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Born on the Japanese island of Okinawa, Brian Tee moved with his parents to the U.S. at the age of two. After growing up in the sunny suburbs of L.A., he graduated high school and enrolled at Cal State Fullerton with a major in pre-law. In an effort to remain connected to the arts, he took an acting for non-majors class and discovered a deep love of performance. Causing something of a family upset, he dropped out of Cal State and enrolled in the Dramatic Arts Acting program at the University of California, Berkeley. After graduating, he began auditioning, landing appearances on shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Pretender. In 2006 he scored a role as the Drift King in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift before signing on for Nanking, Bill Guttentag's documentary about the 1937 massacre of the Chinese city.

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