Lili Liu, the talented, radiant, and mesmerizing musician has established herself as one of the hardest-working entertainers with her upcoming 4-part musical comedy “Life as a Summer Flower.” Produced by Liu Entertainment (L Enter Pty Ltd), and starring Lili Liu, the musical comedy is centered during the Liang period of Wei Jing and Northern and Southern Dynasties (220-589) in ancient China. The family-oriented narrative of this series focuses on a heroine called Pingyuan Xue who originally hails from a peasant family but later emerges as a warrior who is determined to find her true love. After being overcome with a powerful vision, she becomes a legendary female warrior, meeting the Emperor whom she falls in love with, but then she eventually discovers she’s just being used for a different motive which leads her to go on a journey of discovering herself. While the series is supposed to be a musical comedy, at the heart of it is a message of determination and hope.
Born and raised in Xiang Yang, a beautiful city in northwestern China, Lili Liu learned from a young age about the culture and history of her country and especially of the Hubei province. For more than 3,000 years, Xiang Yang has become known for art and creativity as well as brilliant men and women within the ancient palaces. Xiang Yang fascinated Lili; there was always another piece of music, another style of fashion, and another genre of film for her to study. By the time she started school, she had become passionate about storytelling.
In her teenage years, her passion for storytelling gave way to a passion for classical music. When she heard Fou Ts’ong play Chopin’s Nocturne in C minor Op.48 no.1 – there was no turning back. At that moment she felt that she had stumbled upon her calling in life. She decided to commit herself to the piano, striving ceaselessly towards a grand vision of one day performing in concert halls. She was only 12 years old when she decided that she wanted to become a concert pianist and she was prepared to do whatever it takes to accomplish this goal. Unfortunately, her parents were not entirely open to her vision.
When Liu relocated to Australia and enrolled in high school as part of a student exchange program, she tried to persuade her parents again to be open to her dream of becoming a concert pianist but her efforts proved futile. Driven by her vision, she secretly went on to study piano in Brisbane anyway – she found her own teacher but she never told her parents about it. After high school, she applied for various universities in Melbourne, and once she got accepted, her parents finally gave her their blessing to pursue her dream. From then on, she was living out her dream studying classical music alongside some of the greatest musical minds of our time.
After performing recitals at the Sydney Opera House, Melbourne Recital Center, and venues in China though, she somehow felt that she had lost her way. Determined to find her new calling, she set out to find a new means to express herself creatively and make an emotional impact on others. When Xiaolin Shen, one of her good friends showed her a novel-in-progress called “Life as a Summer Flower,” that’s when she sensed that she had finally found a new calling. That was a pivotal moment in her career because since then, she has committed herself wholeheartedly to the entertainment industry.
StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Lili Liu to discuss her journey in the entertainment industry and her latest project and here’s what went down:
What do you like most about acting?
Acting, to me, is an opportunity to be creative, like all other arts. I am passionate about anything that facilitates this type of energy, encouraging people to open themselves up to each other and to break out of any isolation they may be feeling. When someone is on the stage or in front of the camera, they can put forth all of their emotions, presenting themselves sincerely and unabashedly. Acting is unique among the arts in this sense, freeing people to become another person and inhabit another identity.
Can you tell us more about your upcoming musical comedy-drama?
A Life as Summer Flower tells the story of Pingyuan Xue, a woman who is born into a peasant family but who eventually rises above her circumstances. She feels her destiny all around; pursuing her vision and all of the opportunities that are available to her – living courageously in order to become a legendary female warrior and find true love for herself.
Can you tell us about your role in this comedy-drama?
Pingyuan Xue is an inspiring figure, standing up for the sort of bravery that we all admire. Although no one seems to believe in her dreams or to validate her desires, she proceeds enthusiastically, refusing to slow down or to let any obstacles stand between her and what she wants. In everything that she does, she serves as a motivator for those who want something that seems outside their reach because of the circumstances of their birth.
What sort of person is going to relate this character?
Because I have gone through a similar situation, pursuing a dream that did not align with the plans others had pictured for me, I relate to Pingyuan Xue myself. I know that others who find themselves pursuing their own dreams will relate to her as well, seeing her as a role model for the courage and persistence that they need to cultivate in their lives.
