Cosmopolitan: Don’t Fast Forward Through Life

Liu Hao Ran was one of the cover stars of the October 2018 issue of Cosmopolitan China, and before we get into the accompanying interview, I wanted to mention a couple of things about the significance of this magazine cover. If you don’t care about this stuff feel free to jump to the interview below!

This is Liu Hao Ran’s first solo cover on one of the Big 5 women’s magazines. There are just a handful of male stars under 35 who have had this accomplishment and even less under 25.

Not only that, the October issue is what is called the 银十 (yin shi – literally silver October) issue – it, along with the September issue, is considered to be two of the most important months for fashion magazines (I think it’s because it’s when fall/winter fashion lines are released but don’t quote me on that).

As a result, it is notoriously difficult to land a cover (especially a solo one) on one of the Big 5 for the Sept/Oct issues, as editor-in-chiefs will reserve them for the A-listers. Brands also play a part in this, as the covers of these issues are the most expensive and they’ll have to be willing to shell it out for you. As you can probably guess, Louis Vuitton is behind this cover for Haoran as well.

(Also of note – Haoran’s other Big 5 cover, which was a joint shoot with Chun Xia for Harper’s Bazaar last year, was also an October issue.)

If you’re curious, Zhou Dongyu, Huang Xuan, and Wang Yuan were the other cover stars for the October issue – and that’s an indication in itself in terms of how Haoran is perceived. Zhou Dongyu is the only post-90s actress to have won a Golden Horse award for best actress. Huang Xuan is pretty much the most highly regarded actor career-wise among the post-85ers domestically, because he’s worked with so many big film directors. Wang Yuan is a member of the TFBoys, who will always have a special place in C-ent because of their sky high popularity/public recognition as the Nation’s Group (CCTV practically uses them as a mascot).

While we tend to not care too much about sales (Haoran isn’t a liu liang – data based star – and his resources don’t require him to be one), another reason why this magazine issue means a lot is because he sold 10,000+ copies of a magazine for the first time ever. That’s a number that’s usually reserved for liu liang (this year, Haoran has typically sold around 3 to 5 thousand copies), and it’s particularly meaningful because of the trend that we’re seeing for Haoran’s magazine sales, aka he’s being more and more loved.

2016: 200 copies (Esquire, Dec 2016) – don’t feel bad, this is actually what most actors/actresses sell. Magazine buying is very much a fandom-based thing.

2017: 3,000 copies (Elle Men, Dec 2017)

2018: 10,000+ (Cosmopolitan, Oct 2018)

Note that the numbers shown are for the magazine that had the highest number of sales that year – the more “prestigious” the magazine, the higher the numbers will be as fans and casual fans will make a greater effort to buy. Also, the sale numbers are only based on the purchase from Taobao and other source link provided by the official Weibo of the magazine during the release of photo spread.

Clearly the actual sales numbers could be more than the mentioned above. However, fans usually purchase magazine from the source link provided by the official Weibo of magazine compared to purchasing from bookstore etc.

The truth is that he’ll continue landing magazine covers regardless of how many copies he sells, but it’s still heartwarming to see.

This is also Haoran’s tenth (!!) magazine cover this year. With the exception of OK! magazine, which is weekly, all the other ones have been either first tier or second tier monthly publications.

And now – onwards to the translation of the interview! The theme for all four covers was individualism and not following the beaten path. Liu Hao Ran’s listed motto is: Go slower, and it’ll be okay. Yes, the interview is a bit heavy, but it was held right after he wrapped up filming for NEF so he was still a bit melancholy. As you’ll see in interviews held after this, he’s in a much better state of mind now.

(Scans of the article/interview)

At the beginning of 2018, Liu Hao Ran was working in Paris, and he had one wish for the new year: to disappear and roam around, and only return when he felt like it. The him that just returned to Beijing after wrapping up filming for Novoland: Eagle Flag still has a long list of backed up work that he needs to take care of, and the truth is, in just a couple of months, 2018 will be over.

As we open the door to his dressing room, Liu Hao Ran is dressed in all black, and is standing in the middle, engaged in a conversation with staff members as they try to figure out what kind of hairstyle to use for the photoshoot. His hair has gotten longer, and his bangs are so long that when you brush them out, they cover his entire nose.

In order to match the throwback vibe of the photoshoot, he decides to try out the hairstyle that Leonardo Dicaprio had in Titanic. “With every one of my projects, I want to show everyone a change of some sort – that includes magazine photoshoots, commercials, even day-to-day events. I will always say ahead of time that I want to try something slightly different.”

