“Making movies is awesome!”
What inspired you to become an actor?
I kind of fell into my first couple of gigs actually, by luck. On the 2nd occasion, filming was on location at an abandoned railway tunnel. The entire cast was dressed in 1890s period attire, and the set was decorated with historical accuracy as a coolie camp. “Coolie” was the term used for Chinese immigrant railway workers. I was sitting on an “apple box” and directly in front of me was the camera crane in all its technological glory and coolness, set against the historic backdrop in a surreal juxtaposition. That moment was when I got hooked. “Making movies is awesome!” I thought (or something to that effect).
Did you ever watch Doctor Who before you appeared in the TV Movie?
Yes. It was one of many tv series that I watched after school every day. I watched an exorbitant amount of TV as a “latch-key kid” in the eighties.
You portrayed Chang Lee in the TV movie – how was this experience?
Some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a film/tv production! It was a real privilege to work with the folks on that show. I’d played “gangster” type characters on other productions, but in this case it was, in a way, “more” than that. Which leads to the next question…
How would you describe Chang Lee?
I never thought of him as a typical gangster. Who is, really? I mean, I was no stranger to some of the darker elements of society, in my youth, but Chang Lee was somewhat different, I thought.. really more of a “kid at heart” and in a way searching for a role model.
For all the crappy experiences he’d had (in his back-story, which was never filmed but was in earlier drafts of the script) Chang Lee never seemed jaded. “We’re a team!”, he says to the Master, enthusiastically.
Even when he talks to Sylvester after the shooting, he wants to help this “old guy”. Later, you can see he gets into a kind of father-son relationship with The Master. That’s what makes him turn, in the end. He had certain (unrealistic) expectations of his engagement with The Master.
What was it like working with 7th Doctor Sylvester McCoy & 8th Doctor Paul McGann?
Sylvester’s one of those people who entertains the entire room, no matter where he is. I’m sure it must get tiring for him, but it’s never tiring for anyone in his presence LOL.
Paul is an interesting character—contemplative, and truly an artist. I didn’t get to know him as much during the production as I have in all the conventions we’ve since done together.
Would you ever reprise your role as Chang Lee?
Doctor Who: The Movie will be celebrating its 20th anniversary next year – do you have any plans to commemorate the event?
I plan to release a photo book actually. We found some old photos that I took with my Nikon FE, back when we were filming. The sets were lit up so amazingly by Glen the DOP, that some of these photos are actually quite stunning, even though I didn’t know what I was doing at the time.
I’ve since improved a tad, and even had a stint as an architectural photographer for local contractors, real estate agents, and such. I’m hoping to capture some new images of the locations as they are today, and there will of course be some narrative in the book—personal stories from set, an interview with Daphne Ashbrook and Mathew Jacobs, maybe Sylvester, Paul or Eric Roberts might be willing to contribute something. We’ll see…it’s still a work in progress 😉
What has been your favourite role?
Chang Lee 😛 I also played this open-source software activist in AntiTrust, and it’s funny because I now work for an open-source software company, MODX.
If you could play any role which would it be and why?
Probably some kind of kung-fu superhero, because it’d be so cool to see an image of myself throwing fireballs and the like…although, that reminds me I did do a Smallville mini-series wherein I got to throw fireballs. So heh. Maybe I’ve already lived that dream hahaha!
Do you have any upcoming projects?
I recently worked on a locally made show called “Romeo Section“. I can’t really say much about it right now, except that I have the greatest respect and admiration for the folks who are behind it, and am nothing but honoured to be involved, even in a small way.
Check out Yee Jee Tso’s website – www.yeejeetso.com
Also check out our previous interview with Doctor Who star Daphne Ashbrook !!!