Jin Dong and the Art of Acting

“All of my characters, no matter small or large, must be a complete character.”

If his fierce dedication to treating each role as an artwork and his bold criticisms of his colleagues in the pursuit of his art had already begun to make my heart flutter,  by the time Jin Dong started talking about beauty as a social construct, my heart had already soared out of the atmosphere. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that he totally fits my personal construction of beauty.

Her are a few selected responses by the actor in recent interviews, including on his meticulous preparation for his characters, his vehement opposition for dubbing, and his thoughts on Wang Kai, Hu Ge, and the industry. In italics are notes by me.


“Jin Dong tries so hard to build his characters in such crappy dramas” … story of his life.

On fans complaining about his role being dubbed for Nirvana in Fire. Note that Jin Dong, producer Hou Hongliang, and director Li Xue are long-time best friends.
I think fans should complain some more.  Even though I guest starred for (the production team) as a friend, they shouldn’t have gotten someone else to dub me.  About this I have two thoughts. First is my deep hatred and disgust at Hou Hongliang and Li Xue .  Second is my feeling of regret because dubbing makes the voice acting and the visual acting disjoint.  When I questioned them, they proudly told me they got the biggest dubber in Beijing (Jiang Guangtao, who is the male lead in every other idol drama you’ve seen).    But look at the result, you can judge yourselves.

On the standards of acting in the industry and the need to go beyond the script:

If you film one drama right after another, then you’re just using techniques to act.   To be honest, the standards for this industry is too low, and the barriers to entry are too low. This is another reason why I chose to film so few dramas.  I often say that the lines are only the basics.  …   I need to have already spent enough time to have the lines imprinted in my mind  so I can act without thinking of the lines.  Today, I think no matter what the monetary temptations,  before I start filming a drama, I must let myself clear my head. All of my characters, no matter small or large, must be a complete character.  It’s a pursuit I have.  As a person, we must have principles and standards for our actions.

On his previous appearance in a number of idol dramas and crazy war dramas:
As Hou Hongliang often says, the fact that Jin Dong  tries so hard to build his characters in such crappy dramas is a reason that my admiration for you is like the neverending flow of water into the ocean.


I wish I were 0kuo0 and could come up with better captions.

On preparing for a role.  Jin Dong spends about 3-4 hours preparing each day, writing notes on everything from the character’s emotions to the background music suited for the scene.
I’m still writing character profiles.   Sometimes filming time is short and we change scenes frequently.  How do we make sure the production is still polished?   Director Li Xue is meticulous. Even if we film  late into the night,  he’ll go through tomorrow’s lines once before we finish working.  I think it’s an issue of attitude. A lot of people said this series (The Disguiser) is very refined, that’s because we collaborated well and used our hearts.  Li Xue and I  are both very introverted and don’t like to talk to the press, but I told Li Xue we have to.  We have to tell people how we’re doing things. Only when everyone and every production team is doing it this way can we all move a step up, can we influence the industry.



“Wang Kai’s my shidi. I must protect him.” … by shooting him in the shoulder and then sewing his wounds.


On the Lou-Cheng bromance:
Originally, Ah-Cheng didn’t have this many scenes, but in the process of filming, I feel like Ah-Cheng is the only one I can talk to. I can’t have everyone in the show not know my true identity … So for Ah-Cheng we added a lot (of scenes). My understanding is that the fact that the interactions between the characters have reached a point of intimacy without any secrets resulted in this feeling of a ship.  It’s this type of connection where they know what each other means with one look.

I am no David.

“I will act as no David,” so give up on your plans to see him nude.

On whether he’ll take on Marty Sue roles:
JD:  What does that mean?   (interviewer: Marty Sue is a perfect male that all women fall in love with)  How? Confucius said there are no perfect humans.  Even if the audience wants to see a statue, I will act as no David for them.   The script should have some sort of quality and include some higher level of satisfaction.

