The Dome Studio: An Actor’s Sense of Happiness

In March 2018, when Haoran was in the snowy mountains of Xinjiang filming for Novoland: Eagle Flag, he was asked by The Dome Studio to do an entry for their “An Actor’s Sense of Happiness” series. The Dome Studio is an acting school founded in 2017 by famous actors Chen Kun and Zhou Xun, along with director Chen Kuofu, and as part of promotions, the school launched the campaign in which they talked to different actors on their thoughts on an actor’s happiness. Haoran was one of the youngest (if not the youngest) who participated.

(Full vid at the bottom of this post for those who want to scroll ahead)

Those who’ve read Haoran’s book The Eye of the Storm (you can find full translations on this blog) and his interviews in 2017 through 2018 know that it was a difficult couple of years for him. Though to the outside world, it looked like his career was sailing as he landed several great resources and was working nonstop, he was coming to terms with the fact that this also meant he was facing more and more work, as well as a having a growing celebrity profile that would make it immensely difficult to have a private life anymore.

(Just so we are clear: in no way did this mean he was ungrateful for what he had, even during this time he often acknowledged how fortunate he was. Just that as someone transitioning into his 20s and going from a normal boy to a celebrity/full time actor while still juggling school, it was a bit hard to adjust to, especially since everything came so fast)

Amidst this, he recorded this for The Dome Studio, in which he reflects on his sources of happiness in the past versus the present. In a way, this was Haoran recognizing that he was at a new stage of his life now, where he was officially transitioning to professional actor and finding happiness in his work.

The day that the transcript was posted, a Central Academy of Drama professor shared in a comment on The Dome Studio’s WeChat post, “A snowy night in Xinjiang, negative 10+ degrees Celsius, in historical costume and sprinting on a horse. Couldn’t even open his eyes, and could have fallen off at any moment, must film! But he said, watching the replay was a source of happiness. A 20 year old boy, his life is so saturated!”

(For those who are worried and are newer fans, Haoran was able to find a greater balance in 2019 and in his own words, was in a better state of mind since then. Having the opportunity to travel abroad often for work, to a change of environment away from the public eye, has also helped a lot. His dad retiring in 2019 and his parents being able to stay with him in Beijing for longer periods of time has also helped as he had lived alone since he was in his teens.)

Admin note: Though I subbed this (since this was originally an audio recording), I also wanted to post the transcript as it has more content (the audio is an abridged version).

I think it’s a great reminder of the ways we can find happiness in our lives, especially in current times. I know for me personally, I’m gaining a strong appreciation of many things I took for granted before (like going out for milk whenever I wanted) and I’m finding joy in the little routines that used to seem mundane. Hope everyone is able to have their own channels and sources of happiness! Stay safe and much love~

(Original transcript posted 3.8.18)

A lot of the time, I consider myself to be a very lucky person. In high school, I successfully participated in my very first film. At not yet twenty, I worked with the team of my dreams, encountered many great roles, and received opportunities and attention that other actors only obtain after putting in a lot more time and effort.

Before becoming an actor, I was someone who could easily find happiness. I could derive happiness from playing a basketball game with friends, from successfully putting together a LEGO model, and from buying a basket of mangosteens and not finding any spoiled ones. Even spacing out for twenty minutes could make me feel happy – my sense of happiness was extremely easy to come by.

At the end of 2015 through the beginning of 2016, I became more ingrained in acting as a profession. From bright and sunshiny characters in Beijing Love Story and With You to roles that I hope will allow everyone to think more deeply, my entire person has gone through a lot of changes.

I began to have many different projects to film – The Founding of An Army, Legend of the Demon Cat, Nirvana In Fire 2, and Detective Chinatown. 2 And as a result, I no longer had time to play basketball, or to meet friends for drinks and dinner. I no longer had as many moments that I could get happiness from, and I slowly began to realize that my ability to feel happiness began to decrease as well.

It is an extremely scary thing if one can no longer feel happiness. One day, I was spacing out in my hotel room after filming, and I suddenly started questioning myself. Why was it so hard for me to find happiness now? When was the last time I was able to obtain happiness from something? I thought about it for a while, and concluded that it was when I was able to show the director on the set of Legend of the Demon Cat that I had successfully lost 20 jin (12 kg).

When I was filming Nirvana in Fire 2 as well, Xiao Pingjing’s transformation as a character was quite challenging for me. The crying scenes were filmed close together, and I was very down, as I was worried I wouldn’t be able to properly convey the sadness and grief needed for the scene. I also suffer from dry eye syndrome, so I was very stressed out.

I read the script over and over again, and kept trying to put myself in the character’s shoes and understand how he would have felt in that instance. I pushed myself to the limit, and when filming began, I was able to fully immerse myself in the scene, and when I felt the emotions well up, the tears came out as well.

We spent five days and over twenty takes on those crying scenes. So I cried daily, to the point where I ran out of tears towards the end, and my eyes were constantly swollen. When all of my efforts paid off and I successfully overcame one of my biggest weaknesses – crying scenes – I was happy.

Also, when we were filming Detective Chinatown 2, time was of the essence. We worked 12 hours every day, and in the early morning, all of the actors would get in one van. At the celebration dinner when we had officially wrapped up filming, brother Si Cheng thanked all of the actors and production team members for all of their hard work. And in that moment, I also felt happy

Previously, my happiness was derived from the small moments of life. Now I’m discovering, as an actor, it’s not that I can no longer find happiness – it’s that my idea of happiness now is much more complex and layered. I cannot go back to the days where I could hang out with my friends and classmates everyday playing basketball and catching up, nor can I live the life of a regular twenty year old young adult.

I’m spending every day working hard, and putting a lot of thought into the roles that I take in the hopes that I can also mature through these roles. Sometimes after spending fifteen or so days filming, I will suddenly feel a burst of happiness. Being able to obtain happiness from my own hard work brings me more joy, because I can treasure these moments for several years, if not for a lifetime.

That is the actor’s sense of happiness – because it’s not easy to come by, I will treasure those moments even more.

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