Vic Zhou, From Prince to Prick

Although Meteor Garden was an instant hit that pushed the genre of idol drama to the center stage of Taiwanese entertainment, I didn’t care for it.

Suffice to say that for an idol drama, a pretty face supersedes the ability to act — with few exceptions. For that reason, Meteor Garden failed to reach me on an emotional level. But since then, the pretty faces who owe their thanks to Meteor Garden have grown and became more than just another pretty face.

In a recent interview on Shen Chun Hua’s Life Show (沈春华Life秀), Vic Zhou — the brooding Hua Ze Lei from eight years ago and the now gallant Chen Zai Tian — unveils stories about his childhood, family, relationship, and how he has changed over the years.

I was impressed with the unassuming way in which he presented himself. He is not a great speaker, but a candid one that demonstrated his family value along with a sense of maturity and a willingness to embrace the past.

Here is the interview:

Entering the Entertainment Circle

Most people already know that Vic being chosen for Meteor Garden is a pure accident. He was accompanying a friend to the audition and his “lonely back” appealed to one of the employees there. He is hence called in for an interview.

“They asked me, ‘Are you interested in being an actor?” And I said, ‘No.’ They were stunned by my response because they were expecting a yes or enthusiasm at the very least. Why would anyone say no to such a wonderful opportunity? They were surprised and I was too. When I went home, I told my mother about it — you gotta know, my mother is one of those people who really wanted to be famous — so she said, ‘You’ve graduated from high school, you’re still trying to get into college. While you have the time, why don’t you see it as a part time job offer and try it?’

“So I thought about it and getting a part time job sounded like a good idea. Somehow, a part time job turned into a full time career.”

Childhood

Parents’ Divorce

His parents divorced while he was in middle school, which contributed to a period of self-imposed isolation.

“This is definitely the biggest turning point in my life that altered my personality. I remember they had their divorced over a long break.

“In the process of the divorced, I was the only one that acted indifferently about it. Because I didn’t understand the situation. I don’t think I was mad at them, I don’t think I thought anything would be different. Mom left, I can still call her, nothing should be different.

“And then school started. On the first day of school, one of my teachers asked me to stay after the flag ceremony. There was only the two of us and the first thing he said to me was, ‘Are you ok?’ I knew what he meant and right there, I let it all out. (He meant crying.) I didn’t know why I would have such a big reaction. Even the teacher was taken aback. He had to console me that things will be okay.

“After that, I realized how much I’ve been suppressing my feelings. I acted like nothing is happening until something or someone touched the soft spot and broke all my defenses.

“Ever since then, I started closing myself off… It’s funny, every year, we would get money for Chinese new year. I would always save it to buy stuff for my room. I was constantly thinking about my room. I wanted to fill it up so that I could just shut the door and shut everything out.

“When I came back from classes and see my dad in the hallway, I would nod and go into my room. If I saw my brother, I’d do the same thing, nod and go into my room. Once I close the door, it’s a whole other world. I can turn on the TV, play video games, listen to the music, and do whatever I want in there and cut off from the rest of the world.

“If I heard noises of my brother coming home with his friends, I’d go and lock my door. I didn’t want to face them, I dislike the idea of communication even more.

“My school was very close to home. They were separated only by a wall. I would jump the wall to get to school, not because I was rebellious or anything. I just didn’t want to be in a place with so many people.

“It’s gotten to the point that once, when I overslept, I decided not to go to school because I didn’t want to be seen. So I pulled up the blankets and listened as the bell rang for the first class. And then my house phone rang. It’s the same teacher who consoled me on the playground. I didn’t pick it up at first, but when the teacher called persistently, I finally picked up and pretended I was sick.”

When asked if his parents’ divorce affects him still, Zai Zai reflects back on his extreme escapism and says,

“I can only tell myself that there are many things I simply couldn’t participate in. They are outside the realm of my control. If they did happen, then I will find a way to make fun of it and laugh it off. As for the causal effects, I don’t want to think too deeply about them.”

Parents

On Father

“My most basic understand of my father is that he is stern, quiet, and intimidating. But did you know, it’s always my mother who beats me. Because my father plays the strict fatherly figure, I always felt that he’s hard to approach.

“After my parents’ divorce, I started living with my father. I refused to communicate with him because I didn’t know how. But his gestures of love were not missed.

“Say today, he works the night shift and gets off after midnight. He has to go back to work again at eight. Theoretically, during this time, he would be resting at home. But that’s not what he would do. When I came back from school, he’s still out doing grocery shopping. Without saying anything, he would cook my favorite dish. Without saying anything in return, I would take half of the dish and mix it in with my bowl of rice while my father was away in the kitchen — no matter how full I was from school. Sometimes I was already full. I would eat without fail and go throw up in the bathroom later because I didn’t want him to feel that his efforts aren’t appreciated. But I admit, we lacked open communication.

