Lee Shorten’s character on Supernatural may not have a proper name – his IMDB page only lists him as either Demon #1, Minion #1 or Minion #2 – but he is definitely the “minion” that’s been in Crowley’s service for the longest time. As well, Lee can be seen on the Man in the High Castle (along with Supernatural alumni Sebastian Roche (also known as Balthazar) and the Romeo Section.
How did you get into acting?
It’s kind of a roundabout story. I was into acting back in junior high; so I hadn’t done it in a long, long time. I finished school, and everyone around me thought I should go to med school or law school, one of the two. So I picked law school. I did film studies as my undergrad. I loved everything about the industry, and at the time I was also playing in a bunch of bands so I was feeling, you know, creatively fulfilled. After I finished school and then was working as a lawyer I didn’t really do anything except lawyer, and a few years later I was just missing out on that creative side. I kind of took stock of my life and thought, you know, I really miss that – I just remembered how much I loved movies and TV; watching it, talking about it with friends, just everything. I thought – this is what I should be doing because I just love it so much. I quit my job and moved to Canada.
How does your background as a lawyer benefit you as an actor?
They’re not completely dissimilar; I don’t think. As a lawyer, I think you do a lot of research and a lot of investigation. You deal a lot with people, and you hear their stories and then you kind of piece together a case for them or an argument – I think the difference is you stand removed from it, detached, and it’s a very logical process. So I think as an actor it’s a little bit similar in that you get this idea of a character and then you do a lot of research, some digging, and you do some investigation, but you’re kind of in the trenches with this character – you’re trying to really connect with them, and understand them, as opposed to just glean the facts to present an argument. So I think the research and the investigation and just kind of the ability to empathize with people that I developed through law school and as being a lawyer I think really translated well to acting.
Tell us about working on Supernatural.
I love Supernatural. Supernatural is so much fun because they’ve been around for so long – and that’s a good thing because the crew and the cast just know it inside out and they’re so efficient, and they’re like a family. And yet, despite having been around for so long, they’re still so passionate about it. They’re still so inventive, they’re trying to try new things – going over to that set is just so welcoming and so lovely and there isn’t a lot of those tensions about are we coming back or what are we doing right, or what are we doing wrong, they’re just there to play. Working with Mark [Sheppard] – he’s so much fun, and he’s so generous as an actor. It’s just an easy-going, relaxed and fun set.
Do you have any behind-the-scenes stories to share? (From Supernatural.)
Yeah, I have a little one. In the last episode that I did, I had that line to Mark, “We just wanted to see the monkey dance.” It was nearing the end of the day, and we had done a lot of takes – it’s a very combatative scene. It’s the first time I’m really sticking it to Crowley, so naturally do you want to feed into that tension to capture it on camera. We were nearing the end of the day and it’s on my coverage and I’m trying to be really serious and really stick it to Mark and I’m like, “We just wanted to see the monkey dance, one last time.” And of course, because it’s on my coverage, Mark just breaks out into this weird, weird monkey dance and he’s kind of just capering around and making faces at me and I just flubbed it, I couldn’t help myself. That’s the kind of atmosphere you can have on set because everyone is so relaxed and so friendly.
I understand you’re the longest-surviving demon working for Crowley — what’s your secret?
That’s a good question. I think a lot of luck – I think I’m lucky in that I think I have a lot of chemistry with Mark. Perhaps it’s he’s a Brit and I’m an Aussie, and we bring a bit of that friendly rivalry that our countries have to the set. I think that feeds the relationship between Crowley and his minion because he likes to think he’s on top and he runs the show, but of course he relies on us to do a lot of his dirty work — to clean up after his demon orgies and y’know, the things that he maybe doesn’t like to get dirty. For me, no matter what the role is, and no disrespect to other actors, I think there’s sometimes a tendency to play the profession. So if you’re going in to be a doctor, or a lawyer or a cop or a demon minion, there’s a sense of I’m just going to go in and be a cop, or a demon minion. Whereas I always do my best to infuse some humanity, to find some complexity there – so even when I’m just going in for the first time to be the demon minion, I wanted to do it from this place of really actually respecting Crowley and trying to advance his agenda, and try to see him as a person and try to be a person as well. I think that translates to the screen and that everyone enjoyed that. You could see the complexity and depth to this demon.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Man in the High Castle, what is it about?
The Man in the High Castle is about a terrifying alternate reality – it’s set in the 1960s – where we lost the war, we lost World War II, so evil won. It’s set in America and the Nazis control the East Coast, and the Japanese, the Imperial Japanese, control the West Coast of America. It’s about what America would look like under that very dark, brutal fascist regime.
How does your character fit in?
My character, Sergeant Hiroyuki Yoshida, is basically the right-hand man of one of the chief antagonists, so he’s a member of the Kempeitai, the Japanese secret police. I’m not sure how familiar people are with the history, but they’re basically the Japanese version of the SS. They’re very scary, brutal people who engage in a lot of very sinister and very horrifying acts in order to maintain the rules. I’m one of the chief antagonists, and Kido and I are tasked with putting an end to the resistance and finding the Man in the High Castle, who is kind of the head of that regime.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to share?
I just finished a stint on the Romeo Section, which you can catch on CBC, which is a great show, set in Vancouver, actually set in Vancouver, not just shot here, about spies. But other than that, right now we’re just reading scripts and trying to find a project that would be a good fit moving forward.