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October 2002

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From Gwen:

I'm a big fan of your work and I want to thank you for taking the time to answer fan questions. I'll dive straight in to mine.

I recently watched the Season 1 DVD of Oz with your commentary over the first two episodes. I seem to remember some other guy on there too, but I can't be sure. Your commentary was insightful and often very funny (especially over the pilot episode). My questions, which I've always wondered when listening to DVD commentaries:

Was it awkward at all to speak over the episode? And, in general, how does the process work?

What they do is they sit you in like a control room, kind of like when people record an album, but it's more like a looping stage, which is something weíre sort of used to. Thereís a little table, and there was a couple of microphones, and weíre watching a big-screen TV. In this case, Tom and I hadnít seen the episode... I mean, he probably hadnít seen it for even longer than I hadnít seen it, and I definitely hadnít seen it for a couple of years. So, no, it wasnít awkward to talk over it. I think we were listening to it on headphones, far as I remember; we had it on headphones so that we would be able to hear it and then we would be able to talk and hear ourselves. Anyway, itís something we were pretty familiar with, so to look at it, and to talk over it -- you know, people go to the movies and talk over the movies, right? Itís the same sort of thing, except they asked us to do it. So no one was shushing us.

What they did was, we actually just watched the first one twice, and we talked over it both times. The first time we just sort of did what was on the first episode. Tom got called Ė Iím sorry, Iím going to sidetrack for a second Ė Tom got called to do it, and.. the first DVD I bought when I got my DVD player was "The Wall", and that has this great commentary by Roger Waters and the guy who did the animation near the end of it. And at some points they were talking about how they come up with certain things and where it was from, and at other points they were really irreverent, it was funny. And so I was like, this makes it much more entertaining than just two people sitting there going, ďOh, beautiful shot. Oh, yes.Ē  So when Tom told me they had asked him to do it, I was like, "Dude, you have to have me come with you! Itíd be great for us to sit there," -- because he and I have such a good banter thing, you know? A good relationship. So he was like, "Yeah, thatís a great idea."

So they played it the first time and we did that, and then the second time they played it again, and the guy who was sort of producing it was asking us questions, and thatís why... the second episode, it gets a little drier. Although the weird thing is, we were watching the first episode (both times). But it fits; you canít really tell, because weíre not speaking as specifically as we were the first time.

And I have to say that Iím sort of responsible for the fact that we have a DVD at all! There was all this complication because of the production companies, because we werenít... like, The Sopranos is HBO Studios, and the first few years we werenít. We were Rysher Entertainment, and then there was another company that overtook it, that was under the Paramount/Viacom umbrella. Anyway, so one day Iím in my video store, and I turn as Iím waiting for the guy to ring me up, and I see the box set of The Sopranos and Sex in the City, and Iím like, ďI want a DVD!Ē So I go over to Tom and ask him, why is it that we donít have a DVD? And he actually called HBO a few days later, like "What is going on?" They had talked it about a few times, but it never happened. And so it turned out that they had called Rysher, who had now sold the show to HBO, and when they called Rysher about the old seasons for the DVD, no one called them back so they just let it drop. So when Tom called, they called back, and they were able to hammer out a deal, and now we have DVDís coming out every year. So, youíre welcome. [laughs]

Also, do you expect to do more commentaries with new DVD releases?

I really donít know whatís going to happen with that. I think that one of the things there will be more of is scenes that were left out, and stuff like that.

My next question is totally unrelated. Do you just get sick to death of answering questions about Chris Meloni? I read all the questions that come in about your relationship with him and the relationship between Beecher and Keller and I think that you have to get tired of it. Sometimes I do and I don't even have to answer them. (If the answer's yes, I hope it helps to know that he has to answer just as many questions about you on his web-site). 

You know, I think this person should worry more about what's going on with them. [laughing]  I love Chris Meloni, and Iíll talk about him as much as anybody wants me to!
Thanks for the concern, actually, is what I should say, I guess.

Again, thank you for your time. You're my favorite actor on Oz and I loved you in Weird Science. I'm hoping to see you in a lot of different projects after Oz is wrapped.

------------------------------------


From Giovanni:

Stop me if you heard this before? So, when are you going to star in the Jack Lemmon biopic? :)

Are you casting it? Iíve been told I look like Jack Lemmon.

How did the GLAAD Media event in DC go?

