LEON STAR|Wang Kai Interview

If you haven’t had a chance to check out Wang Kai’s gorgeous pictorial for Leon Star that accompanies this interview, you can see it here. Translated by: Lily; Edited by: Eleanor

Unafraid of struggles, humble about his achievements

He’s encountered struggles, and now he welcomes many achievements, having both good acting skills and good looks, and he can be accountable for high ratings and high popularity works. After debuting after more than ten years, Wang Kai is now experiencing the happiness of a highly popular actor, tired yet joyful. He only hopes that the fast-paced work schedule can slow down a little, and that his life can be slower-paced.

On one of the coldest days Paris has had in a year, in the famous Les Deux Magots Cafe, Wang Kai stood looking stylish and dapper in front of the camera. Even though it was cold, he still completed his outdoor photoshoot with no complaints, and in order to create a spring and summer feel, he was so dedicated that we did not wear any heat pads. [They would have made the clothing look puffier and detracted from the spring/summer feel of the photoshoot]

The shooting location was surrounded by many fans who came from all over Europe, they waited there for hours, only to see their idol in person. The cold winds were blowing strong on the streets of Paris, and even though they were shivering in the freezing weather, it did not conceal the excitement on their faces . “Crossing seas and oceans to see you,” this must be the unique charm of idols.

The Les Deux Maggots Cafe was once the work place of surrealist artists and a gathering place for existentialists, and is thus known for such. At a place like this, we asked him, “What do you think of, when on the streets of Paris?”

The idol’s answer was unexpected yet straightforward, “To hurry up and return to China and eat spicy foods!”

Wang Kai is very busy. This trip to Paris Men’s Fashion Week, Wang Kai’s itinerary was only four days, which includes time for flights both to and from Paris.

The first day was a fitting and street-side photo shoot. Right after he got off the plane, he didn’t even have time to adjust to the time-change, and immediately got to work. Because Paris was so cold, he got frostbite on his nose, and thus it was very red, not even make-up could cover it up.

The second day was the main photoshoot. The weather was very cold, so his workers suggested that we switch to an indoor photoshoot, but since we wanted to be able to feel the atmosphere of Parisian fashion and Wang Kai felt that it was not a problem, we continued our shoot as before, and thus troubled him to wear his spring and summer attire in the cold Paris winter.

The third day was the DIOR fashion show, and being the only mainland Chinese artist invited by the brand, he was both excited and nervous before the show, and looked very quiet. His team said that he is not a person of many words, and since he was about to attend such a grand fashion event, nobody bothered him much, allowing him to rest and adjust to the time difference.

After the show, he went with his team to Paris’ famous Sichuan restaurant to eat hotpot, treating everyone to a meal from home. On his fourth day, Wang Kai flew back to Beijing, and as soon as he landed, went directly to rehearsals for the Spring Festival Gala. During his trip to Paris, he didn’t have any time to go shopping, or enjoy the local scenery.

Regarding fashion, his thoughts look a little conservative, “With fashion, you have to maintain your own style. What you can wear well, you should wear. Never wear something trendy just to be trendy. Others will say that these clothes are not yours.

Wang Kai rarely wears formal attire in his private life; generally his style is simple and comfortable. But this simplicity is not really that simple–how to dress simply yet have your own style is an art that is not easily learned.

There is another key word to Wang Kai’s thoughts on fashion–breakthroughs. He’s done a lot of experimenting, gentlemanly style, young urban professional style, casual style, but no matter what style, on his tall figure, with his good posture, and handsome face, it is always very good-looking. However, he himself did not think that he is very handsome, and rarely ever takes selfies. Even though barely any agree with his, “handsome yet unaware” beliefs, he still insists that–”I don’t take selfies, when I post selfies, I lose fans.”

The courage to experiment, the courage to create new breakthroughs, this is Wang Kai’s attitude towards fashion, and his attitude towards his work as well. Last year, Wang Kai had many works that were airing, many different roles, none of which were the same, and was always giving the audience a surprise. His fans describe him as, “the actor Wang Kai, one person, thousands of faces.”

“I always want to try new things, because you don’t know if it is suitable for you until you try. Like comedies.” At the end of last year, Wang Kai’s movie Railroad Tigers was released, and the audience was happily surprised to see that Wang Kai, who has acted mainly in serious dramas, could be seriously funny as well. After discovering his talent for comedies, Wang Kai has continued his path of self-exploration. In his newest work, the upcoming The Devotion of Suspect X, Wang Kai plays a genius physics professor, Tang Chuan, accurately portraying the scholarly aura of those from the ivory tower, as well as the pride of a genius. His ability to not become bounded by his characters, and his continual breakthroughs in his characters, must be the self-cultivation needed in an actor.

