Haoran takes the cover of Bazaar Men, March 2019 issue – and it’s double covers at that, one in Louis Vuitton, the other in Tod’s.
This is Haoran’s third time on the cover of Bazaar Men (one of the major five men’s magazines in China), and it’s a particularly meaningful one because he recently celebrated his five year anniversary since debut. And it just so happens that Bazaar Men was the very first fashion magazine cover of his career. There’s an interesting short convo between Haoran and the editor-in-chief of Bazaar Men China at the end of this article on that topic as well.
In this interview, we catch up with Haoran on what he did during his long break in the second half of 2018/early 2019, how he’s learning to find that ideal work-life balance, and some fun stories from his childhood, and how he’s been allowed to grow up very organically.
(Bazaar Men China – March 2019 issue)
As we get close to the end of the year, in order to ensure they have a good New Year’s, everyone seems to be busier. Maybe they’re working on more drafts, to speed up the process on pushing out a new project, to produce financial reports…But in this moment, Liu Hao Ran is casually sitting in the makeup room, and not a shred of anxiety or impatience can be detected in him.
After spending almost nine months filming Novoland: Eagle Flag, he’s been enjoying his personal time. The last couple of years have seen Liu Haoran’s explosion on all fronts – the films The Legend of the Demon Cat and Detective Chinatown 2, and the TV drama Nirvana In Fire 2…each of these have simultaneously achieved good reviews + good ratings/high box office numbers. He’s received countless numbers of magazine interviews, and has answered similar questions numerous times.
Today, Liu Haoran has become more steady, “When you speak to the end, you suddenly feel that if you speak a lot, it’ll damage your spirit. Your throat is itchy. That’s the first point. The second is that it feels like sometimes it’s good to have an air of mystery. If you do too many interview, from then on, people will think Liu Haoran is a very funny person, or that he’s very eloquent. But often this type of deep impression may not necessarily be a good thing.”
In the year since he was put in the spotlight, he’s stopped and hid out for a while. Most of the time, he’s been going been to class, learning to drive, reading books and scripts, spending time with family, and playing games. Occasionally, he’s returned to the work-version of Liu Haoran for magazine photoshoots, advertisements, and variety shows. “Adjusting my state of mind so that I’m not constantly engrossed in work. That’s what I’ve been doing.”
Mischievousness is Good For Growing Up Healthily
Since he was a child, Liu Haoran has never been the type to put all of his eggs into one basket. His life, aside from the important responsibilities, has also been full of “unexpected issues” that havebrought fun surprises to his life. Sometimes, he forgot to do his math homework, and would be lectured by the teacher. During Chinese New Year’s (in the past), while at his uncle’s house, he putcontainers over (lit) firecrackers, and destroyed many of his uncle’s storage containers. Another time, he pretended his aunt’s couch was a trampoline, and wrecked it.
When he first went to Beijing, his school was far from the city center, and was at the foot of a mountain, so they lived a life far from the chaotic city, “During that time, our daily life was just going to class, playing basketball, and sometimes going hiking. When you exited the school gates, on your left was a trail that led to the mountains. Sometimes when we needed to practice our voice, we would stand at the peak and yell down.”
Afterwards, the school moved closer to the city center. He and his roommates raised many unusual pets, including snakes, spiders, lizards, chinchillas, fish. When they got close to final exams, he and his friends would order a ton of food via delivery when they got tired of studying, and spent a lot of time just eating and chatting.
Teenage boys always have a lot of extra energy, so his understanding mother never forced Liu Haoran to be an obedient child. And his father, who was only home on the weekends, would, at the most, just steer towards him a general direction. They’d observe: had their son picked up any bad habits? Was he learning bad things? The rest of the time, they just let Haoran grow up organically.
That’s why in Liu Haoran’s teenage years, he didn’t just have classes, homework, and exams. He also had entire afternoons spent playing with friends, and many sweaty and intense pickup basketball sessions. He has always been able to perfectly balance work and enjoyment. As he’scontinued to advanced in his career, he is also enjoying the scenery along the way. He will try to view it from different perspectives, to explore the world.
The Most Important Part of Life Is Experiencing
To the actor Liu Haoran, sensitivity is a must-have skill, as it allows him to understand the emotions of those around him, to gauge the atmosphere in different situations. It allows him to constantly mold his acting skills. But at the same time, to Liu Haoran, it’s also a bit tiring,
“I am someone who likes to predict the responses of everyone in a particular setting. Because a lot of the time, directors are quite gentle, especially towards young actors. So when you finish a scene, they won’t directly tell you it’s not right, that it wasn’t good. So I’m very sensitive, and will observe the director closely to see if they liked a particular scene. I usually go into filming withconfidence, but when I sense that a director didn’t like a specific part, I’ll panic a little. I’m not someone who’s that confident.”
As someone who is very detailed and thinks too much, Liu Haoran has not only continuously improved himself, he’s also forced himself on a road that seems harder and harder to walk. He knows, “You won’t necessarily make progress on a day to day basis, because an actor’s career is a journey of rises and falls.”
