The Eye of the Storm – Chapter 7: Transform, Touch, and Open

One more chapter to go after this!

This is a long one, in which Haoran goes into more detail about what it’s been like as a young actor learning on the go. We get an inside look at his thoughts and struggles through the various projects he did in 2015 through 2017.

What was also interesting to me is the last couple of paragraphs, as he talks about the path that he wants to take for himself, once again displaying great self-awareness (“I feel like I’m currently standing on two sides. I’m not totally a liu liang actor, nor am I someone who relies completely on acting skills.”).

There’s an interview he did with Chen Sicheng earlier this year (January 2020) that also touched upon this topic, and it really hit home that while many things have changed since the publication of this book, his determination to stick to his own road hasn’t. This half liu liang path is working out well for him, so he just needs to continue to walk steadily.

Context: The film Black Mandala that he mentions here was later called Remain Silent, starring Zhou Xun, Francis Ng, and Zu Feng. While filming took place in early 2015, it wasn’t released until 2019.

I tried to track the timeline for this, and would guess Haoran’s time on set was in January 2015, when he was also about to take his yikao exams. He was 17 then, and this would have been just his second acting project.

Also, If you haven’t watched Nirvana In Fire 2 yet, this chapter does contain some spoilers, courtesy of Haoran himself, haha.


Chapter Seven: Transform, Touch, and Open

In the era that we’re currently in, we don’t typically have lives that consists of unique experiences and dramatic ups and downs. One of the benefits of being an actor is being able to glimpse at the fates of others, to change, to be touched, to be inspired.

Black Mandala

Before filming Detective Chinatown, I had a very important walkthrough experience on the set of Black Mandala. During the time that I spent familiarizing myself with the role, I was forced to continuously face myself at my lowest, to experience the depths of human despair.

Even though I ended up not being able to take part in the film due to conflicting schedules, that period of time spent studying and being challenged allowed me to learn many things.

My role was a youth with dual personalities. One side of him was like an angel, and the other was a murderer who killed his own mother.

The role was slightly similar to the character Aaron in Primal Fear, played by Edward Norton. Aaron was believed to have dissociative identity disorder, and was normally seen as a weak, harmless, stuttering person who lacked confidence.

But when he felt like he was under pressure, a personality called “Roy” would take over. Roy was cruel, ruthless, and violent.

In Black Mandala, the focus was on the discussion of personality and persona. The story was about someone who needed to feel safe, but was never protected. He never had a way of expressing his true self.

All human beings have a good side, and a side that may not be as good. When a child is young, he is able to express the kind, pure, loving parts of himself, as well as selfishness, bossiness, and more extreme traits that aren’t as kind.

The way the child expresses him or herself (T/N: meaning they show both sides of themselves) is a sign that they are in a loving environment, that they feel secure.

When these “kind’ traits are shown, family members will encourage him or her. When the “not so kind” traits come through, family members will put rules down. The encouragement and the set rules are the foundation of a child’s personality, and that personality may be guided and changed (based on environment).

But for some others, they may have grown up in an unsafe environment. They might have never dared to show the “bad” side of themselves, and desperately suppress it, until one day it exposes itself. That hidden “bad” side then is shown in a second persona.

In this story, when the character is in an unsafe environment, he has no way of showing the “bad” side of himself, so hides it in his heart. As a result, no one ever tells him that this is wrong.

First Time Doing A Walkthrough to the Point of Despair

Black Mandala‘s director used to direct plays. When I arrived on set, everyone was there.

The director was very straightforward. He said, “I know you have no issue playing the angel side of the character. Pure, wonderful, kind. We don’t have any worries there. But the role’s most important part is when his personality changes to an evil, darker side.

He hoped that I could properly show these characteristics.

When I first tried out the role, my acting was very stiff. I wanted to calm myself down, to appear sinister in my silence. But the director wasn’t happy. He didn’t want to see calmness – he wanted to see me go crazy. He wanted to provoke me, for me to show uncontrollable rage.

But we all have different ways of expressing rage. For some people, they take their anger out and end up in a screaming match with someone else for ten minutes.

But my understanding of the rage in the film was an anger that came from someone who was highly intelligent, very analytical, and very layered.

So when the director began to use language to provoke me, using his body to make me feel afraid, all I could think about was how I’d act, as I could see the cameras all around me.

