“One of the things I realized early on was that the leading man, very clean cut, good guy type, was never something I was drawn to.” Lee Tergesen
A former waiter in New York, Lee Tergesen first caught the attention of audiences in the films “Point Break” (1991), “Wayne's World” (1992) and its sequel, “Wayne's World 2” (1993) before enjoying success on television with a recurring role on “Homicide: Life on the Street” (1993). Also a regular on the comedy series “Weird Science” (1994-1998), the talented actor gained even more popularity when he appeared in the HBO prison drama “Oz” (1997-2003), in which he played attorney Tobias Beecher. After “Oz,” Tergesen had regular roles in the UPN short lived series “The Beat” (2000), the TNT ”Wanted” (2005), the FX drama “Rescue Me” (2005), the ABC popular series “Desperate Housewives” (2006) and “The New Adventures of Old Christine” (2009). He has also guest starred in a number of TV shows, including “Law & Order,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “JAG,” “Touched by an Angel,” “Third Watch,” “ER” and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.” He was seen in such TV films as “Wild Iris” (2001), “Shot in the Heart (2001), and “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” (2007). He also played Evan 'Scribe' Wright in the miniseries “Generation Kill” (2008).
Despite notable success on the small screen, Tergesen also appeared in the movies “Inferno” (1999), “Diamonds” (1999), “Shaft” (2000), “The Boys of Sunset Ridge” (2001), “Monster” (2003), “Extreme Dating” (2004) and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” (2006). He won a Bordeaux International Festival of Women in Cinema Award for “Bark” (2002). Tergesen's fans should not miss his performances in the upcoming films “Red Tails” (2009) and “Helena from the Wedding” (2010).
On stage, Tergesen has performed in such plays as “The Exonerated” (2001), “The Foreigner” (2004-2005) and “Good Boys and True” (2008).
In 1992, Tergesen was arrested for driving while intoxicated. In addition to loosing his license for 18 months, he was sentenced to 10 days in prison. Thanks to the riots that followed the Rodney King verdict, which happened just before the incident, he was sent home after one night in jail.
Tergesen has been married and divorced twice.
Childhood and Family:
Lee Allen Tergesen was born on July 8, 1965, in Ivoryton, Connecticut. He graduated from Valley Regional High School in Deep River, Connecticut, and moved to New York to pursue an acting career when he was 18 years old. He trained at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) in Manhattan for two years, graduating in 1985. He recalled, “There was this moment, I think I was about 4 years old, and my parents and their friends were having a party and they were all sitting around the living room. The music was playing and I was sort of dancing wildly. I mean, I was really into it and everyone there was entertained and I remember I was like, 'Wow, man, I'm watchable!'”
In 1989, Lee suffered a great loss when his mother, Ruth, died of breast cancer.
Lee was married to Tanya Lewis from 1994 to 1997. She appeared with him in a 1996 episode of “Weird Science.” Lee next married Leslie Howitt in August 2001, but the marriage ended in divorce in 2004.
Lee has an older brother named Chris Tergesen. He is a music supervisor/engineer of many television shows, including “Oz,” “The Beat” and “Homicide: Life on the Street.” He is married to actress Tony Lewis.
Lee Tergesen worked on stage after graduating from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York. To help make ends meet, Tergesen also waited tables, where he met and developed a friendship with writer/producer Tom Fontana.
A struggling actor, Tergesen had his first taste in front of the film cameras when he landed the small role of Crash Hopkins in the Canadian production “Mind Benders” (1987). He added a guest spot to his resume three years later with a stint on the NBC series “Law & Order.” Also in 1990, Tergesen went to Los Angeles to help Fontana move. An encounter with Fontana's friend while dining at a restaurant led to Tergesen being cast in the supporting role of Rosie in the Kathryn Bigelow action film “Point Break” (1991), which starred Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves.
More work followed and he appeared in the 31 minute drama “Session Man” (Showtime), which won the 1992 Oscar for Best Short Film, Live Action, played Ron Donoho in the Lifetime TV movie “The Killing Mind,” and supported Fred Ward, David Warner and Julianne Moore in the HBO Emmy winning period thriller “Cast a Deadly Spell,” for director Martin Campbell (all 1991). He also acted in the 1991 prime time pilot “Acting Sheriff.” In 1992, Tergesen offered an unforgettable supporting role on the “Saturday Night Live” spinoff feature “Wayne's World” (1992), starring Mike Myers and Dana Carvey. Playing Terry, the sidekick of Wayne and Garth, he became famous for saying “I love you, man,” a catchphrase that was later adopted for Budweiser commercials. “Wayne's World” was considered a commercial success and received primarily positive reviews from critics. Tergesen reprised his popular role in the 1993 sequel “Wayne's World 2.” He was then seen on stage in a performance of “Naked at the Coast” (1993), an acclaimed selection of one act plays produced at the Coast Playhouse in West Hollywood, and took the recurring role of Chris Thormann on several 1993 episodes of the Fontana-created “Homicide: Life on the Street.” He stood out as an officer who was blinded after being shot in the line of duty, a role he would later reprise in the two additional episodes “Crosetti” (1994) and “Double Blind” (1997). Also in 1993, he could be seen costarring with Meredith Baxter, Stephen Lang and Gwynyth Walsh in the NBC TV movie “Darkness Before Dawn.”
