Altered Carbon's Will Yun Lee wants to star in action movie with Hong Kong greats

Will Yun Lee as Takeshi Kovacs in Netflix's Altered Carbon Season 2. (Photo: Netflix)
Will Yun Lee as Takeshi Kovacs in Netflix's Altered Carbon Season 2. (Photo: Netflix)

Actor Will Yun Lee talked to Yahoo Lifestyle SEA about how he’s coping with the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, the future of Asian actors in Hollywood, as well as his hopes of returning to Asia to work on a big action movie with Hong Kong stars.

Will Yun Lee has been busy. He currently appears in Netflix’s second season of science fiction series Altered Carbon starring as Takeshi Kovacs, the last member of an elite guerrilla group that fights against a technology that allows humans to become immortal through constantly replacing their bodies.

Lee also stars in ABC’s The Good Doctor, which just concluded its third season recently. In The Good Doctor, he plays Dr Alex Park, a police officer-turned-surgeon who is torn between work and family.

And before he shot the latest seasons of Altered Carbon and The Good Doctor back to back, he was filming for the movie trilogy Rogue Warfare – that’s three movies shot back to back. Lee must be one hardworking guy.

His voice will also be heard in upcoming Sony animated film, Wish Dragon, whose cast also features Jackie Chan, John Cho and Constance Wu.

The 49-year-old Korean-American actor recently had a chat with Yahoo Lifestyle SEA by telephone from his home in Los Angeles. He tells us that he’s currently holed up at home with his wife and 6-year-old son, given the stay-at-home orders because of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States as well as the rest of the world. Shooting on his planned projects over the summer has also been been paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lee was born in Arlington, Virginia in the US, but he has acted in a couple of Hollywood movies that were shot in Hong Kong before – 2013’s Four Assassins and Pursuit Of Love. He tells us that he would love to return to Asia to work with some of Hong Kong’s biggest action stars, like Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung, as well as famous action choreographer Yuen Woo Ping.

Read on for our interview with Lee:

How are you holding up while self-isolating at home? The coronavirus outbreak in the US is pretty bad.

We really haven't gone out except to go to the grocery store. I have a six-year-old, and my wife and I take turns entertaining him. I've been playing games from 6.30 in the morning when he wakes me up and says, “Let's play a game.” And it goes on till about eight o'clock at night. So I'm very tired. I think I'm more tired at home coming up with games and drawing activities, and activities for my son than I am actually working!

Asian Korean-American actor Will Yun Lee stars in ABC's The Good Doctor and Netflix's Altered Carbon.
Asian Korean-American actor Will Yun Lee stars in ABC's The Good Doctor and Netflix's Altered Carbon.

What is Dr Alex Park’s arc like in the latest season of The Good Doctor?

Once you get into the two-part finale (of Season 3), you get to see more of who he is. He used to be a police officer and is a very closed-off person, and the oldest resident among the residents. So you get to see more of the human side of him. And it's a very emotional arc. Once you see the episode, you'll see that he’s definitely a torn family man, torn between his family and work and it's something that I'm sure a lot of Asian fathers can relate to.

Freddie Highmore plays lead character Dr. Shaun Murphy, a talented surgeon with autism. Do you think The Good Doctor is improving representation for autistic people on TV?

I think it's one aspect of it, and I think the show revolves around the kindness of inclusion. This show is about the difficulties of inclusion of people who are different. But you know, I think it also focuses on things that makes him different and also what makes him special, and that's kind of the crux of our show. Because he's so different, all the characters tend to help guide him along the way in his life, but he also teaches us, and saves lives because of his acute sense of medical conditions.

In Altered Carbon, people can upload their consciousness inside “stacks” into different bodies, called “sleeves”. Whose body would you choose to be in if you could choose any sleeve?

The Rock. Come on, who doesn’t like the Rock? I mean, he can actually beat an earthquake. Not many people can beat an earthquake. He's an inspiring guy, and a seemingly never-ending resource of energy. I'd like to have a little bit of his energy to deal with a six-year-old son, looking for the next activity once I finish one.

You seem to like doing action films. How did that interest come about?

I’m trained in taekwondo and because I come from a big martial arts family, that is my life’s love. Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger kind of defied the curve but, you know, for most normal human beings, you know we have a ticking clock in us, so I'm trying to get in all the action projects I can before I'm too old to kick somebody in the face.

Have things gotten better for Asians in Hollywood after Crazy Rich Asians? Are you getting better offers for roles?

Times have definitely changed. I would say, for the first 15 or 20 years I've been doing this, it feels like every day you go out there, it's a full fight. It was only a handful of us (Asian actors), when we first came out, and everyone's competing for the same role and there were so few roles, and they weren't even that great roles, in a lot of ways. But I think ever since Crazy Rich Asians, the landscape has changed, in terms of studios being more willing to give us bigger roles and even lead roles. I mean, look at Simu Liu, who's in Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. You look at Henry Golding, who has done (films) across the board from romantic comedies to dramas. I think they’re taking bigger risks now. I still think we have a long way to go.

Do you have any message to share with your fans in Asia?

I can't wait till the day I get to go back to Asia and shoot a project. I've done a few movies in Asia, but part of my dream is to be a part of a project in Asia that's with some of the Asian greats. You know, the legends like Donnie Yen, Sammo (Hung), Yuen Woo Ping. That's always been my dream so hopefully I get that chance.