The drama Novoland: Eagle Flag has taken up most of Liu Hao Ran’s 2018. From northwest China to the plains, this has been the longest time that he’s spent filming a project. After wrapping up filming in Hubei’s Xiangyang and returning to Beijing, the very first thing that Liu Hao Ran did was schedule a physical. Though he couldn’t say specifically where he felt uncomfortable, he could feel during the course of filming that his body was giving him periodic warnings.

“I would suddenly feel a tightness in my chest, or would randomly lose my appetite.” If it was just minor physical injuries, he would have been able to deal with it, but the mental stress over a prolonged period of time left Liu Hao Ran feeling that he might not be able to handle it. “Every time I’m filming, I am wound up really tightly. This time, the filming period was perhaps too long. In the final two weeks, I felt that both my body and my mind were on the verge of shutting down.”

This led Liu Hao Ran to wonder if he was starting to lose the love that he had for acting that he had in the beginning, and if he had entered the phase where you’re just mindlessly going through the motions of working.

Liu Hao Ran admits that he feels exhausted. He thought about it and realized that from the summer of 2016 through now, he’s been working nonstop for two years. He has filmed three movies and two dramas, and was a regular cast member for a variety show. He also had several guest roles, and other types of work. His schedule has been too full, so what he wants the most now, and what he needs the most, is to rest.

COSMO: When you’re in a state where you’re wound up too tightly, how do you let yourself relax?

LHR: Create an environment for myself outside of my role. For example, after I’ve wrapped up filming, I grab meals with friends, or get a drink and chat. Or I’ll stay in my room and listen to music and occupy myself with little things here and there. Recently, I went and watched a movie, and updated my Moments on WeChat.

The truth is, performing is an actor’s dream, but the problem is when you’re dreaming, you shouldn’t become too embedded in it, to the point where you can’t detach from it. This has happened to me in the past, where after completing a project, I have had trouble coming out of the role. It’s a bit troublesome.

For example, the drama that I just completed, I had been filming for nine months. How long will it take for me to pull myself out of it? So I have to remind myself that every day when I work, I’m just dreaming. I have to keep myself in a state where I’m half dreaming, half awake. This way, I can get into it when I want to, but when work is done, I can also take myself out of it more easily.

COSMO: What kind of music do you listen to?

LHR: Quiet songs with a simple melody. Sometimes it’s just pure music, or even just background sounds, like the sound of water flowing, of rain falling. It also has to do with my mood that day. For example, if I spent the day gaming with friends, I’ll listen to electronic music.

COSMO: Has your understanding of Novoland: Eagle Flag‘s Lv Guichen changed during the course of filming? From when you first did your homework on the character through now?

LHR: This is a character that I’ve liked since I first read the books. I didn’t read the novels because I was going to act as the character. Since I am a pessimist, I tend to like reading things that are a bit more realistic, or even tragic. Good and evil is part of human nature, so I like tragedies. I especially am fond of characters like Lv Gui Chen. His existence and life is very realistic.. there’s a story there, and he is a tragic character.

COSMO: These last two years, every role that you have played has been different. That’s been a personal decision you’ve made yourself. When did you start wanting to continuously show changes and make new impressions?

LHR: When I just turned 18, I didn’t want to act in any more youth dramas at the time. I wanted to try something different. At the very least, I wanted everyone to believe that I had experienced some vicissitudes of life. I believed what limited me the most was the fact that I had a baby face, so I lost weight like crazy and even grew some facial hair.

If I hadn’t forced myself to change then, then The Legend of the Demon Cat, The Founding of An Army, and Nirvana In Fire 2 wouldn’t have sought me out. Now, because of these projects, people will feel that Liu Hao Ran isn’t an actor who can only pull off kid roles. He can play adults now. So I don’t have any need to force myself to grow up (anymore) now. This is good.

COSMO: Because the changes you’ll now face aren’t as dramatic as before, it’s more challenging in a way, right?

LHR: Yes. Before, because people probably didn’t have a deep impression (of me) yet, even the simplest of changes may have had a big impact on your impression. Now, every change takes a lot (out of me). It’s really difficult to give everyone a different feeling every time. So I need to think about how to proceed.

If you were to ask me to play a role similar to what I’ve done before, I can do it. Once or twice is fine, but any more than that is a no. I want to dig a bit deeper. I’m not very fond of staying in my comfort zone. There’s a saying that some people like to live on the edge and constantly test themselves – it’s a little bit like that.

