Playing bad guys can be addictive. Just ask Malaysian actor Frederick Lee.
“I’ve never been the antagonist in the past but it’s only recently, I don’t know what happened, that [casting directors] thought I’m more suited to be the bad guy,” said the Melaka-born Frederick, 44, the younger brother of Christopher Lee, 49.
And Frederick gets a kick out of breaking bad, so much so “it’s like an addiction,” he joked.
The go-to rogue’s CV includes the Golden Horse Award-winning The Scoundrels, the Malaysian thriller Fly by Night, and meWATCH’s Mind’s Eye. The latter scored Frederick a Best Actor nomination for his turn as a serial killer at the New York Festivals TV & Film Awards. "It's an honour to be nominated in the international arena," he said.
His newest miscreant is trigger-happy fugitive Hu Ta-Dong, in the 15-part HBO Asia Original Taiwan crime drama Trinity of Shadows, where his character is entwined in a murder investigation — being looked into by two cops (Sandrine Pinna and Liu Kuan-Ting) and a city councillor (Kaiser Chuang) — that bears the same MO as a cold case from years ago.
Speaking to 8days.sg and other press in Mandarin, from Taiwan via Zoom, Frederick said that what distinguishes his latest rascal from earlier ones is that he has a backstory. “Most of the bad guys I played are typically one-dimensional. [Hu], however, has a character arc,” he said.
“To see how he evolves, you must watch the show till the very end,” teased the one-time interior designer who started acting after winning Mediacorp’s Malaysia Star Search in 2003.
Does Christopher have a favourite role Frederick has played? “I always talk about this,” Frederick said with a dry laugh, in English. ‘This’ being questions about his more famous elder sibling.
“He never tells me that,” he said. “Even he did watch my shows, he would be very careful with his words. Maybe because we are brothers, he’s worried that his criticism might affect my morale.”
Frederick has previously said in interviews that he finds it a blessing to be associated with his brother. “Thanks to [him], everyone got to know me even faster. It’s easier to be seen when you’re in this situation,” he told Taiwan’s Mirror Media.
And does Frederick have a favourite role of Christopher’s?
“I rarely see his shows,” he sniggered. “He recently did one for HBO, Workers. I like his character on that show — it’s very close to his personality in real life when he was young. I love his performance.”
He also admired Christopher in The Price of Peace, the 1997 drama set in Japanese-occupied Singapore during WWII. In fact, it was that show — which won the elder Lee Best Actor at the Star Awards — that inspired him to consider acting as a career option.
“I remember studying interior design when The Price of Peace came on the TV and I had a hard time concentrating when he was onscreen,” Frederick recalled. “I was mesmerised by his performance.
“Here is a guy whom I grew up with, but the feeling of watching him was both familiar and strange. It was like I know him yet I don’t. It was a weird, magical buzz. That was how I got curious about acting. And if I can achieve that with my acting, I would be satisfied.”
Trinity of Shadows airs Sun, HBO (Singtel TV Ch 420, StarHub Ch 601), 9pm. It’s also available on HBO Go.
Photos: Catwalk Production House (Frederick Lee); HBO Asia