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The Uneasy Critical Success of Orion Lee

When you played pretend in your youth, chances are that you played the most stereotypical version of a hero or villain. The grown up version of this is acting and the mastery of its purveyors is their ability to play the seemingly endless variations of these characters. Actor Orion Lee takes delight in this throughout his career. Appearing in Skyfall (starring Daniel Craig), the FX series Tyrant, Warner Bros/DC’s Justice League, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and many other productions has afforded Lee the opportunity to play the menacing to the benevolent. Acting careers are built on challenges and conflict that are often understated; in these terms, Orion’s role as Brian Zhao in the UK television series Critical is one of his most challenging. Zhao is not an amiable member of the hospital staff in this award-nominated program (recognized by the Irish Film and Television Awards and British Society of Cinematographers), which is exactly what attracted Lee to the character.



Medical dramas have been around almost as long as television. We can all feel for the dire situations of the characters in these stories, whether we empathize or sympathize with them. What truly separates the average from the exceptional dramas of the genre are the performances that make interesting characters unique. Along with co-stars Lennie James (as Glen Boyle, Trauma Consultant and Team Leader), Catherine Walker (as Fiona Lomas, Vascular Surgical Registrar and Trauma Fellow), Kimberley Nixon (as Dr. Angharad 'Harry' Bennett-Edwards, Senior House Officer), Orion Lee is part of this lauded cast who presented new twists on the premise of a hospital staff. Lee reveals, “Brian is exactly everyone’s cup of tea but he is not a negative person or a villain. He is very complex and unintuitive…at least to most people, and this is precisely what makes him a challenging and fun role for me. Like most people, I have that voice inside my head which says ‘Please like me’ but Brian is void of this. He isn’t rude or obstinate; he has OCPD (Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder). Brian is just wired differently. He might not act like you or I but he definitely has sound reasons for what he thinks and he honestly cares. The best part of becoming Brian is that not caring if others like me is very liberating. Brian doesn’t compromise his standards to make people like him. He doesn’t let people make a mess of his room or touch buttons in his area because it will be fun for them. In his estimation, it’s not right and it will make a mess…so don’t do it! Brian doesn’t care if that makes you think of him as a pain and a stickler.”

The lack of Brian Zhao’s accommodating bedside manner makes him the unobvious catalyst for numerous moments of humor throughout the series; the result of which is to provide the actor portraying him to display a wide variety of both dramatic and comedic abilities. Lee concedes that not all of these bits were presented to the audience. He reveals, “There was one particular day when a dummy was left on stage as a body double patient. Whilst I was waiting for set ups, the cast decided to place the dummy in various compromising positions…adorned with a number of implements and props from around the set. It was quite entertaining and proved that certain members of the cast had a pretty sick sense of humour. It was the type of thing that Brian Zhao would most definitely not have approved of!”

Written by Patrick Wilson

The Uneasy Critical Success of Orion Lee Reviewed by JaamZIN on 9:09:00 AM Rating: 5
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