If you must have him say his reasons for picking up dramas, Wang Kai says that it must be the script and character that has moved him.

He wants to portray a very down-to-earth character, a character that is devoted to life, so that he can truly experience life, and find his way into the heart of the character.

He says that being able to portray a down-to-earth character is extremely difficult, because there is a character like this in everyone’s lives, and everyone will know if you are able to truly portray the character in an accurate, life-like manner. “Unlike most the characters that I have portrayed, whether it is an ancient Chinese drama or a period drama, all of these characters are created, and the audience cannot verify what these characters are actually like from their own lives. So I think, to reach a higher level of acting, the characters portrayed need to be more down-to-earth.”

Looking at Wang Kai’s works from the past two years, you can pull out a long list of them, each being extremely popular. All of these popular works are of the same actor, and he says he is tired but happy. If there was any suffering, he says, “If you’d have to say, the inventory clears out too quickly, [his works air too quickly] and to fulfill everyone’s wants, I have to continue to film, film, film…” After saying this, he presented us with his representative Wang Kai “hehehehe” laugh.

From the past, “being chosen by others,” to becoming so popular and overwhelmed with prospective scripts, Wang Kai not only has to become accustomed to this “acceleration,”but also has to remain clear-headed and have self-control. Not only does he need to be able to grasp opportunities and take advantage of good characters, he also has to be able to avoid over-burdening himself.

So in 2017, he has planned to slow down a little. “Actors need to store their energy, last year I tried what I wanted to try, and this year my steps will slow down a little.” Unlike actors who become famous right after they’ve debuted, Wang Kai has encountered times of struggle when he did not have any works to film. Thus, looking at his previous experiences, he has often been asked in interviews, “Are you afraid of not becoming popular?” A question like this seems to be rather hard to answer, much like asking someone, “Are you afraid of death?” Yet Wang Kai’s answer could not be more brilliant: “I’m not afraid, what is there to be afraid of, starting from nothing. I think at the top of a mountain, there is a very small amount of space, and it cannot hold too many people. You might as well stand up there for a while and then come back down, as it is time for others to have a turn up there. So you must plan out your trip and know when it is time to leave.”

His trip here, was not an easy one, so he is very good at encouraging himself. “My way of relieving stress, is to talk to myself rather often, and comfort myself.” He is also naturally tenacious. As a Leo, he says that the strongest part of his personality is his confidence, mental strength, persistence, and refusal to be defeated.

This is also why he is so assertive. Even when he had no works to film, “I was never anxious. I think that in my life, I didn’t believe that all my work would be for nothing. Of course it was a very unclear voice, not saying exactly when I would become successful, I didn’t know that. Someone once said to me, male actors before 30 years old cannot portray characters with too much depth, because you don’t understand. Film, film good works, and live well, live to after 30 years old.”

After turning 30 years old, success and achievements came to him, as if it was destined for such to happen. Corresponding to his own life, Wang Kai believes in the philosophy that “If you continue to persist in what you believe in, one day you will achieve it.”

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22 thoughts on “LEON STAR|Wang Kai Interview

  • 2017-04-20 at 20:38

    Oh Kaikai, why go all the way to Paris to eat Chinese food? LOL He really is such a gem. I really love his fame and climbing a mountain analogy. It’s a good one!

    • 2017-04-23 at 07:18

      My dad and my FIL do this — their feeling is that everywhere there are hardworking Chinese people and they love Chinese food the best. But I have the same reaction as you!

      • 2017-04-23 at 14:59

        There are hardworking people everywhere…haha. I guess I love to eat food from so many different countries that it seems weird to me to not at least try the local cuisine. The other misconception that annoys me living here in Korea, is that so many Koreans are totally convinced that westerners don’t like spicy food (or that only Koreans can handle spicy food or something). I’m like, hello, there are many westerners who love spicy food – and also other cuisines. There is also some absolutely awful “western” food in Korea, which is really just a terrible interpretation of what someone thinks is western food. I’m guessing that the same thing happens in China. haha. Just like there is bad Chinese food or bad Korean food that has been westernised in western countries.

        • 2017-04-24 at 02:01

          Not to overgeneralize, but I think it has to do with my dad and FIL having immigrated from China. They are very proud of their heritage, prefer to eat Chinese over almost anything else and really enjoy meeting up with Chinese people in foreign places (be it overseas or in a remote cowtown). They feel a hospitality and a familiarity that makes them very happy. As for the stereotypes, here in the US, my BIL always gets a fork thrust at him in Chinese restaurants because he’s not Asian! We just laugh now.

