Will Yun Lee is an accomplished industry veteran who stars in Peacock and Crypt TV’s new YA supernatural drama The Girl in the Woods as the mysterious and stoic Arthur Deane. Outside of his work on the eight-episode series, you’ll recognize Lee from his previous projects like The Good Doctor, Altered Carbon, Rampage and San Andreas. He also lends his voice to the upcoming anime series Blade Runner: Black Lotus, which will be released next month.
1428 Elm had the opportunity to talk to Lee about his character Arthur on The Girl in the Woods, what attracted him to this project, why it stands out from the rest, and more. For those who haven’t seen the show yet, it revolves around a teenage girl who escapes from a mysterious, cult-like colony that guards the world against monsters hidden behind a secret door within the woods.
1428 Elm chats with The Girl in the Woods star Will Yun Lee
1428 ELM: Can you tell me what attracted you to this role and who your character is?
WILL: I play a character named Arthur Deane. I’m kind of this broken warrior who takes Carrie under his wing. My character is so linked to her character because I’m her mentor, and she’s the only character I love, like a daughter and a student. What got me into this show was honestly the short that I saw with Kal Penn. I thought it was interesting, and I thought there was so much potential there, and then it was Krysten Ritter.
She was the director of the first four episodes, and soon as I got on the Zoom with her, I knew I wanted to do it. Her energy is infectious, and she’s right there with you every take. I love feedback from a director where she’ll yell cut and then go, “That was f’ing dope! That was sick!” You feel so invested in the project when other people are invested.
1428 ELM: Many of your scenes are with Stefanie Scott, who plays Carrie. What was it like working with her?
WILL: She’s great. It was a lot of fun. I got to witness some of the scenes, especially with Stefanie and the two other characters, where they were playing in the town side of it, and watch their banter, and it was really hip and fun. Adding the colony was such a strange element to it which makes it weird and cool.
1428 ELM: What was it like doing the colony scenes? When I started the show, it looked like those scenes were taking place in another era, and then you realize it’s happening in the modern-day. It creates this interesting contrast between how the colony is living versus what’s happening in town.
WILL: I loved it. I thought it was so weird, and I love weird. I think the first couple of pages that I read dealt with teenagers talking like they talk. It felt very grounded and real. It didn’t feel like a 50-year-old man in Pasadena wrote it, so I felt like I was there, and I love the humor in this show. I’m the anti-humor of the show, but all of the other characters provide so much fun. It is like this wild monster-slayer ride but with authentic characters who face many things that kids are facing these days.
1428 ELM: When we first meet Arthur, he’s such a foreboding presence, and we don’t know what to expect from him. How do you navigate playing a role like that and avoiding giving too much away so early on?
WILL: I think that was just Krysten’s direction. I think she wanted to set the tone for this character, and then throughout the season, we get to see his relationship with Carrie. That was from the get-go, the producer’s, writer’s, and Krysten’s vision for him. I think to navigate those foreboding characters; you have to find where their anchor is. His anchor is love. He loves this girl and wants to protect her at all costs. But the twist is that he’s sent on a mission that conflicts with that.
1428 ELM: And the opposite of Carrie, he has that relationship with Reed Diamond‘s character, Hosea, an authority figure to Arthur. Were you guys able to work together on creating that relationship?
WILL: It was a very fast and intense shoot. I had just finished coming off The Good Doctor, and I think I had a two-day break and then flew straight to Oregon and started it. It was a lot of quick, “here’s what we think,” and we’re in-between takes talking about characters. If it were a movie, we would have had dinner and spent weeks rehearsing. But Reed is a vet, and he’s done amazing things, so I just knew that I was in good hands. Through a lot of our talking and conversations we had in-between takes, we found this relationship.
1428 ELM: I haven’t seen The Good Doctor, but I’m assuming you don’t get to do stuntwork on there the way you do on this show, so was that fun for you?
WILL: It was really fun. From Altered Carbon to different things I’ve done usually involve some sort of weird story along with fights and action. The Good Doctor is very normal, so this was a nice return to my roots. Action, fast-paced, moving, the camera whips around, you’re just doing a lot of things that I haven’t done in a year since I think Altered Carbon was canceled.
1428 ELM: You’ve done a lot of genre work. Would you say you’re a fan of horror?
WILL: Not really. [Laughs] But this was different. When I read the scripts, honestly, what attracted me—yes, I loved my character and getting to have some action—but the humor in the show made me go, “This is fun!” Different shows I’ve done, they’re fun to shoot, but they’re more serious. But in this, you get to laugh, you get to go on this wild ride to a world of crazy monsters, and these three teenagers are going to go monster-slaying. That, to me, was the big hook for me to want to do this.
1428 ELM: In what ways do you feel like you relate most to your character, Arthur?
WILL: I tend to be, in real life, very quiet, and my wife always says, “Why didn’t you talk at the party?” I’m just always quiet. [Laughs] He’s very much like that. I think I think too much, I think he thinks too much.
But, you know, honestly, it was the combination of all the characters. It was a combination of characters who are generally outsiders on film, whether it’s the LGBTQ community or diverse, Asian actors. We’re used to living on the outer edges of the screen and watching a show where all of those characters who have historically been put on the edges of the screen are shoved into the center. They’re propelling the story. It was really cool to be part of. It made me think, “Wow, we’ve come a long way from when I started the business.” It’s so different.
1428 ELM: As someone in the LGBTQ community, I was pleased to see the show’s direction. Horror needs to have that human element to bring you in.
WILL: Absolutely, and it’s taking characters that you always feel like if it’s an LGBTQ character, the story has to center on that, or it’s an Asian-American, and it’s a story about something that happened in Chinatown—what I love about this show is that it’s just part of the world. It’s organic. It’s not something harped on. It’s just something that should be normalized. This is the way the world is now.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.