Zhihu: Liu Haoran Through the Eyes of Netizens

Happy five year anniversary since debut for Haoran! Five years ago today was when the film “Beijing Love Story” hit theaters, and Liu Haoran officially made his debut into the entertainment industry. His performance as Song Ge in the film ending up landing him a nomination for best actor at the 21st Beijing College Student Film Festival. (This was originally written in tribute to Haoran’s five year anniversary on February 14, 2019.)

Though he disappeared for the rest of 2014 and early 2015 to focus on finishing high school and getting ready for the college entrance exams (which is why he himself seems to see his debut year as 2015), 2014 was officially when he was introduced to audiences.

In honor of his anniversary, we thought it’d be fun to take a look at what netizens have thought about Haoran over the years, and how that may or may not have changed as Haoran’s achieved more and more success, both in terms of his career and popularity. I’m sorry this is long. I really, truly tried to cut it down, but when you’re working from a pool of 2,000+ answers and a lot of them are really nice, it’s so hard to eliminate.

To do so, we are going to visit the question on Zhihu, called “How would you critique actor Liu Haoran?”. The question was created in late 2015, right before the first Detective Chinatown premiered, and now has over 2,200 answers from fans and netizens. Out of all the questions regarding “What do you think of xx actor?”, Haoran’s is one of the ones most heavily discussed (largely in part because a lot of his projects have been seen by a wider set of demographics).

For some context, Zhihu is a very popular Q&A app (and yes, Haoran was named its first brand spokesperson in 2018), and while the Western equivalent would technically be Quora, I actually think it functions more like Reddit due to the wide variety of topics it covers and the amount of discussion that takes place.

Obviously we can’t cover all 2,000+ answers, so I took some of the more well written/interesting ones and have organized them chronologically so we can follow Haoran’s career and growth through the eyes of C-netz! I did my best to filter out comments from fans, who pretty much took over after Detective Chinatown 2 but especially after he was announced as the brand spokesperson for the app.

Topic: How would you critique actor Liu Haoran?

December 2015

* He’s so clean, and when he smiles, it’s full of sunshine. He doesn’t have a facade, and it feels very comfortable. Liu Haoran feels different from the other male celebrities these days. He’s very sunshiny, works hard, and his acting is decent. He’s only 18, and has a long way to go, but I really like this type of boy.

January 2016 (right after Detective Chinatown premiered)

* He possesses everything beautiful about being an 18 year old youth. (this is the most upvoted answer on this question to the point that even magazines picked it up to use in their articles)

* I’ve only seen his variety show It Takes A Real Man but became a casual fan. In the show, he wasn’t afraid of hard work, was modest and polite, wasn’t sensitive or impatient, and you could fully see the passion he had. When he filmed it, I think he was about to take his college entrance exams? And then ended up placing first in both the academic and performance portions of the test. Feels very impressive.

* I just saw Detective Chinatown and was talking about it with a friend. My overall impression: he’s comfortable to watch. At least the persona shown to us is a sunshiny, bright, and outgoing boy. I’ve also seen Beijing Love Story before, and can say that it’s clear that in this past year, this child has worked hard on acting and has improved a lot.

* Out of the China-produced little fresh meats right now, he counts as one of the more unique ones. He definitely has the acting foundation – his line delivery, expressions, and body control all pass the test, and in terms of his competitors in the market, it’s not an exaggeration to boast that he’s got talent. His emotional intelligence is absurdly high – there isn’t anyone who watched It Takes A Real Man and didn’t like him. He’s just like the boy you know in real life who everyone loves. But only time will tell what kind of acting opportunities he’ll be able to get in the future.

Summer 2016 (as With You was airing)

* He’s successfully broken my rule about not liking guys younger than me. Also wanted to add, I think it’s important for him to make himself more well known while he’s still young, and then rely on his acting skills to build his reputation as a serious actor. He has great potential.

* As a Henan native, I have to answer this question. The first time I noticed Liu Haoran was in Detective Chinatown. His youthful aura just completely took over the screen. You can say he’s the representative of a sunshiny boy. In Beijing Love Story, he basically just played himself and was just oozing of youthful enthusiasm. Recently been watching With You, and can say it’s one of the few web dramas where the acting has been on point. Liu Haoran has successfully brought to life our memories of the male classmates in our high school years. I hope to see more successful performances from him, so he can truly become actor Liu Haoran.

* Forget everything else. This Yu Huai basically walked out of the book. As a novel fan, I’ve been very happy to see the words from the novel brought to life. Youth dramas really should be acted by youths. Every girl’s memory of the bright boy in their life was probably like him, right?

* Been paying a lot of attention to him recently so will answer this. I didn’t read the novel for With You, but the Yu Huai in the drama is so amazing, like the guy that schoolgirls daydream of. I saw several of his interviews, and he talked about wanting to become a serious actor, and how he pushes all of his promotions to the weekends so he can focus on school. I admire him very much, and hope he can grow up well. For his age, his acting is quite good.

