Cosmopolitan: New Chinese Youth

For the third year in a row, Haoran lands an October women’s big 5 cover (the October issue for women’s magazines is one of the most important of the year). This is also his second straight year on the cover of Cosmopolitan China and it’s again in Louis Vuitton.

Cosmopolitan China has been releasing four covers for their October issue for a couple of years now, and this year, Haoran was the cover star along with Dilireba, Wang Junkai, and Ma Sichun. The theme was new Chinese youth, and as the magazine described in their intro, “The October issue has four cover stars, and each of them are youths that have been recognized by the industry.

SPECIAL THANKS TO: @LucHuong on Twitter, who sent me the scans of the interview from her own purchase of the magazine. The interview in the print issue was more extensive than what was uploaded online.

(Original article released 9.24.19)

Why so serious?” The famous line from the Joker in The Dark Knight is one of Liu Haoran’s favorite lines. Paying attention to the details (sticking to the rules) and having ambitions – these two questions, when applied to him, meet together at the final destination of “having fun”.

In the world of boys, rules and success is what’s usually preached by the older generation. But “being interesting is what’s just” is what will more and more people will take notice of. And he intends to take advantage of his “special privilege as a youth”. Driven by his curiosity, he will take on new challenges, to experiment, to open up a new world and create his own rules.

The filming site was a body of water, and in just a short few hours, Liu Haoran swung on a swing, lied in a hammock, played with dogs, climbed a large tree, and even ran into the river to touch fish. Amidst the cries of the cicadas, he finished the adventure like a tornado.

The areas of the unknown: this is what Liu Haoran likes.

Recently, his favorite game has been “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild”. It’s an open world environment where you’re tasked with exploring the Kingdom of Hyrule. There are no boundaries, no compass. You can draw a circle for yourself, and do whatever you want to in this world.

In Hyrule, this is Liu Haoran’s strategy for surviving: firstly, open up all the maps available in the game. And then explore each of them for a bit, see what unknowns are hidden in the corners. “It has to be this way,” he says.

The “ambition” that is usually mentioned our world, when put in context for them, should not be the kind of quick success documented in the bestsellers sold at airports. He hopes that as a start to the world of adults, he can spend a large amount of time exploring the unknown, to decide where he wants to stop. Compared to an ambitious goal, he’d rather step aside for now and experience life.

This sort of fearless choice, Liu Haoran calls it, “the privilege of youths”. “You can make mistakes, you can have missteps, you can be immature. Because you aren’t supposed to be a mature person (yet).”

Coming to Beijing, filming for the first time, majoring in acting – this all started from a reckless exercise of this “special privilege”.

When he was in middle school, he came to Beijing to attend the Beijing Dance Academy’s secondary school. At that time, when Liu Haoran discovered that he was standing at the foot of a mountain in the outskirts of Beijing, and surrounded by rundown brick buildings, it was completely different from w hat he had imagined Beijing to be like.

“I want to go home,” was the thought he had in mind as he signed his resignation letter. But after seeing a group of people on the basketball court playing, he joined them, forgetting that he wanted to leave, “Count me in”. Liu Haoran has the easygoing and relaxed nature of the new generation of youths.

“Ended up staying in Beijing and have been here since.”

Later on, he first became Beijing Love Story‘s Song Ge, and then after many different roles, became actor Liu Haoran.

He’s always been the center of attention from countless sets of eyes, but this hasn’t affected him using his “special privilege”, to continuously explore the unknown. He doesn’t want to “take form” and never change, and likes to try new things. After trying out a particular type of role, he’s done, and runs to see what the next one is like. To continuously succeed within the constraints of your comfort zone is boring, and isn’t challenging enough.

Does he have to become an amazing, main-character like person? “No”.

To Liu Haoran, “There are so many interesting spirits in this world*, so just focusing on ourselves is a little boring. I want to be omniscient, to see further.”

*T/N: The term he used is actually referencing Buddhist cosmology, not just the physical world as we know it – basically emphasizing that we are very, very tiny parts of a much bigger universe.

In One Punch Man, one of his favorite anime, the character is a bystander to the world and to the story. Not all of the plot revolves around him. “When I watch dramas or films, I like watching (ones with) ensemble casts. Even more so, I like seeing that this story is completed by everyone.”

As a public figure, he is also someone who feels distant from being one, who doesn’t want to be in the center position. He’d rather be a bystander of the world.