More on acting:
My principle is always to act with the heart and to show everyone the best.  I think art has a common thread in that it’s not something that everyone can immediately excel at. At least there needs to be something that makes me feel that no one else can act as or reach this level of portrayal of my character.  I think I want to win, it’s an inner competitiveness. Without competition, there’s no satisfaction.


“Who haven’t been skinny? But have they been fat?” @ Wang Kai

On how he feels not being a fresh blood, and gaining 20+ lbs for Ming Lou:
JD: Who haven’t been skinny? But have they been fat? Who haven’t been fresh blood at some point? But did you become learn’ed? Are you well-read? When we were fresh blood, those terms weren’t used.  In each time period, we have different needs, and it depends on the focus of society.  When you couldn’t take care of basic nutrition needs, no one cares what you looks like, no one cares about fresh blood.  It’s an upper-class social construct built upon a society with basic economic foundations fulfilled.  

Advice for fans who’re disappointed to find out he’s already married:
How do I respond to this question?  Study well and become better every day


Back when he was the epitome of the social construction of beauty and fresh blood.

sources: Southern Weekly Entertainment, Who knows ,  Today Morning Express,  Fans-Hall, Sohu, Jinan Daily, Jin Dong@Weibo旭旭等等等@WeiboJin Dong Fan Club@Weibo

37 thoughts on “Jin Dong and the Art of Acting

  1. Wow, I’m so late in my comment…its’ now 2016 and just finished watching Nirvana and The disguiser…wow wow wooooww!! both awesome productions. In the disguiser , like someone before me said, Jin Dong’s character just awesome!! LOVED IT! and unfortunatelly there wasn’t much of his acting on Nirvana, Bummmerrrr! Also hated the dubs for Jin!! Absolutely hated it! They didn’t let his character be! What a mistake. I certainly will watch more of is dramas. Even though he’s not given the main role on those other dramas, I’m pretty sure it will be worth it because he’s an awesomne actor! AWESOME! Nirvana, The Disguiser and Emperial Doctress are my first Chinese dramas to watch and Im thirsty for more. Great productions. THANK YOU!!

    • China has had quiet a series of generally well received dramas lately. Ones that are already completely released include Startling with Each Step and The Legend of Zhen Huan.

      I believe the drama that is pretty hot now that I have not had time to check out is 青云志 that hasn’t had an established English title yet but can be found under The Legend of Chusen and Noble Aspirations on some sites. Not sure what your cup of tea is but Long Ballad or 秀丽江山之长歌行 is also airing now but it may be hit and miss.

      Other dramas that have had pretty good production but I found a bit lacking on the story include Chronicle of Time or Legend of Lu Zhen or any of Yu Zheng’s productions but definitely give Startling with Each Step and The Legend of Zhen Huan a go before trying anything else since those have been able to establish a reputation across much of East and Southeast Asia.


  2. Just read a post from 2009 where you were wondering if Jin Dong would be famous by 40. Looks like he has this year!

  3. I don’t understand…why does he require dubbing when the drama is filmed in Mandarin. Please clarify anyone??

  4. He is very frank and opinionated. I do agree with most of his points (at least, those depicted here) – such as beauty as part of social construct, the low standard, the voice dubbing – but I can’t help thinking he sounds quite self-serving. It’s almost like when I read the interview with Guo Jingming (which was pretty irritating to me). I guess he’s an idealist and I can accept that more than GJM.

    I can’t really comment on his view of NiF, since I haven’t completed the series and have yet to see his scenes. Across blogs and forums, the drama has garnered praises and fandom. While I think Nirvana deserves it (it’s leaps and bounds above the other popular dramas), it’s quite refreshing to see dissenting views here :).

    • Haha, Guo Jingming is totally self-serving. Jin Dong is just spoiled. Hou Hongliang: We must let Jin Dong continue to be spoiled and say whatever he wants.
      I’m just so happy that finally, someone came out and said something against this idea of fresh blood and beauty ruling the world. There was a period when all I wanted was fresh blood to overturn the outdated system, but now the new system clearly places way too much emphasis on looks and “idolness” of the actors. It was refreshing to see a team who doesn’t spend 99% of their budget on actors’ fame.

