CCTV Culture Spotlight: Xiaozhan | An Idol’s Self-Cultivation

As soon as Xiaozhan appeared on the Spring Festival Gala stage, the audience began to cheer fervently; Xiaozhan’s popularity is evident.
The short skit “Like You, Like Me” starring Xiaozhan and Xie Na uses a fresh and simple style of acting to portray the concept of love for “Indoorsy Men and Women”. Based on the data, Xiaozhan is at the top of the most discussed ranking among actors on Spring Festival Gala.

As a currently famous young actor, Xiaozhan has his own “data”:
On Jan. 9, TMall data showed that Portrait Magazine with Xiaozhan on the cover sold 100,000 copies within 3 seconds; on Jan. 11, in “Weibo Night”, Xiaozhan topped the ranking with 380 million votes and was crowned “Weibo King” of 2019; when he’s featured on the cover of fashion magazines, the applications crashed continuously on the day of opening sale.

With this popularity, Xiaozhan maintains hard to come by composure, and just hopes to do his job well.

In 2019, Xiaozhan was labeled as having “shot to fame overnight” through his role as Wei Wuxian in The Untamed. In reality, Xiaozhan’s path has not been smooth sailing, he often says to interviewers: “I came from the bottom, so I’m not afraid to return to the bottom.”

The short skirt “Like You, Like Me” is set in Qing Cheng Shan, Sichuan. Xie Na plays the role of the tea shop owner, she has played matchmaker for many guests but has no love life of her own. Xiaozhan plays a dentist, who bonded with Xie Na online, and bravely approached her to confess his love.
“It was my first time doing a short skit, the audience is hard to engage,” Xiaozhan said. “We need to control the rhythm on stage. When some punch lines didn’t make an impact, we can’t worry about the reaction of the audience, we need to continue on and can’t mess up our rhythm. We did a lot of mental preparation backstage.”

Xiaozhan hopes that the audience will get the message from his role, “You need to declare your love out loud, do your best at anything you want to do, and don’t leave any regrets.”

This is also in line with Xiaozhan’s outlook on life.

At the age of 23, Xiaozhan attended “Xfire”, a development audition show, and made his debut as the main vocal of Xnine. But unlike his group members, being a celebrity is a “second career” for him.

From a young age, Xiaozhan learned art, violin, go, calligraphy…he attended a leading middle school and high school. He is a real “good kid”. In university, he studied design, paid attention in class and in his spare time managed his own design studio. He’s sold logos he designed, did his internship at a design company before he graduated, and successfully found a job.

Xiaozhan used to say, “Since it’s what I chose to do, I will do my best, whether it’s as a designer in the past or as an artist currently.”

When he was confirmed to debut, the 23 year old Xiaozhan started doing basic training, and he worked his hardest at dancing and singing. At first, he felt like he had more free time than even the trainees in the company, and he felt lost. For a while, he even had no income, and lived off his savings. But he didn’t just wait around, instead he tried his hardest to expand his horizons.

Going into acting was his own idea. When he went to auditions, he hadn’t even been to an acting class. He met the director, got a slip of paper with a plot summary, and had to act. Xiaozhan didn’t find it awkward, if it’s something he’s set his mind to, he will give it his best effort, and try to capture every opportunity.

For “The Wolf”, they filmed in Shangri-La, in order to more accurately portray his character, Xiaozhan slept in a tent and didn’t shave. Aside from spending a lot of time filming, Xiaozhan also had to go to acting class and write performance reflections, then continue to film the next morning.
Because of the high altitudes, his eyes couldn’t take the strong UV rays and became UV sensitive. His eyes were irritated and swollen, but in order to not delay the filming process, Xiaozhan persisted until wrap up.
In 2019, four years after debut, Xiaozhan finally got his lead role – Wei Wuxian.

The exceedingly handsome young man appeared before our eyes, dressed in black and flute in hand. With just a shift in his gaze, he can be the willful and carefree youth Wei Wuxian, or the strange and evil Yiling Laozu.
“The Untamed” is adapted from the popular novel “MoDaoZuShi”. At first, fans of the novel did not have high expectations for the adaptation. Filming for this drama took four months, the directors formed three groups, and they filmed from morning to night. Back then Xiaozhan didn’t find it difficult, as long as he can get some sleep he’s fine. He likes Wei Wuxian, he thinks this character feels alive.

