Haoran continues his one magazine per month streak as he takes the cover of OK China’s season opener issue in a unique photoshoot inspired by the 1993 film M. Butterfly, which tells of the romance between a diplomat and a Peking opera performer. Because of this, the photoshoot has a vintage East meets West vibe to it, as Haoran explores a new look.
The photoshoot was taken by famous celebrity photographer Leslie Zhang, who was also the photographer for Haoran’s recent Tod’s S/S 2020 campaign shoot.
Brands featured in the shoot are, as you can imagine, Tod’s, Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, and others, but most notable is the long qipao-inspired shirt Haoran wears on one of the covers, which was ordered and custom made specifically for this shoot.
The interview for this one is pretty short and sweet, but refreshingly honest. He does also hint at projects to come, but given the current situation, hard to say when he’ll be able to film.
Stay safe and take care, everyone!
SPECIAL THANKS TO: @LucHuong on Twitter, who sent me the scans of the interview from her own purchase of the magazine after we noticed there was a segment in there that wasn’t in the online issue. Thank you so much for your help!
(Original interview posted 2.27.20)
The relationship between audiences and actors is typically one where there is a pretty big difference (of the actor) on and off the camera. Sometimes these differences are seen in the outward appearance, sometimes in personality. When we chatted with Liu Haoran, we decided on the questions we’d ask ahead of time to avoid “encountering topics that he wouldn’t be prepared to answer”.
But the truth is, Liu Haoran was more than willing (to answer any questions), and he also knows what it means to openly share. So we were able to see the very young Liu Haoran outside of his films and dramas.
Even though he has already been in many projects, Liu Haoran views himself as “a disciple who just entered the doors of the school“. He says he’s very active these days, and full of curiosity. When he encounters an opportunity, he wants to give it a try, to do everything he can before deciding what direction he wants to move towards in the future, and where he wants to spend more of his time and energy.
Using acting to satisfy curiosity towards the outside world is a special right of actors, especially for young ones. And for Liu Haoran, his identity as an actor is in a way, a protective shell of sorts. It protects his whims and the questions he has of an unknown future.
“I have to thank the fact that I don’t have unique features,” Liu Haoran says. He describes himself as someone “who has a non-threatening appearance*”, and says, “My appearance is relatively low profile, so when I’m portraying different roles, I won’t seem like I don’t fit in“.
*T/N: “Non-threatening” here means that he believes he has the sort of looks that won’t cause people to feel insecure (i.e. he’s not overly good looking)
This is an interesting way of describing things. Liu Haoran further analyzes from his perspective, “Acting skills are molded over accumulated experience and time. In the beginning, your physical appearance is a more direct signal. Some actors are really, really good looking (the kind of good looking in a really modern way), so when they appear in historicals, they might stick out a little. There are some actors who are beautiful and elegant in historical costume, so if they go and play an assassin in a modern drama, they might not appear as ‘ruthless’“.
“My appearance isn’t very special, so it’s relatively easier to accept the way I look (for a role). I won’t be extremely good looking in any styling, so I can be absorbed more easily.”
Though he’s envious of the striking handsomeness of someone like Brad Pitt, towards himself, Liu Haoran is at ease, “There are gains amidst losses, after all.”
As we talk, you can clearly feel how easygoing he is, in a gentle sort of “that might not be bad either” way. This might stem from the fact that he came by himself as a child to Beijing to study, and learned early on how to make his own decisions, and come to terms with the gains and losses in life.
“It’s very difficult for me to explain how I do it. But it’s true, there are some things where it’s easy for me to pick up and lightly put it back down again. If fate allows, then I may still get it one day. But if I continue to grasp it in my hands, I might accidentally drop and destroy it.”
Becoming a public figure at a young and learning how to deal with fame and fortune that comes earlier than expected is a lesson that many artists must learn. This is true for Liu Haoran as well. To him, the answer to dealing with fame and fortune means going back to what it means to be an actor.
“Being an actor will be my only professional occupation going forward. All of my performances, will in the end, be displayed in moving pictures. There is a screen between audiences and me. Some will remember me, some will remember the projects I’ve participated in. This barrier will always be there, and is essentially a buffer for so-called fame and fortune. As such, it also serves as a safety zone for me, so I’m not nervous in the face of it.”
