealed that the producers of “Grimm” revealed that the actor originally auditioned and was considered for the part of Detective Hank Griffin, the partner of Detective Burkhardt. Although the role was given to Russell Hornsby, the actor impressed them enough that another role in the series was created specifically for him.

While the hit series is loosely based on the popular fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm that inspired it, it occasionally draws from other sources to depict its foray into the supernatural.

The source of this week’s episode called “Mommy Dearest” is Reggie himself who told them about our very own aswang.

“The writers came to me and asked me if I knew of any Filipino folklore we could use for an episode fashioned around my culture and around Wu seeing something for the first time. I said, ‘Are you kidding? There are so many.’ It’s a small island, but the people there make up a lot of stories. So I gave them a list,” he told Carrie Bell of Yahoo! TV in another interview.

Reggie said he was actually freaked out about the aswang stories his grandmother told him when he was still a kid. Although the episode is self-contained, there are a couple of surprising big reveals. One is that Sergeant Wu’s first name is actually Drew and two, he is in fact, Filipino and even speaks Tagalog in one scene.

“I have played every kind of Asian under the sun, but this is probably only the second time I have played Filipino. I am so close to my culture, so it is icing on the cake to be able to tell a Filipino story…Being a genre show, we have rabid fans, but the Filipinos take it to the next level…The minute they heard we were doing aswang, they blew me up on Twitter. It is nice for me to represent that way,” he enthused in the same Yahoo! TV interview.

Yes, Reggie Lee has never forgotten his Filipino heritage. Maddela reports that when the actor heard about the destruction caused by typhoon Yolanda, the actor took the lead in spearheading Grimm Gives to Typhoon Haiyan Relief event through Crowdrise and the Red Cross, a project supported by fans on Twitter.

He is also helping Kusewera, another “non-profit organization that empowers and educates kids in orphanages in Malawi, Africa and the Philippines through active and creative play”.

“Grimm” Season 3 is currently seen on both JackTV and Universal Channel in the Philippines.