          • 2017-04-26 at 00:27

            haha. I’m actually really good with chopsticks 😉 but I’ve used them since young, so maybe that’s why. We used to get Chinese take-out when I was young and there were always chopsticks in our cutlery drawer. (There are quite a lot of Chinese in South Africa) I think in some ways I’m hesitant to be proud of my heritage. As a white South African, there is too much wrong that white people have done in South Africa. I actually avoid South African expats because I generally end up wanting to punch people because so many expats are so racist it’s not even funny. Even my extended family are problematic. My immediate family though are great, but we’ve all ended up being super multi-cultural and I don’t really fit in anywhere. I don’t feel fully western, but I’m not really anything else. Anyway, I have a complicated cultural background. I’ve already lived on four continents, and speak several languages, and well, yeah, it means I just don’t really fit in. haha. I totally get that sense of community though that you’re talking about. I guess I make South African food and talk about things with my family. We actually all have different country passports because different family members have settled in different places and married someone from another country. Sorry, that was a rather long-winded ramble. Culture and community are so interesting to me.

          • 2017-04-26 at 07:31

            No apologies for your writing. I admire your ability to speak many languages and your multi-cultural life. Isn’t it interesting how family and national/ethnic origin is nothing you have a choice in and how you have to live with it? I am lucky that my immediate family and most of my extended are liberal politically and socially. But I cannot deny that the older generation, particularly the men, hold very racist Chinese views. Intellectual and cultural superiority over other races, a sense of misplaced nationalism (Hello? This is why you immigrated!) As for a sense of belonging, my parents came from China, but stopped speaking Chinese to me and my older siblings because my sister went to school and didn’t know her alphabet. So my parents sort of obliterated our cultural heritage in order to assimilate. My husband is also second-generation Chinese American and knows even less about Chinese language and culture than I do because he grew up in an all-white community. His parents made him join a Chinese social group when he was a teen, but he has a distinct feeling of belonging nowhere. I grew up with a lot of Asian Americans and I am more comfortable in my skin. He doesn’t want to live in a community with a lot of Asian nationals or Asian Americans but he also complains that we don’t fit in where we live now, a very white middle class enclave. So we definitely feel western, but we look eastern, and are treated as????? A hard reality in my current political climate.

          • 2017-04-26 at 07:37

            Oh man! That’s a lot to deal with. Something that really bothered when I lived in the US was how there was this intense pressure to assimilate and conform to a white, English speaking US “norm”. Even me as a white, native English speaker was pressured into acting more “American”. Of course I fought it, but in one way I sort of gave up: my accent. It just got too irritating to repeat myself because people wouldn’t adjust slightly to my very mild South African accent. Now my accent is all over the place and can get quite Americanised at times. I’m trying to reclaim it a little, but it’s hard. Culture really is so complex and interesting. None of us really fit into specific boxes, and I think in the end that trying to make people fit into a certain mould doesn’t really help anyone at all.

          • 2017-04-26 at 07:49

            The likely problem with Americans is that a lot of us cannot speak another language. The ear is untrained and an accent that deviates from the norm is “difficult”. I have a friend that grew up in a rural, religious community in Pennsylvania and she complains that she cannot stand movies with subtitles. Nor will she watch a Jane Austen adaptation because of the difficult accent. Lol!

          • 2017-04-26 at 10:34

            *sigh* I also know people like this. It’s just something I have never been able to really identify with. I grew up surrounded by people who spoke different languages. South Africa has eleven national languages. And the funny thing is that are plenty of people in the US who speak multiple languages, or don’t speak English at all. I was in LA once with a friend, and we were waiting at a bus stop and no one spoke English. I can more or less manage with basic Spanish, but no one there spoke Spanish either. There were several Russian speakers though haha.

          • 2017-04-26 at 12:35

            I can see that! I’m impressed you took a bus in LA. Not exactly a city known for its great public transit system. I always wonder how tourists manage to get around with the crazy freeways and metro rail lines that don’t go very far. When I visit cities in Europe, Asia or even the East Coast, it is so much easier to get around. If you don’t mind me asking, why do you live in S. Korea now?

            BTW, I am filling up your beautiful blog with my comments, so feel free to stop chatting any time! I will not be upset.

          • 2017-04-27 at 17:36

            Haha, it was the only choice we had. My best friend from South Africa was there in LA to receive an award for a project she had done, and I flew in from a different state in the US. We were stuck with public transport, which wasn’t too bad I guess. The main thing was being able to hang out. But yeah, US public transport, even in the big cities sucks compared to Asia and Europe. Even the East Coast public transport I’ve used in the US has been meh in comparison. (DC, Maryland, Boston are some I’ve used).

