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Toronto Sun: It’s Work that Woos Nick Lea

September 28, 1996
Toronto Sun
It’s Work that Woos Nick Lea

Over the phone and over-caffeinated, Nicholas Lea talks about the aches and pains of an action role and the aggravation of uncertainty.

“I’m pacing around like some kind of caged animal,” Lea says, jacked up after breaking a coffee fast.

The actor is restlessly playing the waiting game until Fox decides whether to expand tomorrow night’s TV movie, John Woo’s Once A Thief, into a weekly series.

The film, Woo’s first for television, airs at 8 p.m. on Fox, at 9 on Global. An adventure about a crime-fighting trio, two defectors from the Hong Kong underworld, played by Ivan Sergei and Sandrine Holt, and a former cop, played by Lea, the movie is marked by the stylish action and tongue-in-cheek violence that are Woo’s trademark. Lea’s and Sergei’s characters meet in a balletic fight scene in which the asthetically-appreciative pair take pains not to nick the furniture.

“To the two characters, it’s deadly serious,” Lea says of the extremely funny sequence. “Physically it was pretty tough. I’ve got to say the next day I was in some pain. This is one of the first jobs I’ve had where I show up every day with elbow pads and knee pads.”

Executive producers Glenn Davis and William Laurin describe Lea’s character, ex-detective Victor Mansfield, as a “Gen-X Steve McQueen.”

“Wow. I’ll take that as a compliment,” says Lea. “But right from the beginning when I read the script I saw this guy as having more of an edge than I think they saw. They wanted him to be the everyman kind of guy that everyone could relate to. I saw him as being much darker but that’s sort of my take about a lot of things anyway. I like to look for the dark side, the incomplete side, of characters.”

Fox has ordered six more Once A Thief scripts and is considering it as a midseason series. Lea signed a standard five-year contract and until the network votes yea or nay, is obligated to remain available.

“You have to sit back and wait and I’m not good at that. I get a little impatient,” he admits. “I’m still trying to find a way to creatively fill my time when I’m not working. For the first week, I sort of feel like I deserve it, even though that might not quite be the truth, but I just like to work. As an actor, when you’re not working, you’re going, ‘What am I? What the hell am I?'”

What Lea is is a Vancouver native who studied art at college and sang lead for the alternative rock band Beau Monde before breaking into acting. Although he still plays and sings on his own time, he’s yet to have a singing role on TV or film.

“Hopefully one of these years,” he says. “Like another Eddie And The Cruisers would be cool.” Suddenly, there’s a low buzz on the phone line. “Maybe there’s some surveillance going on,” Lea jokes, in a paranoid fashion in keeping with his best-known role as The X-Files’ duplicitous FBI Agent Krycek.

Krycek was last seen alien-infested, locked in a secret military bunker and presumably done for. “Nine lives,” Lea presumes of plans for at least two more Krycek episodes, although he doesn’t know yet how he managed to cheat death.

“I know nothing. I’m going to call and see if they can give me something, like if I should stop eating now if Krycek’s supposed to be totally emaciated or whether he was kept in kind of a time-suspended-animation thing. I’m really curious.”

( … Nick Lea plays a former policeman in John Woo’s Once A Thief. The actor also portrays the duplicitous FBI agent Krycek on The X-Files.)

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