Yan Xiaopin: Reflecting real life experiences in drama

Yan Xiaopin

Yan Xiaopin played the role of Guo Yan in Beijinger in New York. Twenty years ago, the audience couldn’t understand why Guo betrayed her two husbands. But Yan said she sympathized with Guo because Guo was only a weak woman who didn’t know what she was supposed to do in a new environment.

Giving up the acting career

Yan graduated from the Beijing Film Academy (北京电影学院) in1986. She acted in some TV dramas after graduation. “Fourteen students were admitted to the Beijing Film Academy in 1982, including me, but 11 were left at the end. Seven of us had starred in movies in the junior year,” Yan said.

In 1988, Yan won the Best Actress award in the College Student Festival. When everybody thought she would have a brighter future, she stepped away from acting for two years until she joined the Beijinger in New York crew in 1992. At that time, Chinese cinema was at its lowest ebb and the trend was shifting toward action movies. Some friends persuaded her to act in swordsman movies, but she didn’t want to be involved in the industry.

In 1989, Yan gave up her acting career in China and reunited herself with her husband in the US. “There were not as many TV dramas or movies as there are now, and I wanted to start family at that time,” she said. It wasn’t until in 1993 that she returned to China.

Feeling lucky to join the crew

Yan was working for a Chinese-language radio station. She heard that the Beijinger in New York crew had come to the US so she wanted to interview them. Yan and Jiang Wen had been good friends since college. They were very happy to meet and talk to each other again in New York.

The role of Guo Yan was still vacant at the time and Director Zheng Xiaolong asked Yan to play the role. Therefore, she quit her job at the radio station and joined the crew. She carried the script wherever she went. “I was very lucky that I got the chance because many actresses wanted to play the role at that time. I am not a prolific actress but I like acting very much,” she said.

TV drama a reflection of real life

Yan Xiaopin lived a quiet life in New Jersey for two or three months, where there were few Chinese residents. After the Beijinger in New York was broadcast, many of her friends told her that they felt the TV drama reflected their real lives.

“We cannot say what Wang Qingming and Guo Yan experienced in the drama was a true presentation of the experiences of common Chinese immigrants, but the events do occur in real life. A new environment sometimes forces a husband and wife to change,” Yan said.

Most people couldn’t understand why Wang Qiming abandoned his enthusiasm for music and started to make sweaters, but Yan said it is very common for a Chinese immigrant to do what he/she has never done in the US. “I have an artist friend who is running a clothing factory in the US like Wang.”


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