But under the director’s guidance, I slowly began to get in character, to feel the character’s hurt, his sadness, and his disappointment in the world and cynicism towards people.

I can’t really remember now when I started to get in character. It’s not something I can control or replicate, but it was the first time that I experienced losing control of myself.

It was a type of “high”, and when the director yelled, “Cut!”, I broke down. I was screaming and cursing, my body couldn’t stop shaking and thrashing around.

My tears and my snot were uncontrollable, and my mind was a total mess. From my body to my emotions, it was like I had been attacked by a heavy storm.

I thought about myself. I’m not someone who you could say was harmless. When I was little, I was quick-tempered, but because I was in boarding school at an early age, I was always surrounded by teachers and classmates. No one has the obligation to let you be willful.

So in that type of environment, I protected myself with a thick shell. And I didn’t have a great sense of security to begin with to erase the sudden rise in emotions.

Experiencing It In A Little Dark Room

After we figured out the character and I entered the set (before filming started), the director arranged for an acting coach to train me. His hope was that I could experience the heavy emotions of the character.

At the time, I was staying at a hotel with the crew. Every morning when I woke up, I’d go find my coach for training and classes.

The character I was playing was abandoned by his birth parents. He grew up in the home of his adoptive father, and was abused and neglected. He was slightly autistic, and developed claustrophobia due to being locked in a tiny, dark room as a child after throwing a tantrum.

In order to experience the feeling of “loss of control due to the constraint of space and the passing of time”, my coach had me enter a little dark room.

The hotel we were staying at had a small bathroom that had no windows. It was inside a room, and was very small, about 5 square meters, with a fan. My coach had me leave my watch, phone, and anything that was related to time or light outside.

When I walked in the bathroom, I shut off the light and the fan, so that the room would be totally dark. The only thing I couldn’t do was sleep, everything else was okay. I could stay in there as long as I wanted, until the point where I felt like I couldn’t anymore.

After going in, at first, I was wondering what I should think about. I must endure, must stay in there a little longer. So I started thinking about all kinds of things, anything I could think of. But there is no direction in your thoughts, it’s all over the place.

Maybe I’d be thinking about how unique the director’s appearance was, but the next second it would be about what I wanted to eat. And then I thought about my regular interactions with classmates, and then work.

Then I thought about how it’d been a long time since I got time off to go home, how much I wanted to rest for a while and go home to see my family…

I thought about everything, but not in great detail. Because in that dark, closed off environment, these thoughts were just to kill time.

As I was thinking, I was playing with a toothbrush in my hand. Later, I picked up a hairbrush. When I thought about everything I could think of, and had nothing else to do, it was like my spirit had been knocked out of me.

My mind was blank, and I began to doze off. But then I jerked awake, wondering, “How long have I been sitting here? It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”

As time passed, I became more and more restless, and felt that it was getting hotter. I was itchy all over, and the air seemed thinner. And I began to think, “Is it because the fan isn’t on so there isn’t any circulating air? If I don’t leave now, will I suffocate?”

And then started thinking of excuses to leave, with my thoughts alternating between, “I really can’t stay here any longer! I need to go out!”, and “I can’t give up so easily! What if only five minutes have passed?”

Slowly, I lost my sense of time, and began to struggle with breathing. And the more I felt that I couldn’t breathe, the more uneven my breaths became. My brain was filled with thoughts on how it was because the fan wasn’t on, that the bathroom would be out of oxygen soon.

But of course, there was oxygen. Even though the fan wasn’t on, it wasn’t entirely sealed, and there was airflow.

But at the time, I was fighting with myself, wanting to go out, but also wanting to see if I can endure a little longer, and then in the next second, I wanted to go out again. I felt like I was going crazy.

Finally, I couldn’t bear it anymore. I ran out of the bathroom like I was on fire, and the minute I touched the doorknob, I regretted it. I felt that I could’ve stuck it out a little longer. After coming out, I was told I only stayed in there for a little over two hours.

Even though the director didn’t go into detail, I understood what he wanted me to experience in the darkness: helplessness, fear, recklessness, impatience, frustration. When I first went in, I was very focused, and I was calm, but I became more and more insecure, more an more anxious.

