Lee Tyler has acted professionally in TV, film, and theatre for over 20 years. Here are a few things you may need to learn about him.
1. Lee is an SAFD-certified stage combatant.
His early work in regional theatre often involved large melée battles with crowds of broadswords, cutlasses, and axes. His hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan, is also home to Jon Reeves, a blacksmith, and swordmaster who designs weapons for local theaters and choreographs fights for their shows (Kalamazoo Civic, Whole Art Theatre, Actors & Playwrights Initiative). Lee was often cast in the roles of naïve young heroes who get caught up in ferocious fight sequences (Treasure Island, Robin Hood, etc.). For one pirate-themed show, a life-size schooner was built inside a black-box theater, and Lee had to swing on ropes while avoiding blast cannons and stray metal blades. The actor playing the ship’s captain broke his leg while falling off a rope while Lee was waiting to go on. Lee credits these intense early-stage experiences with honing his ability to act “in the moment.”
2. His first Shakespeare role was Macbeth.
Lee was fourteen. He literally memorized all of Macbeth during spring break in his freshman year of high school. Some kids played football, some kids played in band, but Lee played a psychopathic tyrant. The youth-Shakespeare company he was a part of would perform Macbeth in its entirety for elementary-school students across Southwest Michigan. They eventually toured the U.K. and saw Mark Rylance do Richard II at the Globe in London. His spontaneity onstage was a revelation to young Lee. Someone threw a rose up onstage, and Rylance didn’t miss a beat; he picked that rose right up and incorporated it seamlessly into his soliloquy.
3. Lee is a trained fishmonger.
His first job out of college was working at a local seafood counter in Manhattan. Despite only having caught one or two fish in his entire life, Lee worked grueling hours scaling salmon, shucking oysters, and filleting mass quantities of branzino. One week he even stayed at a hostel in Times Square just so he could get a few hours of sleep in between fish shifts and rehearsals for a show uptown.
4. One of Lee’s early TV gigs was as a regular background actor on Saturday Night Live.
Most of the live sketches he was part of got cut from the final show, but he did appear in several digital shorts, including a memorable sequence in which Lee had to land a perfect beer-pong shot as the first action in a one-take camera move involving thirty extras. He had volunteered for this role in order to impress the producers, but he had no idea that he’d have to execute the move in front of the entire SNL film team. As Lee centered himself and recalled his training in the beer-soaked backyards of Ann Arbor, he looked to his left and saw that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was also watching. The Rock wore a curly black wig (his scene was up next), but he was no less terrifying a spectator. Lee definitely missed that first shot, and he’s pretty sure he missed the second one too, but he’d like to think that the third went in because the Rock believed in him. Lee turned back with an ecstatic grin, but the Rock was nowhere to be seen.
5. Lee once took a sabbatical from acting in order to produce an experimental documentary series called “Stirrup.”
He began by interviewing strangers on the boardwalk at Coney Island and eventually found himself recording mimes on the subway, blues bands in Nashville, and people experiencing homelessness in Las Vegas. His only plan was to capture as much life as possible and then pair different subjects together by theme in post-production. He ended up with seven short episodes and released them in the spring of 2017, with the hope that his subjects’ messages of hope and resilience would offer some peace in a demoralizing political moment.
6. Lee is a founding member of the Bad Guru film collective
The Bad Guru film collective group was developed in early 2019 with the goal of pooling resources to shoot more films more quickly. Members would come up with original story ideas, then pull actors’ names out of a hat and write those actors into their screenplays. In the year before the pandemic, Bad Guru shot eleven short films over a total of five shooting days. Their members have gone on to produce exciting new work in live theatre and independent film, plus appearances on FX and Comedy Central.