Interview with Fei Ren | Nourishing My Life
How do we keep ourself in balance in the midst of such a dynamic existence?! If we think of events in our life as contrasting experiences with diversity of choices, we will start to see what’s best for us. Our emotional reality is based much more on how we react to things rather than what is going on in our physical life. When we stop judging ourselves and others, we will eventually start to feel free and satisfied.
Actress Fei Ren says, “the industry has so much noise, rejections, judgment and glory. Through those ups and downs, I need to learn how to maintain a solid sense of self without being taken over by ego.”
In this interview, you will discover how Fei keeps feeling her way through embracing each experience to nourish her personal and professional life.
- Please introduce yourself briefly. Who, in your own words, is Fei Ren?
I am Fei. I love acting and I am very happy that I am doing what I love. I want to tell stories that affect people and bring positive social change. I believe in equality, power of love, hard work, and that life is magical. I love my friends and family, and want to bring light to their lives! As I am growing, I want to keep finding my voice and authentic being.
- How are your creative process as an actor and your personal growth intertwined with each other?
During the craft training, I really get to understand myself, and owning my womanhood and growing into my power. When stepping into a character, I have to put myself in the imaginary circumstances or use past experiences. It really demands that I heal and make peace with every part of my being so that I can safely draw upon my experiences. It’s cathartic, but at times takes a toll on my emotional well being. So in life, I develop routines and processes of grounding and self-care, through which, I feel like I’ve grown a lot.
I think it’s our job as actors to be deeply empathetic and open in order to be able to step into characters, so I find myself growing and broadening my perspectives through acting. I love watching good plays, which always deepens my understanding of humanity and relationships.
The industry has so much noise, rejections, judgment and glory. Through those ups and downs, I need to learn how to maintain a solid sense of self without being taken over by ego.
- Before pursuing your acting career, you were modeling. How has that experience enhanced the process of transitioning to acting and then directing?
In modeling, I learned to take control of my own destiny, to follow my passion, and to persevere; all things that were essential for building my acting career.
I’ve dealt a lot with rejections and prejudice when I started modeling. The first two years were brutal. Pulling through those years helped me deal with obstacles with more ease, giving me the tenacity needed to pursue acting and grow a thicker skin. Also, all the years of traveling by myself and working with different agents in different cities taught me to be responsible and take control of my own destiny. It prepared me to work hard and make proactive choices in building my career in acting.
I love how free and confident I feel when I am on the runway or at a photoshoot. I think that same feeling deepens and become more addictive in acting. I love it!
One thing I learned from modeling is that good looks don’t matter that much. It’s ironic, but since everyone in the job is gorgeous in their own ways, the thing making a real difference is your presence, your essence, your drive, and your professionalism. That is what gets you clients and repeat bookings. Those principles work everywhere I go.
- How has directing theatre plays nourished your experience as an actress and vice-versa?
Directing often helps to hone in on my toolbox as an actor. I get to share and learn techniques with my actors. It’s almost like giving myself a testing field to see what tools work to build a character.
Also, as a director, I have to oversee the whole picture– the entire arc of the story. That’s good for on-camera work, where lots of preparation is done on your own.
Wearing the director hat also made me learn how to be patient, how to talk to others on the team, and how to hold the room together and maintain focus when there is chaos. Those soft skills always come in handy after you have a long day on set, and it’s time for the very emotional close-up at six in the morning…
- How have your own expectations from people you admire and communicate with in the entertainment industry shaped your experience with them?
I had been star-struck by working with some people whom I admired, but I am also really lucky in the way that those people are generous, grounded humans who loved doing great work. They didn’t take themselves so seriously, and it helped me to see them just as people who love the craft as I do. It’s really humbling and a great reminder to keep your own ego and internal noises in check. I think that helped me to form strong relationships with them, and allowed us to have fun working together!
- You can be seen starring as Hilde, the leader of a young group of assassins in Netflix’s recently premiered crime-action feature film Polar. What did you feel when you first learned about your character?
Hilde is a fierce, edgy, and very skilled killer. Initially, I had the sense of her being a full psychopath, because in the script she loves killing so much. I prepared her that way. Then, when the creative team worked on my look, we decided on Hilde’s makeup and hair being very asymmetric, and that gave me an idea that she had a duality– a feminine past. In my mind, she was a survivor and her past trauma made her the hard-core freaky assassin you see.
She is very driven and I think she feeds off gaining power and status, but deep down she is craving more. When she delivers the finishing blow, her joy comes from her ego, knowing she accomplished the mission.
- How did you connect with Hilde during the process of becoming her?
I did some physical training to get into her body. I also explored it as different predatory animals. I listened to lots of heavy metal music and watched Kill Bill, Atomic Blonde, Mad Max, and Salt over and over again to get inspired.
But, as I mentioned, she also evolved as I started working with the rest of the cast and talent. Our team of assassins, all the actors in it, are so fun to work with, and that chemistry fed into the Hilde you see.
- Where do Hilde’s ambition and passion for killing come from?
I think for her, a kill is the mark of a successful mission. In that world, assassins don’t expect to live for long, as they are in such proximity to death. Then living in the moment, each completed mission is a thrill, so they go along for the ride. She is good at it and proud of her skill of hunting down targets. This is what she is good and successful at and she takes pride in it. And if she manages to kill Duncan, she will truly have made a name for herself and proved herself in the eyes of Blut.