Under those circumstances, when nobody is looking at you, when you’re feeling incredibly insecure, you’ll have all sorts of thoughts come out. And you’ll have a deeper understanding of what kind of mindset you’re in, the negative parts of yourself that you’ve hidden.

So when we were doing the walkthrough for the scene, the director wanted me to express those extreme emotions. I was also trying it out, because it’s also cathartic.

I really look forward to a character like that, but I’m also nervous. I hope that I can have a role like this in the future, but I also know it’s not an easy role to portray. You can’t just release those type of emotions easily.

It’s the darker sides that are harder to portray. Like when Heath Ledger played the Joker, there was damage to his spirit.

I’m not a loud, outgoing person. I absorb the negative things quietly, and my method is to forget. Once I think about it once, I won’t dwell on it. To be blunt, it’s not that I’ve forgotten, more that I don’t want to think about it anymore.

Even though I ended up not acting in the film due to conflicting schedules, I was very happy to have met the director at that time. Later on, we crossed paths again, and brought up memories of that walkthrough. They all said I was a ferocious little beast.


I haven’t been in a great state of mind for work lately, as I easily become anxious or sad. You feel like you’re just repeating the same tasks over and over again. There is no excitement, but you also feel that this is your job. You can’t give up. So you just want to quickly complete it.

I’ll talk to my friends sometimes, and discover that this feeling of having to suppress my emotions, not feeling motivated or excited anymore – a lot of people go through it. But it’s also not a constant feeling. Maybe one day when I wrap up a scene, I’ll feel that I did a really great job, and the director is very pleased as well, so I’ll feel very happy.

I think this is because actors, are by nature, quite sensitive. Being an actor as a career is a fragile one. It’s very easy to be caught up in the feelings and emotions of those around you.

Oftentimes, I’m also guessing, trying to see what someone’s reaction is, like the director, or the crew on set. After seeing their expressions, I’ll think about it, maybe too much. If I feel there is even a tiny bit of negativity, I will keep thinking about it, and eventually overthink it.

Someone Who Is Forced To Grow Up

The character I play in Nirvana in Fire 2 is called Xiao Pingjing. He is the type of person that I hope to become.

Xiao Pingjing is someone who was forced to grow up. Whether or not it was his fault, if something happened close to him, even if he was forced to take up the burdens, he’d find a way to accept it, to carry the load on his shoulders.

He wasn’t someone who would blame everyone else, nor was he someone who’d cry to the heavens for being unfair. Nor would he give up and abandon himself to despair.

When Xiao Pingjing’s brother passed away, he forced himself to take over his brother’s role: protecting their family, guarding their country. He also accepted that palace politics led to his father’s death, and did everything he could to resolve the remaining issues after his father’s passing.

In the drama, there was another character who faced a similar environment, who had a similar background. When faced with the question, “You’ve done everything for the royal family and court, but they don’t believe you“, Xiao Pingjing chose to accept the court’s punishment, while the other decided to walk a completely different path.

When Xiao Pingjing first took on all the responsibility, it wasn’t just out of guilt. It was also because of the people around him. It was the people who were closest to him who gave him enough strength to go on. And it was also his family and homeland that gave him enough encouragement and energy to take everything on.

From an unpolished youth a young general who experienced life and death, who was forced by life to take on responsibilities that didn’t belong to him – the most admiral part about Xiao Pingjing is his ability to endure.

Though he was forced to grow up, I think he definitely had moments where he felt misunderstood, where he was full of anger and hate. But he was still willing to accept the heavy weight that fate placed upon him, and stood up to protect everyone he cared about.

Young General

During the filming of Nirvana In Fire 2, the parts that left the biggest impression on me were the scenes with teacher Sun Chun. In the drama, he plays Xiao Pingjing’s father, Xiao Tingsheng, and is a powerful lord in court. The scene that I remember the most is one that was an important turning point in the drama.

The background for the scene was that the previous emperor had just passed away, and before his death, had asked Xiao Tingsheng, who was like a brother to him, to help and support the young teenaged emperor. So Xiao Tingsheng’s role was a powerful one – and thus, meant that the Xiao family, including Xiao Pingjing, were easily seen as threats in the political battle.

When Xiao Pingjing went to protect the Northern Borders, the mystical and mysterious Langya Hall sent him a message, with the date of when a solar eclipse would take place. This was also when an enemy kingdom unleashed an army of 200,000, to attack the Liang Dynasty while they were still in mourning.