* His acting is good, has strong IQ/EQ and looks great on camera. In him, I see hope in the future of Chinese cinema! Started liking him due to It Takes A Real Man and Detective Chinatown. This is an actor who can rely on just his performances to do the talking for him.

Early 2017

* I’ve seen Detective Chinatown, Beijing Love Story, and With You. Maybe it’s because of his natural vocal tone, which is both steady and full, his line delivery comes across as very natural , gentle, and sincere. His acting isn’t exaggerated and along with his line delivery, it leaves you feeling very comfortable. On his acting – I personally think he has a lot of potential. My deepest impression is Yu Huai. He had just turned 18 when filming this, and though his acting was quite natural the first few episodes, (his performance in) the last episode left me stunned. And I thought, his future will definitely be bright.

* Resources are good, acting is good, and willing to work hard. Pick good projects, focus on filming seriously, and on being a good person, and you can’t go wrong.

Summer 2017 (after Give Me Five aired)

* I didn’t finish watching With You, but the feeling that he gave me was like he’s like summer. Like soda water, the sound when you slice a watermelon open, when you dive into a pool. His acting is pretty good, and his eyes are quite emotive. His line delivery is very comfortable and natural. Because of this drama, I went and watched Give Me Five. You can see he is someone who has a lot of ideas and thoughts, and is confident in his own abilities and how to show them. His EQ is also quite high, knows how to take care of others, and is easy to get along with. He’s one of the actors I like among the newer generation, primarily due to the youthful aura he gives off.

* As long as he doesn’t have any scandals, within ten years, he’ll be one of the top actors in our country.

July/August 2017 (The Founding of An Army premieres)

* He’s changed the impression that I have of the little fresh meats of China. He has both brains and looks, and though he doesn’t have many a long filmography, he’s already proven he can act. When you add in the fact that he’s got the foundation from the Central Academy of Drama’s training…in the future, he will be an outstanding actor, not just an idol.

* Just saw The Founding of An Army. Among a group of veteran actors, he held his own and stood out with his performance. 19 year old Haoran meets 19 year old Su Yu…he was able to fully show the hope, the fighting spirit through his youth and vigor. This will be one of the classic roles in his acting career.

* He’s an actor who makes me exclaim to myself, “This young fellow has a boundless future!” every time I see one of his films. (Even though I don’t know much about him beyond his performances).

* Though he isn’t at the level of veteran actors, for his age, you can tell he has set expectations for himself in terms of acting and wants to pursue it seriously. The boy who stutters in Detective Chinatown, the young, passionate youth in The Founding of An Army, I’ve seen both, but the one that left the strongest impression was surprisingly in TFOA, which he had the least amount of screentime in.

The scene where he had to make the split-second decision of determining whether or not the soldiers in front of him were his comrades or his enemies – you could see the way his eyes became red, the way his hand shook, the panic that crosses his face for a brief second as he questions his own judgement.

This scene left a deep impression on me, and it allowed me to see a young actor who thinks deeply about his performances; a young actor, who, regardless of how much screentime he gets, is willing to give his all into his performance. I hope he will always be able to sustain this passion, and become a more and more accomplished actor.

* Was touched by his performance after watching The Founding of An Army today. The teenaged solider was well portrayed by him. There were several shots that really moved me – not because it’s Liu Haoran, but because in that instant, I thought, “This is Su Yu, this is someone who belongs in that era.” Every movement, every expression was on point. I’m impressed.

* I was dragged to see The Founding of An Army by a friend who is a fan of one of the other little fresh meats in the movie, and was blown away by Liu Haoran. As we were walking out of the theater, we were saying that as long as Liu Haoran doesn’t screw things up himself, his future is boundless. As a jiejie (older sister), I sincerely hope he isn’t over-exposed to the public eye and scrutiny, that he can film quietly, remain sunshiny and cheerful, and walk the path of a serious actor. I’ve never seen any other little fresh meat with a qi zhi like his – youth mixed with mature young man.

* Answering this after seeing The Founding of An Army. There was a quote in there by Chairman Mao (played by Liu Ye) to the younger group, “The future of new China relies on you guys!” One of the people in the group was Liu Haoran. The future of China’s drama and film industry depends on you guys, with Liu Haoran leading the way – young actors who understand the principles of the industry, who have the natural talent and are willing to work hard. Thankfully, we have you.

December 2017/January 2018 (Nirvana In Fire 2 starts airing/The Legend of the Demon Cat premieres)

* Let’s put it this way. Thus far, I’ve enjoyed all the projects that Haoran has had a prominent role in. With You’s tiger toothed youth, Detective Chinatown’s Qin Feng, Legend of the Demon Cat’s dazzling Bai Long, and Nirvana In Fire 2’s coming of age story. Performances are what matters the most, and to me, he is a very accomplished actor in his age group. Saw an interview recently where he said actors don’t need character setups, and I immediately liked him even more. My expectation for him is that he’ll win a best actor award one day *laughs*. Hope that he will have a great future.