COSMO: These years, you’ve been very cautious with every choice and step – that’s due to your natural logical side, right?

LHR: What’s been really good for me is that I’ve been protected very well. I have the luxury of being able to make my own choices. For a lot of people, they are only able to choose how they want to live their life after many years of hard work, but I’ve been pretty lucky.

From the very beginning, I’ve had many people who have helped me. When I didn’t know anything yet, they would advise and guide me on my choices. So now, I have a pretty good decision-making process. But the privilege of making decisions isn’t what is the most important. The most important thing is knowing what is right under most circumstances.

COSMO: A lot of an actor’s work is to use up and give a lot of their emotions. This is something that is specific to the acting field. Do you agree with that?

LHR: When I was chatting with a friend yesterday, he made a point that I am very much in agreement with. What do actors create for the audience? It’s emotional memory. As an actor, what you can do is create a memorable point for the audience.

Maybe in ten, twenty years, I’ll decide that I don’t want to act anymore, that I don’t want to work anymore, and retire from the entertainment world, and change my lifestyle. At that point, how do I make sure that people still remember me? Through my performances. To make them laugh and cry when they’re in the movie theaters. That’s the emotional memory I want to create.

COSMO: Will you bring your own personal views or emotions into you roles?

LHR: A pessimistic actor is drawn to tragic roles and projects. Like Shakespeare, right? Shakespeare must’ve been a pessimist, otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to write so many tragedies.

COSMO: What made you decide that you no longer wanted to “fast forward” (your career/life)?

LHR: I think there is a set lifespan for actors. It doesn’t have anything to do with your age though. Of course, you could choose to continue acting, but the actor in you may already be dead. I personally believe that you won’t be able to revive that, and you’ll no longer be able to improve or grow, which is why I call it death. The lifespan of an actor has to do with how much they’re using up of themselves. The less you use up, the longer you can “live”.

My impression of acting as a profession still remains at the deep awe and respect that I had as a kid, but the tempo these days is way too fast. I am already walking slower than most. When I was little, I believed that you had the choice to spend time filming steadily, and then go for one or two years of not filming. To me, that would be normal. But it’s different now.

COSMO: When did you realize that your direction in life had changed?

LHR: The truth is, by the time that I realized it, the direction had already changed. I didn’t know what my major was good for (T/N: he’s talking about when he was at the Beijing Dance Academy). Become a dance performer? But I’m not good at dancing. At that time, for me, being an actor seemed like such a distant, unachievable step.

It’s like a pyramid with stairs – I had believed that you’d have to reach the top of the pyramid to become an actor. You could enter the pyramid, and start climbing your way up, but only a few would ever make it to the top of the pyramid. I didn’t think that I would be blessed enough to be one of those few, but later I discovered, my luck’s pretty good. Fate’s been kind to me, and I was chosen.

COSMO: Has your recognition (of your direction) changed?

LHR: As the economy grows, this industry is flourishing. The situation for actors is more and more like an hourglass – it’s very fast paced. I believe that the reason why movies haven’t been replaced by other technology or platforms is because it allows the room for mutual choice. The film can pick its audience, and the audience can pick the film.

COSMO: Do you like this era?

LHR: I don’t have the right to choose whether I like it or not. I like parts of it, but of course there are also parts that I dislike. But I have to accept that I live in this era. What can I do if I don’t like it? I want to be a cultured/learned youth, but not an angry one. So I might not understand what it means to be a cultured youth, but I can accept it. But I don’t get angry youths, and it’s not something I accept.*

T/N: What he’s saying here is that he wants to be well educated and open minded, but it doesn’t mean that he wants to turn angry and bitter at society and the environment around himself as a result of that.

COSMO: The experiences that you’ve had – how does it manifest itself in the person that you are today?

LHR: The people around me probably think that Liu Haoran has had unbelievably smooth sailing. I know that as well, but I have a very strong sense of uneasiness – that’s what makes me different.

His personal path: From the summer of 2016 through now, Liu Haoran has been completely occupied by work. He still has several scripts lying around in his home that he hasn’t gotten around to reading. The continuous, never-ending amount of work will occasionally make him think, “Forget it.”

He desperately wants – and needs – to rest. In front of those that he trusts, he will allow himself to show his vulnerable side, and spend some time “offline”. But no matter what, he wants to continue to be himself and walk his own path – to take things a bit slower. As he continuously confronts himself, he hopes to slowly discover the tempo that he should adopt as an actor.

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