Oh, Giovanni... my dear Giovanni. It went great. Sorry that it took me so long to get to these questions! You know, it was a lot of fun, interesting to go down there for the day, everybody was really very supportive and I was really happy I did it.

Looking forward to the grand finale next Season. Keep up the good work. All good things to you.
 

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From Sid564:

Dear Lee,
For the past five years, I have been dissecting the show ďOzĒ in sickening detail. To the point where my family and friends all hate me. Now that Oz is ending, and since you have been so very generous with your answers, Iím jumping on the chance to ask you about your own thoughts and interpretations of the show.

1. Boy, Beecher sure has changed over the years! There have been several Internet polls asking fans to choose their favorite Beecher incarnation. Iíd love to know yours...? (If you need examples, Iíve included some below. Or feel free to use your own.)

A) Wussy, praggy, ďPlease sir, may I fuck my wife?Ē Beecher
B) Rhyming, dick-biting, face-shitting ďSeig heil, baby!Ē Beecher
C) Nail-filing, hack-slicing, Andy-seducing, Keller-shanking vengeful Beecher
D) Pod-praying, wound-kissing, wishing-on-a-star ďI wanna be forgiven!Ē Beecher
E) ďSelf-hate will do in a pinchĒ slutty Beecher
F) Almost-but-not-quite enlightened, ďHow is love wrong?Ē Beecher


God, theyíre all so good!  [laughs]  Itís funny, this kind of question, because I donít really think of it as different incarnations. You know, Beecher is Beecher to me. Whatever his reality was at any moment is just what his reality was. I mean, I feel inside the same way I did when I was in high school, you know? Which was a looooong time ago.... So, you know what Iím saying? I mean, if I had to choose from those incarnations, I would say my favorite is... I donít know, itís a tough one. Itíd be between "Self-hatredíll do in a pinch slut Beecher," and the nail-filing Beecher. I really donít see it as being different things, so itĎs hard for me to really say. 

Sorry, after all that work of dissecting, I canít answer the question! But, good work!  And keep dissecting! See, dissecting is more your job, not mine.
 

2. My all-time favorite moment is from Season 2: Beecher is alone in his pod just after his first kiss from Keller, and he finally breaks down and drinks the alcohol. So there he is, whimpering, rhyming, kissing the glass -- you were so great. I get chills every time I see it! Can you indulge me a bit and tell me about filming that scene? Was it difficult to do? Did you get it one take? How did you feel about it, the first time you saw it afterwards?

Itís funny because actually, I donít know why, but I just recently saw that one. I have to say that was one of those scenes, and thereís been a lot of scenes like this in this show, where you sort of throw yourself off into the unknown. Itís not the kind of thing Ė not that we rehearse anything that much, but you know, things like that, or when I found out my son was dead, theyíre exciting scenes to do because you just donít know exactly where itís going to go, and whatís going to happen. So I have to say that I like those scenes a lot. 

I donít remember if kissing the mirror was in the script or not, but it just felt so... you know, he was just so sad. And what I love about that show is that I was able to go and dig around in those places that are in all of us. And a lot of times, people in their day to day life, we all carry sadness and loss, but a lot of people donít allow themselves to experience it, to go to those depths of sorrow and stuff like that. And you know, itís cathartic in some way. Doing them is always full of a lot of images, a lot of different things, a lot of thoughts go through my head rather quickly, and so -- itís exciting. That's what I said and I stick by that. 
 

3. Would you believe there are fans out there who believe that Beecher was NOT the one who shanked Keller in the storage room? What would you say to those crazy people?

I would have to say Ė Never convicted!  [laughs]  Look, you know what? There is no answer to that question. Itís completely subjective. Itís up to the person who watches it to decide what they think. I mean, I know when I talk about it to Keller I scare the shit out of him. But was that just a coincidence, that I knew he was stacking paper? And then also that I would say, ďboom, boom?Ē  Honestly, I donít know. Thatís a question you have to ask Tom. And I donít think he even knows. It was very dark in that fucking room. The Warren Commission thinks there was a second stab-man. And they never think thereís a second one! The magic knife!
 

3. In the scene where Beecher is getting ready to go to his son's funeral, he asks Chris if he has ever felt this way about another man, and Chris says no. In your opinion, why doesnít Toby believe him? To me, itís always seemed that thereís a certain degree of ambivalence in Beecherís feelings for Keller, like he wishes he didnít love him. But thatís me. How would you, personally, describe Tobyís feelings for Chris?