* Judging him as an actor, he’s definitely one of the best in this age group. Both he and his team seem to be very clear on the fact that they want him to be known as an “actor”, and not film badprojects.

When I first saw Beijing Love Story, I thought that he was a little fresh meat who was pretty good looking (he was only 16 then), but what little fresh meat in the industry isn’t? When I saw Detective Chinatown, I thought, “Oh, he’s a little fresh meat who can act.” And then his webdrama got popular – I didn’t watch it, as I’m too old for youth campus dramas, but I saw it pop up constantly on Weibo, and was afraid we’d see another liu liang little fresh meat be born.

But to my surprise, this little friend focused on school and filming, and still didn’t take on any bad projects. Nirvana in Fire 2 is what truly has won me over. Acting is really what will conquer all – you can appear in the trending topics a thousand times, and it won’t beat having a good representative project. You don’t need to have fans shouting how hard he’s worked – you can see for yourself through his performance. In this era of little fresh meats, Liu Haoran is a breath of fresh air.

* Thought he was decent in Detective Chinatown, but in The Legend of the Demon Cat, you can see that he’s really got acting talent. That one shot of his resentful gaze…I can’t recall who he was looking at, but it was outstanding. I’m very high on him.

*  If he stays the course, within ten years he’ll be be at the top among actors. Not one of. Becausewhat Liu Haoran’s possesses that will benefit him the most is intelligence and willingness to walk steadily. This type of person will succeed no matter what industry he’s in. I feel like Liu Haoran is a symbol of hope, along with Zhang Yishan and Dong Zijian – they’re the hope of the new generation of Chinese actors. Except Liu Haoran has an advantage in his natural blessings and resources. Finally, as a novel fan, thank you for not ruining my Yu Huai.

* The feeling he gives me is that no matter the role, his acting is natural and fluid. You just feel like he is the character. Maybe he’s just very good at identifying common points that he has with the role? But to summarize: good looking, good at acting. He is highly praised within the industry as well. Sitting and waiting for even better performances from him.

* When I first saw Detective Chinatown, I thought that though this boy is young, he can act. When Iheard he would be playing Su Yu in The Founding of An Army, I was very nervous, but after seeing the film, I realized that there was no need. This young fellow did a fantastic job. If that was his own voice (it was), then I have to say, his line delivery is really fantastic. Recently, in Nirvana In Fire 2, you can see that his acting has improved even more, and he has successfully portrayed a young boy who becomes a young man amid sadness and pain. He’s especially good at acting with his eyes -you can read all the emotions he wants to express through his eyes.

February 2018 (right before Detective Chinatown 2 premiered)

* Can’t help but exclaim that choosing the right path for an actor is incredibly important. Liu Haoran is one of the very few who’s chosen right. Though he doesn’t have a lot of projects, they’re all high quality. For a young actor, especially one who takes lead roles, that’s very rare. Most of the time, it’s easier for them to encounter bad scripts.

I’m sure many lower quality productions have sought him out before, but he hasn’t accepted any of them. He absolutely has what it takes to be a liu liang, but he chose to be a serious actor. For an actor so young to have such awareness…Not to mention, his natural looks are a total blessing. Because he has the ability to take on many different types of roles. He’s also pretty much universally liked. The Chinese audience is improving at a light speed – it’sactors like him that deserve to get popular.

* He’s had a very blessed life, is talented, and has representative works. His future is boundless.Right after debut he had Detective Chinatown, which was both a box office debut and critically acclaimed. Recently finished watching Nirvana in Fire 2. Liu Haoran’s Xiao Pingjing was very good – to hold his own as the male lead among an ensemble cast of amazing veteran actors is very difficult, and I didn’t think he’d be able to pull it off. His acting is definitely one of the best in this age group.He’s truly been lucky to be able to receive these projects, to encounter the perfect role at the perfect age. Most importantly, he hasn’t even graduated yet! He’s still just a college student.

Mid-February 2018 to March (Detective Chinatown 2 premieres – most of the comments come from this time range)

* Answering this after watching Detective Chinatown 2. Now that I think about it, I haven’t really paidmuch attention to him, but have seen almost all of his works, from With You to Detective Chinatown 2. I agree with using the word “actor” for him. You can see the improvement from the Qin Feng in Detective China 1 to 2, and the evolution of both him and Pingjing in NiF2.

Everyone knows he was brought out by Chen Sicheng and Tong Liya, but I’m not annoyed by this type of resource-giving, because he deserves them. Though he’s had success and great resources at such a young age, he’s still has the characteristics that suit his age. Hope that he can continue to pick good projects and walk steadily.