When filming The Untamed, in the heat, Xiaozhan had to eat and swallow raw fish covered in glue, and bear with the eye infection from his scenes underwater. He is a dedicated person, he hopes to be seen by more people, and he’s working hard for that.

After the drama aired, it’s Douban rating soared to 8.2 from the initial 4.8, and Xiaozhan became the top young actor. Xiaozhan didn’t get an inflated ego after his explosive popularity, and constantly reminds himself to stay grounded.

Xiaozhan sincerely expressed his gratitude for the voice actor’s contribution to the role, “The voice actors really helped us so much, and added so much more to the character.” The popularity of a character can lead to its actor getting ahead of himself, but Xiaozhan is grounded and self-aware, and he is grateful for everyone’s hard work.

No matter how others see him, no matter what position he’s in, he remains kind to the ordinary people – that’s a quality that shines in both Wei Wuxian and Xiaozhan. Endless articles talk about how he shot to fame overnight, but he always says he’s just a regular worker. He remains humble, sensitive, and holds firm to his original aspiration, that’s what he’s always insisted on doing.

In the farewell concert for “The Untamed”, the MC asked the actors to show some photos fans haven’t seen before. He shared a picture of the sky above the roof, and he said, “This was how I felt then – even if the roof is pushing life down on you, there is hope for another sky.”

Dieting, bearing with hunger, cold, and lack of sleep, wearing summer clothes in winter is the common state of a celebrity’s work. He doesn’t drink water before filming because he looks better on camera dehydrated…Xiaozhan strictly follows the “rules of the profession.”

Xiaozhan is 183CM weighing only 63.5KG, and this isn’t his lightest weight. He also used to think that for his height, 75KG wasn’t heavy, but when he saw himself on screen, he began to harshly manage himself.

He describes his occupation, “Being a celebrity is just a job. I don’t like it when celebrities put themselves on a pedestal; today you’re the interviewer, and today I’m the interviewee. We work together, so that we can both do our jobs. Coming here today to do this photoshoot is my job, and every staff member here is doing that job, just the nature is different.”

Whether it’s in regular interviews or at events, Xiaozhan maintains this attitude toward his job, real and professional.
“Why must you be rude to be real? For people like myself who were raised in families with strict rules, being polite and restrained is the real me. Being ‘real’ is different for everyone,” Xiaozhan said.

Xiaozhan is sensitive but not fragile, he has his warmth and his persistence. “If someone thinks I’m just goody two shoes, it’s probably his first day knowing me,” Xiaozhan said.

A while ago, in Sina Weibo Annual “The Most Beautiful Performance” short film “Buying Ears”, in order to portray the role of a delivery boy working in the big city, Xiaozhan didn’t concern himself with makeup, or whether he looked good, he just hoped to serve the role, and successfully completed the collaboration with the director.

Director Solon commented, “He’s pure from the bone, and his appearance reflects his personality. When portraying a role, he pays close attention to life, and puts away any idol burden to enact the character. His acting is a pleasant surprise, and he adds his own ideas, his performance is relaxed and there’s depth.”

During early show recording, Xiaozhan practiced dancing to the point of his toenail falling off, he looked up and only asked the doctor, “If the toenail falls off will it grow back?” When he received affirmation, he smiled happily.

Recently, in the variety show “Our Song”, Xiaozhan collaborated with Na Ying and sang “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” Regardless of who his partner is, Xiaozhan remains calm and collected, and holds onto his own style. Notable music producer Liu Zhuo also commented that he’s bright and pure.
The director of “Like Me, Like You” Zhao Kai also mentioned Xiaozhan’s pureness, “You can see a certain innocence in his eyes, he has an unimaginable purity to his acting.”

Clear eyes, sincere gaze, the dentist Xiaozhan portrayed on stage a refreshing. “Xiaozhan is excellent, he’s very suitable for this kind of “warm” script,” director Zhao Kai said.

He does everything to the best of his own ability, he’s not afraid to put aside burdens and uses sincerity to touch people’s hearts. He is considerate of all the affection he receives, and does not betray any of the love, that’s why so many people like Xiaozhan.

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