      • I think Jin Dong is a great actor who looks as acting as an art, in every sense of the word. He is an artist. And like many artists, it’s natural to take pride in your work with hopes of always pushing more, evolving, and growing and refining. Thus, they have strong opinions and high expectations that may sound opinionated. However, everyone (actors) have opinions but many people are afraid to voice them for fear of being judge or condemned. He’s being him and I love him. There are many people who use the art of acting to gain fame, and while fame and recognition is the essence of success in acting, it’s not always taken as seriously as an art form. For example, many idols/singers become actors. While they’re not as verse nor well trained, but because they have a strong fan-base and an audience, they get roles which other better trained but new actors will lose out on. So I get Jin Dong’s words. Plus, he just nailed his role as Ming Tai in The Disguiser so even if I want to hate him, because there are better actors out there, I can’t. He does his job well and what’s not to love about the guy…what’s wrong with hoping for better?

        PS Can someone please tell me this dubbing business in Nirvana in Fire/Lang Nha Bang that got him so upset with the director? Why would he need dubbing when they all speak Mandarin in the drama? Makes no sense… clarify anyone?

        • Many Chinese dramas don’t use on-set recording because unlike American ones, they’re filmed in non-contained studios so there’s a lot of background noise. Even many dramas using original actors’ voices are mostly recorded afterwards (ex. The Disguiser). Because of the actors/recording studio’s schedules, it’s customary for a lot of less serious dramas to be dubbed completely.

  5. Awww I really want to know what Jing Dong’s opinion of Hu Ge is. He and Wang Kai are really close, but what does he think about Hu Ge?

  6. Idk guys. I can see your point with NiF, but I personally ADORED Nirvana. I thought it was great. Like, I guess if I really really had to, I could nitpick on small things, but overall I think Shandong did a fantastic job. I really liked the personal confrontation between the King and MCS in the very end, their last conversation where they both know MCS is Lin Shu. It was so emotional and layered and cathartic.

    Also, about their willingness to revolt, I think I agree with kumaxell. I think Jing Yan and Ni Huang have always been on Prince Qi, Lin family, on Lin Shu’s side. The fact that the king was willing to kill all of them 13 years ago, already put an emotional disconnect between Jing Yan and the King. I think it’d been many many years since the King’s been much of a father to Jing Yan. As a king, the king’s failed on many accounts too. I think Jing Yan always been more on the side of justice and righteousness, not on the validity of the king and court. From the moment the king cared more about reputation than truth, from the moment the King is willing to turn a blind eye to bribery and corruption as long as the public view of him doesn’t change…Jing Yan stopped being loyal to the king. I believe that if he thought he could do better for the country and kingdom, then he isn’t above revolt. I think he was willing to revolt for MCS because they are so close to the end goal. Those who know MCS is Lin Shu wouldn’t possibly stand by and watch as the king kills Lin Shu again, and I agree with kumaxell. As someone who was willing to storm a king-sanctioned FBI essentially for the remnants of his friend’s army, Jing Yan would definitely be willing to storm the palace for a MCS that while he may not approve of, has again and again risked and sacrificed a lot for Jing Yan.

    In the end, Jing Yan tells the king that he will not be another Prince Qi, which I think is the crux of the argument. Prince Qi was someone who apparently never even considered revolt, who till death, believed in the King, his father. Jing Yan is not Prince Qi. Jing Yan may be loyal and just and morally right, he does not blindly trust the king. In fact there is very little left between him and the king. He is not blindly loyal to the king. He’s loyal to the essence of the kingdom, and he no longer believes that the king is true to the essence of the kingdom. If he were to revolt, in his mind, he’s is revolting the king the person, and not the king the representative of the kingdom.

    This is just how I see this.

