Actor Lee Thompson Young Talks to RO About Being on a Hit Show and the Value of a College Degree (by Annsonita Robinson)
South Carolina native Lee Thompson Young finds himself in the enviable position of being on the highest-rated show in production on cable – TNT’s Rizzoli and Isles. Fans of the show anxiously await the July 11 season two premiere at 10pm E.S.T. as his character, Det. Barry Frost, finds himself in the aftermath of a violent firefight.
Young is an honors graduate of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. He received a full academic scholarship. But, his yearning to pursue acting began at the age of 10 when he portrayed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a local production. Young has appeared in films Akeelah and the Bee, Friday Night Lights, and Redemption. His television roles are vast and he has a growing reputation as a character actor with a recurring role in “Scrubs and Smallville,” he was also in “Flash Forward” and “The Event.”
The characters on Rizzoli and Isles are based on the best-selling Tess Gerritsen novels. Were you a fan before the show?
No, I wasn’t familiar with the novels before the show. But, after I auditioned for the role and got it, I read them. They were helpful with preparation to play the character of Det. Barry Frost.
Angie Harmon and Lorraine Bracco — two strong women with successful track records in the industry? How is it working with them?
I love working with them. I learn just as much about the craft as about industry survival skills. But, the entire cast is really great to work with. I’m the youngest member of the cast, so I really take advantage of the wealth of knowledge that I find myself surrounded by.
With your character’s father making an appearance, we’ll see more of Detective Barry Frost’s background this season. How is that relationship? What can we expect?
The appearance of Barry’s father will fill in some of the blanks about how he came to be the way he is. His father won’t be in many episodes, but his appearance will spark little clues into Barry’s character throughout the season.
(Laughs) You’ll just have to watch.
The season finale shoot-out was phenomenal, reminiscent of DeNiro and Pacino in “Heat”. How long did it take to complete?
Thank you. That’s great to hear. We were all very proud of that episode (“When the Gun Goes Bang, Bang, Bang”). It was directed by one of our producers, Michael M. Robin. It was shot in one day. We came in, got our lines and went to work. We don’t have the luxury of time, so every one works hard to nail it in as few a takes as possible. If that scene was shot for a feature film it easily would have taken a full week to complete.
Your photography – any past or future gallery showings?
No, I never even considered it. Photography is a hobby born out of my time in undergrad at USC. It is more of a pleasurable hobby, a stress reliever. I don’t consider it a professional endeavor like acting or directing.
You are a “strong supporter of Children’s Defense Fund” – how so?
When I was young, my mom worked with United Way and Big Brothers Big Sisters. She made friends with some nice people at the Children’s Defense Fund. She is still friends with them today and supports their work. My support is mainly financial and exposing the organization to others in the industry.
You attended USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. Lots of debate on the national stage concerning the value of going to college. What are your thoughts on this?
My personal experience was one of tremendous growth. The college curriculum was fine, but it was being away from home that was most valuable to me. College and the responsibilities that came with it helped me transition from teenager to adulthood.