* I’ve discovered that whether it’s fans or antis, both have unreal expectations for this 20 year oldyouth. Both seem to think that no matter what he does, he has to have obtained everything possible.It’s probably because he’s had such smooth sailing, and has performed well, so he carries such high expectations with him.

* I was dragged to watch Detective Chinatown 2 by a friend and fell into the Liu Haoran “hole”. Up until now, I wasn’t interested in Chinese mystery comedies, so didn’t watch Detective Chinatown 1 when it came out, but after watching the second, I immediately went back to make up for that, and also watched everything from With You to Nirvana In Fire 2. What impresses me is that after With You, Liu Haoran didn’t try to capitalize on his growing popularity and film similar idol dramas, which usually are a great way to gain more fans. He’s very clear on what road he wants to walk, and thatan actor can’t rely on popularity for his entire career.

His filmography is short, but very high quality. In The Founding of An Army and The Legend of the Demon Cat, he doesn’t have a lot of screentime, but his acting makes him stand out. And in Nirvana In Fire 2, you can see his growth and accumulated experience. He’s been quite lucky, had a high starting point, and it’s impossible not to acknowledge the help of his benefactors. But he himself has also worked hard and is very self-aware. Hope that he can be like what he described in his book, and be more “heavy” so he can hold his ground in the wind.

* (This one is written by a prominent media member who has a verified Zhihu account)  After Detective Chinatown 2, I’ve been able to feel just how popular he is from my WeChat friends circle. I once thought he was one of many young male idols (note: the Chinese media uses the word “idol” in a different way than in South Korea or Japan – idol can be used interchangeably with liu liang, or someone who’s popular, whether you’re an actor or singer), but based on the discussion around him and his reputation, he’s unique.

He very successfully attained name recognition, and he isn’t controversial. Even if you were to bring up his name with regular people, they will say they have a good impression of him.

A while ago, I had the chance to sit down with Detective Chinatown director Chen Sicheng, who isLiu Haoran’s benefactor, and he described Haoran as “a youth with an old soul”. Not saying that he’s already understood everything there is to know about life, but that he’s fearless. He’s very effectively found the balance between “being himself” and “being liked”.

* What impresses me the most is that as an actor, he is who he’s portraying. You can’t see a hint of the outgoing turned burdened Xiao Pingjing in the stubborn and proud Bai Long. All of his roles, aside from being similar in age, are very different in personality, and that’s pretty amazing as there are many actors who can’t achieve that. Haoran didi is young, so instead of relying on accumulated life and acting experience, he draws from his natural talent and emotional aspects that he can identify with to act.

When I watched The Legend of the Demon Cat in the theaters, I didn’t even realize it was acted by Liu Haoran – Bai Long’s sincerity and obsession was very on point. Before then, I still only remembered him as the student Yu Huai, but he had already matured into the sensitive Bai Long. From my perspective, he will only become better and better.

* Begging you guys…stop praising him. You’re making me afraid for him.  

Second half of 2018 (aka Liu Haoran goes on vacation)

* At least up until now, he’s a rising star who basically only receives praise. That’s a bit of a double edged sword though, and it depends on the direction that he and his team chooses to take going forward. But I sincerely hope, though he’s already famous at a very young age, that he continues to study hard and pursue the path of being a great actor.

* This old auntie likes Little Liu a lot, though rather than the word “like”, it’s more a feeling ofappreciation and admiration. I can see that this young actor wants to pursue his art, and has the spirit of veteran actors in him. As a Novoland: Eagle Flag novel fan, I’m very comfortable handing the role to him – you just feel that he’s reliable. I’m happy that an actor I like is playing one of my favorite characters ever.

* Liu Haoran is exactly how youth should be.

* I like him pretty well. Even though he’s still young, he’s successfully pulled off all of his roles, so I personally feel that he’s deserving of being called an “actor”. He’s built up “faith” through his projects, so any films that have his name on it, I’m willing to spend the money to see. For dramas that have his name, I’m willing to spend the money to open a VIP account. Youth has a bright future!

* You can just tell that Liu Haoran is someone who hasn’t been tainted by the entertainment industry yet. One reason for that is because he’s had so many benefactors helping him in his career thus far. Regardless of what Chen Sicheng’s character is like, he’s done a tremendous job on developing Haoran. Not simply seeing him as a money tree. Because choosing the right projects, having a carved out path for the future, it depends on the company as well.

Also, Haoran himself has lived up his expectations and then some. A lot of people have said he’s lucky, that good directors and scripts seek him out, but the role and the actor mutually help each other. So even though he debuted when he wasn’t even of age yet, and is now 21, you can still see that his eyes are clear. As long as nothing bad happens, Liu Haoran’s youthful aura will be able to stay with him for a long, long time.

Leave a Reply