Small Wonder: Interview with Chinese starlet Yang Mi

By Tay Yek KeakMovies - 27 August 2013 12:00 AM | Updated 28 August 2013

Small Wonder: Interview with Chinese starlet Yang Mi

Yang Mi is the It Girl of Chinese cinema.

Girls want to be her and guys want to date her.

Sorry, dudes, she’s singularly hot but she isn’t single.

Yang and her man – Hong Kong actor-singer Hawick Lau – have just been named in a report as China’s most valuable celebrity couple. They nabbed the top spot as MVC (most valuable couple) with a combined net worth of RMB 3.2 million (S$6.9 million) and counting.

That earning power of Yang most surely must have increased substantially with her current movie, ‘Tiny Times’.

The 26-year-old Beijing Film Academy graduate who started acting at the age of four has starred as a fair maiden in numerous period TV dramas (‘The Return Of The Condor Heroes’, ‘Chinese Paladin 3’, ‘Palace’) and films (‘Painted Skin: The Resurrection’).

But she also has the perfect look and modern vibe to connect with China’s urban youth.

‘Tiny Times’, directed by uber-stylo novelist Guo Jingming based on his own bestselling book, has raised controversy in China.

The story – about a group of four girls who are best friends since high school and continue to look out for each other in love, career and relationship in Shanghai – is a cross between ‘Sex And The City’ and ‘The Devil Wears Prada’.

Tiny Times <小時代>, the film adaptation of writer Guo Jingming’s (郭敬明) popular novel trilogy of the same name.   ‘Tiny Times’ is showing in cinemas

Yang Mi

Taking place in the city’s ultra-hip fashion world, Yang plays Lin Xiao, who works for a leading fashion magazine. 

Critics have slammed ‘Tiny Times’ for being superficial and misleading in setting false hopes for China’s young people. But with a good-looking cast that includes Amber Kuo, Haden Kuo, Kai Ko and Rhydian Vaughan, it has grossed more than US$77 million ($98 million) at the box office. A sequel, Tiny Times 2, is already planned.

Also see: Yang Mi gallery

Apparently, the movie's audience in China had an average age of 20 and was more than 80 per cent female.

As the reigning queen of that demographic, Yang Mi shares her thoughts about the film in an email interview with inSing.

What drew you to ‘Tiny Times’?

I’ve known author-director Guo Jing Ming for some time and he knew that I’ve always liked ‘Tiny Times’. When he decided to turn his book into a film, he asked if I would like to be in it. It’s a dream come true for me. Of course, I went for the audition immediately.

There are four girls in the movie, all with different personalities. Are you pleased with playing Lin Xiao, the likeable narrator?

I was deciding between Lin Xiao and Gu Li, the rich, bossy girl played by Amber Kuo. At first, I thought that in real life, my character is more like Gu Li. When I first entered the Beijing Film Academy, I was at a loss not knowing who I am and what I wanted to do. I was reading ‘Tiny Times’ then and I felt that Gu Li is who I wanted to be. I used her aspirations as something to aim for.

However, after the audition, Guo felt that I was better suited to play Lin Xiao and I agreed. If I could choose again, I’d stick with Lin Xiao. 

Lin Xiao is a hardworking and occasionally goofy person who needs her friends to prop her up and give her encouragement.  Are you like that in person?

I like Lin Xiao. Her experiences are similar to mine in my university days  Playing her brought back a lot of memories. But honestly, her personality is very different from mine. She relies on her friends. But I’m very independent when I face problems and make decisions. I will try to solve them myself and I’m not a crybaby. Lin Xiao is the opposite. So when I played this role, I spent some time trying to figure out and understand her state of mind.

The girl clearly has issues with her boyfriend, an incredibly nice guy played by Li Yue Ming. Their relationship is hot-cold complicated. How is your relationship with your real-life boyfriend (Hong Kong singer-actor Hawick Lau)?

I am a relatively calm and rational person. My boyfriend and I often bicker. All couples do. But we don’t quarrel. There’s a difference. When either of us is angry, we will calm down first. At the most, we’ll just not talk to each other for a while and the anger will just disappear very quickly.

I think it’s important to accept that your partner will always have his own opinions and ideas. Our secret is that we maintain our tolerance and mutual trust for each other.

Some critics and netizens online in China have described ‘Tiny Times’ as being superficial and harmful.  It’s the kind of story which promotes materialism and the chase of impossible dreams at all cost, which have set up false hopes for the young people of China. Do you agree with this criticism?

Look, although ‘Tiny Times’ focuses on extravagant lifestyles and luxury brands, that’s just attractive packaging on the outside.  But the inside is more than that. In my opinion, the values the film passes on to the audiences are positive. Such as pure friendship between friends and the point that wealthy girls such as Gu Li also work very hard in their jobs.

I say that 'Tiny Times' demonstrates that young people today are able to adapt well to their circumstances and have positive attitudes in solving problems.

Which is your favourite scene in the movie?

My favourite scene is running on the viaduct highway in the middle of Shanghai almost at the end of the movie. All the girls are trying to get the clothes designed for a fashion show which were accidentally left behind. That scene really gives a strong feeling of friendship, loyalty, togetherness and passion. It’s kind of like the song, Auld Lang Syne. All of us felt that it was our favourite scene.

How will Lin Xiao, your character, develop in the sequel?

Lin Xiao, as I’ve said, is a crybaby. She’s the most ordinary among the four girls. Not so pretty, not so capable, not so funny as the rest. She’s very dependent on her friends and boyfriend for support. But she’s very sincere, takes her work seriously, and she’s the one who keeps the relationships going among her friends. In Part 2, she will lead the audience into seeing more of these situations, both happy and unhappy.

What are your own ideals?

My ideals are very simple. As long as my friends and family are healthy and I am doing what I like to do and working hard with someone I love by my side, I will be contented.

‘Tiny Times’ is showing in cinemas