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Fictional Roles

Fictional and other roles

This section is about some of the fictional characters I have played

Hong Mofang and Yamei

Fiction Posted on Sun, April 14, 2013 22:38:20

About 8 years ago I went to Hainan to film this TV play. The play is called Langjitianya (浪击天涯) and it’s a sort of wacky comedy about romantic intrigues in a holiday resort. Hainan was the perfect place to make it, it is a sub-tropical island at the south end of the Chinese mainland, warm all the year round.

The evening I arrived I was handed a script in which there were, I think, five scenes. The lines were pretty complicated and I set to work memorising them immediately. I was playing a French chef called Hong Mofang, with an assistant called Yamei. While I was looking at them the assistant director introduced me to a girl in blue jeans and said “this is Yamei”. We exchanged pleasantries and I went back to my script.

The next day we were filming in a hotel and there was a grand lounge where we were doing the makeup. I was made up pretty quick, so I sat and relaxed and looked at my script. Every so often I had a look around to see if I could spot the little girl in blue jeans who I was supposed to be acting with, but I couldn’t see anyone like her. There was one girl who might have been her, but she walked right past me. No, couldn’t be her. Right opposite me was an incredibly beautiful actress in a long silk dress being carefully groomed by a bunch of makeup artists. Every so often I looked over, wistfully. Why don’t I get to act with someone who looks like that, I thought.

After a while I got up to go out for a breath of fresh air, and I walked past this goddess in silk, “Hello”, she said. “Do I know you?” I said. “I’m Yamei”, she said. And so she was. The actress was Zeng Baoyi, daughter of Hong Kong Comedian Eric Tsang and already becoming a star in her own right. She was good to work with, I find a lot of actresses hard going as people, but she was sweet.


Huang Lei and Isaac

Fiction Posted on Sun, April 14, 2013 21:28:43

In 2002 I was recruited to play Isaac, the elderly husband of the young female lead, in a TV play called “Library” (天一生水). The play was written by a young actor / director called Huang Lei (黄磊). The play was set in a library called Tian Yi Ge (天一阁) which is an actually existing collection pf priceless antique books in Ningbo (near Shanghai). The trustees at Tian Yi Ge very sensibly refused to have a film troupe galumphing around in their library so Huang built a replica of the library in a vast studio on the outskirts of Beijing.

The atmosphere of the play is very romantic. Earlier Huang Lei had played a role in a film called “Eighteen Springs” based on a novel by Eileen Chang (who wrote “Lust, Caution”). The film is the story of a doomed love affair set in early 20th century Shanghai, and “Library” is quite similar in mood and setting.

We filmed the various hotel room scenes in an old hotel in Shanghai known as the actor’s hotel because it has been unchanged for decades and is often used for filming. Both Bertrand Russell and Einstein stayed there and there are pictures of them in the hall. Russell later wrote a book called “The Problem of China” which is still worth reading today.

The woman I am acting with is Ma Yili (马伊琍). At one point I was supposed to be lying in bed with her and the script said 搂 – I looked it up in my Chinese dictionary and it was translated as “hug”. So when we got to that bit I naturally, like any red-blooded Englishman, rolled over on top of her which caused her to have a severe panic attack which required us both to return to make-up for a thorough refurbishing. I wrote some more about this experience in an essay called Immaculate Mandarins.