Tergesen was next cast as Chett Donnelly in the sitcom “Weird Science,” a spinoff of the John Hughes 1985 movie of the same name. During his tenure on the show from 1994 to 1998, he also made guest appearances in such shows as “JAG,” “Hudson Street,” “Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man,” “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show” and “Cracker” and acted in the indie comedies “The Shot” (1996) and “George B” (1997), starring David Morse.
In 1997, Tergesen received a big break when he joined Ernie Hudson, Harold Perrineau, J.K. Simmons and Dean Winters to costar in the cruel prison-set HBO series “Oz,” created by longtime friend Fontana. He played Tobias Beecher, an alcoholic lawyer who was sentenced to prison, a role that brought him critical acclaim and fame. He remained with the show until its demise in 2003. Commenting about his “OZ” character, Tergesen said, “At first, I saw him as a poor guy in the wrong place. Now, after having everything stripped away from him, his freedom, his family, his profession, he's evil. He's using what's at his core. Lawyers play with power. They're opportunists and they can be vengeful.”
Tergesen appeared as Blake Chapman in the “Touched by an Angel” episode “Lady in the Lake” in 1999. The same year, he was also cast in Jean-Claude Van Damme's “Inferno,” supported Kirk Douglas, Dan Aykroyd and Lauren Bacall in the comedy “Diamonds,” and recreated his inmate role of Tobias Beecher on an episode of “Saturday Night Live.” In March 2000, he began his regular role as firefighter Steve Dorigan on the UPN drama “The Beat,” which also starred Celeste Holm, David Zayas, Derek Cecil and Mark Ruffalo. Another Fontana project, the series, unlike “Oz,” only had a short life. The actor returned to film in the Samuel L. Jackson vehicle “Shaft” (2000), for director John Singleton, and was also seen in the indie drama “The Boys of Sunset Ridge” (2001), Mitchell Bard's award winning “Mergers & Acquisitions” (2001), and as Peter in the Kasia Adamik directed comedy “Bark” (2002), a role that won him the Golden Wave for Best Actor at the 2002 Bordeaux International Festival of Women in Cinema. Tergesen also had a small role in the Sundance-premiered “Perfume” (2001), but his part ended up on the cutting room floor. The Connecticut native continued to add to his television resume with performances in the made-for-TV films “Shot in the Heart” (2001) and Showtime's “Black Iris” (2001). He also appeared in guest roles in series like “Third Watch,” “ER” and “The Handler” (from 2002 to 2003).
After “Oz” left the airwaves, Tergesen acted in movies such as Patty Jenkins' “Monster” (2003, with Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci and Bruce Dern), Lorena David's “Extreme Dating” (2004, with Meat Loaf, Amanda Detmer and Benjamin King), Joseph Ruben's “The Forgotten” (2004, starred Julianne Moore and Anthony Edwards), Damian Skinner's “Pineapple” (2006, with Steven Chester Prince and Eliza Swenson), and Jonathan Liebesman's “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” (2006, starred Jordana Brewster and Taylor Handley). He also appeared in the television films “A Thief of Time” (2004), “The Exonerated” (2005) and “Southern Comfort” (2006) and in TV shows like “The 4400“ (2004), “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (2005), “Rescue Me” (2005, as Sully), “Law & Order” (2005) and “Waterfront” (2005). Tergesen revisited series TV as a regular in the Aaron Spelling-produced crime series “Wanted” (2005). After the demise of the series, he delivered a notable recurring turn as Peter McMillan, Bree Hodge's AA sponsor and love interest, on five episodes of the ABC mega hit “Desperate Housewives” (2005).
From January to February 2003, Tergesen was seen on stage as Kerry Max Cook in “The Exonerated,” by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, in New York City. He then played Owen Musser in “The Foreigner” by Larry Shue. The off-Broadway show ran from November 2004 to February 2005 at New York's Laura Pels Theatre. In 2008, he would revisit the New York stage with a performance in Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's “Good Boys and True,” playing Coach Shea.
From 2007 to 2008, Tergesen could be seen in episodes of “Masters of Horror,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “Cane” and “Life on Mars” (as Lee Crocker). He had a featured role as Daniel Royer in the history TV film “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” (HBO, 2007), directed by Yves Simoneau and starring Anna Paquin, and played Evan Wright in the miniseries “Generation Kill” (also HBO, 2008), opposite Alexander Skarsgård and James Ransone.
Recently, in 2009, Lee appeared as Clint in an episode of ABC's “Cupid” and as Todd Watski in two episodes of “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” a comedy series starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus. He will play Major Jack Tattersall in the WWII period drama “Red Tails” (2009), directed by Anthony Hemingway and written by George Lucas and John Ridley. Costars in the film include Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Bryan Cranston and Tristan Wilds. He is also set to portray Alex in Joseph Infantolino's “Helena from the Wedding,” which is slated for a 2010 release.
“I would go in and read for these parts and it never excited me to play the guy who doesn't have any sort of point of view and edge. I think I knew I wasn't what people looked at and saw in me. I love characters. I love things that have dimension and depth, that are hard to figure out.” Lee Tergesen
Bordeaux International Festival of Women in Cinema: Golden Wave, Best Actor (Meilleur Comédien Long Métrage), “Bark,” 2002