Like many of you I grew up watching Full House, and like many of you I was anticipating the Fuller House series. You can lie to yourself and say you weren't, but we both know deep down you had it marked on your calendar. Either way though, for those that have pushed through the series, you know the show wasn't half bad, and while reviews are somewhat mixed Netflix has now not only greenlit the next season, they've also announced the Olsen's replacement. Needless to say there has been a media whirlwind following the series, and while I'd love to sit down and discuss fashion week with Mary-Kate, I decided to do the next best thing and talk shop with Michael Sun Lee. Who is MIchael Sun Lee, you ask? Well, you might know him better as the new and improved Harry Takayama.
Jessie Hobson: Alright man, first things first, Full House originally aired in 1987 but it didn't really get any steam until it became the flagship program for ABC's TGIF in 1988, were you... did you tune in for TGIF back then or was that something you kind of strayed away from?
Michael Sun Lee: I used to watch it. I think it was, was it Full House, Family Matters, Step by Step? Wasn't there another one?
JH: So, what I've heard and what I've read, I guess some of those eventually came later on when TGIF got like really popular, like in 1989, but like in the beginning it was like Perfect Strangers, Full House and Mr. Belvedere.
ML: Yeah, that's right, It was Perfect Strangers. I remember that.
JH: Yeah, and once Full House jumped on board that's when everyone started to take note that ABC's kinda on to something.
ML: Right, exactly. Exactly.
JH: So, considering that you did tune in, and you are apart of the cast, so this is somewhat relevant, did you have any crushes on the cast growing up? Like whenever you would tune in back then?
ML: Well, I thought Jodie Sweetin, for sure, was the cutest kid. Yeah, because I think Michelle was too small, but Stephanie, I thought she was so cute. I think she had a lisp too when she was young. I'm not sure.
JH: Yeah, I think in the earlier episodes she did, but evolved into not being there.
ML: Yeah, right. Cause I had a lisp growing up.
JH: Oh, yeah. So then yeah, perfect!
ML: Yeah, that's kinda, I was like yeah, I have a lisp too. But, I went to one of speech people, what do you call them, during elementary school. I had taken, I guess I got rid of it. Sort of.
JH: Well, I don't notice it now.
ML: It comes back every once and while, I think, but who knows? Ya know?
JH: I mean, obviously the cast has a lot of history, for you joining a settled cast much later on, was it like joining a new school or was it just different that anything you had ever done prior?
ML: Yeah, it was way different than anything I had done prior. I never did a adult, I did a kid's sitcom for Disney, Disney XD and Nickelodeon, but I had never did an adult sitcom with a live studio audience. So, that was very very exciting and very fun to do. God, that was kinda a dream come true. I thought, I would never get a chance to do one, especially there was time where situation comedies were fading for a while. Ya know, single camera comedy was getting real popular. It's still popular, but it seems like sitcoms are making a strong comeback within the last few years, I believe.
JH: Yeah, I noticed that as well. I mean, I had heard the Fuller House was coming, but I was not really anticipating how big it was going to get. Literally the night it was released my Facebook blew up. Were you anticipating that type of response or were you prepared for that at all?
ML: I was not. When I heard they were bringing it back, and they was calling it Fuller House, I was like, yeah, that's kind of clever. And I heard the kids were going to sorta be taking over the show because they're grown now, that's even more clever. Then I found out D.J.'s last name was Fuller and I thought, that's even more clever! So, it's a to the show and the creators to bring that back. And, I had no idea how huge the fanbase was for Full House and Fuller House, it's crazy. Like, I've gotten so many responses via social media just because of that show, ya know. I guess it was trending the week it debuted, ya know, on all social media platforms. I know people that have watched it as soon as it came out, I think it was 12:01 it launched. And people have watched it throughout the night, and within the first day they finished all 13 episodes. I just finished the 13th episode, I think it was yesterday. Yeah, it was yesterday actually. Cause I chose to watch it slowly.
JH: Yeah, same here.
ML: Yeah, like one a day, or like one every other day. Something like that, but yeah, I just finished it and it was great. It gets better and better and you wanna know what happens. It's kinda short actually, 13 weeks seems short.
JH: Definitely. What I think is working for it, it's one of those shows that's fairly innocent, but at the same time, there are those situations that almost anyone can kind of relate to. So, because of which, you could watch it with your Grandma and either of you can get something out of it, and I think that's what helped it becoming a trending topic, ultimately.
ML: Yeah, and it was one of those, when you were younger, it was one of those guilty pleasures that you didn't really admit to watching, ya know, Full House. That's not cool, I watch the A-Team or whatever, you know what I mean, but Full House, now I can say yeah, I watched it.
