The Eye of the Storm – Chapter 8: Inner Strength

Final chapter!

This chapter covers some final thoughts from Haoran, on pain and sadness, boys and their tears, his ideal work state, his desire to “slow things down” (which would be his main theme of 2018), and the type of actor he wants to become.

There is one more The Eye of the Storm-related interview that I will be translating, published in January 2018, which ties in well with everything that Haoran covered in the book, with more context and insight from some of the people he’s mentioned.

I hope that the translation of his book has been helpful in understanding more about him, as well as seeing his mindset at 20 yrs old and how he’s both changed and stayed the same since then. Thank you for your patience, and for accompanying me through this translation journey!


Chapter Eight: Inner Strength

It is only after you meet yourself, after seeing the world, that you will be able to realize your purpose. You see a bright future, and you put your hopes into it. Amidst the outside environment, find your strength from within, take control of yourself.

The Difference Between Pain and Sadness

Movies, a lot of the time, have a certain intent to them. For example, in the end, there might be a sudden burst of emotions. In dramas, however, there isn’t necessarily that buildup. Many times, (as your character) your dad dies, your mom remarries, you hold your head and sob painfully.

Sometimes when I look at scripts and there is a scene that asks for the actor to cry in pain, my head hurts. It’s really not easy for actors. Especially for new actors, tears are very important. Right now, most of the scenes where I need to express pain, I have to rely on tears to deliver. I’m still in that stage where a scene where I need to express pain means I’m looking for tears.

But later on I’ve discovered, pain and sadness are two different things. Many great actors use other ways to express pain.

A couple of days ago, I was acting for one of our company’s projects, a show called Great Expectations (Twin Dragons). For once, I was smart, and talked the director into using another method to express pain instead of tears.

It was a very short filming period. We only spent a little over ten days on it, so getting into character was a bit harder. The crying scenes would have to come naturally, so I was a little worried.

This scene was about actor Chen Hao and I losing our good friends. We all were broken, and in despair.

The script wrote it this way: holding your head and crying in pain. To ensure that your friend’s corpse would be intact, you’d bite your tongue, bow your head, and crawl.

So I thought, maybe I can use another method to act out this scene. I talked it out with the director. If both of us followed the script and cried that way, then the two roles would be too similar. And the characters’ personalities were entirely different.

Chen Hao’s character was a happy-go-lucky, street smart ruffian, but my character was more mature and steady. Our (characters’) family backgrounds were also different. I was a military student, he grew up on the streets.

So in this scene, the way we expressed ourselves also wouldn’t be the same. It was this point that ended up convincing the director to agree to my suggestion, so I expressed my pain in a more steady sadness.

In case the time stamp doesn’t work, it’s at 1:32:18

Watched Reply 1988, Cried Three Times

I’ve always bragged that I never cry when watching movies or dramas, because to an actor, when we watch things, we are very conscious of the fact that it’s acting. So many times I’ll be paying very close attention to an actor’s expression. I’ll be more analytical in my approach, as I try to remember certain expressions, to see if I can use it for a role later on.

It’s like when some producers watch movies, they’re thinking about how much money is spent on a particular shot.

But recently, I’ve still ended up engrossing myself in the show. During break, I cried three times, and it was all while watching Reply 1988. Even though it’s technically a youth drama, the story covers a lot, a very touching and impactful show.

A lot of it isn’t even necessarily the script’s design, but the fact that the actors fully became the characters and brought them to life. Whether it was their bond, or the creative freedom given to the actors by the production team, it really was just like watching real life. The more that they didn’t want to “act”, the better the effect was.

Reply 1988 had a scene where Junghwan, Dukseon, and Dongryong were sitting on the bus. They were by the window, holding on to the grab rails. When the bus suddenly braked, everyone was thrown backwards. Dukseon grabbed onto Junghwan, and accidentally pulled Junghwan’s shirt open. At the same time, Dongryong grabbed the hair of a girl nearby.

The girl was an extra, so as she turned her head, she laughed. Normally, having your hair grabbed would incite anger, fury, this kind of reaction, but the girl was very aware she was acting, and no one had told her this would take place, so she wasn’t sure what to do.

