RonReaco Lee has been in the acting game for a while, and he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. In the second season of Starz’s hit show Survivor’s Remorse, he shows how much he’s grown playing sports manager, Reggie Vaughn. This season, lead character Cam Calloway (played by Jessie T. Usher) is focused on finding his voice, and Reggie is determined to help him along the way.
The Urban Daily spoke with Lee to discuss the current season, what we can expect from his character, how working with the show’s creator Mike O’Malley has helped him as an actor, and the real deal with working with his famous cast mates.
The Urban Daily: You are part of such a dynamic cast, and you all seem to have grown this season. How has the process been the second time around?
RonReaco Lee: “I remember having some nervous feelings just about jumping back into the whole Reggie Vaughn thing. The pace of Survivor’s Remorse is truly challenging as an actor. But surprisingly, and thankfully, I know for myself, we fell right back into it. It happened super organically. It was great! Before I knew it, we kind of hit a stride.
I know it’s cliche, but we all get along very well. We truly enjoy one another’s company. It was great to get started again. I think we all we all fell into our roles.”
TUD: What’s Reggie’s biggest struggle this season?
RL: “Last year, Cam relied on Reggie because we are in these uncharted waters. But I think with anything, when it’s on set and it’s something new, you don’t quite know, you rely on help from others. When Cam’s new money becomes not so new anymore, and this newer world that he found himself in last time kind of becomes – not old – but more regular, Reggie has to relinquish some of the reins. Reggie’s equal part manager, cousin, and best friend. Your best friend might say something your cousin wouldn’t, and your cousin might say something your best friend wouldn’t. Reggie in turn has to toe that line. Cam has stepped into his own.
Probably the biggest struggle for Reggie is to continue to build Cam’s brand to establish a legacy that will last into a generation. But it’s also to kind of listen and give input from Cam as to what he wants to do because he’s got to have an opinion either way. Reggie, this season, tries to expand Cam’s brand, and I don’t want to give it away. He’s got the endorsement deal, contract is secure, so now it’s about, ‘What are we going to do next?’ His struggle is trying to figure out what that thing is going to be while he makes as few mistakes as he possibly can.”
TUD: Do you get to give input into your storyline?
RL: “This year, I didn’t necessarily give any input. If I have a great idea, I’ll certainly share [it]. In regards to my storyline, I didn’t really have any good ones that I felt warranted being successful. From an actor’s standpoint, I had a couple of questions that, in my opinion, would have helped me as an actor and help the character round out a little better.
The beauty of this show is that we were all invited into the writer’s room this year to do whatever. I didn’t pitch any storylines. I really had more questions that would help me as I entered the second season. I wanted Reggie to grow. I wanted to grow as an artist with this character. I kind of let their answers be a part of my process going forward.”
TUD: I’ll always think of Mike O’Malley as the host of Nickelodeon’s Guts, but l think it’s so awesome that he can evolve to create a show like Survivor’s Remorse. What’s something you’ve learned from him during your time on the show?
RL: “From Mike O’Malley? [I learn] every day. Mike O’Malley has done something that all actors want to do. I’ve been in this game for a minute, and when I was cutting my teeth in this industry, actors were actors, writers were writers and directors were directors. I think it was probably either the Wayans or Ben Stiller – I’m a big Ben Stiller fan in how his career carved out – but those were the first two individuals, Keenan and Damon and Marlon and those guys were doing similar things and creating opportunities for themselves.
You know, Mike is doing what I long to do as an actor and cross from in front of the camera to behind it. Every day, any chance I get, Mike is constantly writing on set, and he doesn’t hesitate to [ask for my input]. Little things like that, I don’t forget. One day I pray to be in a position where I can create a show and audition actors, help cast the show and help write the show. I think a lot of what I’m picking up from Mike O’Malley is because he’s an actor, it makes him one hell of a showrunner. He understands both worlds and can very easily translate director talk into actor talk… Mike does a good job at bridging the gap, especially if you’re new to the show… I’ve learned how to create an environment that people love to come to and work. It’s really important and I think it’s a missed component in a lot of television shows… It’s important to want to build something that people want to come back to and he’s done that with Survivor’s Remorse.”
TUD: What was your favorite show as a kid?
RL: “Probably The Cosby Show. I was young, but can still remember watching The Cosby Show, Cheers, and Family Ties and Night Court. I had to go to bed! [Laughs] I had to go to bed once Cheers started, but I was certainly there for Cosby, and then later on A Different World. Growing up, those shows were big for me. They helped kind of mold [me]. I probably reference Cliff and Claire in every relationship I’ve had. They were very much a part of my childhood. It was amazing when Debbie Allen came. I’ve worked with Debbie Allen on Survivor’s Remorse and I had the pleasure of telling her how much I enjoyed those years when she took over A Different World and what she was able to do with that show. It’s a testament to her talent and her vision. She’s truly, truly an amazing director, and has so much yet to offer Hollywood…
As I got older my tastes change a little bit. Arrested Development and The Office are some of my favorite shows. I will pretty much watch Martin any time it’s on. It was really an amazing show, and I’ll tell Tichina [Arnold, his Survivor’s Remorse co-star] that all the time. I can sit down and watch that show whenever it’s on.”
TUD: Reggie is the family fixer. Is RonReaco the fixer in his own family?
RL: “I wouldn’t say I’m the fixer in my family. Growing up, I’ve always been the voice of reason. But if you break it, I’m telling [you that] you’ve got to fix that on your own. But there are some similarities between Reggie and I… I was immediately drawn to the script. I really saw myself playing this role.
TUD: You’ve been in the game for so long with a variety of roles. Which are you most proud of?
RL: “Definitely this one. I usually don’t bring up what I do for a living – and I still don’t unless somebody asks – but I’ve definitely been on projects where I kept what I was doing to myself because I really wasn’t proud of the work. But this is something where if people ask me, I’m going to share and make sure they know when it’s coming on and how they can get access to it. I’ll tell them what I’ve been up to. [I’m] most proud of Reggie.
There’s been nothing like [Survivor’s Remorse], I’ve gone beyond what I thought I’m capable of. Sometimes people see things in you that you sometimes don’t see in yourself. I’ve told my cast mates that they will be better actors after this show because of what’s required of us, and I think they’re all finding that to be true. If you can handle a season of Survivor’s Remorse, there’s really nothing that you can’t do! I have conversations with people all the time. If I’m out and about at the mall, they’re asking me about it. This is one of the ones I’m most proud of.”
TUD: Social media is such a strong part in everything nowadays. How do you use it for the show?
RL: “I was one of those people who resisted social media. Now I understand it, especially nowadays it’s a component, and as actors it’s become our responsibility to promote the work that we’re doing.
Anyone who knows me, knows I always have a camera in my face. I’m an avid photographer. If my workload for the day allows for it, I’m always taking pictures. One of the things I was able to do this season that I wasn’t able to do last year… I was able to think ahead to the pictures I wanted to post [on Instagram] as the show was airing. I’m excited this year to share with people via Instagram and via Twitter those pictures, and I hope [fans] enjoy my view behind the scenes. I love that component to social media.”
Survivor’s Remorse airs on Starz on Saturdays at 9:30 p.m.
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