JH: Cause it's like cool now, it's odd. It's normal to see like a 30+ year old guy buying the DVD set at Best Buy, being in line with it, but probably about two months ago that wasn't normal.
ML: Exactly, I was surprised how touched I became by watching Fuller House. Some of the moments were just touching to me. I just thought it would be funny, there were some really touching moments, real moments, I think. Ya know?
JH: Totally agree. So, keeping all of that in mind, you mentioned that the writers, they are basically the team behind the scenes obviously, that are really, outside of the actors, the strongest part of making this product move. How do they handled the absence of the Olsens? Clever? Rude? What did you think?
ML: I thought it was clever. It's something that you would never think that they would do. Ya know, break the fourth wall like that. I guess, ya know, it's a new audience with this Netflix audience. It's almost like there's no rules anymore. I thought it was great actually because everyone was talking about it, ya know?
JH: Yeah, it almost like added to the trend. It made it that much more, I have to go out and watch this, ya know, I have to see this dig.
ML: Yeah, they didn't do it half-ass either, you know what I mean? They went for it. It wasn't just a quick, ya know, break the fourth wall, they kinda, it kinda lasted a while and i'm like... damn!
JH: So, I guess another piece of controversy was the new theme song. I actually liked it, I thought it worked really well and it was a nice modern day spin on the classic song we all know and love. What ultimately did you think?
ML: Yeah, I liked it too.
JH: Yeah, it's odd. I was playing it, I was watching the show the other night and we had some people over and they couldn't quite place the song because they were in another room, but once they saw what I was watching it, I think it all, it all, clicked for them.
ML: Yeah, I like it. I like the modern version. I like the new version of the Hawaii Five-0 theme too. It's a modern take on the old theme song, but I like it. I like it. I really do like it. Carly Rae Jepsen does a great job.
JH: Yeah, I guess what scared me, before I saw it, that sometimes that can be risky, but it ultimately did work in this situation for sure.
ML: Yeah, they kept it simple. They didn't do like an auto-tune kinda thing, that's why it works.
JH: And like you said it wasn't half-assed. They went full throttle, put out a decent product, and it worked. It was cohesive and it seemed like a thought out project which I can definitely appreciate.
ML: Yeah, it definitely shows that a lot of thought and creativity came to it. Ya know?
JH: Yeah, polish.
ML: Yeah, they got some great writers on this show. I mean, some young people and some veterans that I got to meet, but like my day of shooting, my week of shooting, they would do additions and cuts and additions and cuts daily. They're always right. You're like, why did they cut that and you see a different ending and you're like oh, that one's funnier, ya know? It's really important, I guess, for them to see on it's feet. To see what bits work and what doesn't.
JH: Where you feeding off of the audience or did they react to how the audience would respond to a certain story line or an ending and just go back and change that to make it work?
ML: Yeah, a little bit. Sometimes there's a piece of action that they put in that doesn't help with the pacing of the show so they cut it out. I had a piece of action that I was supposed to do, and they cut that out. It was a little bit because it didn't quite work as far as the pacing. It was like dead space whenever I had to do something. So, and then they cut it, and then I'm like why'd they cut that. And then you do it and you get the audience reaction, and oh, I see why they cut it... because it took to long or... ya know? Yeah, the audience response, It's like a dream come true, that show. Like, I would have never imagined myself being on that show, you know what I mean?
JH: Well, even being in the house. Like, how weird was that to be...
ML: That's what freaked me out more than actually meeting the cast. Yeah, it kinda just sunk in. I look behind me, oh my God! This is the Tanner house!
JH: Well, the Tanner house is almost like it's own character, in a way.
ML: Exactly. I mean, you show up for work. Here's a set, whatever. It kinda just sinks in. I'm in the... this is the kitchen. I'm in the living room. I had to pinch myself, try not to freak out! It was surreal.
JH: I couldn't even imagine walking in on a set that had been, you've had that set in your home for countless weeks. Thirty minutes a day, not to mention all the syndication. You are not part of that atmosphere. You'll be forever known as the guy that played Harry. You are basically Harry now.
ML: I know, lucky me. He wasn't available, and they got me. So, lucky me, man.
JH: Did you go back and watch the original Harry's episodes before you went in?