Well...hmm. Itís ever changing. He loves him. But does he trust him? Iím not sure. Especially back then... I mean, I think after that season, after Keller confesses to hiring somebody to kill Hank, the feeling of trust deepens. I think he wants to believe, you know? But he knows what heís dealing with, thatís the thing. He loves Keller, but he knows that Keller doesnít fully understand that, how much Beecher loves him and that he loves him unconditionally. And he knows that Keller thinks that sometimes he still has to work him, when he really doesnít.
 

5. In ďFamous Last Words,Ē as Toby prepares to leave Oz, he claims: ďPrisoner 97B412 is dead. Iím putting all that shit behind me.Ē The fans I talk to tend to have very strong feelings about that particular line; some think Toby was finally showing a healthy dose of optimism and faith in himself, while others felt that he was deep in denial about how Oz had changed him and how he would have to come to terms with it. What do you think?

Theyíre both wrong. It was a fucking dream. Prisoner 97B412 was asleep!
 

6. In Season Five, you had this incredible scene where Beecher was talking to his mother about the death of Adam. Mrs. Beecher tells Toby how she felt glad that Adamís family would know how she felt, and then she practically collapses from guilt. Beecher just sits there and gapes at her, his own guilt and tortured emotions in plain view. That was such an amazing moment, so perfectly done. I donít really have a question about this, I just wanted to thank you and tell you how wonderful you were.

Well, in answer to your question...  Beecher in that scene has this moment where he realizes something about himself... so much that came to him through his parents, and especially his mother. Thatís a huge moment for him, because he realizes that his mother is as sick and twisted as... as Schillinger! And him! You know? Itís a big moment for him, it was a huge moment for him. And because, see, at that point, heís so far... well, heís not so far past it, but heís done a lot of work on himself, you know what I was saying? Anyway, thanks for asking that one. That was my favorite question!  [laughs]

webmaster: Youíre such a bitch, Lee.

I appreciate that. Are you gonna put that up there? That you said Iím such a bitch?

webmaster:  Should I?

Yeah. Thatís funny. 

7. Iím curious. Why, oh why, do you think weíve been able to witness any number of violent sexual acts in Oz Ė Adebisiís rape of Schibetta, Keller sending Barlog off with a bang, and Beecherís game of Blow and Bite with Robson are just three that come immediately to mind Ė and yet the camera fades out whenever Chris and Toby start kissing? Are you all trying to drive us batty? Is Tom Fontana simply a cruel, sadistic cocktease? Or is the pointed lack of love scenes in Oz the result of a greater moral or philosophical statement being made?

"Why oh why?" How about, where oh where has my little dog gone? Donít start with nursery rhyme beginnings. Okay? Next. Itís Bite and Blow! You gotta bite before you blow the dick off, not blow and bite. Or, itís Blow - Bite - Blow, because I spit it out...  Come on!  Hello? Dude, youíre driving me crazy. Okay, listen. Iím only gonna go through this once. Your answer is in your question. If you were to continue to see us do anything, one of us would have to end up dead or maimed! You talk about Adebisiís rape of Schibetta, me biting whatshisnamesís dick off -- and I say whatshisname because I don't *respect* him -- and the blowjob/snap the neck? Dude!  Itís love!  Weíre talking love!  Itís nice, itís a nice moment! Jesus Christ! Oh my god! Stop dissecting!

webmaster:  But you just told him to keep dissecting.

I know, I know, yeah, but you know what? I said thatís his job, but you know what? Iím firing him. From dissecting. You are fired from dissecting!  Just let the show wash over you. If you think about it too much, you will end up driving me crazy!

8. Lastly Ė tell me honestly. Am I thinking too much?

[laughing]  I think Iíve covered that. Yes, yes, yes!  Why oh why would you have to ask that question?

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From Gunstreetgirl02:

Tobias Beecher's intense and ever-changing circumstances and development have, in my experience anyway, made some of the most intriguing and complex emotional scenes I've seen on t.v.- Any t.v. shows come to mind that you have actually become addicted to because of watching a character's life like a car wreck    (and then the hospital, the physical therapy, etc...)?  Thanks, me

Tobias Beecher? Whoís that?  Next question!  This is Ask Lee, okay? [laughs]  God, I am such a dick. Yeah, actually, I was into the "Six Million Dollar Man" like that.

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From dalphine112:

Hi Lee love your answers to the questions you really take time out and give long answers which is really appreciated.

