Lee Spencer [Interview]

Hello Folks! We have another great interview with a man that truly fits the bill here at Trainwreck’d Society. It’s Lee Spencer, Everyone! We’ve had a plethora of character actors showcased on these digital pages, some of the best really, and today is no exception. To break the fourth wall a bit (if that’s a thing in blogging?) I tend to seek out these people because they have worked, in some part, on some of my favorite projects. In 10 years of doing this, I have probably spoken with at least one person involved in almost all of my favorite films, TV shows, music, etc. And as it turns out, some of the kindest folks happen to be character actors who played very memorable roles. And as I mentioned before, today is no exception.

Today’s guest, the wonderful Lee Spencer, came across my radar when I noticed that he portrayed a member of the legendary Foot Clan in the epic film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. And with a bit more research, I began to realize that I have seen this cat all over the place, in roles where we actually see his face when it’s not donned with a giant tube sock! Most recently I can remember him from his brilliant performance in the brilliant and not praised enough film The Peanut Butter Falcon. But, he also has an astounding credit roll in the world of TV, appearing on brilliant shows like Under The Dome, One Tree Hill, Charmed, The Vampire Diaries, & so many more. He also recently appeared in a film called Charming the Hearts of Men, which I have not seen, but am very intrigued and will be looking into it ASAP!

And as luck tends to have it, he is an incredibly nice man who provides some great insight into some wonderful projects that he has worked on. I’m so excited to share his words with you all today, and I am honored that Spencer was willing to take some time out of his very busy schedule to share said words with us today. So Folks, please feel honored, and please enjoy some wonderful words from the brilliant Lee Spencer!

What inspired you to get into the world of performance? Was it something you had wanted to do since your youth, or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day? 

In the ninth grade I took a drama class. I was painfully shy. One class we did a lip-synch battle and I got up on stage and mouthed the words to an old novelty song called ‘Alley Oop’. The class erupted into laughter and applauded furiously at the end and I was hooked on performing. I could come out of my shell on stage. I had a brief detour into music and being in a band but eventually moved to NYC to attend acting college. 

What was your first paid gig in the world of performance? And were there any sort of lessons from this experience that still affects your work to date?

After I graduated from school in NYC and floundered for a few years I returned to my home state of NC to rethink things. I figured until some other plan for my life ‘dropped in’ I would continue to audition for theater since it made me happiest. I booked a role in the play Butterflies Are Free at the Barn Dinner Theater in Greensboro, NC, my hometown. I was thrilled I was to receive $225 a week. I was now professional. Haha. I remember the  first day of rehearsal I arrived early. I was playing a blind young man so I figured I would wander around the stage set blindfolded to ‘feel’ out the room and connect with the character. My director walked in and said ‘take off the blindfold we’re blocking Act I.’ We mounted the show in two weeks. And yes, to this day I think, dive right in. Learn your lines and do your research. There is no perfection or getting it ‘right’. Bottom line is you have a show to do or a scene to film and you just have to show up and be vulnerable and listen and respond and don’t be concerned because you didn’t get to ‘sniff’ the furniture so to speak or go live in a cave somewhere to prepare for the role. It’s make believe. I’ll add that if you can perform in the ‘Round’ to a group of drunk patrons at a dinner theater that is the school of hard knocks training. 

It’s now been thirty years since my favorite childhood film was released, which would be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. One of your earliest roles was in this film, portraying a member of the legendary Foot Clan. With that being said, I am curious to know how your experience was working on this legendary (at least to me) film?

It was my first part in a movie. Which was a huge deal. A few lines as a Foot. And I got a close up! It enabled me to join the Screen Actors Guild. I was legit. Lol. In the back of my mind I probably thought I’d made it. It was fast. I arrived on set at Screen Gems in Wilmington, NC and the interior set for the junkyard was huge. We did a few takes of me running in the Foot hideout. I remember one of the Turtles played a Foot as well and had asked for some lines so they took away a couple of my lines and it irritated me. But I did get the big ‘His Face’ line to Shredder. It was thrilling. When I saw my image on the big screen I remember feeling queasy. HAHA! I just couldn’t take it. I left the theater after. I’ve never seen the entire movie. But to this day any male hovering around late thirties loves to hear I was in that film. I feel old now. Next question. 

In more recent years, you portrayed the character of Glen in the absolutely brilliant film The Peanut Butter Falcon. I am curious to know what drew you to work on this one? And how was your experience overall?

Every once in a while you get to work on something that turns out to be pretty special. It was simply another audition like any other. In fact the only name attached was Shia and I had not much of an idea what the plot was. I instinctively felt I could play it with a little southern flair so I channelled an old famous character actor named Strother Martin. Just had fun with it. Not too broad but outside the box I normally operate in. Four months later when I arrived to film, many big names were attached and it was a hot script. Dakota Johnson and I got to play and improvise a bit and we shot the scene over many takes. She was just delightful. The directors Tyler and Mike were very special cool fellas and I could tell the project was the most important thing in the world to them. It was truly a labor of love and a dream realised. My scene was cut in half practically, which is the norm, however what stayed in the picture was great and I couldn’t be prouder to have had a part in the film. 

If you were handed the opportunity to create and/or star in the biopic of any legendary figure in American history, who would it be?

Most of the figures that come to mind I would have loved to play at a younger age. Probably any figure from the early years of this country so the research would be fascinating and people wouldn’t have such a strong idea of who the person was. One of the more obscure semi famous figures. It’s tough to play someone who is an icon. For instance I loved Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash but most surely there was someone who didn’t buy it who was a rabid Cash fan. I would feel that way about an actor who played one of the Beatles. I used to fantasize about playing a cowboy or lawman in the Old West. However the truth is I’d probably have been cast as the guy in the telegraph office with the spectacles and little bill cap.

 What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I am in fact filming parts on two tv series this very moment (one in RIchmond VA and the other in Atlanta). However productions are so secretive about their scripts and characters these days I had to sign NDA’s. Bummer. I WILL plug the studio I teach on camera acting at and where we tape hundreds of actors audition tapes weekly. Right in the Triad of NC. Check out in-studio.org. Drew Matthews and myself along with a few other extremely qualified gifted actors run this huge facility in Greensboro and honestly I would put the quality work we do right up there with anyone in the Southeast market in film/tv training. 

What was the last thing that made you smile? 

After I taped an actor for a part in a film last week (his first audition) he was so excited about the finished product that he was smiling and laughing so genuinely that it made me smile for real. 

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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