Another modern spin on the classic Cinderella story is about to be released, just in time for the holidays. You Are The One, a locally-made Cantonese drama, will hit cinemas this Friday.
In this version, a young and hugely successful trader, Finn Ma, meets and falls in love with a girl called Ah Bo. They come from two entirely different worlds, and have to learn to accept each others’ differences and needs.
Directed by local filmmaker and screenwriter Patrick Kong, the movie stars award-winning actor and singer Carlos Chan as Finn, and newcomer Gladys Li as his love interest, Bo.
Ahead of the film’s release, Young Post spoke to the two lead actors about their roles, and what first drew them both to acting. We also asked them for some tips on how aspiring young actors can make it in the industry.
Li says she is nothing like her on-screen persona. But surprisingly, getting into character required her to work less, not more, she says.
“I didn’t really prepare for the role because Ah Bo speaks in a very direct and unfiltered manner, and I’m more of a thinker,” says Li. “I told myself to trust my instincts and not overthink anything.”
Likewise, Chan says he didn’t need to do a lot of preparation before shooting began.
“My character is not very complicated at all, so it wasn’t that challenging,” says Chan. “If anything, the hardest part was to convince myself that I was a rich, handsome, tall guy,” he jokes.
Before he can finish talking, his co-star quickly interrupts him.
“Every single time he says that, I just want to tell him he’s just like his character,” she laughs.
Chan believes that delivering the best performance possible is all about putting yourself in the right mindset. “You just have to believe that you’re the character first, and once you do that, the rest will fall into place,” he says.
Although they’d previously met at parties and events, the actors didn’t properly get to know each other until they began work on You Are The One.
“My first impression of her was that she had a very runny nose,” Chan laughs.
“I knew of him and had heard about him frequently in the media, and he was what I’d expected,” says Li. “But after spending more time with him, I’ve noticed how similar he is to his character, and his playfulness was what made work enjoyable.”
While Li is fairly new to the film industry, Chan is quite a veteran, who has taken on leading roles for more than a decade. He began his film career as a child actor, after being discovered at an early age.
“Growing up, I’d often play in the streets,” says Chan; “and in those days there were a lot of star scouts, who’d hand out business cards to my parents or relatives – that’s how I’d first started auditioning.”
However, it wasn’t until after he won a singing competition in 2003, organised by the Emperor Entertainment Group, that the company signed him up, a move that led to his professional career.
Li, on the other hand, has until recently restricted her work to modelling and short films, so she could focus on getting her degree in hospitality from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
“Unlike some other actors, I didn’t drop out of school to pursue an acting career, because it took way too much effort to get into university to not finish my degree,” she laughs.
“Business-oriented courses are entirely unrelated to my current job, but I had enough free time to pursue other interests while studying at CUHK,” she explains, “Originally, I didn’t think I was going to enter [showbiz], but as I did more acting, I found that acting is what I enjoy doing the most.”
Although many of the city’s budding actors, especially teens or young adults, feel that there’s a lack of open call castings in Hong Kong – very often the auditions are behind closed doors or only open to a select few – both Chan and Li say there are ample opportunities if you’re willing to put yourself out there.
“In recent years, with the films I’ve been in, I’ve always worked with YouTubers-turned-actors, and more so than ever before,” says Chan. “Online platforms are accessible to everyone now, and you might one day get a call from a casting director who’s watched your videos.”
So what advice would the two stars give to their 15-year-old selves? Li says she’d tell her younger self to “have fun and play hard, because you will only get to be a teenager once”.
“You don’t have to worry about your future, because your future is in your hands,” says Chan.
“You sound just like your character,” Li says, laughing. You Are The One opens tomorrow.