“Before I had a TV in my room, there was one day when I was watching TV in my dad’s room. He came back after a little drink. I didn’t say anything and continued to watch TV like he wasn’t even there. Later, I heard a loud bang in the living room — that’s my dad hitting a drawer in frustration. Not long after, my dad walked back in and asked me, ‘Do you think I’m happy right now?’

“I had no idea how to respond. So he continued, ‘Do you think divorce is what I wanted? Do you think I’m happy that you’re not even talking to me? No matter how tired I am, I’d cook for you. When I come back home and say hi to you, I don’t want you to avoid me either.’ He started to choke up. Although my back was turned to him, I was already crying.

“So eventually, I turned to him and said I understood what he meant. He smiled at me and said, ‘You are not mad at dad anymore?’ I said no. So he said, ‘Then give me a kiss.’ I looked at him like he was crazy — you have to know, I grew up in a traditional Chinese family where kiss goodnight or any kind of external display of affection are out of the norm. I did peck him on the cheek, but after the kiss, both of us drew back and shuddered.”

As Vic matures, his family relationship also improves. It’s really quite cute:

“After I entered this circle I took full responsibility to support my family. I don’t want my family to work too hard. I’d tell my dad that if he felt pressured at work, just resign. I will take care of him. Similarly, I’ve told my brother that if he needs money to start a business, no problem, I will invest. Because if I’m successful, I can provide my family with opportunities to try out different things — things they might want to do but never got the chance. If they fail, it’s fine too; because I’m here.

“Now, I would spend more time with my family, even though with my dad, words are still stuck in the throat. Sometimes I have to work for a year without seeing my family. When the interval gets long, my brother would remind me to go home and visit dad — he’s complaining again. (In a good way.)

“My dad has a lot of friends who will say things like ‘Oh so now your son’s famous, is he forgetting about his old man?’ He hears it once or twice, my dad would speak up on my behalf. Three or four times, he would start to wonder if it’s true. But beyond that point, he would start to get mad and drink by himself. This is the time I hurry back home to see him. Once he sees me, he’s happy. So we sit and drink a little.

“My dad would start to tell me about things that had happened. Now, listening to him complain about life is a way of life I enjoy immensely. It’s a new approach to family relationship that I’m happy about.”

On Mother

He has lost contact with his mother and wants to find her.

“My mother is a rebellious person. After my parents divorced, my mom came to work in Taipei. When I graduated from high school and started working, I moved up to Taipei to live with her. When I have earned enough money, I started thinking that I should buy a big house and have everyone live together again. But my mom doesn’t want that. Her reason is that when my older brother got married and had a kid, she realized that she still enjoyed the kind of carefree life that lets her go out and have fun. She still didn’t like to take care of people.

“Because she’s afraid that getting a house and living together means she’ll be forced to take on the responsibility of looking after her grandchildren, so she chose to disappear.”

Relationship

Perspectives on Relationship

“People often think a relationship only involves two people. I think that’s only part of it. If you have plans for the future, then you must accept your loved one’s life style as well. Of course there must be conflicts, either with the way you were raised or with regards to adapting or reaching a compromise. But over coming these conflicts is the key to maintaining a relationship.

“Sometimes, it’s hard to adapt. But others, I can learn from my counterpart’s family background. They let me know that there is nothing wrong with any specific way of living, but there are also other ways of living worth observing.”

Regarding the Breakup

When asked if he still keeps in touch with Barbie Xu, Zai Zai says they occasionally text each other. He adds that despite their breakup, to him, she remains a special friend. He concurs that Barbie Xu has raised the bar, if he were to enter into another relationship, the girl most probably will be a even better person.

Ideal Girlfriend

“I’m not concerned with looks. The girl must be kind. I hope she is true to herself because that kind person seem most real. I’d rather her be clumsy and uncalculating; that makes it easier for me to get to know her and understand her. I think my standards are pretty easy to meet.


Changes

Zai Zai confesses that the biggest change occurred to him, as a result of many year’s accumulation of experiences, is an added smoothness in dealing with others.

“Let’s say today we are famous, we’ll have the chance to meet executives normal actors won’t get to meet. I didn’t like that kind of social situation. For one, I’m not very good at making small talks. Besides, I think a lot of is fake. But now, because I was forced to acquaint myself with that kind of environment, I’ve learned to deal with it better. Although once you’ve seen enough, cynicism inevitably develops and I was quite disappointed with what I thought to be a straight forward industry.

