RonReaco Lee is perhaps best known for his roles in Glory, Sister, Sister, and Survivor’s Remorse. Starting this fall, he can be seen as Gary in the highly anticipated BET series First Wives Club, which is adapted from the film of same name. He will also be starring in the upcoming Netflix comedy feature Coffee & Kareem, opposite Taraji P. Henson and Ed Helms.
I got the chance to talk with him about how he got started in acting, his upcoming projects, his passion for directing and much more! Keep reading to see what he had to say!
Tell me a little bit about how you got into acting originally.
My parents were always really supportive of my creative interests. I took piano, drum and dance lessons as a kid. If I ever showed the slightest interest in something, my mom would support me. Originally, my mother got me into acting. When I was younger living in Georgia, my mom found an article in the paper for a modeling agency and one thing led to another and that’s how I got into acting classes. The teacher recommended that I get an agent and I got the first movie they submitted me for. As a kid, I always did it for fun; my parents never pushed me into it. I credit my acting career to my mother.
Was there a specific person or experience that you would credit with helping you decide that acting is what you wanted to do for a living?
I did a movie in the summer of eighth grade with Ed Harris and Dennis Hopper and I remember watching them do scene and I was fascinated. Ed Harris played a southern lawyer and he had a big monologue with me and I remember thinking how well he embodied this character and how he acted. They both peaked my interest in acting. Watching adults act as a kid on set, I was like a sponge; I absorbed all the information. When I auditioned for this independent film in Georgia and got the lead, I really gave a career in acting a consideration. I took a break from it for little bit to go to college, then moved to California to make a career out of it.
Over the years, you’ve had a lot of different roles on a lot of different mediums. Do you have a personal acting “bucket list” of things/types of roles you still want to try out/accomplish in your career? If so, what are some of the things on it?
I think I would love to do a biography of sorts. I would love to take a person living or deceased and bring them to life. I’ve never really done that before. Playing a musician also interests me. I played a bassist before in an indie film and I loved being in a band, going into rehearsals and being a part of that environment. Music is in me. I played saxophone and piano all throughout elementary and high school. Also, I’ve never played a detective. I’ve watched enough 48 Hours than I care to admit. I would also love to play a lawyer too. There are a lot of roles I want to give a shot.
Let’s talk about First Wives Club, which is coming out this fall. What did you first think about the project when you read the script? What was your audition process like for the show?
When I first read it, I didn’t think I would be right for it. I was coaxed into doing it by my team. I was in Georgia at the time of the audition and they were cool having me put it on tape. It was a scene with a couple in therapy. It was pretty funny and I just went with it and they loved it. When I shot it with Michelle Buteau, who plays my wife, we had so much fun. As an actor, you develop history and circumstance and put it all into the audition and that’s what I did for this.
Had you seen the original movie before you got the role? If not, did they encourage you to watch it or were they like, “Our story is completely different. We don’t recommend you watch it”?
I watched the movie years ago when I was a kid. I was a big fan of all those actresses in their own right. We weren’t encouraged to watch it, though; it never came up. I think Tracy Oliver, who wrote and produced it, had her own take on it and really wanted us to focus on the couples.
On the show, you play Gary. What is he like? How does he fit into the story?
Gary is a guy that meets his wife when they were younger in college, then gets married and has two children. Initially, he is a little unsure of himself and lets himself go a bit. He is kind of interesting; he’s a teacher and kind of a boring guy who ends up cheating on his wife. We end up seeing him differently then we initially see him in the beginning. Overall, he is a relatable everyday family man caught up in the web of life. He pays a price for what he did to his family and needs to earn back his wife’s trust and that’s what you see. I don’t think he likes what he’s become and he tries to change that. You see the guy trying to take care of himself and get a proper haircut and at the end of the day he’s really trying to do the right thing by his family.
Would you say that you, RonReaco, are more different or similar to the person that Gary is and why?
Definitely different. This was a cool role for me. I remember when they said they wanted me for the role and told me not to go to the gym or get a haircut, which is very different for me. For Survivor’s Remorse, my character was more polished and I didn’t have to change much so this was a different experience but that’s the fun part of being an actor; you get to jump into different worlds and embody different characters. I appreciate Tracy for giving Gary an arc and a journey.
You’re also starring in the upcoming Netflix comedy, Coffee & Kareem. What can you tell us about that project and the character you play?
It was another opportunity to do some character work. I play opposite Ed Helms and Taraji P. Henson. It’s your typical action crime movie where it gets crazy. Ed is hilarious and Taraji is great. They are great talent and awesome to work with. We just wrapped about a week ago. It’s a fun, fun movie.
I know that directing is a big passion of yours and you recently directed your first short, A Father’s Love. Was directing always something you wanted to try one day? Or was it something you had no interest in until you got into acting and started working with directors?
It was my first film in the sixth grade when the directing bug really hit me. It was a movie called Glory and I remember watching Edward Zwick direct and he was phenomenal. Every since then, the interest has always been there for me but the opportunity never presented itself. It’s difficult especially for television because they want actors to act and directors to direct. I almost directed an episode of Survivor’s Remorse but it didn’t end up working out. I was very selective until I found something that spoke to me. I didn’t want to direct for the sake of directing. My co-worker brought the project to me and I was really nervous but it was a dream come true and I look forward to doing it again.
Any plans to direct another project anytime soon?
Right now, I’m kind of in the development stage for a couple of things and I’m always thinking of other projects to direct. Directors of television pilots have a lot of control, they set the tone and get the show started and I would love to be a part of that, maybe come in to direct on the second, third, or fourth episode. There are opportunities I can’t speak about, but I have things in the works. I want to put myself on the roster of directors.
Last question — we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd so what is something that you’re currently nerding out about?
I’m pretty nerdy about my photographs. I’m teaching my wife how to utilize a camera and I’ve been giving her tutorials about exposure, f-stop and things like that. I could talk for hours if she let me. I love cameras, I own three or four camera lenses. Photography in general is what I’m nerdy about.