Chinese ingenue Jelly Lin is the breakout star of the blockbuster environmental flick, The Mermaid. After beating out more than 100,000 hopefuls for the opportunity to star in the Stephen Chow blockbuster film, the former model is poised to become a household name. We chatted with Jelly Lin during her recent appearance at the New York Asian Film Festival, where she was honored as one of the brightest new actresses in China.
The Mermaid is your first film role and one of the most successful movies in China, to date. How did you cast for The Mermaid and what is your thoughts on the character Shan?
I really loved The Mermaid as a fairy tale. As for the casting process, I participated in a national audition and competition that was for Stephen Chow’s projects. There were about 120,000 participants, in the initial round. There was voting process on the internet, where I as voted in the top 40. After the top 40, there was a jury that selected 13 girls. At this point, I did acting auditions. I acted out the lines in multiple war walking around, in the style of the mermaid and swimming.
Did you always aspire to become an actress or did you have dreams of another profession, when you were growing up?
I wanted to be a scientist, a philosopher, a lot of different things when I was 7-years-old. People ask you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?,” when you are seven. What I want to do, right now, is to travel the world. I always wanted to do that. Acting is something that grew out of me. I started trying out [for roles] and just started acting.
What are two things you would like English-speaking audiences to know about you?
One of the things is that I don’t think I have emotional intelligence. Also, I can do everything about my look, myself. Today, I did all of my makeup, myself. The only thing I cannot do is to take pictures of myself.
Stephen Chow is internationally renown for his work on movies like Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle. What was it like to work with him?
Because Stephen Chow is a very popular director, he has a very particular style. He also has a really wild imagination. He has a very special type of humor. The crew will feel like something is not particularly laughable, but Stephen Chow will find it really, really funny. And it is hard to figure out what he finds funny or not, but sometimes, he would ask me to do a lot of things, without providing a reason. It’s not always easy to figure out what he will do, the next second. So, he is always trying a lot of new things and he can be very unpredictable.
Did you perform your own stunts in The Mermaid, specifically in the skateboarding scenes?
I did the jumping and I did the entrance, but the middle part was a stunt double.
Your next film, L.O.R.D: Legend involves computer generated effects. What were some of the challenges of filming in this style?
It’s like two very different films. Stephen Chow has his own style and his own sense of humor. So, he would change a lot of the script, on the spot. He would change a lot of things so that you were not expecting to act according to the script. In my next film, the director, Guo Jingming, wrote the book and the film was adapted from the book to the script.
Everything was prepared, already. I filmed with a script and everything was scripted accordingly, word by word. Filming a CG film was very challenging, as well. Whatever was happening in the story, I was lying there or standing there, in the same spot. There is no narrator, there is no production, per se. You’re in the studio, you are acting, but everything else is done in post [production].
Along the same lines, did film the scenes alongside the other actors like Fan Bingbing or Kris Wu? Or is it the case where you are edited in to create an ensemble cast?
Sometimes we shot together and sometimes it was separate. It depended on our schedules.
Were you surprised about the warm reception of the film, which deals with environmental issues?
The success of the film has to do with Stephen Chow. Stephen Chow is a huge director. But the environmental issues are also a big part of it, but I think that it’s the director, more so than the focus of the environment, which is the concept of the film. It’s not a factor in whether or not it is commercially successful.
What is your favorite food in the U.S. or one that you would most like to try?
I just arrived in the U.S. last night. Just now, I tried gelato and I loved it. I had pizza and spaghetti, in the hotel, and I also loved [those foods].
Is this your first trip to New York City? What are some of the sights you would like to see or already had the opportunity to take in?
I am really into hip-hop culture, so I really want to browse all that I can of this. I also want to go see the Statue of Liberty, but it is too far and I don’t have the time.
The Mermaid was one of the featured films at the 2016 New York Asian Film Festival.