“But all in all, I think my biggest change is that I learned to protect myself. I don’t need to be part of that phoniness, I can be focused and do my job, which is what I enjoy.”

When asked about frequently wanting to quit his acting career, Zai Zai confirms that he has often thought about it but recently, the expectations his fans, his agency, and his fellow actors placed on him helped to reaffirm his career objective. In other words, yes he thinks about quiting when things get too exhausting. But at the end of the day, he recognizes that the pressure and the occasional resentment is part of the job.

Black & White

Director Tsai was invited in for this portion of the interview.

Working Environment

Zai Zai describes Director Tsai as a perfectionist. Although the director has to assume many responsibilities at the shooting site, if the set isn’t exactly how he had envisioned it, he would not shoot until everything felt right.

On Creating the Character

Zai Zai recounts that he would imagine the setting of a given scene before coming onto set. When he’s on set, the first thing he does is look around and see what props are there. He wants to utilize the props and integrate the character with the environment.

“I want my character to move back and forth in front of the camera. He must look natural, he must look real.”

Fun Facts

  • Because Director Tsai is a perfectionist, there are delays in the production process. To minimize the delay (which isn’t very effective), Zai Zai and the director signed a contract to assigned monetary value to the time delayed due to perfectionism. Now, the director owes Zai Zai five million TWD (approx 149 thousand USD). More debt? Balck & White the movie BETTER sell!
  • At the end of the interview, Zai Zai was “given a chance” to promote Black & White. He was given a slip of paper in which he must read off in front of the camera — anchor style. The content of the slip goes as the following:
    • In Black & White, Vic Zhou has a bed scene with Patina Lin. He says, ‘I only care about the way I look in bed, whether my fat looks flabby’.
    • The drama broadcasts on April 11. He says that this drama makes him wish he was dead. On top of the production delay, he has spent a lot of time thinking about how to portray the character Chen Zai Tian. He admits to being somewhat of a punk, but nothing like the womanizer in the drama.
    • Because [he doesn’t] like to talk. He says he loves life, loves Taiwan, and he loves Taiwanese drama. <– This last portion is Zai Zai’s own impromptu.

26 thoughts on “Vic Zhou, From Prince to Prick”

  1. OH MY, I REALLY REALLY LOVE THIS… Thank you so much for sharing ^_^
    I truly amazed with how he overcome his family matter, his sudden famous, the pressure from entertainment business and many more, to become such a great person and actor. It takes a very strong will and a big heart to be what he is today.

    Well, I am so proud of him, so proud to be his fans…. someone who wholeheartedly care for others..
    Thanks again..

  2. super love it.. thanks so much..
    his ‘father’s part’ really touching.. i nearly cry read it..
    ZZ really had a difficult and depression..hope all this will not happen again in the future..
    ZZ deserve to have happy life…

  3. thanks so much.

    it’s so touching to hear all these personal things coming straight from his mouth and mind. i got teary eyed reading his narrative abt his father and his alooftness after the divorce. i find his openness very opposite from his past, and i guess it’s because he has matured and can now deal life as it goes. i admire his wisdom on family, relationship and work. and i learned a lot from him, couldn’t imagine for a young man like him. very remarkable!

    and geez, all ZZ’s pics are to behold!

  4. Makes me Proud of ZZ more….. admire how he bravely and openly discuss his personally on public TV.

    LOVE HIM MORE!!!

  5. LOL!! Love the title. 😀 You sure have a way with words. Thanks a lot for the review, thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

    Vic does come across as very real and sincere. And I admire how he was so frank and open about his life, his previous experiences with family and love, and the way he accepted all that has happened to him and take it as a learning.

    I was very touched esp the story about how he reconciled with his dad after the divorce. Even the host had tears in her eyes.

    Just like what the lady host said :
    Vic, you must be happy!

    sytwo

  6. This is Zai Zai Zhou Yumin in the flesh. A totally unselfish, unassuming, humble and open person. One who truly cares for others. I am so proud to support him. I am hoping that many more will come to know and love this wonderful man as I do. He will definitely make an impact on others lives as I really believe he was meant to. He is a blessing to this world.

    Thank you for translating the interview for those of us who can’t understand Manderin.

