The Bastardly Interview: Bai Ling

February 5th 2007

Bai Ling is a woman of mystery and intrigue. Her participation in VH1's But Can They Sing left us with memorable performances of which that'll never be duplicated. It was a Bastardly dream come true when I was fortunate to meet Bai Ling and really dive into the mind behind the woman we've seen in movies, television, and on the red carpet with her bold fashion sense. Beyond the red carpet of nipple slips and daring style is a woman with a lot on her mind and we're here to set the record straight with prior controversies including George Lucas and Nick Carter. Currently, Bai Ling is set to appear in several episodes on ABC's Lost. Get to know one of our favorite Bastardly Ladies and maybe you'll understand why I can't enough of this amazing woman.

Are you shocked at the popularity you gained from But Can They Sing?

Bai Ling: I have no clue. I wasn't anticipating anything when I started to do this show. The producer approached my management company and said they wanted to have Bai Ling on the show and I have no clue what it is but I've always been very musical; I like to sing, I learned to play the violin when I was a child. I think if I was not an actress I'd be a conductor or musician because I love music; it's the highest form of art. But the popularity, since I'm on the other side of the camera so I don't really know or am aware of because it's something that I consider as a gift and I'm so lucky to have grown so much more popular from the show and a lot of people like me because I think I made fun of myself and made a lot of people laugh; I think they like that energy of fun, that pop culture kind of sexy and modern energy. But now I'm walking down the street and somebody I don't know will say to me, "Call me, call me" and I know what they're talking about. They all tell me that they loved the show and without me that the show was boring. This show was really not about singing but it was about the show and entertaining people. I think in that way my craziness served that purpose because no one would ever know what I was going to wear or what I was going to do so it was really really fun.

I hear you have a new VH1 Reality TV show in the works, what can you tell us about it?

Bai Ling: Actually we've already signed the contract so two producers are going to follow me around and we just need to find the right form for me and VH1 and for the audience, my fan, to see. What would the fans like to see me do? I think it'll mostly be about me and pop culture, style, fashion, my life; a modern girl's life. I think the fans would have the most intelligent ideas.

Do you feel like you're at a disadvantage for some roles since English is not your first language?

Bai Ling: Of course, for sure but probably my mind or the way I'm living life is programmed different where I'm doing things to try and do things. I do things for love. But I love to do what I do and I feel like everyone has their own unique talent. I found mine, that I'm really good as an actress because for me it's very natural, very easy, and very truthful. I have a lot of joy when I'm doing it and I feel very powerful inside of me when I'm doing it because actors think of the emotional journey of the character. It's exciting, unknown, and scary but it's really wonderful when something happens and I even surprise myself. So I feel like of course language is a tool to communicate with the audience to understand what we are thinking and to interpret what is on our mind but at the same time I think silence is more meaningful and beautiful to me.

Of course English is not my first language so I think that the native American roles wouldn't cast me but there's a lot of actors out there that need jobs too; they have their own talents and somebody like me who's more exotic, having a more foreign exotic flavor and something more with mystery and being intriguing because I think a lot of people see me as a mystery because they don't really know me so if that role comes along and the director really likes me then they'll cast me.

What do you look for when reading scripts? What type of roles do you want to try next?

Bai Ling: Yeah, there are a lot of things. Up until today I feel like I haven't done anything because I feel like everyday I start from zero. I feel like a child looking forward to tomorrow and I think every day is like a page in a book where the next day I will unfold that page for me to find out or for life to surprise me. I think there are a lot of things that I want to do but right now what comes to my mind would be a musical because I sing already and they didn't show the best of me as a singer since that show was all for fun. I think if the key is not right for any great singer then they could embarrass themselves too. If the songs and the key did fit me then it could be so beautiful. I think I'd like to do like a Casablanca type of love mystery but a lot of music in the club and it's a woman where she's changing her appearance but we don't know who she is , what she's doing, or where she comes from, or where she's going to go, and why type of relationships she's going to have with different people. Like a musical, that's something I'd like to do; very sensual.

When you're not reading scripts, going to readings, filming, etc, what else do you do with your time? I once read that you're writing a novel?

