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Andrew Lane: If you follow your path, things will work out

Andrew Lane at the Café for interview  Photo: Rebecca Lin / 

Andrew Lane Cawthon hails from Dallas (达拉斯), a bustling metropolis in southern US which boasts a host of cultural events, year-round sunshine and evergreen vegetation. After practicing medicine for 14 years there, Cawthon decided to quit his well-paid job, become an actor and then move to Beijing. met with Cawthon at a well-decorated Café in the neighborhood of Beijing Foreign Studies University to talk about his new life and work in the Chinese capital. 

“I settled on An De Lu (安得路) as my name to use here, not only because it sounds similar to my first name ‘Andrew’, but because the meaning of the three Chinese characters ‘安得路’ perfectly match my expectations about life at the current stage,” said the tall American with a warm smile.  

“An (安) means ‘peace—living in harmony with nature and myself’ which is something important to me. And De Lu (得路) means ‘the direction for you to take in your life’. I always believe my reason for being here is to follow my inner heart—my path, or destiny,” he said.

The upbeat tone of the aspiring actor gives an impression that the low-profile man must be satisfied with his current life, or at least confident with what he is now doing.

“I love acting. Over the past few years, I started doing commercials, TV series and some independent movies in the US. The more I did it, the more I loved it, and the more I felt this is what I really want to do,” he revealed.

Acting is now his main focus, and apparently, Cawthon doesn’t regret quitting his job as a licensed doctor.

“Maybe on the outside, it looks not that successful. That doesn’t matter to me. Money is not the main thing that motivates me. I felt I had a commitment to follow my heart, otherwise I may feel regretful later in life,” he said.

However, his inability to communicate in Chinese could be a barrier, as he barely knows anyone here in Beijing.

“You’ve got talent for acting, and you’ve got practical experience in the US. Then, why did you chose Beijing over Los Angeles (Hollywood)?” I asked.  

“I had planned to go to Los Angeles, but decided it didn’t quite feel right. It is kind of mysterious. Ever since my first trip to Beijing in 2010 for a friend’s wedding, Beijing kept calling, there is something there that just felt more like home than Dallas or Los Angeles. I don’t know about past life, but if there was such a thing, I probably had one here,” he said.

It seems he made the right call. In only eight months after arriving in Beijing, he has not only settled down but also participated in two big productions - one TV series called 49 Days (49日) and one movie called First Target (一号目标).

“You have started to play some important roles. Is there any particular role you would especially prefer to try?” 

“I love all kinds of roles. For me, a big part of benefit in acting comes from having an opportunity to find something within myself that I don’t like and to express that in a way that has some benefits,” he said. “For example, in the US, I played some roles of villains, bad guys, in which I had to show some really dark sides of being human. I think that helps me to know who I am, the parts that I like and the parts that I don’t like, the parts I choose to show, and the parts I do not to allow to control my behavior. For me, it’s important to know them, accept them, and acknowledge I’m them.”

“When I play the role of a hero, I get a feeling of confidence, strength, value, worth, a sense of being able to contribute and help others, which is great and also seductive.”  

The actor believes there is always a reason why people hurt others or do destructive things, and so they deserve compassion from the public.

“It doesn’t mean what they do is right. But I think there is always a little child inside that was hurt and then made decisions that weren’t the best ones. For me, if I get to feel the bad guy for a little while, I make a story about why that person is the way he is and send the message out through my performance,” Cawthon explained, “The experiences help me to remember, when I see people do things that I don’t like, that I don’t know what their stories are, and if I was them, I might hardly do any better.” 

Andrew Lane's stage photo from First Target Photo: Courtesy of Fuhan, Andrew Lane's promotion agent 

“It is clear today. But on most days in Beijing, we are surrounded by smoggy air and exasperating traffic. Do you feel bothered by these things?” I asked. 

“There are times when I think that the pollution makes it a place I can’t live forever. But the interesting thing is, usually when I feel I’m at that point where I think the air is a real problem, the sky just clears up. Then there is beautiful weather like today. And then I think, ‘oh, I love it’,” the optimistic actor said.  

“Have you ever thought about moving to other cities in China?”

“Yes, maybe some other place where the air is at least a little better. But acting is my main focus now. As an actor, it’s more helpful for me to stay here,” he said.

And then, Cawthon talked about the real problems that troubled him when he just arrived.

“It is loneliness, that’s probably the biggest challenge,” he noted.

“I need to get used to the local culture. The experiences are quite different. In Texas, it’s very easy to make friends. For example, you can be on a bus, sit next to someone for a minute or two and just start a conversation. You may talk about everything. In this way, you meet people,” he said.

However, it seems to a newcomer that things are quite different in Beijing. “People usually would not talk to strangers and even for close friends, they would usually not hug each other,” Cawthon said, still a bit shocked by the seemingly ‘chilly’ Chinese attitude.

“Would language barrier become a problem for you to make local friends, then?” I asked. 

“No. Although I speak limited and basic Chinese, I speak human. I think people would understand my smiles,” said Cawthon, admitting though that the language barrier sometimes frustrates him at work.

“It hasn’t been a problem for me, because I have an interpreter, although I’ve felt a little bit bothered by my inability to fully understand everything that’s been said. It helps to know what other people are trying to do. I would try to cooperate, or at least not get in the way,” said Cawthon, confiding he really misses being able to understand everything that is said on the set.

“If I could understand what other people’s objectives are, I can help with that. And I would feel more like part of the team.”

Now, Cawthon has found a personal Chinese teacher to help improve his language proficiency as quickly as possible.

Andrew Lane's stage photo from First Target Photo: Courtesy of Fuhan, Andrew Lane's promotion agent 

“Then, except for the language barrier and culture shock, are there any other things that you need to get used to, such as a different work culture?” I asked. 

“It’s quite a different experience,” Cawthon answered. According to him, the main difference is that in the US, the Worker’s Union has a real impact on the industry.

“Everyone has his/her own job, and they know quite clearly what their expectations or limitations are. So, they would not do anything that’s not part of their job. They also don’t work past certain hours. When they know it’s time for a break, it’s time for a break. They have a clear sense of time limits,” he said, “But in China, it seems like there is an attitude that let’s work until the work is done. Everyone would just do what they can to make it happen.”

But Cawthon doesn’t make a judgment on this particular Chinese way of work.

“I’m ok with it,” he said simply.

When asked how he could get noticed in such a short time especially considering he didn’t know Chinese or anyone special here in Beijing, he said, “I believe everyone has a gift to show to the world; and everyone has a path. If people could follow their internal path, things would work out better.”

Andrew Lane at the Café for interview  Photo: Rebecca Lin / 

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