    • I agree with idarklight on Prince Jing’s suitability to be Emperor. He was wrong in risking the lives of innocents to rescue Wei Zheng and later Mei Changsu. It all reeks of nepotism, but that’s pretty much the basis of these dynasties.
      When Prince Yu said Prince Jing would never be the ideal candidate the late Prince Qi was, Mei Changsu seemed to agree with him, but compared to the other princes, Prince Jing’s a huge step up.
      But I also agree with you and believe they have the right to revolt. At the very least, if Prince Jing becomes emperor, he wouldn’t only care about his reputation when civilians are killed.
      And Nirvana in Fire is honestly one of the best Chinese dramas filmed in like the last decade that wasn’t filmed by CCTV. It may not match up to Han Wu Da Di, due to my personal bias, but it’s still pretty much amazing. The Disguiser may be better, but I can’t watch WW2 dramas because the reality present in those dramas depress me.

    • Don’t get me wrong, NiF is still my favourite drama of 2015 so far. It is very well produced and well done overall. It’s just that having read the book, it could have been so much better script wise at certain points in the drama and the added ending scenes with the revolt and the Emperor’s redemption speech was unnecessary and less subtle than how it panned out in the books (neither of those events happened in the book). Sort of like 画蛇添足 if you understand that.

      What I would have liked to see added instead at the end is scenes/shots of the re-trial of the case. It was skipped over in the book and like almost completely not mentioned in the drama except for that one short scene of Prince Jing and the judges reporting back to him.

  7. I haven’t gotten around to watching Nirvana in Fire, so just curious, is the dubbing really that bad? I actually rather like Jiang Guangtao’s dubbing work, at least what I’ve heard from him.

      • That’s what I thought. I was actually surprised his response to the dubbing was so harsh…but at the same time, I understand what he’s trying to say. He makes sense, but I thought it didn’t detract from Lin Cheng’s character. I rather liked it…

        • Haha, Jin Dong’s reaction was actually the nicest compared to some of the other actors in the crew. I think it’s just that we fangirls don’t really follow a lot of the more old-school actors.

          Wang Jinsong (Duke Yan in NIF) cursed on Weibo and blatantly said the dubbing was weak and and dry. He said that it’s just not the same when you have an actor who’s poured over a character for months versus a voice actor who has like a day to record all their lines.

          For All Quiet in Peking, Jiao Huan was so upset that the producer had to write an open letter of apology. Jiao Huang said he was shocked and his heart pained (震惊心痛), he could not eat or sleep with ease(寝食难安) about being dubbed. He said that voice-acting is an inseparable part of sculpting a character for an actor, and that his regret for this character is “indescribable in words”. He ended by apologizing to the audience.

          • I can understand the actors’ angst because dubbing does make or break a show. I’m all in favor of dubbing when it’s used to make the show sound more cohesive. It hurts me when I watch Taiwan/China collaboration. For some bizarre reason, they don’t dub some of the modern dramas. We would end up with two characters who grew up in the same neighborhood, went to the same school, and had the same group of friend, but one speaks with putonghua accent while the other with Taiwanese accent. (ie. Ming Ruo Xiao Xi) What? You got a head injury as a child and started speaking with french accent? A bit crazy, no?
            If the above is not the issue, they should let the actors be and let their voice acting shine!

            • tbh, I think they should just force the actors to get accent coaches or not hire them if they can’t pull off their own voice, especially in dramas that can use on-site voice recording. There’s no reason why a TW actor can’t be expected to pull off a Beijing accent (props to Eddie Peng for trying! ). Liu Mintao spoke with a Shanghainese accent even though she’s from Shandong, and Jin Dong learned to speak perfect putonghua even though his native accent (also Shandong) is probably stronger than any Taiwanese actor’s.

              Also, speaking in a foreign language or Cantonese when acting, totally not acceptable. Even cartoon characters tries to get the mouth to match the words, surely you can act better than a cartoon character?

          • If the actors are so against dubbing, why did they still choose to dub it in the first place or like call the actors in to dub their own characters? It sounds like these actors would be quite willing to come in.

            I never knew the old school actors were so uptight about these things.

