Wang Ji: I am Chun

Photo: Baidu

“It is the Beijingers in New York which took me to the top of my profession,”  actress Wang Ji said, talking about her rise to fame. But back in the 1990s when the TV drama was made, Wang was not as famous as she is now. In fact, she was among those who were finding it difficult to make ends meet. met with Wang Ji while he was at the set of a TV drama Youth Marriage.

Born on July 20, 1962, Wang Ji grew up in Beijing and fell in love with arts at an early age. She joined a Military Arts Troupe at the age of 14. She was invited by Feng Huang Motion Picture Company to play a role in the movie Saiwai Duo Bao in 1980. After being transferred to civilian work, she became an actress at Beijing People's Art Theatre and participated in the dramas Home and Wedding and Funeral. She was once a host for Beijng TV station.

In 1987, she went to study in the United States, returned the same year and played a role in The Republic Will Never Forget. Soon, her excellent performance in the TV drama the Beijingers in New York (1993) won her the Best Actress Award at the China Golden Eagle TV Art Festival in 1993.

In 1987, 25 year-old Wang came to the US with $60 in her pocket. “I barely spoke English at that time except three words: Excuse me, Thank you and I love you,” she smiled. “My character in the TV drama Chun once said ‘New York is neither heaven nor hell, it is a battle field’, which I agree. When I first came to the US, I fought with myself all the time in order to relate to the environment”

Wang studied at the University of California, majoring in world art and culture. "Life was not easy at that time, I had to work my way through college, just like any other international student.” She said she tried almost every kind of part time job in her neighborhood, including sales, babysitter and hotel manager. Soon after, she found a job at the North American satellite television station.

In the year of 1992 when Wang heard that Director Zheng Xiaolong was planning to film a TV drama about the first generation of immigrants, she offered to play the role of Chun, telling Director Zheng, “In fact, I am Chun.” Wang was right; she interpreted the role of Chun wonderfully and got her herself the Best Actress Award.

An interview with Wang: In the show, Chun is a bold and vigorous woman, a pure realist. Do you think her personality is more in line with American social values?

Wang Ji: Being a realist helps you to adjust to the new changes of environment. In the US, people usually draw a bottom line to ensure their own life quality, even to their friends and families. Comparing to the Chinese way,Americans will only provide help in a relatively limited way which in fact represents differences of the two cultures to a certain extent. Both cultures have their own advantages; however we Chinese do not necessarily like the US attitude.

You have lived in America for more than 20 years by now, have you fully integrated into the local community?

Wang Ji: I believe that experiences before the age of 14 determine your lifestyle. I have strong roots in the Chinese culture and it is hard to change. People like me, traveling constantly, moving among several residences in the two countries, only have a nodding acquaintance with American culture. Ultimately, it is difficult to completely integrate into the American society.

A counter example is my daughter,who was born and raised in the US. Just like most American born Chinese, she looks Asian but acts like a Western person. She speaks perfect Chinese; however I am afraid she does not truly understand the ways of Chinese.

For instance, a reporter once came to interview me in spite of the fact that he had caught a cold. I shook his hand as usual while my daughter quickly withdrew her’s. My daughter politely told the reporter that she cannot shake his hand since she might get infected with the cold and transmit it to her colleagues. That was a typical American attitude. Western people are very direct, and she did not mean to offend people. She sent a message to apologize that night after I told her that the Chinese might consider her behavior rude. “I did not think that much, mom, I thought I told him my feelings in a right manner,” she explained.

After 20 years of rapid development, the gap between the overall strength of the US and China has been narrowed down. What do you think about this change?

To be honest, back in the time when I left China, there was widespread discontent among the Chinese-Americans over the weak points of our country which we could not stop complaining about. However, after living outside our country for 20 years, we suddenly realized the face of our motherland has been changing with each passing day. The great potential of China gave us hope, so we came back.

Yet at this moment, what we have is neither disappointment nor hope, but anxiety. Personally I am worrying about the over exploitation of resources in our country. The environmental degradation is driving people to go abroad for the sake of the basics of survival: clean air, water, safe food, and better medical and education system.

America is already a mature capitalist society which is stable now. In the US, the gap between the wealthy and poor remains at a reasonable level since the middle class accounts for a large part of the population. Most people enjoy a peaceful life here.

As a Chinese American, it is inevitable to be home sick. Yet for many people, years of living abroad can make it harder for them to return home.

If there is a remake of the show, do you have any expectation for your role “Chun”?  Do you think the sequel would be as popular as the first one?

Thanks to the good timing, Beijingers in New York received a roaring success 20 years ago. Back then, many people wanted to go abroad, though few of them truly understood the lifestyle of the first generation immigrants. The show reflected the reality in a way.

Speaking of the sequel, I haven't really read the novel, but I believe in our director Zheng Xiaolong’s talent. After 20 years, my character “Chun” would be more mature and full of unique charm, just like myself. I am looking forward to the new show and hopefully we can impress the audience.







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