But Dongryong did it very well. It must have been an improvisation by him, the hair grab. He had designed it based on the situation, and knowing his character’s personality.

A lot of the scenes in the drama were like this. For example, where they were goofing around. It was a type of natural joy and happiness that came from behind the scenes, a type of feeling that’s hard to act out. The atmosphere around them was full of nostalgia, of the awareness of time passing. It was very sincere and real.

Boys Shouldn’t Cry Easily?

Actors must cry, but it’s difficult for boys to do so. When they want to cry, they do their best to hold it in. But recently, I’ve started crying very easily. Because in my daily life, I’m exploring more ways to express my emotions.

I have a really good friend. We’ve been classmates since middle school, and were also dormmates. We studied together, got into the Central Academy of Drama together. Up until now, we’ve known each other for nine years. (T/N: He’s talking about actor Ye Xiaowei, who played the second male lead in Wang Junkai’s Eagles and Youngster).

When we were in Japan for our school trip, the two of us went out to drink and to catch up. We talked for a really long time, and I ended up crying after a while, and he comforted me.*

*T/N: Ye Xiaowei talked about this in an interview – he said that it was because on the Japan trip, Haoran had gone drinking with a teacher. The teacher told Haoran Ye Xiaowei was very lacking in self confidence for various reasons, and didn’t think very much of himself. When Haoran returned to their room, Ye Xiaowei asked him why he came back so late, and Haoran broke down crying.

For me, life has been smooth sailing. Although there have been occasional bumps in the road, there haven’t been any big issues and it hasn’t affected my road forward. Up until now, I’ve never really experienced the type of situation that has made me want to quit the industry, to give up, to change careers.

Maybe it’s because I’m still quite new to the industry, I have many friends and seniors around me who help and protect me, so my road has been very smooth and steady.

There Isn’t Really A Process with Death

When I was filming Nirvana In Fire 2, I hadn’t been home in over a year. My mom had hurt her leg, and the situation was quite serious. She was on a motorcycle and was trying to avoid another car when she was hit, and broke her leg and several other bones. But my family didn’t tell me, and by the time I found out, my mom was walking again.

My family has always been like this. They don’t tell me anything.

When I was in middle school and my grandfather died, they didn’t tell me. By the time I found out about it, the funeral was already over. I wasn’t brought up by the elderly in our family, and my grandmother passed away a long time ago, but they are still family members who I consider myself to be very close to.

Even though I wouldn’t be pained to the point where I couldn’t accept their deaths, when I learned about Grandpa’s passing, I was full of sadness and rage. It was a double attack. If it was just my grandparents passing away, I might have been just sad, but they only called to tell me after the funeral was already over.

I was so hurt and angry, to the point where I was going to go crazy. My family said it’s because I was by myself studying at a boarding school, that they didn’t want to affect my studies. But I really didn’t get it, and threw a big tantrum. Why couldn’t you tell me? That’s my grandfather! Going home for three to four days…how is that going to affect my studies!*

When I started middle school, we had three grandparents at home. My paternal grandfather, and my maternal grandparents. By the time I got to eighth grade, all three were gone. We were mentally prepared, because they were all elderly, and lived to an old age. If we were to speak in my hometown’s terms, it would be a celebration (because they had lived a full and long life).

That was when I realized what death is like, though it wasn’t directly. Even though death still feels like a foreign concept, I am fearful of it.

Towards (the concept of) death, I want to stay far away from it, while also full of curiosity. I’ll think, what happens after death? Do you just succumb to darkness? Or do you still have awareness? Or will you really be reborn?

The biological chain of the world is very complete. From birth to death, every organism has a set process. So after humans die, is there a process as well? After someone dies, will they still have a purpose or reason? Will we truly disappear after death?

When I was little, I would imagine myself as the main character of the world, that the world existed for me. From the perspective of one’s death, the world is your own. After death, there is no more meaning to it.


Everyone has a mission in life. Many people may already have found it. For some, it’s to dedicate their lives to other people, to help them when they encounter difficulties, to protect wild animals. For some, it’s for their families, to take care of the seniors at home, to create a better life for their children.

