We chat to the star of one of the biggest box office successes in China this year, So Young, in London as part of the China Image Film Festival…
Following on from Vicki Zhao’s (Zhao Wei) visit to the capital promoting her directorial debut So Young as part of the London Film Festival, we had a chance to meet the films lead star Yang Zishan when she came to the UK as part of the China Image Film Festival. After the screening Yang participated in a Q&A about the film.
easternKicks: So Young is apparently the first feature film from Mainland China you have ever performed in. Over the past few years, you have been mostly working in Taiwan. What was your experience there and what did you learn from your time there?
Yang Zishan: Actually, at university my major was music, not drama acting. Therefore, I had no formal training when I started acting. In Taiwan, directors tend to cast actresses according to their real personalities. As such, they would recommend me to pick the role that would be closest to my real me. On the contrary, in China, directors push you to take roles that can be completely opposite in personality. That was the case for instance with the character of Zheng Wei in So Young!
When she came to London, during the Q&A, Zhao Wei mentioned she had turned down the role of Zheng Wei to become the film’s director and promote a new generation of actresses. Since she picked you for the lead role – which she was initially supposed to perform – was there any pressure or special relationship that grew between you? Some say she saw in you the “new Zhao Wei”.
Actually, there was no special treatment for myself. Of course, she would make sure I understand the role well, and would even show me how to do.
There must have been hundreds of actresses applying and being casted for this role. How have you been chosen? How did you make a difference?
Since Zhao Wei really wanted to find a new actress for this role, she put lots of emphasis on whether she would really like her as a person. It turned out that she liked me from the bottom of her heart, and she really wishes me to have a successful career as an actress. She truly believes in me.
During the kiss scene with Han Geng (!), you had running nose and it caused some embarrassment. What was it about exactly?
Indeed, I was supposed to be sad for that scene, and therefore had running nose.
I thought I could wipe it out on Han Geng as a part of the scene. But it wasn’t enough, and we all laughed because it was so weird and embarrassing.
You have been working on a TV series recently called One and Eight. Could you tell us more about it and your upcoming projects?
Absolutely, that series has been completed with director Cao Huishen. It is based on Chinese film of 1983, of the same name, by director Zhang Junzhao.
It is also one of the first projects on which Zhang Yimou worked.
Q&A after the Screening of SO YOUNG
1. At the beginning of the film, Zheng Wei seems to completely hate Chen Xiaosheng. It is surprising that she falls in love with him. Also, in real life, if you had to decide, what would you prefer: love or career?
Actually, Zheng Wei does not really hate him. It is just a way she hides her emotions. In fact, she really admires him. But I totally understand.
As for the choice, I would personally prefer love over career.
2. Throughout the film, there are several references to the British pop band Suede. How did that come to be?
When director Zhao Wei made her research, she found out that in the 1980s, the time at which the story of So Young is supposed to happen, Suede were very popular in China.
She, herself, remembered a few pop bands that were popular at the time among that age group. Interestingly, she also found a song which bears the same name as the film: So Young.
3. In the film, Xu Kaiyang keeps asking you to be his girlfriend, but you refuse. Yet, you still go out with him sometimes, why?
He is nice to Zheng Wei, and even if she doesn’t love him, she appreciates his kindness. But as time goes by, he shows bothering personality features.
4. How was Zhao Wei’s support during the shooting and after?
She was really supportive during the film. And still now, she wishes me to continue and hope I can become a very talented and recognized actress.
5. What is your definition of a “good actress”?
For me, I can consider myself good and suitable for a film if:
– The story can touch me;
– I will need less effort, yet give my best, to fit into a role.
6. How would you consider the performance of actress Zhao Wei for her first directorial experience on So Young?
I would not dare judging the director, as I am still new. But, if I could give her a grade, out of 100, she would get 120. She is a really good person and really good as a director too.
7. Among the two characters in So Young, between Lin Jing and Chen Xiaozheng, which would you prefer?
I did not think of it. Actually, none of them suit me!