First up – the script for the film has been completed. I was super excited for it, then super against it, and now just conflicted. (In the “drama version of the book” that advertised itself as “how the scriptwriter wants to present the story” , Ming Cheng was repeated kicked by the Ming’s and at one point felt ashamed that as a servant, he would dare to make fun of the young master. Yes, the USSR-trained and French-educated communist felt like he was acting above his class, and a family of righteous protagonists made a habit of abusing an abused child. I’m counting on my suspicions that these parts were written by a ghost writer, otherwise I take back every nice thing I’ve ever said about Zhang Yong.)
A lesser actor would’ve found it hard to express one emotion at a time, but Wang Kai told Ming Cheng’s entire life story in 2 seconds in this scene here as he finds out the true identity of Ming Tai’s father.
Somehow Wang Kai is able to show that Ming Cheng feels genuinely happy for Ming Tai and his father while expressing emotions that are clearly not all joy. While the first half of the sentence was intended to comfort Ming Tai’s father, as he shifts to the final phrase, his expression and tone of voice changes. The concerned, comforting voice of “this is a good thing” becomes distant in “A wonderful thing” as he is lost in his own thought. At the same time, his eyes also look away from Ming Tai’s father to the distance, perhaps to the father he had never met.
I love how the scene gives just the right amount of silhouette of his emotions, and leaves the rest for the audience to fill in. His own tragic childhood, his concerns for Ming Jing and Ming Tai, his consideration for the rest of the family before his own can all be seen in one expression.
I remember someone saying that their parents were able to guess Ming Cheng was an orphan from this scene alone. I myself gasped when I first saw the scene, since it was the first time Ming Cheng showed any signs of a desire for himself. One of the weakest parts of The Disguiser is the lack of agency in its supporting characters, and this is a rare chance to see Ming Cheng as someone who has his own woes and wishes, but suppresses it for the good of the family and the cause.
A similar scene I highly recommend from Wang Kai is the prison scene in Once Upon a Time in Tsingtao. In it, he guest stars as another revolutionary, orphan, and artist. He is visited by his adopted parents and wife while in prison before being executed. Wang Kai’s so good that even if you haven’t seen the rest of the drama, you can extrapolate his entire life story from the way he acts in one scene.