Struggling to fit in and find camaraderie with co-workers is usually a main concern among people as they strive to build a career they enjoy. That’s certainly the case with actor Han Lee, who stars on the popular and Emmy-winning CBS sitcom, ‘2 Broke Girls,’ which airs on Mondays at 9pm ET/CT, and his character on the show, Han Lee. Not only has the actor bonded with his co-stars on the set, his character has also formed a caring, but often sarcastic, relationship with the other characters on the show.
Set in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, ‘2 Broke Girls’ follows two waitresses in their mid-twenties-Max Black (Kat Dennings), who comes from a poor working-class family, and Caroline Wesbox Channing (Beth Behrs), who was born rich but is now disgraced and penniless due to her father getting caught operating a Ponzi scheme-working together at a diner, which is owned by Han (Moy). The two waitresses become friends and build toward their dream of one day opening a cupcake shop. Among those working with them at the restaurant are Oleg (Jonathan Kite), an upbeat Ukrainian cook, and Earl (Garrett Morris), a 75-year-old African-American cashier.
Also featured starting is the title characters’ neighbor and part-time boss Sophie (Jennifer Coolidge), a Polish immigrant who runs a housecleaning company, Sophie’s Choice. At the end of each episode a tally shows how much they have made toward their goal of $250,000 needed to open their business. Early in the second season, Sophie lends the girls $20,000, which is enough for them to start their business. However, the business ultimately fails, and Max and Caroline are forced to give up the lease of their cupcake shop, with just enough money to pay off Sophie’s loan, resetting the end of episode tally to $5.00.
Moy generously took the time to talk about filming the sitcom over the phone. Among other things, the actor discussed how having a great set of co-stars helped convince him take on the role of Han; how he has a fun and hilarious relationship with his co-stars; and how the show has such devoted fans that they travel across the world to attend live tapings of the series.
Question (Q): You play Han Lee, the owner of the Williamsburg Diner, and the boss of Max and Caroline. What was it about the character, and the script overall, that convinced you to take on the role?
Matthew Moy (MM): Well, the show itself has a lot of ingredients for success in it. You’ve got (co-creator) Michael Patrick King, who wrote ‘Sex and the City.’ You’ve got Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs, who are amazing. You’ve also got legends like Garrett Morris and Jennifer Collidge. Everyone’s awesome.
The character of Han is great. Even though the character has an accent, we didn’t know what he was going to be like when we first did it. So I put a lot of myself into the character, and he’s really me. So having all those layers really helped in bringing the funniness to the show.
Q: Han, who is of Korean descent, is constantly a target for jokes involving his size and lack of knowledge of American culture, particularly by Sophie Kaczynski, played by Jennifer Coolidge. What’s your working relationship with Jennifer like?
MM: It’s been great working with Jennifer Coolidge. She takes her time with her jokes, so she brings a different funniness to the show. She’s hilarious. There was an episode (this past fall) where she yells at me to go stand in the corner. There was one take where she shouts, and she’s almost like a dominatrix. I couldn’t help but burst out laughing, because she was so forward with it. She’s a great addition to the show, I love her.
Q: Why do you think that Han is constantly a target by Sophie and the other characters?
MM: Well, I’ll answer this, both personally and professionally. When you’re small, everyone makes fun of you a lot. Everyone in the diner, including Sophie, do it with love. Everyone makes fun of everybody equally on the show. I don’t know how many times I make fun of Caroline, and Caroline makes fun of Max. We make fun of everybody, really.
Q: Like you mentioned, Kat Dennings plays Max, while Beth Behrs portrays Caroline, on ‘2 Broke Girls.’ What is your working relationship with the two of them like, since they’re the two leads on the show?
MM: Well, one of the main reasons for the success on our show is their chemistry. They’re pretty much like best friends in real life, and they’re hilarious. They’re beautiful on TV, but to see them in real life, they’re even more beautiful. They’re both geniuses, and the amount of work they take on is amazing.
Q: The characters on the show, particularly Max and Caroline, often make sarcastic jokes throughout each episode. Do you and the other actors improv at all on the set, or offer suggestions on what your characters will do and say to the writers?
