The Taiwanese-Canadian Actor Godfrey Gao He is famous for being Asia's first international supermodel, but he was much more than just a handsome face - he had a reputation for being one of the friendliest stars in an intensely competitive industry.
“He was known for being a very nice guy,” says Cecilia Pidgeon, former celebrity editor at GQ China. “He had a very good reputation among other actors. He was always nice to his fans. All the colleagues he worked with had only good things to say about him. ”
His shocking death at 35 years ago yesterday from a heart attack on the reality show set Chase me interrupted a career that included a role in 2013 as Magnus Bane in the Hollywood adaptation of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.
Born under the name of Tsao Chih-hsiang in Taipei, Taiwan, Gao moved to Vancouver Canada as a child and became the first Asian model to star in a campaign of Louis Vuitton in 2011.
After returning to his home country of 2004, he became part of a new generation of actors who were born in Asia and re-established their careers after emigrating abroad with their families. Together with Gao, Shawn Dou, Xian-born Chinese-Canadian actor, and Eddie Peng, Taiwanese-Canadian actor and singer from Penghu have also achieved fame by returning to Asia.
“Due to the success of the mainland Chinese film industry, everyone has decided to return to Asia to start their career there,” says Ruby Cheung, a professor of film at Southampton University.
“For Chinese, Taiwanese or Hong Kong actors who have emigrated, there are more opportunities for them to become really big. If they started in Hollywood, they would have to work hard to achieve the same level of stardom. ”
Gao started acting on Chinese TV shows on 2006, but his most popular role was in Remembering Lichuan, a romantic drama aired on 2016. By then, he had already moved to role-playing films in the blockbuster Shanghai Fortress and voiced Ken's character in Toy Story 3.
The transition from TV to film is a traditional route for most Asian actors. The chinese star Fan Bingbing, Vicki Zhao, and Liu Yifei, who will lead Disney's Mulan live-action adaptation have become big stars in China.
It is also very common for the Asian acting world to look for new talent in the fashion industry. Hu Bing, nominated for best actor at the Rome Film Festival on 2010, is one of China's most famous models, while Taiwan's star, Lin chi-ling also started on the catwalks.
But in recent years, reality shows have emerged as one of the easiest ways to get instant stardom. I Am a Singer, The Rap of China, the idol-producing program and the The Voice from China are all very popular and produced overnight sensations. Then there is the Chase Me, China's televised competitive sports challenge program Zhejiang, in which Gao agreed to participate.
The actor would have collapsed during the Chase Me set in NingboAt China, after working for 17 hours straight. According to Pidgeon, long working hours are extremely common in the Chinese TV and film industry.
“It's normal because it's a very competitive industry. You can get famous very quickly. So everyone works overtime to finish a show quickly. All of these actors make a lot of money, but in fact they work a lot. Working at night is normal.
China, of course, is now also becoming a major actor in Hollywood, with a growing amount of investment from Chinese companies. That means there is potential for more crossover artists like Gao, who appeared alongside Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.
The actor was not only a rising star with a career that would likely lead him to more dizzying heights, but also a pioneer of Asian diversity and representation in American films. It is a real tragedy that this talent was brought back to earth so cruelly.
Image Credits: Imagine China / REX / Shutterstock