            I’m totally okay to chat here in the comments 🙂 I love my online friends. By profession, I’m a trained English as a second/foreign language teacher. That’s what I went to grad school for etc. and I’ve been teaching for about a decade. Once my visa was running out in the US (and I didn’t want to stay in the US, for several reasons), I was thinking about where I wanted to go and South Korea was at the top of my list. So I found a job here and so I’m here. It hasn’t turned out to be exactly the positive experience I was hoping for, but such is life 🙂

          • 2017-05-01 at 00:44

            Will you stay in S. Korea much longer? It’s not good to live with too much stress. Speaking of stress, do the heightened war tensions add to your daily worries? Here, we cannot believe the incoherent and belligerent tone of our government!

          • 2017-05-01 at 01:27

            We shall see. I am in the process of applying for new work. I’m like the South Koreans: not worried about North Korea. What I am worried about is that MORON Trump – he is just as batshit crazy as Kim Jong Eun and like South Koreans, we are mostly worried Trump will do something stupid and then North Korea will retaliate. I was more stressed earlier, but I’m less so now. The US is on my hate list right now because so many people seem so gung ho to go to war and it’s my damn life in question.

          • 2017-05-01 at 01:41

            I’m not sure who is crazier Orange Foolious or KJE. Trump is a sub-educated war hawk that has bombed, threatened (via Twitter!!) and brought us close to war in 100 days. I feel like we are living in a nightmare and I just want to wake up. Americans must look like the biggest fools in the world for “electing” him. I am sure he will do all he can’t to obstruct justice regarding any Russia investigations. I live in California, so most people I know abhor him. There were a few I had to defriend on FB because I have no patience for people who support evil. I can’t even imagine living in Asia and having him destabilize the entire region without being able to tell one Asian from another. Speaking of Asia, it must be your bed time! Thanks for being my internet friend. 😍

          • 2017-05-01 at 09:40

            I’m so glad we are internet friends too! <3

            The US have looked like fools before (as other countries have as well). It's the cycle of humanity: too many idiots around LOL Mostly I'm worried about students who lack motivation *sigh* I have several students this semester in this one class who are dead. It's so hard to be motivated and energetic when class ends up being a them not wanting to participate at all. Oh well. My other classes are nice.

          • 2017-05-01 at 12:33

            Is English generally a hard language for Koreans to learn? I have noticed in dramas and in my travels that Chinese people have a better mastery of English than either Koreans or Japanese. Also, why sign up for your class if they’re not even going to try!?

          • 2017-05-01 at 15:45

            I don’t think Chinese necessarily have a better command of English. I’ve taught Chinese students who are awful at learning English (I’ve taught students from all over the world). I think what it comes down to is how long someone has studied English, how they were taught, and I also think there is an element of some people are good at languages and others struggle. I know many Koreans who are excellent at English. I really do think that length of study makes a difference.

            About the students not trying: that’s just a general all students from around the world have moments like this. And sometimes a class just isn’t into learning. Such is life.

          • 2017-05-01 at 22:41

            Do you ever watch the Asian Boss videos on Youtube? The ones about what Koreans think about K-pop or K-dramas are a lot of fun. Here is one about Koreans and Japanese and learning English:

          • 2017-05-01 at 22:52

            I watch their videos occasionally but like this one, I have issues with it. Like his assumption that Koreans and Japanese are bad at English. They’re not necessarily. The style of education of learning English, of fixation on grammar and memorisation is accurate, and the same goes for China, is an education style, and doesn’t have anything to do with (a) how well students can communicate in English or (b) that Koreans or Japanese are bad at English. Honestly, some of the worst English students I’ve taught here in Korea are Chinese in terms of their ability (there are many Chinese students here at my university). But I’ve also had some really terrible Korean students, and some amazing ones as well. I just hate generalisations about certain people being bad at languages. And it also depends on what your aim is and what purpose English is being used for. I really hate the memorisation and grammar fixation and that doesn’t happen in my classes. I make my students talk and write and discuss and use English. It’s a much more student centred class, but that’s also a teaching/education philosophy. Language learning in the west also used to be rote learning and grammar fixated and teacher centred. Mostly, I just want people to not get too fixated on stereotypes about people and their ability to speak or learn a language 😀

          • 2017-05-01 at 23:45

            I agree that people should not get fixated on stereotypes because that will just hinder them. The title of the video is not helpful (might have been used as a clickbait) but what the people in the video are actually saying is that they aren’t taught to communicate. The video itself is about poor teaching methods and some worries about being shamed by others, not an inherent inability to learn.

          • 2017-05-02 at 00:40

            Yup. And my students recognise that the education system hasn’t helped them. Just today one of my students said that the education system needs reform.

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