            • All three of the actors mentioned are primarily stage actors belonging to government troupe, so they 1) are not used to being dubbed and 2) have solid government positions and thus do not live from drama to drama on the whims of production teams (aka they can say what they want)

              Wang Jinsong and Jin Dong both said they offered to go in and re-dedub their characters but were rejected on the grounds that the dubbing was decent. My guess is that it’s a combination of Shandong TV not being used to getting dubbed + Jiang’s dubbing team not used to actors who want to dub to their own characters (especially minor ones) + not being able to book a recording studio in time (you need to book months in advance).

    • It’s not bad, but it’s very standard flippant Jiang Guangtao? I think it’s just different standards between most idol dramas versus people who spend their life studying Stanislavski.

      Whereas Jin Dong’s acting is actually quite different from the book version, and I think a lot more toned down and nuanced. It’s kind of like what Jin Dong yelled at Wang Kai about, the difference between just knowing your lines and saying them using techniques to say them versus getting your characters and connecting all the scenes into a real person. It’s very clear if you compare Prince Jing and Ming Cheng. When Prince Jing cries missing MCS, he cries like someone who would miss his long-lost friend. But in the latter, when he cries because of Ming Jing, he cries like Ming Cheng crying for Ming Jing.

  8. I love that it take like 2 hours of photoshop to make that pic of jin dong in NIF look like that. I do like how he played the character, he just doesn’t look like the character. They could’ve cast someone younger and the dubbed voice to make him feel younger make it worse.

    He’s so frank tho, no wonder he doesn’t get that many meaty roles. In this business it’s all about who you know and he obvious doesn’t care about offending people. I’m reading about 池塘四美 and it’s so hilarious the kind of drama fans would go through for their faves.

    NiF literally lost all meaning of the word “subtlety” that they’ve created in the last 48 eps or so. Like the reunion was such a let down because of how they (Hai Yan)try to add the dramatic effect. I need that slow but painful realization and the mutual pinning/pretending not to know that you know thing.
    I don’t know if I should read the original “love me if you dare” since it will make me hate Hai Yan’s script.

  9. Wow. Jin Dong is a tough cookie! After watching his much loved Ming Lou character in The Disguiser, I went back to watch his other dramas. I must say his other roles didn’t impress me all that much (including in Nirvana in Fire). I could be biased because I’m still so hung up with Ming Lou that when his other characters don’t measure up to Ming Lou’s awesomeness I get annoyed.

    • Ming Lou is one of my favorite C-drama characters of all times, so it’ll be hard for anyone to measure up to him. It’s so rare to have a character so perfect yet so complex and who never acts out of character.

      As for NIF, Jin Dong said after watching his own performance in NIF, it affirmed his decision to not take on another ancient drama. Hahahahaha

      Plus, NIF makes me annoyed in general. It could’ve been amazing, but the script keeps disappointing me. After today’s episode, I think the Emperor has every right to kill all of the leads for intent of revolt.

      • They had to change the script to make it more dramatic I guess. I personally liked the intensity of the scene with the Emperor, Prince Jing, MCS and Xia Jiang confronting each other about MCS identity. But I was also missed the book scene where Prince Jing and MCS just look at each other and they both know that he knows but neither of them are willing to voice it – heart wretching.

        But the main draw point of NIF is the visuals, costumes and acting. It’s always unfair to compare novel adaptations because the books are always going to be better but if you look at it on the whole, most of the script has stayed true to the book.

        • It was completely unacceptable that they were willing to revolt for MCS. Prince Jing should be above that, Princess Nihuang should be above that. They have the lives of millions of people in their hands. To risk it for MCS is irresponsible. He would be a terrible ruler, and she is a horrible choice to defend the borders.

          Given that they were willing to revolt in a second, I’m inclined to believe that the Emperor actually killed Prince Jing’s brother because he had the intention to revolt, in which case the Emperor had done no wrong.

          • Valid point. On the other hand, the Emperor is such a trigger happy paranoid tyrant that no one is safe from his persecution mania. They honestly believe that once MCS goes down, it will just be a matter of time for the rest of them. Might as well fight back now. Ni Huang is totally in character. Her alliance has always been with MCS. Jing Wang is in character too. Remember he was all gung-ho about rescuing Wei Zheng? A man he barely knew. Why not MCS, who risked his own neck to make him a crown prince? The only one I’m surprised about is General Meng. Where is your sense of duty, Meng?

