Taiwanese star Chang Shu-hao wants more acting challenges

Taiwanese actor Chang Shu-hao decided to take acting seriously after almost being killed in a car accident. -- PHOTO: LAN SE PRODUCTION
Taiwanese actor Chang Shu-hao decided to take acting seriously after almost being killed in a car accident. -- PHOTO: LAN SE PRODUCTION

Taiwan's Chang Shu-hao is working hard to become a marque name in showbusiness

In the movie Apolitical Romance, Taiwanese actor Chang Shu-hao is often seen getting bullied by a sassy girl from China, who is played by Beijing actress Huang Lu.

Fortunately for him, his Chinese co-star in real life is hardly as aggressive as the one portrayed onscreen.

Speaking to Life! over the telephone from Taipei, Chang says with a laugh: "Huang Lu is not as scary in real life. She is someone you can joke around with and, in many ways, is tomboyish. But when you get to know her, she is actually quite a sweet and gentle girl. We got along really well."

Their film, now showing in cinemas, has been getting positive reviews, mainly for the humorous script and sizzling chemistry between the two leads.

Directed by Taiwanese director Hsieh Chun-yi, the movie is about the unlikely friendship between a stereotypically sensitive but meek Taiwanese guy (Chang) and a stereotypically loud and bold girl from China (Huang).

Says Chang, a bachelor: "It is true that many Taiwan guys assume that Chinese girls are brash, while they think we're too soft. But that's what's great about working on this movie and, for me, working with Huang Lu - it helps you to widen your perspectives and get past prejudices."

For a 25-year-old, he sounds well beyond his years, often pensive and even going off into philosophical musings. He is also earnest and chatty, turning what was meant to be a 15-minute chat into an hour-long conversation.

There are no airs about him, even if he is fast becoming one of Taiwan's hottest actors to watch.

Chang, who made his acting debut at the age of 18 in the TV drama Dangerous Mind (2006), has in seven years already won major acting awards in TV and film.

For his portrayal of a haughty student in the TV drama It's Fortunate That We Are Still Here (2007), he won Best Actor In A Mini-Series at the Golden Bell Awards. Then, for his much-feted performance as a flamboyant gay man in the movie Gf*Bf (2012), he won the award for Best Supporting Actor at the Taipei Film Festival.

Despite his achievements, he comes across as humble as he says that there is "still much to learn from my peers". The actor, who has also starred in movies One Day (2010), Kora (2011) and Meeting Dr Sun (2014), adds: "I will continue to work hard and I'd like to become such a good actor that audiences will want to watch me no matter what project I'm in - the type of actor that will make people go, 'Oh, I want to watch his movie' just because my name is attached to it."

1 The chemistry between you and Huang Lu in Apolitical Romance is very natural. How much of the performance was improvised?

Before filming every scene, we went through the script with the director and had a lot of discussions about it. So we kept on ad-libbing and working with the script until we got what we thought was the most natural-sounding or funny bits of dialogue. Some directors are not open to the cast being so involved in the scripting process, but director Hsieh welcomed it, which was a lot of fun for me.

2 You have been focused on movies lately. Have you turned your back on TV?

I'm not shunning TV. It just so happens that lately, a lot of movie scripts have interested me more. I've found that many of them are a lot more moving than the TV scripts I've read. Maybe it's because some TV shows are there to fill air time. But movies have to be good enough to draw audiences to buy tickets to watch, so I've found that many movie scripts are better written. Of course, if I come across a great TV role, I won't say no.

3 You have just finished serving the mandatory one-year national service in Taiwan. Has that affected your career in any way?

I don't think it has - I've already received new acting offers and I've got some projects lined up. But what the army has done is that it has helped me become a lot more patient and it has taught me more about teamwork.

4 You were involved in a serious car accident at the age of 18, shortly after your acting debut. Has that affected your outlook on life?

Definitely. I almost died in that accident and there were a lot of times after it happened when I wondered why I was given the chance to live. Before the accident, I didn't treat acting very seriously. But after the accident, I decided that since I was fortunate enough to survive, I should take my job seriously. I didn't want to be selfish anymore, just playing around and doing nothing with my life.

5 You played a flamboyant gay man in Gf*Bf, a role that other young actors may choose to shun. Did you have any reservations about taking on the role at first?

Not at all. I want to do all sorts of roles to train myself as a performer. I'm not interested in just doing roles where I look pretty all the time. I'd rather take on more controversial or challenging stuff and make myself known as an actor with acting chops.

6 What have you done with your acting award trophies?

(Laughs) I just leave them on a shelf in my bedroom. They serve as a good reminder to work harder and I'm grateful for being recognised for my work so far.

7 You have said before in interviews that you do not ever refer to your fans as "fans", just "supporters". Why?

Because I think the term "fans" is rather inappropriate. I don't want to be known as an idol and neither do I want to be treated like an idol. I see my supporters as my friends, not my fans.

To brand them as fans of mine and mine alone would also be narrow-minded of me. My supporters usually like me because of my performance in a TV drama or movie, and those projects are the effort of a huge number of people, not just me. So they can't possibly be my fans, although they could be fans of my show.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

I haven't thought about that kind of thing. I just want to work hard and become a really good actor.


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Apolitical Romance is showing in cinemas.