In historical times, people very much believed in “signs from the heavens”, and solar eclipses were seen as a sign of misfortune. After dwelling on it for a day, Xiao Pingjing decided to use the solar eclipse to take the enemy’s military force by surprise and force them to retreat.

That was a very important battle, because if the Liang Dynasty was able to delete the enemy forces, the Northern borders would be secure for ten, maybe even twenty years. Xiao Pingjing’s thoughts were very simple – he just wanted to force the enemy to retreat.

But to those in the royal court, using military force during the period of mourning was forbidden. Xiao Pingjing was someone who would never think of the royal court, nor would he participate in the politics that took place there. But his father, Xiao Tingsheng, was caught between the period of mourning in court and warfare.

Xiao Tingsheng was very aware on the consequences – he knew the price the Xiao family would have to pay after the battle. But if the battle didn’t take place, the entire kingdom would have to pay a even bigger price. Stuck between the conflicts of family, country, and the world, Xiao Pingjing ultimately took to the battlefield, with his father’s encouragement.

It was still seen as the direct disobedience of an order, so after the war, the royal court ordered him to be taken back to the Capital for his punishment. The situation was very interesting then – he himself had also planned to back, with the thought that “you don’t need to force me, I will definitely go back“.

This would also be the first time he went home in over a year. He hadn’t seen his father since his brother passed away, and he wanted to see him.

When Xiao Pingjing headed home to see his father, it was the turning point in the character’s growth. In the beginning, when he first left home, he was a youth who decided to take the on the responsibilities of his older brothers. He forced himself to use his own methods to solve the problem.

But when he came home, he was a young general who had seen life and death. He was a commander who had participated in war. He was mature, steady, and started to have shadows of his brother in him. But really, he was desperately trying to become his brother, to be as mature and dependable as he was.

Time stamp may not work on mobile – scene is at the 32 minute mark.

When Xiao Pingjing came home, he knelt in front of his father to greet him. He didn’t speak, as he knew he had make a mistake. But his father said to him, “My good child, get up. Father is proud of you.” That was the situation and dialogue at that time, and it was when we got to this scene that I suddenly started crying. The pressure in my heart felt like it was suffocating me.

We filmed that scene in the afternoon. During lunch, when I was looking over the script, teacher Sun Chun stopped by and said, “Haoran, what do you think you’re (your character) feeling in the scene that we’ll be filming this afternoon?” I said a lot, including how much I missed my father, how guilty I felt for messing up.

But teacher Sun Chun said, “Your explanation is too long. If you were to use two words to describe your emotions in this scene, what would it be?” I actually had thought about it before, but never said it out loud. Finally, I said with a bit of uncertainty, “Pitiful.

Teacher Sun Chun then said, that’s what he was thinking as well. He then went on to say that he felt very few young people would be able to come to this understanding of the character, and praised me a lot, to the point where I felt rather embarrassed.*

*T/N: Adding for context, this is what Sun Chun said about Haoran in other interviews when NIF2 was airing: Liu Hao Ran is very intelligent. In my scenes with him, he is able to catch the important points. This child has a great understanding of the character that he is playing. There was a scene where I watched him walk towards me from far away and my tears just naturally fell. In that moment, I suddenly felt that this child has grown up.

Starting to Thrive

Because this scene was also praised by the director*, I suddenly felt more confident, and stopped feeling as apprehensive. The scene after required teacher Sun Chun to help up the kneeling me, and then we’d hug. At the time, teacher Sun Chun was supposed to looked pained, but the role he was playing was one that wouldn’t show his pain to the child in front of him, because he was the pillar of the family.

*T/N: Again for context, director Kong Sheng on this scene: In the scene where Pingjing returns from his victory in war, he walks down the long hall to his elderly father, who is sitting in the room, watching him. When Pingjing finally reaches his father and falls to his knees – the two actors are absolutely fantastic in that scene. Pingjing has a lot of burdens on his shoulders and is feeling all sorts of conflicting emotions, and Haoran did a great job showing that.

I quietly went to discuss with Brother Dahong (one of the assistant directors). I felt that Xiao Tingsheng’s character had always suppressed his emotions, so wouldn’t it make sense that he finally let go in this scene?

