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September 08, 2017

Nothing But Net

RonReaco is a show-business survivor, with no remorse.

Cecily Knobler
  • Kat Walk Media
  • Survivor's Remorse

    Starz
  • Survivor's Remorse

    Starz
  • Kat Walk Media
  • Survivor's Remorse

    Starz

Although RonReaco Lee has been an entertainer since he was six years old, he is exceptional at balancing work life with family.

Born in Illinois, raised in Georgia, his Twitter bio sums up it best. Husband. Father. Actor. In that order.

He has an innate talent that has earned him over two decades of roles in movies and television. From a small part in the film Glory, to the hit sitcom Sister, Sister to his current role on Survivor's Remorse, RonReaco proves there's nothing he can't do.

You started young. Did you know at an early age that the entertainment world was where you belonged?

I had one of those mothers who always had me dabbling in everything. You name it, I took it: drum lessons, piano lessons, dance lessons, I did it all! And acting was just one of the many things I did. My mom found some class for me to take and it snowballed from there. I had great teachers who were very encouraging.

I was probably 19 when I thought, let's see what happens. My parents were very supportive of me coming to L.A. I'd done a small movie and it just gave me a taste of what it could really be like, not as a "kid actor" but actually as a young adult doing young adult projects. Next thing I knew, I was driving cross country with a buddy to L.A.

One of your earlier projects in L.A. was Sister, Sister. Just have to ask: did Tia and Tamera ever do the "twin switch" and pretend to be each other?

No! You can always tell them apart. A lot of people don't know this but Tamera has the mole. Initially I couldn't tell them apart, but if you're around them enough, they're very different and unique in their own way.

You probably always got recognized from that show.

I still do! I tell the joke that if I'm ever fortunate enough to win some great accolade in this business, I could be out celebrating with my family and friends, and somebody will still come up to me and say, "Hey, aren't you the guy? Where's Tia? Are they bringing the show back? Are they gonna do a reunion?"

Seems like they are bringing everything back. If they did, would you consider it?

They have talked about it and I certainly wouldn't "not" do it, It was the first gig I ever got in L.A. And listen, I was catching the bus to do that show so I owe it a lot! It really gave me a footing here in L.A. and I'll always be grateful for them. They were very gracious and embracing of me. Tim Reid and Jackee were all great. It was a wonderful experience and if they offered it, I'd love to see them again!

Let's switch gears to Survivor's Remorse. You play Reggie Vaughn, who's mostly fictional, but loosely based on (LeBron James' friend/manager) Maverick Carter. Can you talk a little about that?

It was an idea they got four or five years ago. Samsung did a commercial that really just showed LeBron in his day to day. And they thought this could be interesting to see what the life of a basketball player is like behind the scenes. So they partnered with Paul Wachter and Tom Werner.

Tom knew a great writer, Mike O'Malley who wrote the pilot. And at some point, either before Mike wrote the pilot, or after, they went to Starz who bought it sight unseen.

What was it like working with Maverick?

Maverick was there through most of the audition process! When I first met him, I was very humbled and very honored that he would sign off on me to essentially play a version of himself. This guy is a genius in a lot of ways - in the way he's reinvented what managing athletes in general looks like. He has basically changed the landscape.

So for me to meet him and eventually meet LeBron, who I've been a fan of since I was in high school, was really surreal.

The show is obviously funny, but there are some dark, heavier themes too.

It's constantly evolving. We've dealt with things that are rare for shows. We lost a key character…

Uncle Julius!

Yes, Mike Epps, in season three. Whenever you deal with the death of a main character on a show, television specifically, it's really hard to figure out what direction you're gonna go after that. So in the third season, The Calloways and the Vaughns had to process that.

It's quite the balance between comedy and drama.

There's comedy that comes in and brings light to serious situations. But it's a challenge as an actor. There are moments when you get a 10 page scene and while three or four of those pages have jokes, the rest have very serious subject matter that can get you really emotional.

Mike O'Malley and Ali Leroi and Victor Levin and the rest of the writers believe in us as actors. They don't write anything for us they'd ever feel we can't do. Their belief in us helps us be able to believe in ourselves. They see things in us at times that we may not see.

Your character believes that Cam should be insulated from leeches. I figure that's part of LeBron's real story too.

It would have to be. He was in an episode in season two. So let's say they shoot for an hour, then we break while they set up for the next scene. LeBron gets up and he moves. And there's just this energy that moves with him.

And you can't help but find yourself asking what must that be like? But even in all of that, he's one of the most humble, nicest, down to earth guys. I'm not just saying that because he's my boss. I say it because I genuinely mean it.

Speaking of people you admire. Is there anyone on your bucket list, actors or directors, that you'd love to work with. Top three?

Top three? I grew up watching Spike Lee movies with my father. It just became this thing we did together. I'm a huge Wes Anderson fan. I've seen all of his movies and probably have every last one that he's done. He would be right up there. And number three? I worked with him as an actor when I was a little kid doing Glory.

Denzel?

Denzel! I was blessed to be able to audition for him for Antwone Fisher. It was a 20-30 minute audition, kind of like a screen test. And in that 20-30 minutes, I learned more just from him directing me in two scenes than I had learned in any acting class I'd taken here, or Georgia or anywhere else in my life.

And there are still things to this day that, from that audition, I draw upon because he's just that great. All directors give notes and adjustments, but he was giving them in a way where he painted these vivid pictures. And so as an actor, you're just able to really see it.

Of all the parts I didn't get, that was the best. I would go through that process a trillion times again to gain the knowledge that I gained. I'd love to work with him!

Without spoilers, anything we can look out for in season four of Survivor's Remorse?

We kind of left off in season three, where you see three of the main characters have stories that are very parallel. Fatherhood and going back to your past to discover a lot that you're struggling with. You have to sometimes go back to your past to uncover things, peel back some layers. So M-Chuck and Reggie and Cam are doing just that. More so for Cam than anybody.

We have Isaiah Washington who is phenomenal on the show. He comes on to play Cam's estranged father. So the season really deals with him trying to personalize his relationship with his father.

And then for Reggie and Missy, this season is a little different as they're really looking to solidify their legacy; the Vaughn legacy. Missy says something to Reggie on the show that always resonates with me. She says, "Do you want your career to end when Cam's career ends?" It kind of stops Reggie in his tracks.

They have to figure out how do they - independently of Cam Calloway - start to build their own thing. How do they shine?

It becomes very tricky and causes some marital discord, which is interesting to see. People love Reggie and Missy because they represent something we don't have a lot of on television. They're young, African American, doing very well and they love each other. They fight, they love, they make up, they do it all over again. So this season, you'll see that kind of tested a little bit.

It's a different season for us. It's going to look different, it's going to feel different. And I hope the audience will embrace us in the same manner they have in the previous seasons.  

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