Striding into the studio in a hoodie and faded denims, the 28 year-old actor Joseph Chang waved insouciantly to the team who was waiting for his timely arrival. Standing at 1.79m, Chang towered over almost everyone in the room. From his casual getup, he could have been mistaken for a model rushing between castings and photo shoots. Indeed Chang did a brief modelling stint before moving onto the big and small screens. Sporting a neat crew cut complemented by a healthy glow from having spent hours under the sun, Chang is the ideal of masculinity, in sharp contrast with the overly-groomed boys of Korea that dominate the Asian entertainment scene.
Best known for his laudable performance in the critically acclaimed 2006 Taiwanese film Eternal Summer which earned him two Golden Horse Awards nominations, Chang’s versatility and acting skills need no introduction. His recent collaboration with fellow Taiwanese actress Rainie Yang in Drunken to Love You was a huge hit and garnered rave reviews (ultimately attributed to the unequivocal chemistry with pop queen Yang). Chang’s mega popularity is also due in no small part to his starring role in many a music video, including those of renowned acts like Hong Kong’s queen of pop Sammi Cheng, as well as pop sensation S.H.E.
What’s worth mentioning is not just the ease of the shoot, but rather how giving and professional the actor was. His jet black eyes were constantly fixated onto the lens of the camera with a gaze so intense that one could literally get lost in them. With never a moment of wilfulness, Chang held onto his brooding alpha-male demeanor through the long photo session (his professional, co-operative attitude was definitely worth applauding); However, once he was off-set, he became relaxed and candid. During the interview, he was more than willing to reveal his softer side as the self-confessed nostalgia junkie spoke fervently about his new film and his take on romance. Despite the cool and manly exterior, I believe that there is a raging romantic deep down inside.
What are you currently busy with? What are some of the new projects that you have undertaken?
I have just finished filming the movie, Girlfriend Boyfriend. We are now waiting to proceed with the audio editing, to make the necessary changes to the recordings.
Could you tell us more about the movie? Is the character you’re playing any different from all the other roles that you’ve played before?
It is basically a romantic story that revolves around the lives of three people, and we follow them on a journey that spans over 30 years, with major historical events in Taiwan forming the backdrop. This time round, the character that I am playing is very unique, very different from the other roles that I have played. In this movie, I play an introvert who assumes a pretty interesting role within the group. He’s the invisible man, he does not actively participate and he doesn’t speak much. But deep down inside, he is very emotional; he has a lot of thoughts going through his head all the time. Personally, this is a great challenge as throughout the entire movie, he only has a few lines, perhaps not more than 10.
‘‘I could spend the whole afternoon on the surf board in the sea, soaking in the sights and sounds, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.’’
Do you prefer to act in drama serials or movies?
I actually enjoy acting in both genres as they each have their own merits, rewards and experiences. In a movie, there is more time for preparation, as compared to a drama serial. The long preparation gives me the opportunity to learn to become a better actor. Often, the movie director would give you free rein to interpret the character, and this is where the preparatory work comes into place. It is the actor’s responsibility to not only deliver what the script requires, but also to emotionally engage with the role.
On the other hand, the experience in a drama serial is slightly different. On television, the audiences are more in control as they can easily switch to a different channel. You not only need to capture their attention within the first few seconds, you also need to convey the message across effectively. The audience should be able to tell almost instantaneously what you are trying to bring across. You need certain techniques that are accurate and to the point. It is like providing bite-sized information, unlike in a movie where there is more space for character development.
Having been in the industry for 10 years, what do you think is your greatest achievement?
It would have to be that I am able to perform and do what I like, as well as the life lessons that I have gained. I have learnt a lot during the 10 years. Back then, I was shy and I would get apprehensive meeting and speaking with people. Also, I think I was pretty naive; let’s just say I didn’t know myself well as a person. But through the years, I’ve come to understand myself better. Overcoming my fear of meeting new people is my greatest achievement.
‘‘I would stop by my regular coffee joint and the warm aroma of roasted coffee beans would instantly evoke memories that are dear to me. I could even be driving in my own car on the way home, immersed in the familiarity of the streets, the buildings and even the people. This I find very romantic.’’
Was the transition from modelling to acting smooth for you?
I was only modelling for a short period of time, and to me acting is more or less similar. Both were entirely new to me and both needed me to interact with a lot of people which wasn’t something I was exactly good at. It was embarrassing and intimidating at the start, but looking back, it was definitely well worth it.
Your versatility in acting is evident in Eternal Summer, are there any other roles that you would be interested to try out? Perhaps a villain?
To be honest, I have never thought of any particular role that I might fancy. I treat every experience and every role as a challenge, even if it might be a similar one that I have played in the past. A villain would be an interesting consideration though.
Having starred in so many MVs, do you have any intention of recording your own album?
No, it never really crossed my mind. I guess I prefer acting more and it is not something I want to give up just yet.
Where would you consider being the most romantic getaway destination?
Frankly, it would have to be the city of Taipei. Maybe because I was born and raised here, and I feel attached to the memories of being at home. I am often abroad for work and when I return to Taipei, I would stop by my regular coffee joint, and the warm aroma of roasted coffee beans would instantly evoke memories that are dear to me. I could even be driving in my own car on the way home, immersed in the familiarity of the streets, the buildings and even the people. This I find very romantic.
What is the most romantic thing that you’ve done for someone special?
I did a short film with myself in it, expressing my feelings towards the other person.
What do you like about spring?
My most memorable experience of spring would be the times when I used to surf in my younger days. The sea water would be chilly but yet you’ll still be able to feel the warmth of the sun’s rays. This climate is so ideal I could spend the whole afternoon on the surf board in the sea, soaking in the sights and sounds, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
In terms of fashion, what do you think is your personal style?
I am a very laid-back person and this is reflected in my sense of style as I tend to dress casually. I think it is important to be comfortable with what you’re wearing. I would say I am a minimalist, I like items that are plain and simple.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I am not someone who will look that far into the future, I truly believe in living for the moment and enjoying every single second of it. I don’t have grand plans for the next five years as I believe that where I’ll be in the next five years depends on where I am right now.
Photography: Jiang Minshi
Styling: Daniel Goh
Styling Assistant: Marcus Soh