The Transformation Of Brian Tee From Childhood To Chicago Med

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The Transformation Of Brian Tee From Childhood To Chicago Med
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Brian Tee has been in the acting game since 2000. Per his IMDb profile, he racked up a handle of one-episode TV gigs, including an appearance on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” Season 5. While he’s been afforded the opportunity to sink his teeth into a few popular characters since then, there is perhaps no other character more beloved than his Dr. Ethan Choi in the “One Chicago” universe.

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A key member of the staff on “Chicago Med” since 2015, Ethan has crossed over to the other “Chicago” shows. He’s a complicated guy who struggles with post-operative issues after being shot in Season 6. Choi has also been through his fair share of relationship issues and personal problems, only to stand tall and face down his problems. In Season 9, he’s trying to work his way toward reclaiming his high-pressure job. After everything Choi’s been through, returning to his position as chief of emergency medicine will likely be a cakewalk.

The actor behind Choi has a stacked resumé and was mainly known for his work in action-adventure vehicles before becoming a doc on one of NBC’s hottest dramas. Follow us as we show you how Tee grew from a young actor working in the background of some of your favorite movies and TV shows to a full-fledged star.

Brian Tee always wanted to be an actor

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The Transformation Of Brian Tee From Childhood To Chicago Med
New Line Cinema/YouTube

Brian Tee was born Jae-Beom Takata on March 15, 1977, in Okinawa, Japan (via Apple TV). Per a 2009 interview with, Tee is half-Korean and half-Japanese American. His family moved from Japan to Los Angeles when he was only 2 years old. He then went to high school in Hacienda Heights, California, and attended Cal State Fullerton upon graduation. The actor later transferred to UC Berkeley, from which he eventually graduated with a degree in theater and performing arts.

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Tee always had an affinity for show business. “[A]s a child, I always had dreamed of being an actor, but as time went by, I slowly drifted away from those unfiltered and pure dreams you have as a kid,” Tee told The Eerie Digest in 2012. While attending Cal State, the actor was busy with classes that had nothing to do with acting. Then he noted that one of the electives offered might allow him to pursue his childhood passion. “I chose to take an acting class … ‘Acting for non-majors,’ to be exact. I thought … ‘An easy A!'”

Per his IMDb page, Tee’s first credited role was in the 2000 Garry Shandling sci-fi rom-com bomb “What Planet Are You From?” (via Box Office Mojo). He plays one of the aliens from Shandling’s home planet in an uncredited background part. Per Eerie Digest, Tee has some fond memories of his early career, saying that although he was “very green at the time, I felt like I belonged.” Cameo, background, or small speaking roles in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” an incredibly memorable “Austin Powers in Goldmember” scene, “JAG” and the soap opera “Passions” ensued before he landed the role of Pfc. Jimmy Nakayama in the Mel Gibson war vehicle “We Were Soldiers.” 

He broke through with Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift

The Transformation Of Brian Tee From Childhood To Chicago Med
Universal Pictures/YouTube

After a number of bit parts lasting from 2002 to 2005, Brian Tee broke through to mainstream success by appearing in “Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift” in 2006. The actor portrays Takashi, also known as “D.K,” the Drift King. A member of the yakuza, D.K. is both a feared villain and makes every effort to appear so cool that Shawn Boswell (Lucas Black) refers to him sarcastically as “the Justin Timberlake of Japan.” D.K. and Shawn develop a rivalry which results in multiple street races that include drifting, which is the act of causing one’s car to smoothly slide sideways across a blacktop without falling over or crashing into an obstacle. Their contests include a memorable race set in a parking garage. Tensions escalate and culminate in a final drift contest between Boswell and Takashi that will determine which of the two men will be forced to leave Japan forever.

Tee seems to have had a lot of fun playing the franchise baddie. “I wanted to make him, badder, more arrogant, more hated but yet, appealing because everything was justified in his shoes,” Tee said about D.K. while speaking with told The Eerie Digest, adding, “I seem to always get comments like, ‘I hated you in that movie’ or ‘You were such a d***,’ and I love it! Those are the greatest compliments for me as an actor.”

After the “Fast and Furious” spinoff,” the next few years saw Tee appear on HBO’s “Entourage,” the ABC medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy” and CBS apocalypse drama “Jericho.” Per IMDb, he also provided the voice of Jyunichi in the video game “Saints Row 2” before landing his next major role.

He was a showed up on hit '00s TV shows Crash and Zoey 101

The Transformation Of Brian Tee From Childhood To Chicago Med

Two roles would define the next part of Brian Tee’s career in the late ’00s. One was in a small-screen adaption of an Oscar winning film, and the other was a Nickelodeon live-action comedy that entertained a generation of kids.

