Young actor portraying Mao Zedong says he shows a youthful, affable pioneer
Published: Mar 16, 2021 08:36 PM
Mao Zedong in <em>The Awakening Age</em>

Mao Zedong in The Awakening Age

In the street of Changsha city, Central China's Hunan in the 1910s, children are crying by the street with their faces covered in mud, waiting to be sold off; a beggar is groveling on the ground; police officers are marching in the crowd like roosters; some women scramble to get hot blood from a freshly-executed criminal because they believe the blood could cure illnesses.

In the pouring rain, a young man runs down the street, taking everything in and remembering it in his mind. 

This is the debut of Mao Zedong in the recent TV series The Awakening Age. Mao was a university student in Hunan at the time.

"Here descends the man." "He is the light," read some comments on a streaming website. This scene, utilizing a great many artistic and shocking close-ups to show people, animals, and objects, has been repeatedly mentioned by The Awakening Age's audience. 

"I was familiar with Mao Zedong, but I didn't expect he appeared in the scene of The Awakening Age, dashing through the rain. This vivid version of Mao altered my perception of patriotic TV dramas," said an audience.

It is 36-year-old actor Hou Jingjian's eighth time portraying Mao. He was 24 when he first played Mao. "This character is too special… I was clueless and was under great pressure," Hou told the Global Times in a recent exclusive interview.

In China, actors who play significant historic men, such as Mao, as well as other leaders including Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping, are known as the "typecast actor." The concept was first introduced in 1979.

Many actors have to do a great deal of research and mimic the accent, movements  and expressions of the characters they play. So did Hou.

"Young Mao Zedong was energetic and he had a wish to build a bright new China," he said, noting that in the series he was told by the director to play a Mao who was youthful and approachable.