Luca James Lee is an example of how fast things work in television on a global scale. This Australian actor was pitched by his New York manager to an LA showrunner for the show The Bold Type which was filming in Montreal. Within one week he went from a casual reading and phone call to flying to Montreal to become the new love interest for the show’s main character. Luca’s years of preparation came down to that instant of being able to handle any role thrown his way and executing it with perfect instinct and confidence. Luca’s family pedigree includes a Grandmother from the Yawuru Aboriginal tribe of Western Australia and Chinese
Grandfather on one side with Hungarian and Italian grandparents on the other; indicating that worldwide adventure and an ease with different cultures is in his very DNA, to say nothing of his appeal. He adamantly states that the influence he has absorbed from numerous cultures has framed his perspective and thereby the manner in which he presents the characters whom he inhabits. In the case of Dr. Ben, his role on The Bold Type, this has led to fans overwhelmingly embracing him and the luminous qualities he brings.
Created by Sarah Watson, known for work writing on NBC’s Primetime Emmy and Golden Globe Nominated series Parenthood, The Bold Type offers its fans the type of escapism that is so desirable these days. Certainly less salacious than other programs about strong professional women, the series became an immediate hit for ABC/Freeform/Disney. For season two, Luca was brought aboard and introduced as Dr. Ben, the main romantic interest of Katie Stevens (as Jane Sloan), one of the trio of strong lead females who work at a prominent women’s fashion magazine in New York City. Along with his undeniable attractiveness and charm, Dr. Ben is incredibly in tune with women; an OBGYN who volunteers his skill to financially challenged female patients. Significantly for Jane, Dr. Ben also uses his personal faith to guide himself and aid her in challenging moments. Luca reveals, “Ben was an interesting character to play because of the contrast between his quiet religious faith and really strong convictions and the fact that he didn’t hesitate to bend or break the rules if it was going to help one of his patients. It was nice to see that there was a lot of subtlety involved in the writing of his character instead of painting with broad strokes and perhaps falling back on the stereotype of a ‘religious’ character.”
One of the most endearing and perhaps confusing components of Dr. Ben’s attractiveness to viewers was his imperfection and vulnerability. When he and Jane have a discussion about her having the BRCA gene (which increases the possibility of breast cancer), Dr. Ben reverts to his analytical side rather than simply being present for her. His willingness to recognize this error later attests to his growth. The doctor’s religious tattoo, a cross on his forearm, is an obvious indication that he resides somewhere between traditional and modern ideologies; making him more complex and thus interesting to explore as an actor. Luca confesses, “Getting to play someone with such a good nature, ability to make people feel at ease, and be so supportive to the women in the show was great. Lots of fans of the show definitely seemed to connect with Ben and it felt like a breath of fresh air having a romantic interest who wasn’t stereotyped and, in a way, normalized the concept of a ‘religious’ character. An everyday, good guy who wants to help the people in his community and has a strong faith to rest on but one that he never actively pushes or goes out of his way to discuss. A disco dancing, quietly Christian OBGYN who isn’t too concerned about pre-marital affection definitely wasn’t something that I ever imagined I would ever play! But it was a great time and I was so glad to have had the privilege.”
Katie Stevens (of American Idol fame), Meghann Fahy, and Aisha Dee as the central characters of the series have established a tone that is rarely achieved; a story about women whose roles cannot be filtered down to a type but rather who are truly individuals. Luca James Lee has been a powerful and successful complement to this. The layered performances he delivers hints but never easily defines Dr. Ben, which leaves the characters and viewers to draw conclusions which are later confirmed or contradicted by Luca’s performances. As we see more and more female centered stories being written and delivered by women, actors like Luca are establishing that men have an important and benevolent effect on them. Sensitivity is a quality that serves actors and doctors alike quite well.
Writer: Winston King