MM: It’s a very rare, once-in-a-while thing, where we’ll pitch jokes. But most of the times, it doesn’t work, because the writers have everything planned out. We don’t have the luxury of being able to improv a lot. We have to stick to our scripts for the blocking.
Q: ‘2 Broke Girls’ has generally received positive response since its debut last fall, and was all nominated for three 2012 Emmy Awards.
MM: We actually won two Emmys, one for art direction, and one for set decoration.
Q: Why do you think fans and critics enjoy the show so much?
MM: Well, like I said, we have so many elements that are just brilliant to our show. We have Michael Patrick King and Kat Dennings and all these characters, like Garrett Morris and Jonathan Kite and Jennifer Coolidge. I’d like to say that we take two steps to the edge, and then we take one step back. We’re always willing to push limits with everything.
We love making the audience laugh, which is why we have a live studio audience. We have the writers give us these amazing jokes. We put our hearts into the show, and I think that’s why the fans really respond to it.
Q: Speaking of fans reacting to the show, what kinds of responses have you received from audiences?
MM: Well, we air internationally, so we have fans from all over the world. We have fans from Brazil, Portugal, France, England and Australia. People tweet to us all the time. But the most amazing thing is when they’re on set. You’ll meet a fan and they’ll say, “I just came from Texas. I just came for the show today.” We’re like, “It’s so cool to meet you.” They come all this way, just to see us. It’s great.
Q: While the show does offer laughs, the real premise of the series is that Max and Caroline are aiming to save money to re-open their own cupcake business. Do you think their determination to start their own company again is inspiring to audiences, and encourages them to go after their dreams?
MM: Oh yeah, I hope so. You know what’s funny-I’ve learned a lot of business stuff from Caroline that I never knew. We try to be very real with everything. Sure, we’ve got the broke and financial aspects to it that inspires everybody, but it’s really heart-felt. I hope that speaks to people, that there’s always somebody out there for you.
Q: Besides ‘2 Broke Girls,’ you’ve also appeared guest-starred on such sitcoms as ‘The Middle,’ ‘iCARLY’ and ‘How I Met Your Mother.’ What is it about television, particularly sitcoms, that you enjoy working on so much?
MM: Well, I’ve had the luxury and pleasure of working on all kinds of sets. This is the first sitcom I’ve really worked on, besides ‘Good Luck Charlie’ and ‘How I Met Your Mother.’ I was also on ‘Scrubs,’ which was the first major job I had in my life.
Some sets have a little more room for improv, or the actors can do whatever they want. Some sets don’t have executive producers there so much, while other sets have executive producers show up all the time. In our case, we have an executive producer who’s there with us. It’s awesome, because like I said, our hearts are really into it. They’ve all been great, but are all so different.
Q: While most of your work has been on television, you have also appeared in several films, including ‘No Strings Attached’ and ‘Angels in Paradise.’ Do you have a preference of acting on television over films, or vice versa, or do you enjoy acting in general?
MM: I enjoy both, because it’s like working both sides of your brain. TV moves so fast. Hour shows I think move just as fast, but you have two weeks to do it. So dramas move pretty fast on TV.
But films are different, and have a slower pace. You have about three months to make a film. But I really enjoy both. I’m really a method actor by training, so I really enjoy working that side of my brain and doing drama. Comedy is also great, but you have to do it at a higher speed.
Q: Speaking of your training, besides appearing on ‘2 Broke Girls,’ you’re also currently studying acting at Atwater Playhouse and Gray Studios. Has attending both influenced your acting?
MM: Absolutely-I study at both for a reason. Atwater Playhouse is a method-acting school, and I had never taken a method acting class in my life. Everyone has a different process and formula and method. I fell in love with my first class there, and thought “This is what I need.”
But Gray Studios is more of a scene-studying class, and is more get up and do. It’s more about acting a lot and action. So that was really the other side of flexing this muscle of acting. It’s about doing things over and over. The other side was more of working my brain, and think about why we do things. So they both help.