Chinese pop sensation Jackson Yee is arguably one of the most popular teen stars in China in recent years.
The youngest member of Chinese boyband TFBoys, Yee already has 78 million followers on weibo. To put things into perspective, that figure is already more than 2.5 times the population of Malaysia.
At just 18, he is the youngest personality among the Top 10 stars of the 2019 Forbes China Celebrity 100 List, which was released last month.
According to Admaster, a Chinese data solution provider, Yee is currently the No.1 star on the list of China’s most commercially valuable celebrities of 2018.
In April, he was invited to represent China at the United Nations Economic and Social Council Youth Forum in New York, where he spoke at length about youth empowerment.
Transitioning from child star to teen idol, Yee looks set for greater stardom with his latest project The Longest Day In Chang’an, which has been said to be pushing artistic boundaries and setting a new standard for Chinese entertainment.
The 48-episode historical suspense drama is adapted from a novel by Chinese writer Marberionius (Chinese name Ma Bo Yong).
In The Longest Day In Chang’an, Yee portrays Li Bi, the young commander with Counter Terrorism Unit, that’s fully equipped with the most advanced technology available during its time.
After detecting some terrorist activity by mysterious outlaws in the capital city Chang’an on the eve of the Lantern Festival, Li Bi makes a bold and risky decision by recruiting death row convict Zhang Xiaojing (Lei Jiayin) to solve the case within 24 hours.
In “the making of” video, director Cao Dun said Yee was the first cast member confirmed for the drama. He was of the opinion that Yee was especially suited to portray the role of the genius Li Bi, as it required similar life experiences to grasp the nuances of the role. He meant to draw a parallel between Yee’s own career path and that of Li Bi as both had an early head-start at the age of five and have had to work with adults and people very much older.
In an email interview, the teenager shares his thoughts on playing this role.
In ‘the making of’ video, you said that you read the book to gain insight into the character. What do you like best about the version of Li Bi you played?
Right from the start, I found the story told in the script to be especially captivating.
Then as I got to know the character of Li Bi, I felt that we had similarities in various aspects.
Starting from his childhood, Li Bi grew up in the public eye, under intense public scrutiny and high expectations. Since young, we have been shouldering certain responsibilities, both personal and from the public.
Li Bi is a practitioner of Taoism. The way in which he conducts himself and handles matters is a combination of his personal philosophy of Taoist concepts and unique perspective.
He is particularly calm and decisive. This is what I hope to learn from him.
You were only 16 when you were cast as Li Bi who’s 23. What did you find most challenging or exciting about your role in this drama?
I was all right dealing with the relationships between Li Bi and Wolven Squad, Longbo, and the Grand Chancellor.
But within the Counter Terrorism Unit, in particular with those who are relatively close to Li Bi, it was more of a challenge to deal with the changes in their relationships, and to control and adjust emotions accordingly.
Also, a large portion of Li Bi’s dialogue is in ancient prose, so that makes the speech somewhat awkward, which can be a bit challenging to pull off.
Many viewers have praised the attention to detail in the production of Tang Dynasty costumes and buildings as well as props like the miniature 3D models of the city blocks. What kind of preparations did you have to make for your role?
I did conduct some prior research of Tang Dynasty, the life story of Li Bi as well as the story of his relationship with the crown prince.
As Li Bi is a Taoist practitioner, I spent some time to develop some of his characteristic behavioural traits, habits and etiquette.
Since The Longest Day in Chang’an is quite an action-packed drama, Li Bi has some action scenes even though his scholarly character is an intellectual hero. What are some of your more memorable action sequences?
The action scenes were still all right as there weren’t that many. But, Li Bi gets beaten up quite a lot.
I spent quite a while learning how to ride a horse. It was fine when the horse was trotting along at a slow gait. But when the horse was galloping, I found it quite tough to grasp the rhythm.
Can you tell us about your upcoming plans?
I hope to take on more acting projects, and to produce more good work, and to learn more things.
Chiefly, I wish to attempt more unusual roles, the sort of unconventional characters that are not often seen in film or television now.