Homegrown star Li Nan Xing’s popularity now spans even Taiwan — Weekender finds out the veteran actor’s thoughts on filming overseas and the secret to his youthful looks
Buying into Li Nan Xing as a bad boy is easy. Sitting before the press, Nan Xing ge [meaning “brother”, as he’s known for his seniority as an actor] commanded the crowd with his quiet charisma, which has become well known in his tough anti-hero roles such as gambler king Yan Fei (from “The Unbeatables” trilogy) and ex-convict Tian Yibang (“On the Fringe”).
His on-screen personas have also earned him popularity with Taiwan viewers. His first Taiwanese drama, “Justice Heroes”, recently debuted with him in the same bad-boy role that many viewers have grown to love.
Nonetheless, once our interview started, his stoic silence gave way to candid and animated laughter.
Nan Xing spoke to us together with Constance Song, the only other artiste under his talent agency, LNX Global. They recently signed on as ambassadors of beauty brand MU.
Nan Xing may share the same age as Singapore (50) but the dashing actor still looks as young as ever. Could this be linked to his endorsement of MU products, or does he have other health or beauty secrets? I quizzed the youthful TV legend about his looks, his life and his years in showbiz.
You still look handsome after so many years. How do you take care of your skin?
I use hydrating gel that helps to hide my wrinkles. [laughs] I also pack loose powder. I don’t really like using a lot of products — I’d rather look rugged and masculine than soft and supple.
I also drink MU’s collagen drink a lot. I drank it three times every day when I was filming in Taiwan. There’s a peach flavour that I kept thinking about.
What do you miss about your younger days?
In my younger days, there were certain places with food stalls that had a distinct aroma. When I walked past these places, I would smell it and think, “I’ve reached.” That feeling is gone now.
Except for Chinatown, where I can sometimes still catch that nostalgic scent from the past, a lot of places have changed. I think it’s important to preserve that kind of nostalgia.
Do you have any indulgences?
After every project, we usually have a break of three weeks to a month when we go all out and feast. I eat a lot — like with durian, I must try from D24 all the way to Mao Shan Wang.
I especially cannot resist curry chicken. It’s hard to control. There are temptations everywhere!
How do you manage to keep fit then?
I go running for one-and-a-half to two hours to sweat it out. Sometimes people recognise me and run together with me!
When I feel lethargic and unfit, I remind myself to cut down on unhealthy food, and not eat oily stuff for all three meals. After all, I’m ‘SG50’ too, so my metabolism isn’t as good as before!
Has your acting changed throughout the years?
When I was younger, I would always act more mature. When I first started acting, I also came across as an ‘uncle’.
But now it’s the reverse — I need to act young! The struggles of growing old have caught up to me.
How was filming in Taiwan different from in Singapore?
When I was filming overseas, I was more impatient. A lot of decisions were made at the last minute, so I had to be prepared and ready to go at any moment. It was like going to war!
It made us cherish time more, as we only had a few seconds to think of how to do the scene. There were no NGs. [Short for “No Good”, or out-takes.] Filming in Singapore is a lot more comfortable.
To you, what makes a good actor?
Every actor has to be willing to learn in many different aspects. He or she cannot be scared of failure, and must dare to always try new things. Even if it’s something you’re not good at, you can still improve by trying again.
Some actors don’t take criticism very well — they start to feel uncomfortable, hurt or sick. We shouldn’t be like that.
What criticism do you receive the most?
People say I don’t know how to dress. When I go for events, people tell me to dress a certain way but I am who I am! I don’t want to dress myself to look like a bird of paradise. [laughs]
I believe in being natural and, to me, a T-shirt and jeans is the most natural. I don’t like going for events where I have to squeeze myself into a tuxedo.
How do you deal with criticism at work?
When I get feedback that I didn’t perform a role very convincingly, I tell myself it’s okay; if I get a similar role next time, I’ll do a better job.
We shouldn’t be afraid of criticism. Instead, we should be open to it and use it to improve.
Is there a new role you would like to try next?
I would like to play the role of a go-between in a relationship. [laughs] A mediator who gives advice to a couple.
Constance, how is it working with Nan Xing under his agency?
Constance: He’s very funny! It’s very comfortable working with him. I’m very well taken care of.
Can fans look forward to any collaboration between the two of you?
Nan Xing: Not yet! For now we’re both very busy with our own schedules. I’ll be filming “Dream Makers 2” until November. After that, from December, I’ll be filming in Taiwan for half a year. I might be filming in China as well.
By Pamela Chow
Li Nan Xing and Constance Song are the new ambassadors of MU beauty products.
Nan Xing’s Taiwan drama, “Justice Heroes”, airs on VV Drama on Demand, StarHub TV Ch 857.