Having debuted in 2004, supermodel and actor Gao has been one of the most recognisable faces in Asia. The Vancouver-based Taiwanese star is the first Asian male to grace the billboards for Louis Vuitton. As an actor, Godfrey has worked with many respected top Asian talents in the film industry, and even made his mark in the West through the Hollywood film The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones in 2013.
Nee Hao’s deputy editor Yinsey Wang catches up with Gao, quizzing him on his role as the newly-appointed brand ambassador for Links of London.
What has been the highlight of your career so far? Where are you taking it next?
The highlight would be being the first Asian male in the 157 year history of Louis Vuitton to feature as a campaign face. Additionally, playing a part in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and attending its red carpet premiere in LA – Comic Con San Diego also comes close! Going forward, I’d say my highlight was attending Baselworld 2015 with Links of London, and I hope that through this collaboration, I’ll be able to do even more fruitful and fun things! On the acting front, I will also have more opportunities to work in Hollywood as we are planning some superb, upcoming projects that I am really excited about!
Tell us about your journey in becoming one of the faces of Links of London.
The journey has been overwhelming, but it’s a journey that I’ll remember for a lifetime. It all started out from attending many Folli Follie events as a special guest star to attract more female clients within China. I would like to hope that, because of the enjoyable working relationship we had in the past through these events, when it came time for them to think about a male representative for their Links of London brand, I was the one they decided to choose.
What is it about the Links of London brand that stands out to you?
The fact that the brand is a genuine representation of the modern English Gentlemen, but with a twist of traditional English tastes and characteristics.
You plan to cross over to Western cinema and television. What do you see as the greatest challenge and most exciting aspect of this?
I have been meeting with many directors and producers in Hollywood lately, as we all know China is a key market of the world at present; being an actor with recognition there allows me to have the honour of being considered for many interesting projects. The challenge I expect as an actor would definitely be the switching of acting styles as the East and the West have such different styles of delivery that the audience is accustomed to. Therefore, when working on different projects in catering to varying audiences, I must always be mindful of this.
What’s your favourite thing about London?
The food…! London offers a huge variety of cuisines from all around the world, featuring fusion and fine cuisine choices. You will have realised by now that I am a big foodie. The city itself is also very beautiful; we had the chance to wander around the city a bit before and during our Links of London campaign shooting; the mix between the traditional and the modern was amazing. In Brick Lane, the vintage markets preserve the essence of old English styles; at the same time, Regent Street gave me a beautiful glimpse of how future trends interact with English cultural traditions.
Growing up with varied cultures must have been an enriching and grounding experience. Tell us about your favourite memory as a child?
Well, growing up in North Vancouver was very memorable! I was in the same class as many children from different countries and cultures. This really gave me an international perspective at an early age. One of my favourite memories is that, despite how I was not so fluent in English, the local North Vancouver kids immediately invited me to play basketball and football with them. This welcoming and warm gesture has been embedded in my memory since those days.
Tell us about your relationship with your dad – apparently, you have said before that he is even more stylish than you?
Yes, we share the same clothes, that’s how close we are! He has influenced my style since childhood as he would always go to work wearing different suits, ties and dress shoes. We were always very involved in sports together; every weekend and as a family, we would go swimming, rollerblading, biking, and so on. We would always be borrowing each other’s t-shirts, sports wear, shorts, and the like.
Who inspires you the most and why?
My mother – she’s been the one who has always believed in me and is always telling me to pursue my dreams, take chances and not be afraid! This is so I don’t miss out on those key opportunities. She’s taught me how to be humble, polite and a gentleman, which carried me throughout my life. Because of her, I am a curious person, always asking questions, continually learning and building up my knowledge.
Many consider you to be a pioneer for entertainers, actors and models for the Asian overseas community. How do you feel in relation to this?
I think they are too generous with this comment, but I am truly honoured. I also do feel that there are many more prestigious pioneers before me. Take Sessue Hayakawa for example; he was the first Japanese actor in American, French, German and British films and he was the first Asian actor and Asian leading man to find stardom in North America and Europe! Another very memorable and notable person would be Bruce Lee, who also broke through the American market and chased his dream to become the No.1 action star in the world. To this day, he is still considered one of the No.1 action stars to have ever lived. So, when I think about pioneers like these, it fuels and inspires me to push forward and become part of the next generation’s!
Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
Hopefully still doing what I am doing, being as happy doing it as I am now, and living life to the fullest.
What was your most memorable interaction with a fan?
One time, in Mexico City for The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones final premiere, over 10,000 fans of the franchise showed up and everyone wanted to shake hands, take selfies and “marry me”! While taking a picture with a particular fan, an overwhelming thought hit me! At that moment, I realised that I was a part of something special in their hearts. It really gave me a sense of accomplishment knowing that what I am doing has positively influenced the lives of so many.
What is the one thing you cannot live without?
Music, it brings you up from feeling down; it encourages you to dance when you don’t want to move; and it keeps the human soul alive! I use music to relax, let loose, de-stress and also zone me in and zone me out! It brings me to another place where I can concentrate either on or off work. It’s a universal tool which I cannot live without.
What is your ultimate tip to achieving success in career and life?
There are a few mottos that I usually go by. They are: don’t be afraid to push your boundaries; failure is the most successful inspiration; don’t let other people’s opinions affect your goals; and always be humble.
Which character have you played that you emphasise or relate to the most with in your experience as an actor?
There is a TV mini series which I just shot last week, unfortunately I can’t say too much about it, but it will be shown online this year and will be about my upbringing in Canada.