Bai Ling: I don't know but I think the title of the book is going to be controversial; it's going to be called, Sex in Tibet. It's based on my story, when I was 14 years old and to live in the People's Liberation Army for 3 years; fascinating. It was the most precious time of my life. 3 years in Tibet, I was there breathing the air, dealing with the high altitude, the coldness, the cruelness of the army's strict rules, and the freedom and beauty of the nature. And the music; when you sing the whole mountain echoes back to you. It's beautiful. I'm almost finished so when I'm writing I don't read, I don't watch anything, I'm in my own time universal zone of my story. I don't like to watch TV. I have a TV but I don't have cable. I barely watch it, maybe once a month. I'll watch maybe like Discovery Channel animals, I love animals. I like silence sometimes. I like to walk around, sit on the beach, listen to the birds, watching waves go by.

Do you feel a responsibility or pressure as a Chinese-American actress to positively represent to China?

Bai Ling: I think I don't have to have any personal goals to portray anything differently because there are a lot of beautiful men and women from China, Asia, from all over the world in different areas that are very successful. So in their own way they are their own star shining. All that I'm doing is because I don't know anybody, I don't know English, I have nothing so basically I'm finding my dream and I think that encourages people that you can find your dream and to follow your heart sincerely and give all your love to it. And of course I'm a girl I want to have fun, yeah I'm sexy, I like to have all parts of me experience and show the truth of myself. I think anyone who wants to be a role model has to be loyal to your own character because all these colorful things that's why this world is wonderful, it's not only one color so I can only live life truthfully to myself and the loyal and beautiful thing of being Bai Ling. I just enjoy the gifts of life and being me and to be the best I can be to my audience and to society or wherever I live. I'm very lucky to have been able to travel everywhere; I'm always working in different roles and not being typecast.

So I think that if people watch carefully they'll know that I'm an example of someone who can do things differently and also I don't have pressure on me because naturally I feel like I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing; I think I'm doing it beautifully and with all my heart and joy. Don't forget joy, that's very important because if you live only under duty then you will not be happy. You have to have fun. I'm a free spirit. I feel no pressure. I think when you lead a life where you don't feel pressure naturally then you probably end up doing more than you want to. You are here, we're all here for a reason and I feel that if you follow your heart you'll do a lot of great things for others, for yourself. I just hope, as people who don't really know me, they probably see me as dressing sexy and going to these places but watch my movie and see how each role is different. I really hope that my audience, I really love my audience because without them we're nothing, we're not doing anything, so I really care how they would see me as who I am because you don't always see everything.

For instance, for the Oscars I dressed very elegantly but they don't want to use my picture because they like something where my nipple showed off or something sexy, I don't know why. So it's not up to me but I do have another side, I hope people would see me as a whole thing and just not corner me into a certain type. I so much more than that they don't hear the melody of who I am. I sincerely want to give the best I have for each character I play.

Are you close friends with other Chinese-American actors like Jackie Chan, Zhang Ziyi, etc...?

Bai Ling: Actually I don't hang out with them a lot because we all have own our schedule, our own way of living life. I think all of us are also always traveling around the world and it's hard to get together. When we see each other we say hi but not really hang out. I don't know where they are, they don't know where I am. But I'm proud of them and I'm very happy for them.

How often do you go back to China and how are you treated?

Bai Ling: I was just there for Chinese New Years. China has changed tremendously. I was there and gradually the USA fades away, gradually Hollywood fades away. I decided I'd have no phone, only email once in a while when I want to check it. I told my agent those 2-3 weeks to just leave me alone that I'm going to be with family. So basically everyday I was with family and I'd eat 4 full meals a day, I feel so fat, I'd never eaten this much and we'd go out and eat at different restaurants. I'm Chinese but every meal surprised me. They have all these old-style way of cooking and all kinds of flavors; I can't resist eating because it's so good. The streets that I went to school I can't even recognize anymore. It changes so much, you can buy anything, all the designer brands and you can get any food you want like McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken. You can karaoke, it's great. And the streets, I feel like Los Angeles is like the countryside, but a retired place. But in China it's like a young, vibrant, energetic and full of young people there.

Read full interview at The Bastardly
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