David Lim plays CIA trainee Sebastian Chen on ABC’s Quantico. Lim recently chatted with us about how he caught the acting bug, what he does when he’s not acting and what lies ahead for Sebastian and the rest of The Farm in season two. Check out our chat below, and tune into Quantico every Sunday night at 10/9c on ABC!
We’re called Talk Nerdy With Us- so we’ve got to know, what does being a “nerd” mean to you? And what makes you nerd out?
“I grew up watching Family Matters almost every day, so when I think of being a nerd, I automatically think Steve Urkel – suspenders, glasses, clumsy, highly intellectual, and can’t help but love him. And of course, there’s the alter ego of Stephan Urquelle just waiting to be unleashed. I think the last thing I nerded out over was Lord of the Rings. I loved the movies so much. It was a little obsessive.”
When did you realize you wanted to become an actor?
“Not until I was 25. When I was young, I wanted to be a doctor. I don’t come from a family of artists, actors, or musicians. So I didn’t think about any of those things as an option. I studied electrical engineering in college. I worked a regular 9-5 after I graduated, but got tired of it and wanted to do something different. It might have been a quarter-life crisis thing. I decided to enroll in an acting class and fell in love with it. I rarely saw Asian-American men on TV in cool roles. I thought it was bogus and wanted to change that, or at least try. So I moved to LA, studied hard, and worked relentlessly to put myself in a position to succeed.”
Your credits span a lot of genres on a lot of networks. What has been your most memorable role to date?
“I did a fun indie sci-fi feature called “5th Passenger” that comes out soon. It was a great original script, cool character, took place in space, and I got to work with a lot of the old Trek actors. That entire experience was so memorable. I can’t wait to see it. Other than that, I’d have to say Quantico. It’s been a dream to live and work in New York City.”
Let’s talk about Quantico. Were you familiar with the show?
“I was. I started watching when I auditioned for the role. I was hooked after watching the pilot episode, and finished the entire first season before we began filming in July.”
Were you excited to join the cast?
“Ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to meet everyone and get to work. It’s a mature group with a lot of experience. Priyanka really sets the tone with her work ethic, her generosity – she is just a really cool chick. I’ve had so many conversations with Blair Underwood. He’s like a fountain of knowledge. I could go on about everyone. I learn from them every day. We all get along so great, and it blows my mind how diverse of a cast it is. We come from so many different countries and backgrounds, and we get to share that with the world. It’s an honor to be part of that.”
Tell us about your audition process? How much did they tell you about Sebastian Chen?
“They were casting out of New York, and I was in LA at the time, so I was asked to send in a tape. There was a short character description for Sebastian, basically that he was a CIA trainee, focused, determined, and “very very fit.” I found that last part funny, but after seeing the first few episodes, I get it! My agents let me know that Josh Safran, our amazing showrunner/creator of Quantico, liked my tape, so a few days later I met with ABC and auditioned for them. It was funny because I was expecting to see all the other guys I’m usually up against for these roles, but I was the only one there that day. It was a weird, but good feeling. A week later my agent and manager called to say they had offered me the part. I could have done backflips.”
At the end of episode 4, Sebastian and Harry had an honest moment. What can you tease about their relationship?
“That was one of my favorite scenes of the season so far. Russell Tovey is a brilliant actor. And it was a truthful moment. There’s definitely a bond forming there, and you’ll see much more of that relationship unfold in the next couple weeks.”
We suspect Sebastian is gay, is his religious background what’s holding him back from coming out?
“I don’t want to say if he is or isn’t just yet. But you will find out soon. The next few episodes are a roller coaster ride for Sebastian.”
What’s it like to take on a layered character like Sebastian?
“Exciting. Challenging. A bit daunting. But an actor’s dream. Who doesn’t want to take on a character with some serious substance? Especially being an Asian American guy – we aren’t exactly handed out these types of roles with depth. So it’s been a privilege to take him on, and I’m very thankful for the opportunity. Hopefully, more great roles will be written for Asian American actors.”
What was it like jumping into a show that has such high intensity and twists at every turn?
“It’s been a blast. This type of material is right up my alley. I love spy thrillers, dramas, and action. Quantico has it all and more. And because there are so many twists and turns, and you don’t know who’s good or bad, it really keeps you on your toes. It’s both exciting and nerve-racking each time a script comes out because it’s like, okay, what the hell is going to happen now? Am I going to die? Be revealed as a terrorist? The next episode, directed by Steve Robin, is the most intense yet.”
Did you know much about the season from the start?
“I knew that this season would revolve mostly around The Farm and CIA and that there would again be two timelines with a hostage crisis in the present. And obviously, Alex Parrish kicking ass and taking names in both. Outside of that, I didn’t know much.”
What else can we hope to see from Sebastian? Is he someone we can trust?
“You’ll see what happens when someone inherently good is put in situations where he has to act against his beliefs. You’ll see some wonderful scenes between him and Harry, and how their relationship plays out. I like to think Sebastian is someone we can trust, but I’ve learned that in Quantico world, nothing is what it seems.”
What would be your dream role or co-star?
“Man. So many. I love to act, I love drama, and I love a great story. Maybe an action hero who saves the day, gets the girl, and everyone goes home feeling warm and fuzzy. An Asian-American action hero – we could definitely use one, or a few for that matter. But right now, I’m very happy to be a part of Quantico. In many ways, this has been a dream role for me.”
Let’s talk about you. What are you up to when you’re not acting?
“Traveling. I love to travel and explore, see different countries and learn about other cultures. My girlfriend is from The Czech Republic and has traveled and lived all over the world. It’s something we love to do together. We visited Cape Town and Puerto Rico not too long ago. It was incredible. We left feeling so rich and full. Other than that, I love to play basketball, watch movies, spend time with my friends and family – you know, normal stuff.”
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
“A close friend of mine who I met in my first acting class once told me, “Know your worth.” That you, yourself are enough. You don’t have to try to be anyone else, or what you think other people want you to be. You are what makes you unique, and nobody else in the world can bring that. That advice has always stuck with me.”