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Altered Carbon Star Weighs In On What It's Like To Work With Big Action Stars - Exclusive

Actor Will Yun Lee has quite an action-packed resume under his Taekwondo black belt. He has appeared in high-profile films such as The Wolverine, San Andreas, Elektra, and Die Another Day. He's hit the small screen, too, appearing on popular TV series like Hawaii Five-0 and Witchblade. He can currently be found on both Netflix's Altered Carbon and ABC's The Good Doctor.

Lee's 20-year career has landed him roles alongside such A-list actors as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Hugh Jackman, and Anthony Mackie, sometimes even going head-to-head with them on-screen.

In an exclusive interview with Looper, Lee revealed behind-the-scenes details about working with Jackman and the Rock, and dished on what it was like to fight Mackie on Altered Carbon.

Taking on Anthony Mackie on Altered Carbon

Altered Carbon is a complex, multi-layered story about a futuristic world where people can live forever by being transferred between bodies called sleeves. Lee plays the original incarnation of Takeshi Kovacs, a former soldier and prisoner who is tasked with solving a murder in order to gain his freedom.

For much of the series, Lee is seen in flashbacks while another actor plays his futuristic counterpart. Kovacs' sleeve is played by Joel Kinnaman (Robocop, Suicide Squad) in season 1. For season 2, Anthony Mackie took over the role — and at one point, Lee and Mackie faced off in a Kovacs vs. Kovacs fight.

"I was excited to work with Anthony," Lee says of the actor best known for his role as the Falcon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. "But they didn't ease us into it at all — our first day together on set was shooting that scene. It was the perfect way to start our journey together."

Lee, a Taekwondo master with a 5th-degree black belt, was impressed with Mackie's skills, especially since they didn't have a lot of time to rehearse.

"A TV show comes together much differently than a movie," Lee explains. "When I did a fight scene with Hugh Jackman in The Wolverine, we had rehearsed it for a month. With the Altered Carbon fight, Anthony and me learned the fight choreography separately — his stunt double taught him his moves and my stunt double taught me my moves. We had maybe 30 minutes of rehearsal together, and then we were fighting each other."

Lee continues, "I've done martial arts my entire life, and it came in handy in that scene. A fight scene can either go really bad or it can go really great. A lot of actors I've fought who haven't had a lot of on-camera fighting, you can get hurt — it's all about timing. And Anthony's timing was impeccable. He learned the fight so fast, so we got to do most of our fighting together because he could actually do it."

When you work with the Rock, you become family

Lee has starred alongside the Rock not just once, but twice, in both 2015's San Andreas and 2018's Rampage. And while he didn't shoot many scenes side-by-side with the beloved action star, there was something special about just being on the same set as him.

"The lore is real," Lee says. "He is actually the person who you think he is. Everything that everyone feels about the Rock, the way everyone talks about the Rock, it's real. From top to bottom, from the crew to catering, they are all excited to be a part of his family. And I'm so fortunate to have been part of that."

Lee fell into that "family" after appearing in 2012's Red Dawn, which was produced by Beau Flynn — who has worked on more than a half a dozen films with the Rock. "They've made so many movies together, you will see the same people in every single film," Lee says. "That's what's great about being part of the Rock's world ... I'll see six different friends on set because we worked together on the last Rock movie, or one of Beau's other films. I love that he loves to keep it in the family."

Hitting the lottery with Hugh Jackman

Lee appeared opposite Hugh Jackman in The Wolverine, as sword-wielding nemesis-turned-ally Kenuichio Harada. While most of the movie's production was based in Australia, some shooting took place in Japan, where filming a fight scene with Jackman took a lot of time and patience.

"The amount of translation that has to happen for one scene to be executed is unbelievable," Lee admits. "We had an American crew and a matching Japanese crew, and if you were going to shoot a guy in the chest ... in order for that one direction to be executed, it had to go through so many different people."

But that wasn't the most memorable part of being on set with Jackman. "The most memorable part was every Friday, no matter what country we were in, Hugh went and got thousands of lottery tickets," Lee recalls, "and he made sure every single member of the cast and crew got a lottery ticket. That was always the fun thing on Fridays. You would see him running around saying, 'Here! Here! You take one, and you take one!' My wife was on set and he was like, 'Come here, take one!' Hugh always made things fun like that."