AsianConnections: Who inspires you?
Bai Ling: Believe it or not, who inspires me, I would say my grandmother, because she has this beautiful spirit. For example, when I was a child, I remembered that I lived with her and traveled with her on the train all the time, to different cities, I remembered like every Chinese New Year, we are in the North, we make dumplings. Every night I like to sleep late, and the next day I wake up, I remembered we lived this courtyard, and she was awake, like two hours earlier than everyone, and cleaned up all the snow around the neighbors.
Another time is like we were [kind of] poor, we don't have a lot of money, but she has all of her money saved and bought candy to give to the neighbors' children. She's doing that not to show anybody, just for her pleasure. She's very happy; I see her she has this smile, she has something beautiful to give. Even she doesn't have, she saves it for others. You know, that spirit, though she's not an actress?nbsp; she's still elegant and beautiful. And she want[ed to be an actress], but my grandfather was against that. My grandfather is a professor. And in China, they look down at performers at that time. She did not become [an actress], otherwise she would be movie star [at that time]. So I'm just thinking that she is not an actress, but somehow the spirits, influence me, and it stayed in me when I play roles such as Tuptim in "Anna and the King," so I can relate to something, I can give, which is [the] generous spirit of giving.
AsianConnections: Was it hard for you to learn Thai? What was it like for you on the Anna and the King set?
Bai Ling: Oh yeah. Of course it is difficult. It was driving me crazy!
The first week of the shooting, I didn't know anybody. And there was so much pressure on me, I said I haven't gone through anything, and you're already punishing me? You know, they normally shoot the least important thing first, and take you through this journey so you get used to the cast, and where you are and the environment. I don't know Jodie, I don't know anybody. Everybody there was watching. I felt like, oh my God! And I learned Thai. I only had a few days. And they say you can't ask for the board, something to read. I said, are you kidding me? I said, if I'm reading, I'm reading from a book, and I'm too professional for that, but I really had no time. I couldn't sleep, everything in my mind was tight. And then I finally went crazy with my coach. I was sitting and I said, I cannot do this tomorrow! And I called Andy [Tennant], the director, I know he was filming, so I just left a message, entirely in Thai. I said, nothing can drive me crazy, but I'm just tired, and you drive me crazy! But it's my job. And the next day we're there, he's looking at me. He says, "We're gonna knock them out!" [Laughs] I said, Okay, that's easy for you to say! It was just difficult. Also, the studio people who liked me in "Red Corner," they knew this was extremely important. They said, "You know Bai Ling, I changed my ticket. Do you know why?" I said for what? He said, "I just want to watch how you do this." Okay, why are you telling me that? You know? Just added [to] all this pressure. It's difficult, but somehow I feel like I'm lucky enough, some forces around me are helping me to achieve whatever is on screen.
AsianConnections: So the first scene was the courtroom scene and you were bald?
Bai Ling: See, they shaved me, I had trouble learning Thai, and I had to do this tough scene. I said, it's trouble! It's really difficult. Then you have to somehow, against all this trouble, kick them out first, [re-examine] yourself then come back to yourself to find the truth to that scene.
AsianConnections: What kind of advice can you give to young Asian women, or young women in general?
Bai Ling: I think no matter what you do, I think everyone is a star, in his/her own way. And everyone has his/her own potential in different way. And the one thing is to satisfy yourself, and to lead you far is to follow your heart, to do things you really love. And for example, as me, and as an actress, people look at the glamour, the fame, the money, but this has nothing to do with me. What I'm doing is the work. If I do good work, other things will come to me. It's basically like others appreciating your work, they give you something, but that's not your goal. Your goal is to do what you love to do and to do your best.
AsianConnections: You wore a wig when you shaved your head? Did you keep it?
Bai Ling: Yeah, I have it!
At one time, I remember it was sunny and I wore it because Louis told me I have these cosmetics people to meet, so I must be wearing my wig! You're bald, and you'll never get a commercial! During the whole meeting, I did not know what I was talking about. The entire thing, I was looking at the guy. You could tell. Maybe I was behaving strangely. I had this terrible imagination about what if I came in and he didn't know! It's really awful. So I said, I can't do this, I'm going to take it off.
Read the full interview at AsianConnections