Brother Dahong said, though it would be good for him to finally release his feelings, his son was also in this scene. The father wouldn’t want his child to see his frail, pained side.

So then I suggested, when teacher Sun Chun helped me up, I would hug him. With my head on his shoulder, and his head on mine, I wouldn’t be able to see the expression on his face, and therefore, they would be able to film what he was feeling.

I didn’t watch the replay of the scene after we filmed it, so I don’t know what kind of expression teacher Sun Chun had on his face, but when director Kong Sheng watched it, his eyes were full of tears, and said we were good to move on.

Before this scene, I wasn’t very relaxed on the set of Nirvana In Fire 2. It was a big production, a serious drama, and the actors were all very experienced ones. They had a great presence to them, and I didn’t have anyone close to my age around, so I felt very uneasy. I was also afraid to talk to people, so most of the time, I was huddled in a corner thinking.

But after we finished the final shot of that scene, I suddenly felt great. Because in the previous scenes with the veteran actors, they had always helped me with the emotional delivery, but in that moment, I suddenly felt like I could give something to the actors opposite of me in the scene.

Crying for Five Days, 20+ Scenes

After this renewed understanding of myself, my working state became better in the next few days. In five days, I filmed 20+ scenes, and almost all of them required me to cry. But it was a good start.

After filming the scene where I returned home to see my father, Father took me to the royal court to ask for forgiveness. In court, Father fell gravely ill, and passed away soon after we returned home. This was all in one setting. So the next five days were spent filming crying scenes. I cried every day, continuously. In the end, I no longer had any tears. Every day when I opened my eyes, they were swollen.

Behind the scenes from NIF2, in which Haoran couldn’t stop crying even after the director yelled cut. Zhang Huiwen used her hands (which she said were freezing cold) to “ice” his eyes for a while while Haoran tried to calm down.

But the crying that took place when Father passed away was different from when older brother died. When brother died, it was helpless crying, because his death was so sudden. Xiao Pingjing was in a state of complete shock, and couldn’t accept it at all.

But when Father passed, Xiao Pingjing had already accepted the reality, and was prepared for it in his heart. But when it actually took place, he still couldn’t control the pain he felt. It was like forcing a child to use an adult’s method to dealing with things he shouldn’t have to face yet.

Adults do their best to supress their emotions, even if ultimately they aren’t able to, while a child rejects the reality of the situation enitrely. They don’t want to accept it, don’t want to believe it. It’s a feeling of utter helplessness. These two types of pain is the biggest difference between thee two scenes.


I entered the set of NIF2 right after finishing Legend of the Demon Cat, and we started filming immediately. There wasn’t a lot of time to do prep work, and it really was my first time filming such a big historical production. At first, I felt very lost, had no idea how to act, and wasn’t sure if I was doing a good job or not.

Everyone around me were veteran actors. They were all very nice, but that made me feel even more afraid. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be good enough, that I would be the weak link. Sometimes when I stood by and watched the others act, I would feel extremely frustrated. I felt they all did a great job of portraying their characters, but I just couldn’t get into character. I was dragging everyone down.

I was so anxious that I wanted to pull off my wig, but I didn’t know how to express what I was feeling. Even if I told someone, it wouldn’t help. It’s not like they can act for you. It really felt like I had returned to a state where acting was work, like I was going to class every day and spacing out. I’d start filming when I was told to. If it wasn’t good enough, we’d do it again. There was no enthusiasm, and I had no urge to create.

But as an actor, you can’t be like this. If from the beginning all you’re hoping for is to just quietly endure, then there is nothing you can give to the audience. It becomes a story that has nothing to do with the character.

Later I found out that my initial struggles will occur in any drama filming. Because in the course of seven to eight months of filming, no one can promise that they will be able to have constant passion and enthusiasm. Everyone will have times where they feel sick, unwell, where they can’t find the right feel.

I was very much a green actor at the time, and was with a very strong production team, so I naturally felt that I was being held down by everyone else’s presence.

Dramas allow for actors to feel this way at times, but I didn’t realize this then. So at the time, all I could focus on was how I felt inadequate, that I couldn’t do it. Every day I was asking myself what I was doing, and scolding myself. I was so down I could no longer find my place.

