Interviews / TV

Dorren Lee is Helping Change the Media Landscape with “Kung Fu” and “Diggstown”

Dorren Lee has an immersive process to embody each role that she plays. “I start by reading as much material as I can about the character. There are usually hints and clues in the writing alone and I start to build the character from there,” she says. “When I’m on set, I try to let go, be present, and trust that my preparation and instincts will guide me and keep me in the essence of the character.” Finding common ground is essential to creating that bond. “I think about similarities I have with the character and use those as anchors to keep me grounded and connected. Sometimes on the surface, the character will do things that I myself wouldn’t do or would even disagree with, but I think about the driving motivations behind each action and I find I’m able to relate to those deeper motivations and reasons, and use that to help me create a bond with the character. I strongly believe we can all see ourselves in each other because we all experience the same underlying emotions and desires.” When the chapter is closed, it can be a melancholy moment. “I try to shake it off after I’m done with a project, but I care about each one of my roles and their character very deeply. Even with auditions, I start to get attached to them and want to continue learning about them more. That’s the sad part when a project is done; I feel like I’m just starting to get to know them and then they leave. It can feel like a break up. And in that sense, I try not to hold onto it.”

Dorren plays Yuen Oye in Kung Fu. “Kung Fu is a reimagining of the 1970s TV show with the same name. It follows Nicky, portrayed by the amazing Olivia Liang, who uses her martial arts and Shaolin skills to protect her community in San Francisco. My character Yuen Oye is part of the Wan-Zai, a secret organization created to protect powerful objects of the world and prevent them from being used for destruction. In season 2, Yuen becomes an obstacle for Nicky who is looking for a powerful object to save her friend. Kung Fu is one of a few American network dramas to feature a predominantly Asian cast, and I am so proud to have had the opportunity to be a part of it.” She enjoys the antagonistic dynamic of Yuen and Nicky. “It is so much fun! I love playing the duality that comes with being the rival. Especially with Yuen, her motivations are not always clear to other people, and it makes it really fun to play. She is an anti-hero in a way, and a mystery, and that allows me to explore and act in ways that I’m not normally in my real life.” You can also see Dorren as Andrea Garth in Diggstown, another show making great strides in representation. “Diggstown is about a corporate lawyer, Marcie Diggs, and her team working with the community to help find justice for her clients affected by racism, poverty, and gender bias. It’s an important show because it highlights injustices in the Canadian landscape and the law system. Diggstown is the first Canadian TV show to feature a Black female lead, played by Vinessa Antoine, and is one of a few shows, if not the only one, in Canada that has a predominantly Black cast. In the latest season, we meet the Clawford family who are being investigated by Marcie Diggs. Andrea Garth is part of the powerful Clawford family, and is one of three adopted children who all have different races. Andrea meets Ellery Lopez, played by Nicole Munoz, and faces the difficult decision of having to choose between her relationship with Ellery or her family. The patriarch of the Clawford family is deaf and played by the amazing deaf actor John Maurice. It was incredible to work with him and have ASL coaches on set to teach us about ASL etiquette. It’s my first time acting in ASL and it surprisingly helped me connect to my emotions better than words. It’s a special language and having the opportunity to learn it will always have a special place in my heart.”

The tension that Andrea feels between self perception and outward perception resonates with Dorren. “I understand Andrea’s struggle with identity, within the family and also outside of the family. Andrea feels her family name comes with preconceived notions about who she is and she wants to pave a way for herself. I think how she feels inside about herself and who she is and wants to be is in opposition to how she is viewed by the world. She is also different from her siblings; she uses a different last name and doesn’t carry the same set of values as they do. In a way, Andrea and I are both willing to be ‘different’ to stay true to ourselves. As an immigrant, I grew up with two distinct and sometimes opposing cultures and I’ve had to navigate a path for myself with that in mind. Naturally, my parents wanted me to maintain a certain set of cultural values while my environment was conditioning me to be something else. On a macro level, there are also preconceived notions and perceptions about Asian females, perpetuated by past media portrayal, that they are docile, submissive, or overly sexualized and fetishized. So I’ve had to dig through all of that and see who I am without those voices in my head. I take what resonates with me and leave what doesn’t. It’s a privilege growing up in different cultures and with multiple languages and I don’t take it for granted how it offers up more perspectives and experiences. But it’ll always be in a constant state of flux because I am always growing and evolving (hopefully).” Dorren is obviously succeeding in portraying authenticity – her career is on the rise! “I will make an appearance on a new season of a show I’ve previously worked on (I can’t say which just yet) and I will be working on a feature that will be filming in Barcelona, Spain. In the meantime, you can catch me on Kung Fu on The CW, Diggstown on CBC and CBC Gem, and Lease on Love on CityTV online.”

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Dorren Lee is Helping Change the Media Landscape with “Kung Fu” and “Diggstown.” Photo Credit: Vai Yu Law.

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