Elle China’s 30th Anniversary: Liu Haoran on Growing Up

Elle China recently celebrated their 30th anniversary, and when Liu Hao Ran posted a congratulatory message (well, his studio did, since he was isolated in military training), fans thought that there might be a chance that he might have an interview portion in the 30th anniversary issue of the magazine. And they were right! Liu Haoran has quite a close relationship with Elle China editor-in-chief Xiao Xue (she appeared in his birthday video last year), so it’s not a total surprise.

This is a short interview, but such an honest interview. Liu Hao Ran, by default, usually gives very profound but consistent interviews, and while he doesn’t say anything new here, he speaks very, very openly (even for him) about his worries on the future. Not taking a wrong step thus far in his career has actually put even more pressure on him.

Also I think I love his mom.


ELLE: Do you worry? For example, do you worry about the fact that you’re famous at such a young age? How do you deal with the worries?

LHR: I don’t really worry over that. I’m thankful to my company and management team because they allow me to be willful. There are times where a big budget production will come to the door, but if I don’t like the role, I turn it down. There’s money that I’m afraid to earn. Most of the time, my views are quite in line with my management team’s.

The entertainment industry in the past may have operated by the rule “you have to get famous while you’re still young”, but I believe that whether it’s early or late doesn’t really matter. What’s important is “fast” or “slow”*. My view of acting as a career is still based on what I saw when I was a kid – when people respected performance.

You would start from being an extra, or supporting roles, and slowly climb your way up, and slowly be remembered. You earn your way step by step, and only then you’d have the chance to take a lead role.

*T/N: The “fast” or “slow” applies to the entirety of your career, not just the beginning. It’s basically the same concept as the tortoise and the hare. What LHR is saying is that he doesn’t think it matter whether you become famous while young or not – if you go slowly (and thus more steadily), that’s what’s important. Think veteran actors who have a prolonged career of 20+ years vs people who peak early and then slowly disappear from relevancy.

From my debut in 2015 (T/N: he said before he doesn’t really count 2014 because he went back to school for a year after Beijing Love Story), to when I’ve really been recognized by everyone, it hasn’t been even three years. Suddenly, everything is coming all at once – the things that I can tolerate, and the things that I can’t.

It’s like as soon as I wrap up filming for one project, I’m expected to start filming for the next one. There’s no time to wait. I’m very self aware, and I’m terrified that I can’t handle the responsibility*. Recently, I’ve been trying to do one thing, which is to go a little slower, to walk a little slower.

*T/N: The responsibility of always choosing the right projects, of being able to film continuously, of keeping his momentum. Basically, upholding his perfect reputation of making smart decisions. People are so, so high on him, and he’s not sure if he can live up to it.

So my worry is, the speed at which I grow won’t be as fast as everyone expects. People’s expectations towards an actor is that if they have one good project, the next one should be even better. You’re not allowed to take a step back. I’m trying to walk steadily, and am only 21 this year. While I may have made a good decision this time, and I’m aware of how much energy I’ve exerted, how much work I’ve put in, I also worry on whether my next step will still be good.

ELLE: What’s the best way to deal with worry?

LHR: Hide out and don’t see anyone. If I’m worried, and I don’t want to keep going (for the time being), I’ll turn down a project. But then I’ll think it’s a pity, and I’ll doubt myself and struggle internally. So I don’t listen, don’t ask, don’t care – when things are clearer, I’ll talk about it. My last project took nine months to film, and I’ve been isolated during this time. It was only until I was almost done filming that I started looking at other scripts. When I’m working on one project, I don’t think in advance about the next, so for the last nine months, I’ve enjoyed that feeling of “loneliness”*. It was an environment I created for myself.

*T/N: The word “lonely” in this context is more about the state of being alone and isolated environment-wise. Out of the spotlight, away from the noise and distractions of the city and industry in general. So he might be surrounded by people on set, but they’re still living in an isolated existence from the hustle and bustle (and scrutiny) he normally faces.

ELLE: What has given you happiness recently?

LHR: Because I’ve been filming, it’s been a long time since I’ve been back to Beijing. When I wrapped up filming and was back home, I went to a Japanese restaurant near my home and just sat at the bar with some sake. I didn’t go to a private room, just sat there among a lot of people.

ELLE: There are a lot of people who would think eating by yourself is quite lonely.

LHR: If you want to eat with other people, but can only eat alone, then yes, that is lonely. But I know that if I called up someone, I probably can find someone to eat with. So being alone is enjoyable.

ELLE: How do you define youth?

LHR: A young person is considered successful if he can emerge quickly, and disappear slowly. I watched a musical (aka Broadway show) when I was in the US – some of those actors can act in the same show for more than twenty years in one role, and earn enough money that way.

But it’s different for us. If we pick the same kind of role three times, we’ll become typecasted, and the audience gets fatigued. That’s why I’m very insecure. I don’t like acting the same type of roles. The truth is, at my age, I can probably act in youth dramas for at least three years. But after With You, I haven’t had another one, because I want to give everyone a new feeling (every time they see me).

ELLE: How do you look at this era? What kind of state do you think humans are currently in?

LHR: What’s great is that society has improved very quickly, but what’s scary is also that it’s moving so quickly. My thoughts may be a little strange, because I think humans are still evolving. From the early days to the Stone Age, and then every step we’ve taken since then – to the Industrial Revolution, and then the Age of Electricity…the way we’re evolving is just becoming faster. I think in my lifetime, I will be able to witness another step of evolution – that includes the way mainstream society thinks, the values that they possess, lifestyle, etc. – it will all change.

ELLE: In regards to the future, what worries you the most? What are you most optimistic about?

LHR: Honestly, I don’t have any right to be worried. Looking at the big picture, our only option is to make our own choices and accept the consequences. I don’t think that’s a bad thing – I’m someone who is used to accepting change.

ELLE: What invention or technology are you looking forward to the most?

LHR: Teleportation, because I’m lazy. Because of work, I waste a lot of time on the road, so if I could teleport like in Doraemon, that’d be great.

ELLE: Who is the woman that has had the greatest impact on your view of the world? How has she affected you?

LHR: My mom. Her method of education for me has been letting me grow up naturally, and helping to trim off the rough edges as needed. She will only correct me if it’s something that she thinks absolutely needs to be addressed. For example, when I was little, I once stole some money from home. Some parents will yell and hit their kids, but my mom won’t.

She increased my allowance, and then told me, “You don’t actually need to do that. You can just tell me if you need money. Because it’s only then that you are acquiring the money in an honorable way, and when you spend it, you won’t have to do so secretly.” My mom has never hit me, because physical discipline will only make kids afraid, not recognize where they may have messed up.

ELLE: Personally speaking, what do you think would be the most ideal relationship between a couple?

LHR: Both should feel comfortable, and not try to control one another.

ELLE: Love is…

LHR: Love is enjoyable, and it will slowly develop into familial affection. You start from liking someone, to love, to familial love.

ELLE: Is that a good thing for love to change into familial love?

LHR: I think so. I don’t have high expectations towards anything, because if you have hope, it’s easy to be disappointed. So do what you need to do, and the rest will naturally come.

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