Er Ye

I often chatted with Er Ye (Daylight Entertainment executive director and actor Wang Yongquan). He’s a veteran actor that everyone knows, and to me, is a great actor. He’s also a director, and well known for his ability to direct and act simultaneously.

In Nirvana In Fire, he played Xia Jiang. In Ode to Joy, he plays Wang Ziwen’s father, and Bai Baihe’s dad in Surgeons. His portrayal of each role is natural and grounded. In Nirvana In Fire 2, he has a part as well (Old Master Li, Lin Xi’s teacher). It feels like everyone is in Daylight Entertainment’s dramas, like a big family.

When I talk to him, I’ll also listen to his experiences as an actor. Because when filming a drama, unless it’s a situation where we’re having a hard time breaking through, there isn’t any time to look at replays. We are in a race against time, and there’s a lot of work to be done every day.

But for a truly mature actor, they know what type of expression they have with every line – there’s a clear visualization in their minds. I’m not capable of that. After I’m done with a scene, I can’t remember, or can’t imagine what kind of state of mind and expression I had. Whenever this happened, I felt very insecure.

Er Ye would come every day to the set when we were filming. Because I was still quite new, the director was very kind, and was more encouraging than anything else. He’d always say, “That’s pretty good”. But what does “pretty good” mean? “Pretty good” is “passable”. So I wanted to act really well, because the director wouldn’t say to anyone, “very good, very good”.

Later I went to ask Er Ye. Even though he is a lot older than I am, we had no gap between us, and he wouldn’t be overly polite with me. He would tell me very straight forwardly what I needed to work on or where I did well, and we’d look at the replays together and summarize.

The Difference Between Acting In Movies vs Dramas

I’ve mostly been filming movies before. Time is of the essence in film. Every second that you appear, even if it was just in the background, you had to be in the right state of mind. You had a purpose. In movies, there isn’t a second that’s “empty”, because time is so valuable.

I wasn’t very familiar with drama filming at the time. In dramas, there are many important scenes and more passing scenes. When you’re filming, actors will do very well in the important scenes, and maybe not as well in the passing scenes. That’s something I learned later on.

But of course, truly great drama actors will do well with all scenes, even if it was a passing shot of them ice skating. I know Guo Jingfei is like this – he’s great even in passing scenes.

Drama directors will do a lot to help their actors. Actors are afraid of having to play out emotions right in front of the camera. For example, quietly reading a letter and then breaking down into tears. These type of scenes are very difficult to portray. There is no other actor, it’s just you and your thoughts.

For more inexperienced directors, they will focus the shot on the actor’s face, but experienced drama directors will get creative. They may use empty shots or focuse on other actors to help establish the mood.

In dramas, if there is a moment where your emotions may not be spot on, when the director yells cut, it won’t be cut. Good directors will think of ways to smooth it out. For actors, they still want to do well, so will ask the director if they can try another take.

I was a little embarrassed to do this though, so sometimes brother Dahong (Daylight Entertainment assistant director, son of the aforementioned Er Ye) will quietly ask the director for another take, and will make an excuse for me. We’d help each other so they wouldn’t see through our reasons.

Director Kaige Loves Telling Stories

The project I had before this, Legend of the Demon Cat, was also a big production. Legend of the Demon Cat‘s director Kaige really knows how to explain acting, and is a director who loves telling stories. Every day after we finished a scene, director Kaige would gather up all the actors. We would each have our scripts and a pen with us, and listen as he talked to us.

The actors were very intelligent, and director Kaige also explained things very clearly. After we were clear on what was needed, we knew what to do.

But it’s different for dramas. You have to rely on yourself to understand. During the filming of Nirvana In Fire 2, especially the first month and a half, I couldn’t find my place, to the point where I felt that I wasn’t cut out to be an actor.

Now when I look back at what happened during filming for NIF2, there are many scenes where I felt I was quite decent. But in my heart, I also know that was due to the great atmosphere, the wonderful script, the amazing actors, etc. Every factor played an important part in the result. If you asked me to do it again, I probably couldn’t get to that level.

Because I’m well aware that it’s not my normal level, I’ll feel quite worried sometimes. What if I encounter this type of project again? What if there isn’t a director, or actors who can help me then? When can I become an actor who isn’t affected by his surroundings? When can I become someone who is able to help other actors?