Right now, he isn’t sure that he knows what he wants to do, and also doesn’t think this is important, “If I clearly know the answer, then I might go all in, and give my all in one specific direction. I won’t be able to continuously explore and experiment like now.” Right now, he’s still trying to figure out who Liu Haoran is, and is willing to wander in the unknown.

Liu Haoran always has fun toys in hand.

During the interview, he’ll play with the lid on his coffee mug, and during breaks, he starts exploring the mechanism of the fishing rod. In the behind scenes video, he plays with the props like they’re basketballs, and after the shoot is over, he raises the 30kg dog and excitedly takes a photo with him.

Liu Haoran is interesting. And towards life, he has a playful, exploratory attitude. Even though it’s a hot, blazing Monday, every half an hour, he finds ways to entertain himself, to make himself laugh.

Sudoku, archery, badminton, chess, basketball, photography. These are all areas that he has interest in. When we are halfway into the conversation, Liu Haoran excitedly pulled out his phone and held it in front of us, “A few days ago, I was at Asia’s busiest crosswalk (Tokyo’s Shibuya crossing). By the HachikĊ Memorial Statue, I saw three little kittens, so took a picture of them.”

To a guy, upgrading his toys also means taking control of his life. A few years ago, he always rode his bicicyle to different sites for work. Later, when he got his driver’s license, he bought a tiny car (T/N: this is getting to be pretty well known, but the 185cm Haoran drives a Mini Cooper that his mom convinced him to get).

Recently, he’s gotten the urge to get a helicopter pilot’s license. “Because my work means I spent a lot of time on set, when I suddenly have a couple of days ago off, sometimes I’m not sure what to do. So I’m continuously experimenting, to find the enjoyment that makes life feel fulfilling,” Liu Haoran says.

This year, he worked hard to ask for some time off from his company, to complete a dream that is still in the process of being realized: within five years, he wants to visit 50 countries. Iceland, South Africa, Italy, Spain (T/N: Iceland was technically last year but he’s already visited four countries this year alone, as he went to Ireland for Zhang Ruoyun’s wedding)…he’s already gotten about 20.

He’s becoming more confident in expressing his thoughts. Before filming, he will go see the director and discuss how a certain scene should be performed. In his shoot with us as well, he is very proactive, and will ask, “I can try again, how about that?” He’s discovering things within the process.

A little bit curious on how he wants to be described on social media, in an ideal world. “Mysterious,” he says. He isn’t very active on his social media accounts. Aside from work, you don’t really get a glimpse into what kind of person Liu Haoran is.

Even when interacting with him for this shoot, he’s so transparent that it doesn’t seem like he’s a celebrity. After lunch, he slips down from his trailer, and brings a stool to sit amidst staff that might be familiar or might be strangers to him, and starts chatting away.

Liu Haoran wants to maintain this air of mystery, to not be limited by the existence of labels. “This air of mystery is like the distance between a stage actor and his audience, the screen that separates a movie actor from the audience. To have that distance is what keeps things interesting.”

“At some point, I will change. When one day I know who Liu Haoran is, maybe I will be more accustomed to showing everyone a more real me.” But for now, he will be more like Hisashi Mitsui, a main member of the Shohoku High School basketball team from his favorite (manga) Slam Dunk. To be someone who is on the outside looking in at the main story.

“After reading the entire manga, you have no way of understanding him in full. That’s the appeal of the possibility of change,” Liu Haoran says openly. He has never intended for the world to completely understand him.

As sunset dyes the sky orange, Liu Haoran’s little car disappears into the backroads. And you know, he’s not headed towards a boring direction.

Q: To you, what does it mean to be refined?

LHR: Three-piece tux, with a handkerchief in the pocket. No matter how you sit, your shirt won’t wrinkle. When you eat crabs, the shells can be neatly stacked together. That’s refinement.

Q: What’s the social media platform you use the most?

LHR: Friends Circle (T/N: Moments in WeChat – kind of like your Facebook feed). Most of the people there are those I know well. I don’t really divide them (contacts) into groups, so before I share anything I’ll think about how to make it more interesting.

Q: What are your rules regarding your Friends Circle? Will you care about how many people “like” your post?

LHR: Don’t share “chicken soup”, don’t lecture, focus on sharing photos and articles. You can only see what I’ve posted in the last three days, so I don’t relly care how many people upvote.

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