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Artsy youth actor Song Jia: I believe in Fate

Song Jia, one of China's leading actresses, a typical post-80s girl. She said she's an "artsy youth" at heart in an interview with Photo:

“I’m sorry I have a cold. Hope I won’t pass it on to you,” Song Jia said politely as we sat down for an interview on a windy afternoon in late October.    

She didn’t strike me as stunningly beautiful, nor a typical gorgeous TV and film star. She just looked like an ordinary girl: tall, slim, medium-length hair with light make-up. She had a smile on her face, and in her eyes too; it was real, not just a perfunctory gesture.

She just took off her coat for the interview. Seeing that I don’t have a camera with me, she asked embarrassingly, “Do you mind if I put this on?” pointing to her green Parka. “I’m cold.”

"I believe in creation."

Then we started talking. While introducing myself, I told her that I just came back from abroad and am now doing this interview on behalf of Her reaction took me by surprise. “Wow! Your English must be very good. Can you recommend a teacher for me? I want to learn English,” she said eagerly.

Touted by the Chinese media as the best English speaker among the Chinese actresses and once the face girl for China Daily, China’s leading English newspaper, her English must be good. I expressed my surprise at her remark: “Oh you are joking.” She laughed. “My English is not that good. But I am good at one thing: imitating. I can imitate a language perfectly well. That’s what an actor should be able to do, not to learn to speak a language, which is logical thinking. Acting is not logical,” she explained.

That’s why she was so good at playing the role of Zheng Yunan in the TV Series China’s Past Events and in her portrayal of a native Tibetan girl in the film Once Upon a Time in Tibet. In both roles, she was able to speak a new language with a natural confidence and fluency: English and Tibetan. These two vastly different yet equally challenging characters are a typical example of her diverse acting style.

“I like to try different characters, to surprise the audience. That’s what an actor is supposed to do,” she said. “She’s never had two similar roles,” added her manager who just joined us. Song nodded in agreement, “I don’t repeat myself.”

As to what kind of characters she prefers to act, Song surprised me once again, “Difficult, challenging ones. I like heavy drama and characters with distinctive personalities.” Which one of your many characters fits this bill?Iasked. “To tell you the truth, all of them,” she said with a smile. “If it’s an easy character, I won’t accept it. I seek out “hard bones” to act. It’s been difficult. But for me, it’s a pleasure. I enjoy the process.”

Song has been known for her diverse roles as well as her precise and genuine portrayal of every character. In 2012 alone, she has won three major Chinese TV awards, including the most coveted Golden Eagle Award for best artistic performance by an actress and the most popular TV actress. When asked how she is able to act so many different characters so authentically, she said, “People overestimate actors and actresses. A lot of the credit goes to the directors. Actors are only helping the directors to create a character in a story.”

She then continued, “The most important trait of an actor is expressiveness. Some actors like to brag about their understanding. But if they cannot convey their understanding through acting, it’s just useless.”

“I believe in creation. I create characters. I don’t act myself. I don’t look for similarities between me and my characters. I am an actor. I don’t want to be able to act well only when the character is similar to me.”

Song suddenly turned very serious, the smile in her eyes temporarily gone, when she said, “Life is short. An actor’s acting life is short, too. I wish to be able to create some good characters that will last. I want to do my characters right.”

That she certainly did. Among the Chinese TV viewers, there is a general consensus that she represents “real” actors, those that make their name through acting, not good looks. When asked what she thinks of this comment, she said, “Oh I’m used to that.” And then laughs, “I’m only joking.”

“I am a professional actor. And I consider myself to be an “academy-ist” (Xueyuan Pai in Mandarin, referring to actors and actresses who have received a degree in acting), she said proudly. “It is not easy for actresses to get recognized. It involves hard work. And I got mine through my work, my characters. I believe in persistence. The audience can see your efforts.”


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