Some people find their missions in life when they’re just kids. A seven or eight year child seeing a homeless person on the street every day will try to think what they can do for them, to set up foundations and charities. Others may take in stray animals. But for me, I don’t think I’ve found my mission yet.

There are many people who may want to get awards, to become professional artists in an industry. They’ll think more big picture, and want to become a big shot, to have a different existence than others. But very few will end up being able to achieve this.

The few years that I’ve been in the industry, I have never thought that I was different from others, nor have I thought about where I want to go. Up until now, I’ve just wanted to invest myself fully in the script at hand, to do my best in portraying a role, to give my all in the tasks that I have at hand. To steadily walk every step. Where I can go in the future, where I can’t go – there’s not a lot of point in thinking about that now.

It’s like how in the beginning, I was blown away by a sudden gust of wind to a present that I’ve never thought about. To the me that has a bit more control now, I still can’t predict what direction my future path will take me.

If a person does their best and smoothly walk with fate, that’s a good thing. After being blown onto this racetrack, I hope that I won’t always be blown along by these winds.

Where I go in the future, I hope that I can decide that on my own.

The Ideal Working State

When you face a good opportunity, it’s actually quite hard to make decisions. The belief that I always cling on to is that if you miss out on a good role, then there will definitely be a better one awaiting you. Even though the tempo in this circle is very fast, if you don’t take a role, naturally, there are many people who are waiting for it. Everyone’s working state is always like this: the minute you finish one project, another comes knocking.

But I hope I can slow things down a bit more. I don’t want to walk too fast, nor do I want to be in a hurry. My ideal state is to film one or two projects in a year (T/N: should note that in 2019, he mentioned in an interview that his ideal state is three projects in a year.)

It’s not because I have a great feeling of security, or that I lack a sense of urgency, but it’s because naturally, I’m enveloped in insecurity. I don’t believe that something I’ve attained means it was meant for me, nor do I believe that having a great goal now means I can achieve it. I only believe that in taking every step steadily, to do what I can at hand.

I hope that I don’t take an empty step, that even if I walk a little slower, I make the most of every decision that I make, to do well with every performance. That’s how you ensure that you have something real and solid in your hand.

Slowing Down

Recently, I’ve been constantly telling myself, don’t think you’re special. You’re just a normal 20 year old. You’re not a prodigy like Natalie Portman. Don’t be deluded by outside voices. You just have a taste in art. Your acting, your career – there is a long road ahead.

If we’re talking about natural acting talent, for a 20 year old, even if he got into the Central Academy of Art, even if he undergoes four years of professional training, if you were to have him compete in acting with a random 30, 50 year old extra actor in Hengdian, he will probably lose. At their age, they’ve seen so many things, have experienced marriage and the birth of their kids, the passing of relatives, the most difficult decisions of life. They know what it’s like to have a monthly salary of 300 or 400 RMB, of learning how to survive.

So even though they may not have studied acting in school, nor have they been through training, you can’t beat them.

After filming Léon: The Professional, Natalie Portman took a long hiatus. During that time, she used her studies to steady herself. The woman who cut off all her hair in V for Vendetta, that was Natalie Portman. She made the decision to shave her head after accepting the role and reading the script.

When Liang Bo became the winner of The Voice of China (Season 1), many people asked, “Why him?” After he won, he stopped and spent time to study, to read, go to the US, to replenish himself. When he came back, he went on I Am A Singer and touched everyone with his performances. The audience could see his natural talent in singing, as well as his love for it. This is why I really like him. (T/N: plugging in my personal favorite Liang Bo song)

So you see, no matter where you go, you don’t need to be in a hurry. This road is very long, you don’t have to quickly finishing walking it. And you don’t need to worry or be afraid. Don’t become mesmerized by the temporary illusions in front of you. Calm your heart, and steadily take each step. When your heart is strong, your physical body will also not fall.

