Actress Annie Liu looks to her future
With enchanting historical buildings on one side and glittering resorts on the other, Macao has become a popular shooting location for Hollywood and Asian film industries. Taiwan-born actress Annie Liu has experienced both aspects of the city in the process of making two films over the past three years.
“Macao is a really beautiful place,” says Liu, who was in the city filming Hong Kong director Fruit Chan’s highly anticipated action thriller Invincible Dragon earlier this year. “Every time I’m here, it doesn’t feel like I’m working at all – it makes me feel more like I’m on vacation. And Macao is very close to Hong Kong. They’re just an hour’s ferry ride apart – very convenient.”
Last time Liu was in the city was in 2015 when she starred in Macao-born
director Sam Leong’s romantic film Guia in Love as a school teacher fascinated by Indian culture.
By way of contrast, in Invincible Dragon the 36-year-old actress co-stars with rising action star Max Zhang (SPL II: A Time for Consequences and Ip Man 3), and Brazilian mixed martial artist Anderson da Silva (a former UFC champion). Liu plays the role of a Chinese medicine practitioner who cares for Zhang.
“The filming of Invincible Dragon took place mainly in Cotai. For [Guia in Love], we spent most of our time in Macao’s old districts. Both areas of Macao have a very different character. This time, we filmed a lot of car chases on the road right outside The Parisian Macao,” she says.
The film, scheduled to be released later this year, features plenty of scenes that will be familiar to anyone who has visited the Cotai Strip. “I have very special memories of that location,” Liu says. To prepare for her role, Liu was required to find out more about Chinese medicine. “I observed how a Chinese medicine practitioner consults a patient, carrying out pulse palpation and all that. The role also required some action, so I trained to improve my flexibility. There’s a dance scene in the movie in which I hoop dance,” she says.
Before taking the plunge into acting, Liu studied industrial design at Vancouver’s Emily Carr University of Art and Design. In 2004, she was spotted and featured in a commercial for a Taiwanese airline. “I hadn’t planned to go into the entertainment industry,” she says. “What I’m doing now has nothing do to with industrial design, but I think that’s a good thing. If I’d studied acting in the very first place and had then become an actress, I might not know anything about other fields,” she says.
It was at the suggestion of a friend that she went along to audition for a part in the 2005 film Ah Sou (aka Mob Sister) – the Wong Ching-po-directed film that was to give Liu her breakout role. In it, she got to play alongside a star-studded cast that included Karena Lam, Eric Tsang, Anthony Wong Chau-sang and Simon Yam. Her role as a mobster’s daughter earned her the Best New Performer nomination at the 2006 Hong Kong Film Awards.
However, the leap towards much wider recognition was to come later - and not from the big screen, but from TV. It was Liu’s role as Ma’ertai Ruolan, the daughter of a Manchu general in China’s TV drama series Scarlet Heart (2011), that dramatically boosted her popularity in China and launched her into the big-time.
After Invincible Dragon, Liu devoted herself to the making of Hong Kong TV station TVB’s epic drama series Deep In The Realm Of Conscience. This took her to Hengdian, Zhejiang province, for six months. “I’d never spent such a long period of time on a drama series before and this was the first time I had to deliver all my lines in Cantonese, so it was even more challenging,” Liu says. “Despite that, it was a very good opportunity to train myself up to see more, and observe more about how other people interpret their roles. It was also physically and mentally demanding.”
The filming of the TV drama series was so packed that the avid runner didn’t even have time to enjoy her favourite workout. “Whenever I had time, I would just use it to sleep and get rest,” she says.
And the pressure hasn’t let up. In 12 years, she’s gone from novice to experienced actress, with more than 25 films and TV dramas on her CV. But she feels there’s still much more for her to learn. Indeed, Liu has yet to find the role that best represents who she is. But she says she now takes her acting much more seriously. “Nowadays, I tell people that this is my career. In the past, I would say this was just my job. It’s a completely different mentality,” she concludes.
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