ML: I did. I referred back to the episode, of course, when they get married. Because I kind of wanted to get the flavoring of what he would be like as an adult. So, yes, I did watch it and of course I remember Harry's hair as the little boy. So, luckily when I auditioned was in between haircuts, so I'm like I can just go in with my hair because I usually keep my hair short, but I had let it grow. I think it was just luck that I was in that situation. It was pretty good turn around, I went in to audition and I think it was the same day or the next day, they called me and told me I was hired. So, yeah, and then the following, I went in on a Thursday, I think they called me on a Thursday night or on Friday morning, and I was on set the following Monday, so it was pretty quick.
JH: I heard recently they green lit season two, another bit of luck there for ya.
ML: Yeah, hopefully we get to see Harry get married or something.
JH: Yeah, have you heard anything back or is it waiting in the wind?
ML: I have not, I think they are hitting the writing table right now, I think once they heard that. I have no idea when they are going to start shooting, probably in about, I would assume, three months. That's just a guess. Cause Jodie is on Dancing with the Stars this season, so they may wait until that's done. I'm sure she can do both, but, ya know.
JH: Yeah, it would be nice to have a little cross promotion, but at this point I don't they really even need it.
ML: Yeah, exactly. They don't need it because people were like okay when is season two? Ya know, I'm done watching, when's season two? I'm like, wow!
JH: Yeah, I know people that have watched it multiple times, so you're definitely in a good position to keep having that IMDB score going up. So, that's definitely a blessing for you.
ML: Yeah, if they ask me to come back, I'll come back. I'll for free, man. That's how good of a time...
JH: You don't wanna say that, man. You gotta get paid. Let's change gears real quick, man. I saw the trailer for Kubo and the Two Strings, and wow, that was a...
ML: Looks fantastic, right?
JH: I'm already a fan of the company behind it, but that Beatles cover, I mean, it definitely set the tone. I was definitely blown away. I can't wait for that one, dude.
ML: Yeah, I can't wait for that one too. I was so lucky to get, I just did some additional voices on it, me and a few other people. God, we just felt so lucky to be apart of it. Them showing us some of the scenes that they already completed, like I was moved. Like some of the scenes, gosh, drew me in, ya know, and they were just showing me a clip, and I'm like damn this is going to be fantastic, ya know?
JH: Yeah, I felt that from the trailer, and I am very much anticipating that now. I'm glad that, because of anything out of this conversation, I mean, definitely, that did bring that product to me, so I can be able to know about it. So I am definitely happy that that's on my radar now.
ML: Yeah, I mean, I had some friends check out the trailer because they were like I've never heard of it, and they looked it up and they were like, oh my god, this is gonna be awesome! I know there are other animated features that are going to be premiering this year as well, but I think this is gonna be the one.
JH: Yeah, I know you've done vocals in the past for like some video games and stuff, but this is... talk about luck, dude. I think 2016's your year obviously from what I've been seeing.
ML: Yeah, it's been a fun ride. I was able to do a wide variety of projects late last year.
JH: And now it's finally paying off.
ML: Yeah and I thought I was, procedurals are kinda my wheel house, it's what I do best, I think, but lately I've been doing other stuff that I never thought I could do or never thought that people would see me in... or as. So, it's been great. Yeah, it's been great. Experience wise it's been great.
JH: I also noticed you're listed on a project called Holidays?
ML: Yeah! That ended up being something bigger than what I thought it was gonna be. Ya know, I thought I was just gonna do this short film. That's what they told me it was, but I think they didn't wanna give it away as far as what the project was. So, when they showed up on set and shot our scene, director was like, yeah-no, this is a part of a bigger thing. Kevin Smith is directing one, I'm directing one, so and so is directing one. So, yeah it's all these different short horror stories that take place around the holidays.
JH: Originally it was supposed to be called Here Comes the Krampus, and then we they released the Krampus movie just recently, this last holiday season, I think the directors got together and changed the title to Holidays. I mean, that could just be a working title, we'll definitely see. Do you know who directed your piece?
ML: What's his name? Scott Sullivan, I think.
JH: Yeah, I saw his name on the list. The way that it's organized it doesn't necessarily, it doesn't tell who's directing what pieces just yet. I think they're trying to keep it under wraps a bit, which...
ML: Was it Scott Sullivan?
JH: I believe it is, I don't have it in front of me, but I have like, there's like nine directors listed and Scott was one of them.
ML: Yeah, he was great. I was told very little about it until we showed up on set and he told us what it was gonna be about and who was gonna be in it and all that. I had no idea Seth Green was gonna be in it... in my piece. So, he showed up, and like, hey Seth, oh hey, how's it going? So, everything went well, looking forward to that. I have no idea in what capacity that's going to be released or when cause I got to it was untitled. Untitled, horror anthology, I think it was called. I'm a person that says yes to the unknown, ya know.
