1. He started acting late.
After graduating from the University of California San Diego with an Electrical Engineering degree in 2005, the Oakland-native worked as a loan officer for a few years, before deciding to give showbiz a shot, first as a model and later an actor. Lim’s parents — father is a retired accountant, while mother works at an air quality testing company — weren’t as thrilled with his career switch initially. “I think they knew that no matter what they said, they weren’t going to change my mind,” Lim tells us over the phone. After relocating to LA in 2009, Lim, who also has a younger sister, landed bits parts on Castle, Criminal Minds and Supergirl. It was on Quantico that he gained prominence as serious-as-hell priest-turned-spook Sebastian Chen. His latest gig: As Officer Victor Tan on S.W.A.T., the reboot of the 1970s show about an elite police tactical squad.
2. His S.W.A.T. character was created specially for him.
When Lim first read for the show, it was for another character, someone he didn’t think he “was the greatest fit for”. Just when he’d given up, his agent rang. “‘They wanna offer a role’”, he recalls. “Turns out the producers had created Victor Tan as an additional member of the S.W.A.T. team. I was over the moon.” There was another reason to rejoice: The chance to work with another Asian-American, Justin Lin, who directed the pilot. “I’ve never met him before, but, of course, I knew of his work; I’ve been a fan of [his debut] Better Luck Tomorrow, Fast & Furious, and Star Trek: Beyond. So to work with him was very surreal. It was an incredible experience. Even though we were making a TV pilot, it felt like we were on a movie set. If you’ve seen the pilot, there are parts that are very cinematic.”
3. He hopes to be a role model for Asian-Americans.
Growing up, Lim looked up to athletes (like basketball icon Michael Jordan), not actors, ’cos “there weren’t Asian-American TV or movie stars that I could identify with. And even if I did see someone who looked like me, it was a negative or stereotypical portrayal.” And that’s why he’s lucked out with Victor Tan. “He is a bad ass, an action hero, and there’s nothing about him that’s stereotypical. He’s cool, charming, sexy, and has a good heart — a three-dimensional character. We definitely need more [Asian-American characters like] him on TV and in movies.”
4. He auditioned for Crazy Rich Asians.
Alas, Lim didn’t get a callback. But he hopes the rom-com, about Singapore’s filthy rich Chinese community, does well because “[it] will do a lot in terms of paving the way for more projects with multiple Asian characters.” Has he thought about greener pastures in China? Sure, but he’s got to work on his Mandarin first. “I don’t speak it. My parents spoke a little bit, but they didn’t pass it down to my sister and I when we were young, so we only spoke English growing up.” But right now, he’s-focused on S.W.A.T.. “It’s a great vehicle to showcase what I can do, and I get to be an action hero every week. Who can ask for more than that, especially for me as an Asian-American actor?”
Main photo: Keidy Moreno.
S.W.A.T. airs Fri, Fox (Singtel TV Ch 330 & StarHub Ch 505), 9pm; it also streams on Fox+. Crazy Rich Asians opens Aug 16. Follow David on Instagram @davidbradleylim.