RonReaco Lee talks sports, ‘Survivor’s Remorse’ and strip clubs

photo courtesy of STARZ
photo courtesy of STARZ

“Survivor’s Remorse,” the comedy series from STARZ that chronicles the exploits of a basketball star and his nouveau-riche family, returns this weekend for a highly-anticipated season 2. RonReaco Lee plays Reggie Vaughn, the fast-talking cousin/best friend/manager of Cam Calloway (Jessie T. Usher), who’s just signed a lucrative contract to play professional basketball in Atlanta. The first season mostly featured Reggie’s mishaps as a novice manager, as well as him and his wife Missy (Teyonah Parris) adjusting to upper class Atlanta culture. After doing things like convincing Cam to sign a contract with a crappy shoe company and offending country club members with racially charged jokes, Lee says the character is a lot more confident and careful this year.

“I think everybody has a bit of a journey — all of the characters, which I think is great,” Lee says. “Reggie is looking to expand Cam’s brand. He [made] a mistake last year with not checking the quality of the shoe [but] I think this year he’s learned and is better equipped to transition Cam into that long money. And with Missy, we’re doing something different. Her rocking natural hair — I think a lot of women will be able to relate to it.”

Shows like Survivor’s Remorse” explore the complex world of professional sports from the perspective of the athletes and the families and friends who share the lifestyle with those athletes — including all of the newfound wealth and scrutiny. Lee feels that shows like “Survivor’s” tap into two of America’s biggest obsessions.

“I think we all in some way, when we grow up, gravitate to some sport,” Lee says. “For me, I started out with baseball and fell in love with basketball a little later in life. Sports are a part of American culture and it’s really relatable. You can put that as the backdrop of any show — whether it be a drama, comedy or dramedy. We live in an age when reality TV rules the airwaves right now. You take a show like “Survivor’s Remorse” or [the new comedy series] “Ballers” and give it a bit of reality by making the voice of the world scripted; it marries two worlds that are popular right now: sports and reality television. I would gravitate to “Survivor’s” even if I wasn’t on the show.”

Lee grew up in the suburbs east of Atlanta, and though he had an obvious familiarity with the show’s setting, he had to find a way to present Reggie as a stranger in a strange land. So being from “The A” was something he had to downplay to get into character.

“Outside of telling people where to get good food and where the best strip clubs were, I don’t know that it was that much of an asset because the characters are from Dorcester and they come to Atlanta,” explains Lee. ”So, Atlanta has to be a new world for them. And Atlanta has to be a little uncomfortable for them. In the first episode, Reggie’s wife can’t stand it, M-Chuck calls it ‘S–tlanta.’ [laughs] But we love Atlanta!”

And Lee recalls one particular shoot where his Atlanta roots were in direct conflict with the character.

“We did a scene in a strip club and Reggie had to sit there like he didn’t want to be there,” Lee remembers with a laugh. “But RonReaco was sitting there like this was a dream come true!”

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