all photos courtesy of Jonathan Davino

As a kid in Oakland, Calif., in the 1990s, just about the last thing David Lim ever imagined himself growing up to be was an actor.

“I don’t come from a family of artists or entertainers,’’ says the 34-year-old series regular on the newly minted CBS cop drama “S.W.A.T.”

“Growing up, we never really thought to pursue something like that. In addition, I never really saw too many Asian-Americans on television, or in commercials – and if I did, it wasn’t the best portrayal of Asian-Americans, a lot of negative stereotypes. So (acting was) something I never really thought about.’’

So how is it that, today – after earning a degree in electrical engineering from UC San Diego in 2005, then trying his hand at real estate – Lim finds himself in the role of LAPD S.W.A.T. officer Victor Tan, under the command of series star Shemar Moore’s Daniel “Hondo” Harrelson?

“I think I was about 25 and I realized I wanted to do something different,’’ Lim says. “Somebody had mentioned to me something along the lines of, ‘Hey, you should try out acting, you should try out modeling.’ I was watching a lot of ‘Entourage,’ at the time and I was like, ‘Wow, that would be a pretty cool life!’ “And I just gave it a shot – I quit my job and got into some acting classes, and that’s when I really fell in love with it. And next thing you know I moved to L.A., and had some success here and there, got some small gigs on shows, and here I am now.’’

Cigar & Spirits Magazine caught up with Lim recently, and he expanded on how he got from there to here…and where he hopes to still go.

Tell us about your S.W.A.T. character, Victor Tan?
He’s a newcomer on the S.W.A.T. team, a relatively new officer. He kind of made his name in the Hollywood Division of LAPD before advancing up to Metro S.W.A.T. He’s a guy who’s all about getting in the action…and he’s got a lot of confidential informants in the community…and he kind of uses these to his team’s advantage to take out these bad guys.

You played baseball, basketball and soccer in high school – and those
athletic skills are coming in handy on S.W.A.T.
A lot of us (on the show) are former athletes, so it helps with a lot of these action sequences, because it’s a very physical show… People are going to be blown away by the action.

Describe how your Chinese-American roots shaped your life and career.
My mom and dad were both born in the San Francisco area to Chinese immigrants. They were poor growing up, experienced a lot of hardship, and had to work at a very young age to make ends meet. But they pushed themselves to get good educations, good jobs, save every penny, and did everything in their power to provide a better life for me and my sister. So, I learned from them the value of hard work, humility, the importance of a great education, and how to stick together and support one another as a family. And it’s largely how I approach my own life and career. I pride myself on my work ethic, and family, friends, and relationships will always be most important to me.

Do you have a favorite actor or two whose career you’d like to use as a blueprint?
Brad Pitt has always been a favorite actor of mine. I love Denzel and Matt Damon. Leo, of course. So, if I could just follow their footsteps, that’d be great. Ha! Easier said than done. I like Bradley Cooper a lot. He started on television, did smaller roles in films, and eventually worked his way up to leading man. I’d love to do the same. Now obviously, these guys are icons, and to have half or even a quarter of their careers would be amazing. But hey, you gotta shoot for the stars, right?

How were you chosen for S.W.A.T.?
I was living in New York at the time, and had just finished filming Quantico. I was looking for the next job. My agents approached me with S.W.A.T., and I ended up reading for a couple different roles. The day after I moved back to Los Angeles, I went in for a callback with Justin Lin, Shawn Ryan, Aaron Thomas, and the rest of the producers. An hour after the audition, my manager called me and said, “It’s not going to happen on S.W.A.T.” I was bummed, but it was kind of expected, because I didn’t think I fit the character I was auditioning for. A week later, I got a call from my agents saying that they created a role for me. I was ecstatic, couldn’t believe it, even got a little teary-eyed, in a manly way of course!

What are your hopes for the show?
I hope we’re able to entertain millions of viewers and that they’re blown away by the action sequences, but at the same time able to connect and relate to the characters and storylines. I hope S.W.A.T. inspires and instills hope and love in the people and families who tune in every week, through this diverse group of on-screen heroes who fight for good in tough situations…I’m getting to work with so many talented and dedicated individuals. We’ve all become close in just a few months – the cast, crew, writers, producers, directors. It’s a great group, a family, and I’d love to be able to work with them for a long time.

Do you have a favorite cigar or two, and why do you like them?
Cubans, for sure. Romeo y Julietas. I love how smooth they are and the way they taste. There’s nothing like a good cigar.

Are you a cigar-and-drink sort, or more of a cigar-and-coffee person?
Definitely a cigar-and-coffee person. I’m not a big drinker, but I love a good cup of java.

When do you most enjoy firing up a stick?
When it’s time to celebrate. The last three occasions that come to mind are when the Warriors won the (NBA) championship, a close friend’s bachelor party, and when S.W.A.T. happened! Hopefully there will be more to celebrate in the near future.