Qi Yuwu reflects on how he has evolved as an actor and a father

Qi Yuwu has spent more than 20 years in show business. PHOTO: HARPER'S BAZAAR SINGAPORE

This article first appeared in Harper's Bazaar Singapore, the leading fashion glossy on the best of style, beauty, design, travel and the arts. Go to www.harpersbazaar.com.sg and follow @harpersbazaarsg on Instagram; harpersbazaarsingapore on Facebook. The January 2022 issue is out on newsstands now.

The late Karl Lagerfeld once said: "What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that's gone forever, impossible to reproduce."

It is the reason actor Qi Yuwu, who turned 45 two months ago, agreed to a shoot with Harper's Bazaar.

"I felt it's a good opportunity to document what life during the pandemic is like - what I look like, how I spend my days, what goes through my mind and so on," he says. "It has been a difficult two years for everyone, but it's also an important time that I want etched in my mind."

Qi, who has worked in China, Malaysia and Singapore over the past two years, recently won Best Actor at the 2021 Star Awards for his work in the Chinese time-travel drama series A Quest To Heal. He was also a finalist in the Best Actor category at this year's New York Festivals TV & Film Awards.

The Guangzhou-born actor walks into the studio looking bronzed, the result of many hours running and exercising under the sun.

"I've learnt to find joy amid hard times," he shares, "and also realised how adaptable human beings are in ever-changing situations. There's only so much one could do indoors, with all the restrictions over the past year. I took to running outdoors and sunbathing on my balcony."

Pointing to the freckles on his cheeks and his toned arms, he adds: "I don't think I've ever been this tanned, so today's photos will also serve as a memento of my days during the pandemic."


He requests the make-up artist to not conceal his sunspots "because this is what I look like now and I want to keep it real".

Qi has spent more than 20 years in show business.

"I broke into acting wanting to prove myself, which was very normal for a rookie starting out in a foreign country," says the actor, who started his career here as a 23-year-old unknown after winning the China round of Mediacorp's Star Search in 1999. "It was my first time leaving home and I had to make it worth my while."

Ironically, this great desire to succeed eventually put him at a disadvantage.

"I was too caught up in becoming a 'good' actor. I became burdened with the thought of wanting to make things work and lost focus. I didn't realise how stressed I'd become, but it showed on camera.

"I was overthinking and not letting go. I couldn't fully immerse myself in my characters and my acting became stiff."


The turning point came when he was filming Singapore-Australian production Bait 3D in Gold Coast, Australia, about 10 years ago.

"We had the weekends off and, living in an apartment overlooking the beach, I spent lots of time staring at the ocean, which gave me a sense of calm and clarity," he recalls. "It was then that I realised I had missed out on the true meaning of being a good actor. Thereafter, I decided to just enjoy the moment and go with the flow."

After that, he found it easier and more enjoyable taking on new roles and projects.

"It's like being in a relationship. Sometimes, if you go into a relationship focusing only on what you want out of it - for example, marriage - you may end up not enjoying the process of being in love.

"For me, it's the same when it comes to acting. Rather than focusing too much on the end result I want to achieve in front of the camera, I learnt to let things develop organically, and it worked."

Are there characters that he longs to portray, but has not had the chance to?


"A producer once asked me the same question," Qi says, "and I told him I didn't have the slightest idea. He was shocked at my answer, saying that it's something every actor should think about. But to me, the excitement for an actor comes from not knowing what character you're going to play next. I'm open to all possibilities that feel right and I don't feel the need to set this sort of 'target' for myself.

"Rather than pursuing a particular type of character, I'm more interested in the characters' backstories, what makes them the way they are. It could be a role as mundane as a teacher or an ordinary office worker - what matters more to me is what the character is built on."

Qi has been married to fellow actress Joanne Peh, 38, since 2014 and they have two children.

Of his other half, he says: "Our characters couldn't be more different, but we also get along very well because of the similar values we have, such as our views on family and the upbringing of children."

The power couple have no fixed parenting style. "Every child is differentand, as parents, we're also trying to discover ourselves as well as our children's characters with each passing day."

The couple are known to be very private about their six-year-old daughter and four-year old son.

"The common ground that Joanne and I share when it comes to parentingis that we try to keep things as normal as possible and to be like any other parent, without letting our kids be affected by what we do for a living."

This is why they have never revealed their children's faces on social media.

"When they're old enough to decide the kind of lifestyle they want, they're free to choose whether or not they want to join us in the limelight," he says.

When asked what he wants to do most once Covid-19 restrictions in Singapore are lifted, he answers without a second thought: "To visit my family in Guangzhou. I haven't been able to return home for the past two years and I miss them terribly.

"In life, there are many things that aren't within our control, just like everything that has happened during the pandemic. It's frustrating, but it always helps to stay hopeful and positive."


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