This is the special existence of the camera lens. There are refreshing surprises hidden both in and outside of the lens, and the occupation of actor protects the actor himself.
To some degree, being an actor is like having a protective shell. It protects uncertainty, curiosity – especially for young actors like Liu Haoran.
OK!: At the current stage, if you encounter a type of role that really suits you well, will you be able to resist repeating it a few times?
LHR: I can do it once or twice more, as a way of reinforcing the strengths that have been discovered (after all, it wasn’t easy to discover them). But I wouldn’t keep at it for long. You can’t be restrained by temporary sweetness, it’s important to continue to try new things.
OK!: You’re still very young, but are already recognized by many. Do you receive mostly compliments from those around you? How do you respond to constructive criticism?
LHR: I actually get quite a lot of straightforward feedback. As you said, I’m a young actor. I haven’t had many projects, don’t have sufficient experience, and am still in the learning stage. So those who truly care about me will give me the most straightforward and fair feedback. How else can I improve?
Especially since most of my projects are from continuously working with the same directors. I’ve worked on three films with director Chen Kaige – Legend of the Demon Cat, My People My Country, and a new project that has yet to be officially announced.
I’ve worked even more with Sicheng ge (Chen Sicheng), including the Detective Chinatown series. I started filming when I didn’t know anything. My seniors have always been very forthcoming in telling me what I haven’t done well, and what I can do to improve.
OK!: For a long time, you’ve been studying at school while simultaneously working in the field (filming projects). Will you learn from and exchange ideas from these different settings?
LHR: Yes. I actually had a serious discussion on this with a professor back then. I brought up a feeling of confusion I had at the time: when I had just started my studies, I often would think about the theoretical side of acting, and whether or not it would actually be applicable in practice.
Afterwards, as I attended classes while filming, I discovered book knowledge needs to be broken up when used. This bit of knowledge should be used here, that piece of knowledge should be applied there. When you are both studying and working, and these two sides come into close contact, you’ll realize some of the messages you’ve received are very timely. That’s also been part of my luck.
OK!: Share one of your weaknesses, the harmless kind!
LHR: Laziness? Is that okay? Hahaha, I’m pretty lazy. Not the kind of person who is full of energy and keeps charging forward. Of course, when it comes to work, I think I’m pretty focused and responsible. But when work is over, I won’t go looking for another job immediately. I enjoy the process of taking a break, and getting a moment of laziness in.
OK!: When you’re with people your own age, are you the topic of conversation?
LHR: Not really. A portion of my friends are also in the acting industry, so when we’re together, nobody in particular will be the main topic of conversation. My other friends are those who I’ve known since childhood and have grown up with, so they aren’t interested in me at all (as a celebrity). Haha.
For people my age, we would usually be spending more time with friends. Playing games together, watching movies, drinking coffee, traveling. But the majority of my time has been allocated to work. So when I have the opportunity to hang out with friends, I won’t give that up.
OK!: What descriptive term would you be happy to hear from audiences?
LHR: “Acted pretty well”. At this stage, I don’t hope for absolute praise, so I’m happy just hearing “pretty good”. And I’ll use this feeling of satisfaction to continue to work hard.
OK!: What about in the future? What kind of actor do you hope to become?
LHR: For now, to continue as I have been. Because the experience I’ve had thus far, the knowledge I’ve accumulated – it’s not enough to support me in establishing a grander, more long term plan. So for now, just experimenting more, and making the most of good opportunities.
OK!: Do you have a strong sense of ceremony in your everyday life?
LHR: I feel like most guys my age probably don’t have a great sense of ceremony, right? We’re lazy, sloppy, not very sensitive, so naturally, don’t have a great sense of ceremony. Of course, when I’m with my parents, it’s stronger. For example, eating traditional food during a festival/holiday.
Also, special events – I’ll treat them formally. One year during Chinese New Year, I was filming near Wudang Mountain, and on the first day of the New year, we hiked up the mountain together and made wishes. These wishes later all came true. So the second year, I went again to make wishes.
OK: Do you have any new projects to share with us?
LHR: I worked on a film with director Chen Kaige last year. There isn’t a set date yet for the premiere, but I hope that audiences can see it sooner. And just investing myself in new work. When these are completed, I’ll share with everyone.