Our scheduled photoshoot with actress Yu Mingjia fell on a particularly cool day in June. Taking place at the Four Seasons hotel in Pudong, I followed my colleague into the hotel restaurant to wait while the crew set up for the shoot. It was then that a woman wearing sunglasses and a casual outfit of white and grey sprung up from where she was seated at a table to help me move my chair. Warmly, she says: “Please sit! Tell the waiter what you want to eat.” My first reaction was that this must be someone involved in the shoot, maybe one of the team, but when she removed her sunglasses, I was surprised to realize that this was none other than Yu Mingjia herself.
It’s hard to imagine that this star of such noted works as Shou Ji (Mobile Phone) is so down to earth in real life. Born in Changchun, she grew up under the influence of a father in politics and a scholarly mother. Her outstanding achievement in English while a student gave her dreams of being a diplomat but a love of acting grew in her following a role in a play that changed the entire trajectory of her life. In 2000, she was admitted to the Central Academy of Drama where she excelled. Upon graduation, Yu attained a coveted spot at the Beijing People’s Art Theatre.
I really think that the greatest gift god has given me is my ability to act, because honestly I’m not particularly good at anything else! If not for acting, I’d be quite useless.
Her road to fame was surprisingly smooth, but she is a woman without airs who goes about her life as humbly as when she was still a student. Yu is grateful for what she has: “Over the years pieces of my life have really fallen into place; I have my own life and my family.” Mother to a delightful three year old, Yu jokingly admits that she never does the housework: “I really think that the greatest gift god has given me is my ability to act, because honestly I’m not particularly good at anything else! If not for acting, I’d be quite useless.” Surprised by her self-deprecating sense of humour in this era when stars are so careful with their every word; it’s refreshing to meet someone who is so at ease. “I was never the idol type,” Yu continues, “I was never that pretty and I didn’t have any scandals to interest the gossip news. I’m focused entirely on my profession.”
Her role as the girl-next-door Tong Duoduo in the Jin Hun (Golden Wedding) brought Yu to the attention of the Chinese audience, while her natural performance in Men Di (Ancestry) won her an army of loyal fans. Her character Wu Yue from Mobile Phone had people talking, and she successfully challenged the legendary character Bai Shuangfeng in Du You Ying Xiong (The Lonely Hero). She demonstrated further diversity by portraying two extremely different personalities in the TV show Hu Ci Hong (Red Tiger Thorn).
With so many roles, sometimes it’s amazing to think that this same actress can make you hate or love her characters to such extremes. She specializes in roles that leave a deep impression. To do this, Yu likes to understand her roles on a deep level: “I am a straight talking person, and am very concerned with communication. With a lot of actors nowadays, their problem is that they do not communicate enough… no matter how you stimulate them, it’s all the same response.
For example, sometimes I will think a scene calls for tearful and emotional acting because the story is very tragic, but if my co-star does not correctly reflect the situation, then I cannot act this way because the audience will notice the discrepancy in emotions. That’s when I’ll have to tell my co-star how to act in order to be on the same page.”
Right now, the modern urbanite comedy Tao Hua Yun is being filmed in Beijing for which Yu plays a white-collar woman Zhou Qingqing. Yu reckons that the she shares some similar characteristics with this role: “Qingqing is a typical stubborn and impudent Chinese woman. I am actually similar with her in many ways – I’m that type of person who has clear superiorities and obvious defects, and I live in my own world sometimes,” she laughed. However, the most remarkable aspect I can see of Yu is her confidence and conscientiousness, and most importantly, her honesty.