  7. OMG! Great job! Thank you for translating this very insightful interview. I learned something new about him and made me love him even more. I’m glad he has overcome the depression he had due to his parents’ divorce and now has learned and become mature in facing all his life’s trials and challenges. His family might not be perfect but I could safely say, he was raised so well for him to become who he is today…

  8. i wish i can befriend zaizai someday when he retire, actually i wish it will be soon (sorry i offend) but really i want him to retire. as we all know this guy really want peace and he needs rest. i noticed that he never seem to have a long rest because he had so many series , every year different roles.

    but lastly, iam very proud of this guy…super.
    he becme mature through years of experience, i know he had so much to give…
    but there is more of zaizai that is needed to be private, i think that is his lifestyle and that is one thing that i want to respect, and i like him being private.. that’s his trademark. i also hope that he woudnt end up like hua ze lei in meteor garden… i was talking about his love life… we all know zaizai deserves having a good girl friend, lets make it best!!!! i do wish for the best……
    and that how i love zaizai

  9. Wow, that interview is somewhat deep & too personal. I’m glad to learn Zaizai’s private life. He truly deserve all the blessings that are coming on his way. Though I’m an avid VicBie fan, i just wish dat one day he’ll finally find his one true love.Goodluck to you Zaizai !! Xie Xie…

  10. i really love this you know i think i’m one of vic’s fans.. even when meteor garden had been showed here in PHilppines…

    now i know his life story

    youre so strong vic… i salute you

  11. Wow, a heartwarming life story of Zaizai. Been a big fan of Zaizai since MG days and I am so proud of what he has become now, a great actor and a very lovable guy. My ardent prayer is that – all his efforts will be recognized and for him to receive acting awards soon.

    Go, go, go Zaizai. We really love you…..

  12. OMGosh!
    This is so beatiful.Dont know what to say……But all I know is that I really look up to Vic and I love him so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Hope he can find his mom soon!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. thank you so much for sharing this life’s story of zaizai…it is great to know more about him, eventhoug it is a bit sad but those experiences of zaizai made him a trully great person…i really admire him since MG and i am proud to be one of his loyal supporter…i really fell in love the great personality of this person and you can really see it in his….hope that zaizai will not change and continue to be humble as he is….Good luck zaizai….MORE POWER and GOD BLESS US!!!!!

  14. Perhaps I am the oldest of his fan. I can’t help listen to his songs every morning, every evening I go to work and come back from work because I just feel so relax just listen to his songs!

    I’m 52!

    Now reading all about him, what he is, how caring he is to his family, just make me feel very sad at times that I was not like him at that age he had to face with.

    Zai Zai, you make us all proud of you.

    I hope that you will find your mum soon. I am sure she will be happy seeing you too. She is proud of you.

    When are you coming down to Sydney, Australia to meet up with your fans DownUnder?

  15. Thank you very much for letting me know.

    I believe he will one day. He has the heart for his fans.

    He is not selfish at all. He thinks of his fans and he knows that his fans love his songs. He will not let his fans down.

    He is a loving person and happy go lucky person, not a materialistic person.

    He expresses well his feelings through his songs. He is a down to earth person and an affectionate person.

    His mum, his dad and his brother and other immediate familiy should be very proud of him.

  16. Thanks so much for the translation. I love you review. It’ funny, smart and very well write.
    I d’like Zai Zai so much and it is the fist time I could read a full interview of him (I dont read chinise). So thanks for you making my day.

  17. it’s so cute.. i really love zaizai!!!

    1 admire him so much…

    1 love the way he reaches to other people…

    His story do touch my heart,,

    His simply irresisitable..

  18. VZ seemed like a quite guy that doesn’t like to be in the spotlight. I think he will be a real success in the future (if given a good script and a right director). In B&W he reminds me much of Tony Leung Chiu-Wai in Internal Affairs. The look of his eyes seemed to twinkle, just like Tony Leung. The intensity of his feelings seemed to transfer across the screen, making it seemed possible and real (in B&W). I can’t stop but compare him to a younger version of Tony Leung. It seemed that he has gained much momentum in B&W and will be doing well in the years to come. I looked forward to a more mature VZ than the ‘baby’ cute face VZ. I think he has a lot more unseen potential if given the right script.

  19. I knew I did not make a mistake making Zai zai my best ever idol…I can relate to his experience..my parents are separated too and I love to lock myself inside my room as well..it makes me feel more carefree when i’m inside my room=)…at least Zai zai is straightforward and he is not faking his answers… I like his honesty and his self discipline…makes me admire him all the more.. I guess based on his response to the questions, I would say that Zai zai is an intelligent and smart person…He tries to understand things around him and makes better effort in improving himself out from it and he seems to be a tactful person…I like his very refine personality..I guess that is something for a character that deserves an applause! No wonder, he can easily amaze his fans on how he always excel in every role he portrays…He’s not just a pretty vase after all, rather , he is a real man of substance! I love my idol more and more every time I read new things about his good nature!!! Way to go Vic Zhou! Wish you more success not just in your career but in every aspect of life…Hope to See more from Zai Zai!

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