A Real Actor

The ideal actor in my mind, is someone who’s had their unique life experiences, who’ve gone through the little moments of life, seen the ups and downs, so they are able to portray the special characteristics of a different kind of person. Like the actors I really like – Wu Xiubo Bo Shu (Uncle Bo), or Huang Bo Bo ge. Bo Ge spent some time singing at a bar in his youth, and Bo shu opened a restaurant and did many things that don’t really have anything to do with acting.*

*T/N: It should be noted that both actors are known for their late debuts in the industry – Huang Bo was admitted into the Beijing Film Academy at 28 and started in minor supporting roles after many years of working in other industries and occupations, while Wu Xiubo didn’t really start his acting career until 34, though he is a Central Academy of Drama alumni.

Their lives, the unique life experiences they have, has given them acting styles and conditions that is very different from other actors. It feels deeper, heavier, something that only comes from those who’ve had experiences. I sometimes think my career thus far has been too smooth, and too full (schedule-wise), so I’m a little envious of what they’ve been through.

I think the times that they had wasn’t just low-key, but also steady.

For example, if someone decides to become a monk, he’ll move to the temple to live. When you see him half a year later, he’ll seem like a completely different person. This comes from moving far away from the life you currently have to experience a whole new lifestyle.

Sometimes, I feel like I”m currently in a vacuum, doing the same things, continuing to climb hills, but the things that I want can only be experienced at the bottom of the canyon. Or maybe as I’m climbing up the hill, I can stop occasionally to look at the surrounding views, to see the trees.

But when I’m being pushed forward by the waves, I’ll feel confused, and think, right now, I’m very lucky. If I don’t grab onto these opportunities, maybe they won’t be there in the future.

I am someone who is very lucky, who has continuously been pushed forward by a great wind. I know this isn’t a result of my own abilities. Even if the mountain peaks in the distance are the dream destinations I want to reach, I’ll still feel a little apprehensive as I’m forced to sprint ahead.

I’m very grateful for these winds. They’ve allowed me to walk faster than I could’ve imagined, and sometimes I’m on the verge of flying. But I also hope that I can become “heavier” amidst the swirling winds, that my feet can stay glued to the ground. I need to constantly remind myself, rather than running forward, it’s more important to be able to stop and hold your ground amidst the wind, to not be blown into the canyons.*

The mountains in the distance are my dreams. I want to be come a true actor, to use my performances to take on more roles, to experience different kinds of lives. I also hope that whether it’s the me who is currently hiking up the mountain, or the me who hopefully one day has the opportunity to stand on the peak, I’ll be able to look back and see that the road I took was a steady one, that every footstep is imprinted in my heart. To do what I want to do, to complete what I need to do. To stand between Heaven and Earth with no regrets.

*T/N: rhe wind is what Haoran calls his circumstances, the things he cannot properly describe: his luck, his opportunities, his high starting point, his celebrity, the spotlight that’s on him.

Final Thoughts

This October, I turn 20 years old.

I used to always think about what I’d be like when I turned 20. Now that it’s come, I understand that whatever stage you’re at, whether it’s pain or sadness, joy or self-pity, that’s you at your best, when you are the most real version of yourself.

It’s because you’ve experienced these feelings, or are about to, that you’ve become the person you are today. At 20 years ago, I will definitely face many more obstacles, but when the wind comes, I hope that I can steady myself, and simultaneously be someone who can become the wind in someone else’s life.

From 16 years old to now, I’ve met many people and encountered many things on this journey. Some people have come, some have gone, some things have succeeded, others have not. At 20, this is the start of another journey in my life.

Who has seen the wind? Neither I nor you; but when the leaves hang trembling, the wind is passing through. – Christina Rossetti –

Seeing the wind, is seeing the wind’s speed, the wind’s influence, the direction that it decides;

Wind is change, the changes that the outside environment brings to people;

After seeing the wind, you’ll have seen the you who’s moved by it, the you who’s pushed by it, who’s brought into a particular environment and state,

Stand your ground within the wind, feel it swirling around you,

Become part of the wind, and ultimately become someone that can also be influential.

Special Thanks

Mom and Dad, big sister and brother-in-law, my whole family.

Sicheng ge (Chen Sicheng), Ya Ya jie (Tong Liya),

My mangement team,

Every director, actor, and staff member I’ve worked with, and every friend, whether I know them or not, who’s helped me.

Every Nuan Yang (Haoran’s fandom), thank you!

The past, the present, the future, thank you for being by my side.

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