Not anymore they won't be. [laughs]

Okay my question is what will be your next project after Oz is over with. Do you think Mr. Wolf would give you a job on Law and Order SVU with Chris.

Thank you for appreciating my long answers. You know what they say about a guy with long answers, donít you? Long-winded... Anyway. I did this episode of " ER" thatís going to be on this Thursday. And actually, Dick Wolf was at the wrap party for this season, and so was this woman Roz Weiman, Iíve known her for a while, and she said to me, ďYou got to let me introduce you to DickĒ -- who Iíve actually met before Ė and I go, jokingly: ďNo no no no no, I canít meet him. Then heíll hire me!Ē

I just like to say you guys had some great chemistry together. You and Chris did some hell of acting because if I didn't know you both were straight you would have fooled me.

You know, I was a lot straighter before I did these scenes with Chris.  [laughing]

 You both gave your all to those character which we fans really enjoyed and are sad its coming to and end.   Oz will always be one of the great shows that will always stand out in my mind it was done very good. It also had some great acting and some great actor especially you and Chris and Eamonn Walker.

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From Nikolas:

Hi, Lee. I have to start off by saying that Beecher is one of my very favorite characters, and this is coming from someone who likes almost everybody on Oz!

Oh, that makes me feel good!  No, Iím fine with that. Really, Iím okay...

You are a great actor, and I always enjoy watching you. Now, here's for the quesions:

1. You mentioned that in the scene where you kissed Keller's bullet wound you felt oddly feminine. Almost like your character was a woman. It seems that a lot of other people, including Meloni, feel that your character is the more "feminine partner" in what they see as being a very non-egalitarian, almost gender - typed relationship, and this also seems more in line with what they have been portraying on the show as of late. This is confusing to me, because even though Beecher was having sex with a man, I always considered him to be pretty masculine, and both him and Keller to be equals (at least sexually---I know he has at times definitely been under Keller's thumb). What are your takes on this?

You know, I am not going to give these kind of answers if youíre going to misconstrue what I say!  [laughs]  What I was talking about was, as an actor, sometimes images come through, and feelings, and stuff like that. So it could be an image -- of my mother, of whatever. Itís not about the character, itís about what happens to me in the scene. Beecher is not feminine. They have an equal relationship. Now, hereís your assignment. Go back to the question, find that answer, read through it again, and I want you to write a little essay. For the next time I come around. Telling me that you understand it now. What I was talking about was what goes on as an actor, which is that thereís like four or five different levels. Knowing the lines, seeing what the other person is doing, thinking about the character, the history of the character, whatís going on in the scene... and then also, thereís free-flowing images. Iím sure this is almost exactly what I said. And that was where all of a sudden a flash of like, nurturing, or mothering, or femininity, something like that, flew into my head. Now... Iím serious about this essay! And you better be like, "I understand that now, and Iím sorry about that. I understand so little, but I use such big words." That should be how that essay ends.

2. When you first sat down with Tom to talk about the character of Beecher, were there any character traits that you guys had planned on at first and ended up rejecting down the line? Was the Beecher that was first in your guys' head different than the Beecher we saw?

When we first talked about it, it was very general; about a guy who comes into prison, you know, and has none of the skills he needs, everything is stripped away, what does he have to go through to survive? That was basically our first talk about it. And you know what? Thereís no way, from before anything of Oz was written to when itís all completed, thereís no way to know everything thatís going to happen. It has a flow to it. Itís like life. You may think, ďOh, in ten years Iíd like to have a house and a Porsche,Ē but in ten years those two things may or may not be true.

3. Tom Fontana says that he will be finishing the story he "originally set out to tell" in Season Six, and that means that the focus will be returning to the characters (left alive) and storylines of the first season. What do you think about this, and are you worried for your character, lol?

I donít ever worry, because worryiní is a waste of my time. (Thatís Guns 'n Roses, people.)

Finally, do you have a favorite season of Oz? What season do you think was the best, and what one do you think was the "worst?" 

I donít have any favorites.

If you couldn't play Beecher, what characters would want to play?

Nooter!

Thank you so much. Good luck shooting the final season.

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From Alexa:

Dear Lee I'm a huge fan yours. I have some questions for you.
Do you have any tattoos in your body and where do you have them?

I have a tattoo on my right calf.

What color is your favourite? 