However, he still wishes to be able to jump to higher and higher ground. As he struggles internally, he’s used up a lot of energy. The him who was brave and fearless when he first debuted has become weighed down by thoughts and worries. Liu Haoranconstantly wonders, at his current age, what sort of roles does he fit? What other roles can he challenge?
When he finally pulled himself away from nonstop work to a life of school, gaming, travel, and spacing out, he discovered that thinking less is also good, “When you think too much, it’sincredibly annoying. I’m someone who thinks a lot in my regular life, and discovered that I no longer felt free because of that. So now I’m trying hard to not think as much.”
Iceland in October was freezing cold. The spacious land doesn’t have a lot of skyscrapers or even tress, so the piercing cold wind was merciless on the skin. Liu Haoran went there for a commercial shoot, and spent the trip working and touring. On this island that was far from the chaotic world, he was able to wipe away the complicated thoughts that constantly hounded him, and instead focused on enjoying the gorgeous scenery.
“Every day I’d take the car and would start working immediately upon arrival. When I was tired, I rested in the trailer. The rest of the time was spent taking photos, eating, and just wandering around. If you looked out at the landscape, you wouldn’t be able to see anyone.”Not long after, some of the photos from Iceland were released online. Under the gray-blue sky, the youth who wore an olive green jacket examined a piece of ice. And his gaze, just like the piece of ice that he held, was impossibly clean and clear.
As we talked, he remembered a story about the Iceland football team, and excitedly started talking,“When the Iceland team was choosing their players for the national team, it was said they only have a population of about a couple of hundred thousand. And for many different reasons, there were many people who couldn’t participate. So in the end their team…I think the goalkeeper was a dentist, and one of the forwards was a lawyer. Something like that.”
Resting has allowed Liu Haoran to finally let go of the pentup nervousness and stress that has built up over a prolonged period of time. He doesn’t feel that just because he’s stopped filming that he’s neglected his job, “If you feel like you can never get enough rest, how can you be in a good state to work?”
The little parts of life that are considered to be so normal and typical – he quietly commit them to memory, whether they’re good or bad. He suddenly gets excited about gaming and starts complaining,
“There was one day where I was so frustrated that I was yelling in my room. I was up very late playing a game, and we were already 14:9. Whoever got to 16 points first would be considered the winner, so if we just won two more rounds…We had a really good chance, but the opponent suddenly started cheating (by using a script). When you play games at night, and are on the verge of winning and suddenly see the opponent use a hack…it made me so mad!”
He says he’s recently been reading Keigo Higashina’s “Malice”, and happily analyzed the complicated human relationships and the writing style used. Dubbing for How To Train Your Dragon 3 also became a new experience outside of acting, and was a new and interesting challenge. While in the recording studio, he followed the body movements of the characters to “act” out the lines. As a fan of the films, he was able to fulfill a wish.
So, what should actor Liu Haoran do? Experience life’s every peak and valley, and feel every joy, sadness, and anger that the world will bring us.
When there was a small break due to changing outfits and re-applying makeup, the editor-in-chief and Liu Haoran started chatting about the changes in the last few years.
“Do you remember? Your first fashion magazine cover was Bazaar Men, with Chen Sicheng and Wang Baoqiang.”
“I remember. It was when Detective Chinatown first premiered!”
“Yes. When we were shooting, Chen Sicheng said, ‘This is the child I just signed. He will be very popular in the future.’ The you then was still a bit chubby, and you had baby fat on your cheeks. Now you’re so thin.”
“I really was chubby then. I only thinned down later for The Legend of the Demon Cat.”
It’s been four years since Liu Haoran’s first fashion magazine cover. In these four years, the fast paced entertainment industry has produced many new faces, and many successful projects have come out as well, but the Liu Haoran three years later is still that youth who is moving forward like the wind. Instead of asking what he’s done (to accomplish that), it might be easier to say, he hasn’t really done anything in particular.
”Going too far is as bad as not going far enough” is this youth’s cheat code. He might not yet know what kind of person he wants to become, but he knows what kind of person he doesn’t want to become. He wants to be a good actor, and won’t worry too much about everything else. He quietlykeeps a low profile. To use an old saying, this child is steady, dutiful, and low-key.
The Liu Haoran who operates at a low speed steadily moves forward. He also likes those who always lead slower-paced lives, who shine as they live ordinary lives, “A lot of new actors havereally interesting Weibo accounts. They consist of very normal daily events and happenings, and are used for just recording life. There are also some bloggers who just take photos of very simple things, like how to make fish. I think this is what the (real) world is like, this is is the most real ‘us’.”
If flowers would [grow and] bloom overnight into a garden,
If barley would brew in two days [to the same extent as it would in] twelve years,
[That] really would be very convenient. But it’s not as if we don’t have time.
If one desires this degree of convenience, then why would humans live for all these decades?
– Yoga Lin, A Little Slower (translation credit to rent @ www.onehallyu.com)
The lyrics of Yoga Lin’s “A Little Slower” fit the current Liu Haoran very well. Life isn’t about getting results overnight, nor is it about cutting corners. Twenty one year old Liu Haoran is very unhurried and calm.