“I like to find the most impossible shot and then get really disappointed when it doesn’t happen,” the actress Greta Lee mentioned, leaning over a billiards desk within the Koreatown part of Manhattan. “I don’t know what that says about me.”
She aimed toward a stable crimson ball, which obediently dropped into a heart pocket. Ms. Lee allowed herself a temporary celebration: “Mommy’s still got it, OK?”
This was on a current Wednesday night, simply earlier than the premiere of the second season of the Netflix drama “Russian Doll,” through which Ms. Lee, 39, stars as Maxine, a finest good friend of Natasha Lyonne’s time-trapped Nadia. A standout of the primary season (individuals method her on the road, parroting Maxine’s tag line, “Sweet birthday baybeeee”), Ms. Lee returns with a deeper efficiency, in delirious outfits and assertion eyeliner.
She can also be a star of the Apple TV+ drama “The Morning Show, in which she plays Stella Bak, a tech genius and network president who favors Balenciaga and vintage Chanel.
For this outing, she had dressed down — wide-legged pants and diaphanous blouse, worn under a daffodil duster, with a Prada fanny pack to match — and had taken a car to this block of West 32nd Street where she and her husband, the comedy writer Russ Armstrong, had passed a lot of hazy evenings in their 20s. The couple, who relocated to Los Angeles during the pandemic, have two sons, 3 and 5, so the nights are hazy for different reasons.
Ms. Lee began the night at the Korean grocery H Mart. In her 20s, as a California transplant making her Broadway debut, she had prowled its aisles for delicacies that reminded her of home. On this night, she filled her cart with an orange drink, an Asian pear drink, a sponge cake.
“This is where you cross the threshold with your white friends who say they love Korean food and then you serve them this,” she mentioned, pointing to some fried anchovies. Then she went in quest of strawberry Pocky and dried squid.
Mr. Armstrong, who had been catching up on work, met her within the snack aisle, simply as she was reaching for a bag of candy corn chips. “We have an industrial supply of these at home,” he mentioned approvingly.
Groceries paid for, they made their approach down the block to Woorijip, a well-liked cafe that serves premade Korean consolation meals. “Any time of night, it could give you everything you needed,” Mr. Armstrong mentioned nostalgically.
The cafe had made a few enhancements since they final frequented it. “I have mixed feelings about this,” Ms. Lee mentioned. “Because it’s so much nicer than it used to be.”
They loaded a tray with Korean sushi, an omelet, a kimchi stew. “This stew tastes exactly the same,” Mr. Armstrong mentioned. “It’s 5 percent saltier than it should be, which is exactly how I like it.”
Ms. Lee dipped a spoon in. “Oh yeah,” she mentioned. “There’s so much MSG. Just how our grandmothers intended.”
Fortified, they headed to Space Billiards, a twelfth ground pool corridor hung with orange lanterns. They tried to order Korean beers, however they had been bought out, in order that they settled at a desk with a Heineken and a Budweiser. Ms. Lee examined out a cue. She mentioned that she hadn’t performed in a whereas.
She performed a lot as a Los Angeles teenager, principally in Koreatown pool halls, making an attempt to impress Koreatown boys. As a scholar at Harvard-Westlake, a prestigious secondary college, she discovered code switching early on, sporting poofy clothes to her white mates’ candy 16 birthday events and large cargo pants to the pool halls after.
That capacity to inhabit totally different roles has served her profession effectively, in supporting roles in reveals similar to “Inside Amy Schumer,” “High Maintenance” and “Girls.” She has a specific expertise for satirizing privilege and entitlement.
As an oddball character actress, she has hardly ever performed roles that felt true to her personal expertise, she mentioned. That will change with “Past Lives,” a romantic drama due later this 12 months, through which Ms. Lee performs a first-generation immigrant who reconnects with a childhood sweetheart. She can also be growing the essay assortment “Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning” for collection tv. She plans to star in it.
“I’m not hiding,” she mentioned of her work on “Past Lives.” “And that is really scary for me, because maybe I’ve been hiding a part of myself behind these characters. And I don’t know if people are going to be receptive to this version of me.”
For now, Ms. Lee had a totally different function to play: pool shark. She is a devotee of Jeanette Lee, the Korean American skilled pool participant. “I’m going to act like I know what I’m doing,” she mentioned.
Mr. Armstrong broke. Ms. Lee sunk a ball. They traded photographs backwards and forwards, her lengthy crimson nails gripping the cue. “With your nails and the full outfit it’s an intimidation thing,” Mr. Armstrong mentioned.
But her efficiency was not so threatening. “I’m trying to make all of those K-Town boys proud,” Ms. Lee mentioned as she lined up a shot. She missed. “Never do anything to try to impress someone else,” she mentioned.
She undershot. Then she overshot. “I was so good at geometry,” she mentioned. “What happened to me?”
It look her a few rounds of 8-ball, however she appeared to hit her stride. “No more messing around, let’s do this,” she mentioned, aiming for the nook pocket. She quickly cleared the desk as Mr. Armstrong, who had a number of balls remaining, regarded on approvingly.
“I didn’t think I was going to win,” Ms. Lee mentioned.
“I knew you were going to win,” Mr. Armstrong mentioned, congratulating her. “I always bet on you.”