            • But General Meng already pledged his allegiance to Jing Wang, so I guess it makes sense.

              As to the revolt, the King by distrusting his subjects with such paranoia already violated the “code of conduct” somewhat, after all, Mencius once said “君之视臣如手足,则臣视君如腹心;君之视臣如犬马,则臣视君如国人;君之视臣如土芥,则臣视君如寇仇。” The King treating Lin Xie and Qi Wang the way he did, it’s no surprise that his subjects would act that way imo.

              • My issue was that he was willing to risk losing the throne via an open revolt for Mei Changsu, not that he was willing to revolt against the Emperor. He is the crowned prince and is inline for the throne. It seems irresponsible to lose it for Meichang Su. Even if he now has a respect for Meichang Su, he should’ve matured enough by now to think of the bigger picture. If not for MCS, then for Lin Shu who he vowed to vindicate

                As for Nihuang, the same. She knows what a revolt can end in. She took on her responsibility at a young age to protect her brother and the people of the borders. She may be willing to sacrifice her own life for MCS, but I don’t think she is someone who doesn’t think twice about risking those people’s lives for MCS.

          • I can accept that part as an act of ‘self defence’ rather than open revolt because the Emperor also called Prince Jing to see him and told General Meng to go away. Given the past history of the Emperor it is entirely possible that he would kill both of them outright in the palace. So the fact that they had a plan B if they don’t walk out by midday is reasonable.

            The part that is completely out of character and let down was in the last episode with the Emperor’s redemption speech and kneeling and asking for forgiveness from MCS. It is not in his character to justify why he had to kill his son and general best friend, yes it is probably true that they had too much power but our Emperor does not like to admit to mistakes. This whole scene was completely out of character and undermimed the message about loyalty and brotherhood that was the theme of the story and what those two characters represented.

            However overall, this is still probably my favourite drama of 2015 because the production, acting, costumes, cinematography and story (minus the last bit) were so well done. It just beats out The Disguiser because of my personal preference of period dramas and how annoying Ming Tai and his girlfriend was.

          • Huh? WHY is it completely unacceptable for them to revolt for MCS? All of them are sick to death of the Emperor, and they WANT the old case to be retried in public. Why should Prince Jing be “above that”? Above what? He’s spent 13 years agonizing about the case. He’s going to retry it, no matter what.

            It’s not like a spur of the moment decision. They’ve planned this out and have made all the backups in case things go wrong.

          • They were not revolting. They were just very hard handed in wanting the emperor to issue an apology by presenting irrefutable evidence and forcing the emperor to admit he was wrong in the massacre of 70,000 loyal soldiers who had fought to their deaths for him. They wanted justice for Prince Qi, Lin Xie, and the rest of the people who lost their lives due to the emperor’s insatiable need to be in control of everything. If they had wanted to revolt, they would have just killed the emperor. They just wanted the emperor to repent and atone for his mistakes, and restore the honor of those who lost their lives needlessly.

            The emperor did repent in the end, didn’t he? By telling Lin Shu how he was a doting uncle and that he was not born evil, the emperor already knew he made a terrible mistake back then. The emperor was just too proud to admit it. During the confrontation where Prince Jing told his father there would never be another Prince Qi, the emperor realized that the loss of Prince Qi was something that cannot be changed. It’s permanent. He had lost his precious son and there would never be another Prince Qi in this world again. So, does this emperor…this father…want to now also lose yet another of his son due to pride? The emperor realized that he does not. So, he agrees to retrial the Chiyan army case finally. Still, there is still a little pride let in the emperor…so he demands that for this case to be reopened, Lin Shu has to really disappear from this earth once and for all…to which Lin Shu agrees. This shows that revolting was never on MCS/Lin Shu’s mind in the first place. He just wants his father and family to rest in peace and to bring honor back to his family’s name.

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