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June 17, 2023 4 min read


Nanrisa Lee is an actor and certified scuba diver with 20 years of bartending experience based in L.A. After a friend convinced her to perform in a scene for a school assembly, she knew she’d found her path. Her resume lists credits such as NBC’s Quantum Leap and Unflinching Triumph, a mockumentary, and teachers Larry Moss and Lesly Kahn. Lee hopes to take up directing in the future, and would tell her past self to wear more sunscreen! Her advice to young artists? “Build a community. Try hard. Trust yourself, and don’t be afraid to fail.” Read on to learn more about Nanrisa Lee and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts! 

Name:   Nanrisa Lee

Heritage:   Chinese/Korean

Hometown:   Oakland, CA

Current City:   Los Angeles

Current project:   Quantum Leap

What are some of your favorite credits/projects: 

Of course, Quantum Leap has been a life changing experience. But, a mockumentary I did over 15 years ago called Unflinching Triumph was probably the most fun I’ve ever had on set. It was my first big part in anything, and we were this ensemble of goofy 20-somethings just trying to make each other laugh.

Any advice for young people getting into the arts? 

Build a community. Try hard. Trust yourself, and don’t be afraid to fail. Because you’re going to. A lot. And it’s gonna be uncomfortable, but it’s one of the most valuable things you can give yourself, because it’s where you grow the most. And if you can manage to find fun in your discomfort? You’ll be invincible.

How did you get your start? 

My best friend in the 7th grade was in drama class, and asked me to do a scene with her for a school assembly. I got up on that stage and was hooked.

Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share? 

I was in an acting class maybe 6 years ago bawling my eyes out, because I realized I was an artist. I’d already been working for a while by then, but I’d never considered myself to be one of those “passionate actors”. Not because I didn’t want to be, but because I never felt bonafide, you know? That memory sticks out because I think It was the first time I was able to acknowledge that my voice and my work indeed, had value.

What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career? 

Honestly? Believing in myself. But if you want a more practical answer, it’d be keeping myself in work consistently, whether I’m being paid or not. There’s a book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield that addresses it beautifully.

What are some interesting facts about yourself? 

Hmmm…I got caught shoplifting from Macy’s when I was 15? I’m a certified scuba diver. Since covid, I don’t like wearing bras or carrying a purse.

Do you have any organizations or non profits you work with you’d like to highlight? 

I wouldn’t say that I work with them, but I’ll give Planned Parenthood a shout. Thanks for everything you do!

Who do you admire? 

A lot of people! But I think they all share qualities of strength, ambition, and compassion for others. 

Did you always want to be in the arts or did you have another path before you got here? 

Well…I bartended for 20 years, does that count? I mean, I learned a LOT of interesting things about human behavior from it, so…

When did you know you wanted to have a career in the arts? 

7th grade. 

Is where you are now where you thought you’d be? 

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it took me a while – I think the trajectory of my career more or less parallels the trajectory of me getting my shit together, if that makes sense.

If you come from parents who aren’t in the arts, what parts of them do you see in yourself that have helped you succeed in the business? 

I’ve definitely learned tenacity from my Mom. At first glance she seems harmless, but she’s a total shark. She’s a badass. And my Dad is one of the kindest, most compassionate people I know. I think the empathy I’ve inherited from him is what enables me to connect to the characters I play.

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self? 

Stop going to bed with your makeup on, and for God’s sake, wear sunscreen.

Where did you study at?

I never really went to college, but for years I’ve worked with Larry Moss and Lesly Kahn.

What is your greatest accomplishment? 

My relationships with the people I love.

What are some goals you hope to achieve? 

I’d like to be in a play. I’d like to try and direct something.

How do you deal with performance anxiety? 

Oof. I still struggle with that one from time to time. On a good day, I remember that fear and excitement both come from the same place in my body, physically. For me, it’s a tightening in the chest and throat. Once I remember that, it’s just a matter of perspective. I know that I can either interpret those physical sensations as fear or excitement. Then it becomes really easy to choose excitement. It’s like how people feel about roller coasters – there’s people who love them, and people who are terrified of them. It’s the same ride, different expectations.

If you could name one point in time when everything changed for you, what was it? 

When I got sober. Everything changed after that.

To find out more on Nanrisa Lee, please visit her at: 

Instagram:   @chickeedeewilliams

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