Tee portrayed Eddie Choi in the Starz drama “Crash,” which spun off, per IMDb, from the 2004 best picture Oscar-winning film of the same name. The series only lasted for two seasons, but Tee was in 13 episodes as Choi, a paramedic after surviving life as a gang member. His character ultimately became a target for possible retaliation due to his past, forcing Choi to seek police protection.

On “Zoey 101,” Tee played Kazu, owner of the gang’s hang-out, Sushi Rox. Tee only appears on the show three times, and one of those times is to fire Matthew Underwood’s character Logan Reese after the teenager exposed his classmates’ secrets on a hidden webcam. However, it’s a memorable enough role that it still comes up when the actor is interviewed (via The Eerie Digest). This wouldn’t be his only time on a kid’s sitcom, as he popped up as Mr. Itou in the Disney sitcom “Shake it Up” in 2012.

Tee rivaled The Wolverine for a damsel's affection

The Transformation Of Brian Tee From Childhood To Chicago Med
20th Century Fox/YouTube

After guest-starring on hourlong dramas such as “Bones,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “Burn Notice,” Brian Tee showed up in 20th Century Studios’ X-Men Universe in “The Wolverine.” His character is Noburo, who rivals Logan (Hugh Jackman) for the affections of Mariko (Tao Okamoto). Mariko and Noburo were engaged to be married as children, but they show little fidelity to one another as adults. In fact, Noburo leans into being a morally bankrupt Minister of Justice. He puts a hit out on Mariko to escape their upcoming marriage. Logan doesn’t let Noburo get away with this crime and flings him over the side of the balcony of his penthouse to his presumed death.

In a 2013 interview with Nerd Reactor, Tee managed to find a little sympathy for this fictional villain. “He’s got this great inner power, and it causes havoc with his political ties, and it’s connected throughout all of Tokyo,” the actor observed. He added that “[Noburo] rides a fine line between [good and evil], just like all politicians. Rightfully so.” 

But even Tee couldn’t resist having a laugh at Noburo’s expense when it came to losing Mariko to Logan. Also referring to his “Tokyo Drift” character, the actor said, “Maybe I’m just good at playing the bad guy who gets the chick stolen from her guy.”

In the mid-2010s, he took on dinosaurs and engaged in Mortal Kombat

The Transformation Of Brian Tee From Childhood To Chicago Med
Universal Pictures/YouTube

Brian Tee’s IMDb goes on to reveal that he appeared three times as Liu Kang in the second season of “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” before taking on several short stints on hourlong dramas such as “Hawaii Five-O” and “Grimm.” He then appeared as real-life gymnastics coach Liang Chow in the Lifetime TV movie “The Gabby Douglas Story.” Gigs on Lifetime’s “The Lottery,” TNT’s “Legends,” and ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” followed before the actor showed up in the Anne Heche starring Hallmark Hall of Fame TV Movie “One Christmas Eve.”  

His next big role was Hamada in 2015’s “Jurassic World.” Hamada is one of the most powerful members of the Asset Containment Unit, a security detail on Isla Nublar. Unfortunately, Hamada and his men don’t make it out of the picture alive. In a 2015 interview with OK! TV USA, Tee spoke of the art of acting with (and around) CGI effects. He recalled, “In my case, the AD [assistant director] would kind of point to like a branch and be like ‘See that leaf?’ And I’d go, ‘That yellow one?’ and he’d go ‘No, the one next to that.'”

Tee added to his collection of on-screen villains by playing Shredder

The Transformation Of Brian Tee From Childhood To Chicago Med
Paramount Pictures

Just after joining “Chicago Med” in 2015, Brian Tee took one more villainous turn as Oroku Saki, aka Shredder, in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” in 2016. In the Paramount Pictures film, Shredder is sprung from prison by Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) and seems to form a dream team of villains comprised of Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams), Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly), and Krang (Brad Garrett). Despite the credible collection of criminals Shredder assembles, they fail to successfully oppose those blasted turtles. Instead, the villains double-cross each other, and Shredder ends up frozen in time, forever captured among Krang’s other enemies.

Despite Shredder’s ignominious end, Tee seemed thrilled to portray the part of Ol’ Shreddhead. Ahead of the release of “Out of the Shadows,” he told The Chicago Tribune that “when you’re Shredder for Halloween as a kid, and now you get to play him, it’s like a childhood dream come to life.” He hoped to bring a more human take on the character to the table, saying, “[The film’s producers] want Shredder to be a grounded human being that’s a bad (expletive). Hopefully, that will shine through.”

For the better part of a decade, Tee has since been happily ensconced in the “One Chicago” universe. He’s become so synonymous with Dr. Ethan Choi that he was even invited to film a series of COVID-19-related PSAs for ReadyIllinois in 2020 with his daughter, Madelyn Skyler Takata (via YouTube). But that doesn’t mean the actor’s been typecast as a kind doctor or ruthless criminal mastermind. He’s slated to join Nicole Kidman in the TV series “Expats,” which is coming to Amazon Prime Video.

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