How is this character like you? Different?
I see Pingyuan Xue’s courage and persistence in myself, but unlike her, I am naturally shy and introverted. I have learned to force myself out of my shell, which differs from Pingyuan Xue, who seems to have been born more forward and extroverted.
What’s the biggest challenge to taking on this role?
It is challenging for me to relate to Pingyuan Xue’s natural aggressiveness. She seems to lunge at anything and everything she wants, unhesitating in her desires and her vision. At the same time, I have pursued my dreams in my own quiet way, going against the grain when I learned piano in secret and refusing to hear or believe any discouraging thoughts along the way. I can use this personal experience to understand Pingyuan Xue more fully.
What are your weak points when it comes to acting? How do you try to improve them?
I believe that many actors are natural extroverts, people who are always open to meeting new people and talking to them at length. That does not describe me though. Learning the piano at a young age was comfortable for me because I could isolate myself and practice for long hours at a time, losing myself in the notes and never worrying about exposing myself to uncomfortable and complex social situations. In acting, I need to face all of that head-on.
What are your strong points as an actor?
As a creative, I pick up on the intricacies of acting without much effort. I can see the details in people’s performances, reading them as I would read the notes in a piece of music. This is helpful because it enables me to analyze my own performance as well, working out the kinks without putting so much thought into anything that I lose the spirit of the performance.
What are some of the difficulties of the acting business?
To me, the central difficulty of the acting business is the same as that of the acting skill: it requires a great deal of socialization. There is only one way to move past this of course, and that is through it. Simply, I have to accept the discomfort and do what I need to do anyway.
What do you do when you’re not performing?
When I am not performing, I enjoy playing music, writing music, reading, and studying. I have immersed myself in the creative fields, developing my skills, and picking up new concepts all the time.
What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?
When my friend Xiaolin Shen showed me her novel Life as a Summer Flower, it was a revelation for me. I felt that I had found something special, and I knew I would carry that feeling with me forever. It was a definitive moment in my career.
Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?
Any time I meet another creative, I believe that I learn something. It is interesting for me to hear what other filmmakers and musicians think about the work that we are doing and the approaches and mindsets that seem to work for them. The more that I converse with them, the more I learn and the more interested I become.
If someone is going to make your life into a movie, who would play you?
Instead of selecting a single famous actor to play me, I would provide a single criterion for the actress who would play me: she should feel the same passion for the arts that I feel. She should play an instrument, even if only as a hobby, and she should embrace new and daring artistic endeavors. This way, she can understand what drives and motivates me and the lens through which I view the world.
What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.
Long-term, I would like to continue to hone my skills and grow as an artist. I will continue to play piano and to work as a filmmaker, meeting new collaborators, and taking on new projects. My only goal is to stretch myself constantly, to seek out new opportunities for self-education and self-expression.
The ‘LIGHTNING FAST’ Round:
1. Last good movie I’ve seen: La La Land. I enjoyed it because it was unique and bold without veering so much away from the time-tested structure of a musical. The performances were strong, the soundtrack was enjoyable, and the story was engaging.
2. What do you consider beautiful and why? I consider the act of creating beautiful. When I sit down and write a piece of music or reflect on a potential film, that to me is beauty unfolding. I would like to see my ideas and visions come to life, watching as the beauty of creation takes on new forms – multiplying and transforming, becoming yet another beautiful thing.
3. What haven’t you done yet that you wish you could?
I have not yet created the best film of my career. Although maybe early for me to think in this vein, I am always looking toward the next big thing or the next great move that I can make. As much as I am enjoying the process and appreciating the incremental growth that I am experiencing, I am eager to take my talents to more impressive heights.
4. Complete this sentence: “If I had no fear, I’d…” sit down and write out my life story. Then, I could understand how I have come to be who I am and where it is next for me to go with my career. I reflect on the events of my life often, and I would like to put them into a narrative structure.
5. What is the one “flaw” you wouldn’t change about yourself?
I would not change my natural shyness. Although it has been a challenge at times, I believe that it has opened the door to me by challenging me, encouraging me to focus and to think on my toes.