JH: I think that was a good gamble considering who's all involved with the project.
ML: Yeah, I just wanted to do it, ya know, just to do it and yeah, I just wanted to do it just to do it and it ended up being great, ya know?
JH: Yeah, I think lately a lot of those holiday anthologies have been doing very well. So, although you took a chance, that's definitely going to be a good opportunity for people to see you. And then they'll probably recognize you from Fuller House, because it's a similar audience, it's a very niche audience, so that'll be interesting to hear that response.
ML: I'm looking forward to seeing the story I was in and the other stories. I love that stuff, ya know, like Creepshows, Twilight Zones... I love that stuff.
JH: How long were you on set for that particular gig?
ML: It was a quick shoot. It was like one day. Our piece, it was one long day, I remember. I mean, our director, Scott Stewart! Did like Dark Skies and other stuff like that, but he was very good. Pretty much knew what he wanted. The piece that we did was this whole virtual reality type of shooting. It was very technical, very involved, because our story involved that technology. I can't quite give it away, but it involves that technology.
JH: No, I... surprises are definitely a hot commodity for me, man. I mean, as much as I wanna know I still am a big big fan, like you, of anthology flicks so the least you tell me the better off I'll be. I'm just glad to hear you're involved.
ML: Yeah, and I didn't find out until I got on set as well. Ya know, nothing was told to us, for good reason I guess, right?
JH: Well, considering the name, the original name had kinda been snugged a bit, I think that that might be why they're trying to keep it a little bit more hush hush. So, that way it will be more of a surprise when it finally does hit the YouTubes and the Vimeos and stuff like that.
ML: Yeah, yeah, I'm looking forward to that one too.
JH: Excellent, man.
ML: Yeah, so it's been great, man. As far as how things... it's still going. Every time I post something online, it's like wow, Jesus Christ! People are still... they're still waiting more!
JH: That's definitely a fact. You've done both television and film, obviously you've gotten a lot of hits with this Fuller House product, is there one you prefer over the other or is it what gig seems to be available is the one that you'll take or what do you think?
ML: Gosh. I like to be loyal. So, if I had the choice, if two projects came calling at the same time and I had to choose one I'd definitely choose Fuller House because they were so good to me. You could feel the love when you work there, ya know? That live audience was just incredible. When they did my first scene the crowd went crazy, like went crazy. I don't know if they thought I was that kid, ya know? I mean, even the producers and the cast was like, wow... did you see their reaction? That kinda had nothing to do with me, you know what I mean?
JH: The show...
ML: It's you guys, I'm just the guy playing it.
JH: You mentioned that the crowd has a big effect on you, does that have anything to do with growing up and doing theatre and musicals and stuff or is it kind of a new...
ML: Yeah, definitely. My background's in, I started off in college doing musical theater and that was too hard and I just went to regular, straight dramas and comedies. Nothing like the live audience, even like... the guy that plays Fernando, Juan Pablo Di Pace, he's a veteran actor even though he's young. Even he was like, that was fun, wasn't it? And he had been doing it. Hell yeah, that was fun! To get a comment like that from him, it's like Jesus! Right?
JH: It's interesting to hear, because, I'm sure you can recognize this watching it back, I mean, the fans, even me, I'm more of a casual fan, I can see that you guys are having a good time or everyone seems to be pleased with the project or the product itself that they are producing, everyone's happy to be there which is a nice change of pace based upon a lot of what we typically do see on television these days.
JH: Outside of the projects listed on your IMDB, is there else you want to mention or bring up that you have going on or did I pretty much get it all out there for ya?
ML: Nothing going on, I'm just auditioning, ya know, just working on my next gig, you know what I mean?
JH: You have like, I think when I looked last, you had fourteen projects being put out this year and there's probably a few that aren't even listed yet. That's quite the year and we're just getting into March, so definitely congratulations on that.
ML: Thanks man, thanks.
JH: Not a problem, man. Is there basically, you mentioned your social networks, is there a particular Twitter or Facebook account where people can follow you if they like?
JH: Excellent, man.
JH: Right? Yeah. #MichaelSunLee #HarryTakayama Ya know? It's all there.
ML: Yeah, that would be great.
Despite not being the best with names, Michael Sun Lee is a pretty nice guy. As we discussed he has a lot cued up for this year, so I can't wait to see what happens with his rising star. Between auditions he interacts with fans, so do yourself a favor and follow him on the above mentioned social networks while you can, make sure you tell him the real Uncle Jessie sent ya!