Staying Half-Transparent

For an actor, after accepting a project, it’s their responsibility to study the script, to prepare in advance.

I had always imagined that before starting filming, an actor will take many notes. The script will be covered with scribbles. He will write down his understanding of characters, and interpretations of his lines, whether it was on a specific term, or marking the speech pattern on a line.

But when I began to start acting, I realized that what I had imagined only works for very experienced mature actors. Their experience allows them to know what kind of character analysis is correct, and what makes sense to add to their portrayal of a role.

But for a new actor like me, studying, copying, listening, and understanding to the director is what takes first priority. If I try to add my immature interpretations on set at my current level, the result may not be good.

I need to make sure I remain in a “half transparent and half blank” state. When I look over the script, I must not think I can understand it fully on my own. I can’t be in the mindset that I already know what a scene will be like before I even get there, before I start working with the other actors.

If I think I fully understand a scene, oftentimes, 99% of that is probably incorrect.

So when I get a new role, the first thing I do to prepare isn’t to study the script. It’s to read the script and then watch works in a similar genre, to see how other people have done it. For example, for a historical project, I’ll stay home and watch historical films, to find movies that have characters similar to mine. To see how experienced actors have portrayed a role, especially in different situations.

I will also do my best to study the historical background. When I talk to my coworkers on set, I’ll often listen to their suggestions, ask “Why?“, to discuss more possibilities.

When I was filming a historical project before, there was an action scene. In order to show the violence of the scene, the production team arranged for explosives to be used. But I thought, in that era, explosives wouldn’t have been used as weapons yet. At most, they’d be used to get into somewhere. After the staff heard, they agreed, and decided to change how they filmed it.

Not Sure About A Role

In Midnight Diner, I played a young music producer. It was a short appearance, and at the time, I didn’t think that the drama would get criticized so much once it aired (T/N: not his part specifically – the drama as a whole received poor ratings).

When I saw all the comments, I thought, if I was a character in the first episode and had to deal with so much criticism, I probably would feel very upset and disappointed.

When it comes to dealing with criticism, I think I can probably handle it. In the past, because I didn’t have a lot of screen time, and audiences went easy on me, I received more praise (than criticism).

But in the year ahead, audiences will see me take on more challenging roles, and honestly, I’m not as sure as I was. If I really didn’t do well, and received a lot of condemnation, I’ll probably feel really disappointed, right?

This disappointment is directed at myself. If I got a great role, and received criticism because I didn’t portray it well, I’ll reflect and blame myself. But if the character was meant to be an antagonist and was hateful, the backlash from audiences could be seen as praise.

When I’m done with a role, I do have some concept of how I did in it and what the end result will be like, especially characters I play often.

After we wrapped up filming for With You, I told my company that this role was very good, that the drama will probably be a hit, because it had the right feel. But for some other projects, when I’ve wrapped up filming, I’ll tell my company, I’m not so sure about this role.

Another sort of feeling is like when I was filming NIF2 and Legend of the Demon Cat. The insecurity I felt about the role came from the fact that it was a new genre, or a new project, a fresh feeling. They were challenging characters to play.

I wasn’t sure that my natural aura would match the character. And after filming, I might suddenly feel that I was a little too bold in accepting the project. But because the directors were so renowned, the production teams were so experienced, and my team decided to have me take it, it means that they believe in my ability to complete it well. So later on, I felt better.

I always feel that if a project approaches me, it’s because they think I”m suitable, and not because I have a certain amount of fans.

Currently, I feel like I’m standing on two sides. I’m not completely a liu liang actor, but I’m also not someone who relies completely on acting skills. The projects that come looking for me right now do so because they feel like I fit the part.

There have been big IPs who’ve approached me in the past, and gave me conditions that were very tempting. All I had to do was look cool, but after thinking about it, I ended up rejecting them. There are also a lot of projects that my company turns down for me. Sometimes, they don’t even tell me about it. Both my company and I hope I can walk steadily to choose my roles, to choose ones that fit me well, and that will contribute to my growth.

One time I was talking to Sicheng ge. He said, don’t accept roles recklessly. Because he used to be an actor, he understands very well what good roles mean for an actor. A role that isn’t quite suitable will limit one’s acting skills, and may also limit their future potential. It’s hard to predict.

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