Raymond Lee Thinks Duc Is a Huge Control Freak
BY ALLIE WAXMAN
The actor behind the motivational architect opens up about his character’s painful background, his conflict with his father, and the difficulties upholding his perfect veneer.
HBO: Who is Duc to you?
Raymond Lee: Duc is a guy who has all this ambition and gregariousness, but is trying to overcome his past. He has temporary solutions to his issues, but overarchingly, I think that search continues.
The idea of keeping up this perfect veneer can be taxing. Duc is really envious of people who are comfortable in their own skin, because he’s as comfortable as he can be with the persona he’s created, but it’s a lot to uphold.
HBO: He’s a bit of a control freak.
Raymond Lee: He’s a huge control freak. I think control is the thing that runs his life. His background is a little unhinged; when you come from an immensely painful background, you build yourself to become resilient. He has developed a way of coping that may or may not be healthy in the long run, but he has bought into this thinking that his mind can crush all things. He’s somebody who is very motivated to keep that going.
HBO: How do Duc’s memories of his childhood in Vietnam affect his relationship with his mother?
Raymond Lee: Young Duc had a really close relationship with his [birth] mom — rightfully so, because she took care of him. When you’re a child, you develop coping mechanisms that allow you to be happy in whatever circumstance, so he has somehow found a way to be happy, and his constant was his mom.
That’s why I think he can forgive [Audrey] for a lot of her strange idiosyncrasies and shortcomings. There’s a real mutual understanding because they both rev high. She’s a highly-functioning person; he’s a highly-functioning person, and they both have huge ambitions.There’s a relatability there. When we fall, we need someone there who can understand what that fall feels like. Audrey has always been that person for Duc.
HBO: And yet, he doesn’t seem that close to Greg.
Raymond Lee: I like to think that stems from his incessant need for his father’s approval, which I think stems from a more complicated place of having issues with older male authority figures, based on his past seeing what authoritative men can do to women. I think there’s some sort of a hangup there that is beyond Duc’s understanding, or what he wants to come to terms with. Greg is more of a stranger to Duc, but they also share a lot of the same virtues.
HBO: Why is Duc uncomfortable with the idea of Greg writing the forward to his book?
Raymond Lee: Duc is very much a guy who wants to earn his keep. And he doesn’t really need the help of others — especially his father. He wants his approval, but he doesn’t want to live in his shadow. He wants to have his own path, but he’s realizing that path has been carved for him.
HBO: Why do Ashley and Duc have such a close bond?
Raymond Lee: Duc and Ashley have known each other the longest, and aside from having the shared background of adoption, they’re both people of color being raised in a predominantly Caucasian area, and they’ve had to really hold onto each other for support. There are a few mentions of Ashley and Duc feeling like they’re experiments, and going to picture day at school wearing traditional garb that they have no relationship with. They probably looked at each other and thought, “Doesn’t this suck?” It’s those moments where they developed that kinship with each other.
HBO: How does Duc feel about what’s going on with Ramon?
Raymond Lee: I don’t know if Duc completely believes all of Ramon’s hallucinations. Because Duc is a mind over matter guy, he wants to believe this is in Ramon’s control. Maybe it’s drugs, maybe it’s video games; Duc likes to have solutions to things, and it irks him he doesn’t have a solution to this. And now Ramon is getting all that attention, again, which makes Duc a little more jealous. There’s a lot of complicated resentment towards Ramon.
HBO: Duc goes on a “date” with Carmen in this episode, and despite his celibacy, he seems interested. Does this catch him off guard?
Raymond Lee: I think it’s very disarming. He’s met somebody who can see through his bullshit, and can dish back whatever he throws. He’s also very attracted to her. She has a very specific way of viewing life, which may not be in line with the way Duc views his life, and he’s not able to convince her otherwise. I think that’s also really attractive. She’s his kryptonite — he’s usually really good with words and around her, he stumbles.