- Hilde’s make-up looks different on each eye. What does it represent?
Hilde always has soft makeup on the left side, with her long hair down. The right eye is always a different, clean edgy cut, with strong lines and color, and hair neatly braided. It came out of testing makeup on different eyes, but then the artistic team thought it looked amazing, so two different eyes became her look. It made sense to me, because the soft look represents her past. She didn’t have family growing up, and she went through some traumatic experiences. Being soft and feminine didn’t serve her well in life, so she made something out of herself, and created her new strong persona we see her in. She always dresses in all-black and has her whole body covered, with only her left side of makeup as a reminder of her past.
- Did you have to do a lot of physical preparation to bring Hilde’s dynamic movements to life?
I had a personal trainer for kickboxing and did yoga daily. The gun training was also important for me. To know how powerful those weapons are, and what it means to live with them daily… how much damage they can do, and how she can have them as part of her everyday life, handling them with such ease.
- What was one of the most gratifying experiences you had on set while filming Polar?
The whole team had so much fun working together. We worked hard, and we had a lot of challenges, especially due to the harsh and unpredictable weather. We were almost always jet-lagged and working odd and long hours. But nobody was egotistic; the cast had such grounded and generous actors, so it was always fun to play and it was inspiring to learn from them, even when we were too cold or too hot. It was the attitude that made the difference.
- What kind of character or project do you dream to be part of at this moment?
Oh, it would be cool if I could become a female Duncan where – spoiler alert – I get to kick ass and get my revenge on hundred of guards after being tortured for days!
But seriously, I don’t have a single role that I think about. I just love having a challenging character and doing something that can stretch me further. I gravitate towards strong characters though, who have had to overcome obstacles in their life. I guess it reflects my own passions and goals.
- How has being exposed to new experiences, cultures, and places impacted your life?
It is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Moving to Canada as an international student was really tough… the culture shock, the loneliness. I remember I only made Chinese friends in the first a few months when I was here, because I was so fearful of people laughing at my broken English. But once I made a decision to step out of my comfort zone, I threw myself into many different volunteer jobs and I suddenly thrived. My English got better, I started acting in some plays, and I finished language school earlier than anticipated. I also learned a lot about humanity. Especially as I worked as a crisis worker for Rape Relief and in a women’s shelter, these taught me some hard lessons.
Then I started traveling more as my modeling work brought me around the world. I was in a new city for the first time doing something I truly was passionate about. That allowed me to have so much freedom and confidence. I felt in control of my own life. Each time we go to new places, explore different cultures and realize new aspects of humanity, it really broadens our views. We become more understanding of differences, of the fact that there are many ways of living, and we get out of our bubbles. I think this curiosity is really something important to have, even if you can’t physically travel around the world, it’s important to explore and celebrate that we come in all shapes and forms.
- Are you involved in any charity organization or humanitarian cause, you would like to talk about?
My charity of choice is Plan Canada, to which I’ve been contributing for years now, as they bring education and relief to girls in need. In my own work, I think what I am most passionate about is gender equality and ethnic diversity. That is reflected in most of the choices for my own projects– especially in theatre and as a director, I always ask myself what the intention is behind telling a story. I don’t want to direct a play if it doesn’t have an underlying message that I want people to consider. I think art should have a social value.
- The spirit of The Hedonist Magazine is The Essence of a Joyful Living. How does Joy during the creative process affect your own experience and in consequence the final manifestation of your actions?
I think in the creative process, the joy comes from fright for your passion, creating purposefully, and curiosity about learning and daring to be silly and play. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy or fun… the process can be pure agony at times, but having that purpose and passion drives you. The constant learning curves bring lots of rewards once you accomplish your goals. I had a period where I was really drawn to the seriousness of the emotional life of the character when I was acting, and now I also realized for the work to be good, it’s not just emotional masturbation for the actor, but the sense of playing and sharing; daring to put yourself out there to be seen, risking embarrassment and being silly is what makes lots of great actors endearing to watch. You feel the passion and joy through them playing.
These are two quotes I recently found inspiring:
“Become so skilled, so vigilant, so flat-out fantastic at what you do that your talent cannot be dismissed.” – Oprah Winfrey
“If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. No matter what, keep moving.” – Martin Luther King
- When you hear: “You can be, do and have anything you want,” words from the teachings of Abraham – Hicks, what is your take on such a statement?
I love and believe in this statement. At the very beginning of my acting career, I made a little diagram in my notebook. I divided a page into four sections: where you are right now, where you want to be in five years, what’s the current obstacles and what’s your current solutions. I did that and then promptly forgot about it. Two years later, when I was moving, that notebook fell out and I was so shocked to see that piece of paper. In the five-years goal section, I had a circle of matchstick people with cameras and I wrote that I will be working on set with an amazing team and doing fulfilling roles. At that time, I was playing a lead role in a Canadian TV series, surrounded with solid actors and creators. I had already achieved that. It was such a good reminder that dreams do come true. If you set your mind to it, stay focused, put in the time, and work hard, success will come.