Orion Lee seems to have it all and yet, by looking at his history it seems that he can’t rest. This world traveler was born in Hong Kong but has resided in Zurich, Australia, Malaysia, London, and is steadily moving towards the US. While working in finance, he took an acting class to try something new and soon discovered that he not only enjoyed it but, was quite good at it. After relocating to study (and graduate in 2009) from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, he quickly began a career in television and film. Among many others, his film credits include; Fury (the 2014 war film starring Brad Pitt & Shia LaBeouf with 19 nominations and five awards including the USA National Board of Review win for Best Ensemble, grossing $208 MM worldwide), Skyfall (with 108 nominations and 71 wins including two Oscars, grossing $1.1 Billion worldwide), and many others. His roles range from military action characters to elderly Math instructors, exhibiting a wide range of personalities and physicality. Lee is an actor who is highly charismatic on camera but who sometimes opts for the more subtle aspects of a character in order to truly take on their visage. As a classically trained actor, Orion appreciates the challenges of the diverse spectrum of opportunities which he has been able to engage in his career. Two of his roles, Deng Loashi in A Brilliant Young Mind and Anderson in The Expert, perfectly present how this actor can take one idea and present completely incongruent performances.
Orion Lee’s performance as Deng Laoshi in A Brilliant Young Mind is one that allows him to set aside his marquee attractiveness and make a drastic physical transformation. Lee’s performance is somewhat heart wrenching for viewers as they witness a character who is both noble and yet has been passed over by some of life’s base rewards. Orion describes his character stating, “Deng is a man who has devoted his life to his career in math and teaching. He finds himself in a situation where he is unmarried and missing a family life so he overcompensates in his protectiveness of his niece and wanting her to succeed. I appreciate Deng’s loneliness and caring for family as well as his devotion to math and teaching. He works hard to improve his students’ lives and takes pride in heading the top team in the Math Olympiad.”
Lee used his own personal experience of growing up in an East Asian culture while living in a Western country to interpret and communicate the essence of Deng Laoshi. Playing a much older man with a similar yet different cultural experience from his own, Lee discussed ideas with wardrobe and makeup to arrive at a physical appearance that is completely transformative and unrecognizable. Orion confirms, “Changing the tempo, posture, movement and voice accent of my usual self allowed me to create a character who embodies this pride at the purity of math and teaching together with a parental over protectiveness. Conversations with hair and makeup and costuming completed the characters aging process. Deng has a certain lack of modern style due to age and growing up in Communist China. I’m proud of the creation of a character which is different from myself yet completely believable and natural on screen. This was exemplified by the fact that Alex Lawther, one of the actors in this film, introduced himself to me twice: once when I was myself (Orion Lee) and once when I was Deng the character before realizing he had already met me.”
A Brilliant Young Mind is a story about Math competitions but the actual subtext is about overcoming your own fears. The film was quite successful, with multiple nominations from the British Independent Film Awards, the London Critics Circle Film Awards, the Seattle International Film Festival, and wins at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival as well as the Palm Beach International Film Festival (winning Best Film). The story of an awkward teenage math prodigy who competes at an International Mathematics Olympiad resonates with anyone who has felt insecure and somewhat out of place, unaware of their own true strength.
The filming locations, split between the UK and Taiwan afforded A Brilliant Young Mind’s cast some fun and interesting opportunities. Orion recalls, “Part of the film was set in Taipei and the cast had a brilliant time visiting Taiwan and bonding over exploring a new city. Finding a noodle restaurant where the meals cost £2 and checking out the night markets (including eating novelty pastry’s shaped as genitalia!).”
A Diametric presentation of a similar character to Deng Laoshi would be that of Anderson in The Expert. In this film, Orion plays a man who might have a similar uncomfortability with others like Deng, but the delivery is with humor and relatability rather than a serious tone. Lee was heavily involved in The Expert early on. He explains, “The script was originally tested at a showcase for new work called the Constellation Creatives CoLab. The director altered the script to suit a stage version and we tested the material in front of a live audience before doing a final draft of the script and then shooting it.Constellation Creatives is a collective I founded of film, theatre, and television professionals. The Constellation Creatives CoLab is a not for profit showcase of work in film, theatre, and television in collaboration with and held at the private members club, The Hospital Club. The Hospital Club was founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen through his investment company Vulcan Inc. and Dave Stewart (formerly of the band Eurythmics)/producer and Founder of Weapons of Mass Entertainment).
The Hospital Club’s main ethos is to support the creative industries by providing an inspiring environment that actively encourages its members to create, connect and collaborate. Members include designers, writers, creative entrepreneurs, performers, producers, musicians and film makers.”
Lee plays the lead role of Anderson, the resident expert at a company which produces geometric shapes for its clients. Rather than a tale centered on events and a climactic resolution, The Expert is a study on how certain professionals find themselves challenged to communicate and relate to others. The genius of The Expert is that many groups of professionals of varied vocations see themselves as Anderson. It was the comedic aspect of this storyline and role that enticed Orion to become involved. He comments, “The fun and challenging part of the role was to create a character whose responses and reactions are believable and yet funny: to tread the line of reality and comedy. Also Anderson needed to be someone that people recognized and related to. I learned a lot from being involved in The Expert; collaborating with the director to develop the script and source the actors for the other parts was a fun process and expanded my skill set in the industry. More than ever, I understand the importance of working with an excellent cast…working off them and with them to create the action and reaction of comedy.”
Orion Lee is an actor who seeks out varied roles to expand his character study. His extensive background in theater has empowered him with a perspective which respects the craft while he uses the vehicle of film and tv to reach a wide audience. He takes a traditional approach to performance in a modern society. With a multicultural background and a passport full of experiences, he endeavors to pursue new avenues to add colors to an already ample palette.