Taiwanese heart-throb Chen Bo-lin longs to be himself again

Taiwanese actor Chen Bo-lin in a still from Distance.
Taiwanese actor Chen Bo-lin in a still from Distance.PHOTO: GIRAFFE PICTURES

Taiwanese actor Chen Bo-lin hit it off with Singaporean film-maker Anthony Chen from the moment they met to work on Distance.

"After talking about the movie concept, we ended up chatting about other topics - our favourite movies, actors and haunts. We got along well," says the 32-year-old actor, who is the leading man in all three segments of the omnibus film that explores the distance in human relationships.

The bond is further strengthened by their complementary personalities and work ethics.

Executive producer of Distance Anthony Chen, who is also 32, says: "After working together, we realised we're very similar. We're serious when it comes to work, but deep inside we have a child-like innocence."

As if demonstrating the truth of that statement, Chen Bo-lin, who memorably played a girl's dream best friend, Li Da-ren, in idol drama In Time With You (2011), was playful yet pensive during an interview with The Straits Times.

Leaning back in his chair for a large part of the 15-minute interview slot, he would give brief answers until a eureka moment hit him - then his eyes would light up and he would go off on a slightly philosophical tangent.

Talking about his busy schedule, he admits to feeling at a loss because he is spending half his time speaking the words of his characters.

For this reason, he envies athletes, artists and authors. "They get to express themselves. They have a goal in mind," he says.

"Actors are role-playing, they tell stories through their characters. An actor's job is more passive, sometimes, you will lose yourself in the role."

Last year alone, he had four movies in cinemas - three Chinese titles (comedy 20 Once Again, fantasy comedy Surprise and romantic comedy Go Lala Go 2) and a Chinese-Korean production (Bad Guys Always Die).

This year, he has had the rare chance to regain his own identity onscreen, albeit in a pretend romance with South Korean actress Song Ji Hyo in Chinese celebrity dating show We Are In Love.

"My manager thought I should take a break and be myself. It was fun, there was no pressure. I just went there to make friends," says Chen, who still keeps in touch with Song.

Now that We Are In Love is over, he adds that he would not mind being a guest on Song's popular Korean variety show, Running Man.

To this day, he is often referred to as "Da-ren big brother" in Chinese reports. The Mr Nice Guy role was his passport to popular and critical acclaim. For the role, he took home Best Leading Actor at Taiwan's Golden Bell Awards in 2012.

But do not call it his breakthrough - Chen says acting is not about making breakthroughs.

"It's not like the Olympic Games, where there are records to break. For instance, a 100m race has a fixed benchmark. A runner's aim is to complete the same distance in a shorter time.

"There isn't a fixed benchmark for acting. Actors play different roles in different stories. Acting awards are subjective to the judges' taste. It's not like a record timing, where eight seconds is eight seconds. For me, all I can do is bask in the enjoyment of acting."

With a twinkle in his eye, he says: "No one has thought of awards from this perspective, have they?"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2016, with the headline 'Chen Bo-lin envies athletes'. Print Edition | Subscribe