I donít know. I donít really have any favorite color. I used to always say blue, but it depends on what itís on, or where it is. Black is a great color sometimes, sometimes thereís pinks in a sunset that are really awesome. I go on a case-by-case thing! I try not to... you know, whenever Iím grading something on a scale of 1 to 10, I never give anything a 10. Because what if you find something thatís just a little better than a ten? You see? So I donít pick favorites. I donít believe in superlatives.

I think bands that put out albums... I just came up with this today, this is a great one. For example, Poison? Poisonís album, that they put out with all their hits? That should be called ďgood hitsĒ.  [laughing]  I actually did come up with that today! Because how can you really call them great hits?   "Good Hits."

What food is your favourite? Thanks for your answer.

Wait, hold on -- I do have a favorite food. Itís called kumpe, itís a Norwegian dish. And thereís a dollar in it for you, if somebody makes it for me!

---------------------------------

From Beth:

What kinds of things move you to tears? Do you hide your tears? Have you ever broken down in front of a friend?

Jesus Christ, like three times this week. I actually just connected with a friend of mine, this girl Karen that I went to high school with, about two weeks ago, and I started to cry like three times. I did. We hadnít seen each other in like fifteen years! The second thing that she said to me was, "Iím sorry I wasnít there when your mom died." That kind of shit crushes me. People make me cry, you know? My relationships with people.

How are you when people you love cry? Do you feel uncomfortable or do you try to comfort them?

No, you know what? Neither. Generally, I let them be. I do not get uncomfortable when people have outbursts. And I think that one of the things that Ė even though Iím an actor, and good acting is reacting Ė I think in the real world, a lot of times what we need to do is not react, when people have an outburst, whether it's of anger, or sadness. You know? Thereís no reason to feel uncomfortable, because weíve all had experiences like that; there's no reason to comfort them, because in a way, when you finally let go of emotion like that, you are sort of comforting yourself. I usually just, Iíll be there for them, and not make them feel like anything is wrong with what theyíre doing. And you know, if they say, "Hey, hug me," or they take your hand or something, then sure, you do that Ė but you know, to offer it up, I think that being uncomfortable and trying to comfort are both you being uncomfortable, and trying to do something to make it go away. And there you have it. Good question! Thatís a good question.

Are you and Chris close enough, comfortable enough to cry in front of each other? Thanks

If we had to. Yeah, I guess, yeah. I never hold shit back. Thatís not how I work.

Please name the last book, movie, piece of music that moved you to tears. Please?

This is going to be weird, but thereís a Jethro Tull song that Iíve been listening to a lot lately, off of Aqualung. Itís called "Wondering Aloud."

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From Candace:

Do you believe in God? If so, would you describe yourself as someone who prefers the sense of belonging of organized religion, the take what you need and leave the rest, or the atheist/agnostic stance?

I like to think of myself as a dyslexic agnostic insomniac. I stay up all night wondering if there is a dog.  [laughs]  I donít know, I donít want to talk about that. Because who cares what I believe?

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From Jerry:

Hi Lee; Are you piss off that Oz season 6 is going to be last season? Have you talk to Tom Fontana about keeping the show on for at least 2 more years?

No, I didnít get angry, and no I didnít try to convince Tom to do anything. 
 

---------------------------

From SP:

Hello! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I have loved reading all the answers you have so graciously given us. Of course, I'm greedy. I want more. So here goes--

Being a fan of your luscious body, I would like to know what diet/exercise you do to keep your body, well, luscious? Also, did you do anything in particular to lose the weight you've lost for Toby?

I am luscious.  [Lee laughs. A lot.]  Well thank you thank you thank you. You know, I run a lot, thatís the mainstay of my workout. And when I get to the gym, generally Iím doing sit-ups and push-ups and pull-ups. In the beginning -- I think I weighed like 190-something pounds --anyway, I just controlled my diet. And my idea that I sort of came up with during the first season was that gradually the character would come more into focus, physically and mentally, and so part of that was losing the weight, and doing different things with the facial hair, which was sort of hiding.

Does your lovely wife Leslie get jealous when we talk of your luscious body? Or does she do as I would and grab for certain parts, give a bodacious smirk and say 'MINE!!!!!'?

Oh, she doesnít care.

And most importantly, according to sources (you), your answers are chatty if they are verbal and short if you must type. So, just how many fingers do you use to type?? 'Enquiring' minds want to know? Yours ever so humbly (and greedily) -- SP

Well, I can use all ten, but only one at a time...

 

 

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