Actress, pop singer and filmmaker Zhao Wei has surprised many Chinese audiences with a new role as a demanding “tiger mom” in the new television series “Tiger Mom Cat Dad.”
In the series, Zhao pushes her husband to move to a high-end neighborhood so their daughter is admitted to a coveted public school. She also puts her daughter in a lot of training classes in order not to “lose at the starting point.”
The family drama, now being aired on Dragon TV, is currently one of the country’s highest-rated TV series. Since its debut on May 3, it has generated heated discussions on the Internet about China’s education system and the parent-child relationships.
Zhao, 39, who won the best actress award at the 34th Hong Kong Film Awards in April for her lead role in “Dearest” about child trafficking in China, says she was impressed with the script, which is based on extensive research and interviews with parents and teachers.
She says the TV series depicts the pressures and anxiety both children and parents are facing today as they compete for a good education.
Zhao rose to fame in the late 1990s after starring as “little swallow” in “My Fair Princess,” a series created and produced by popular Taiwan romance novelist Chiung Yao.
Though many of the movies she has starred in have been hailed by both critics and viewers, including “Shaolin Soccer” and “Painted Skin,” Zhao says she didn’t want to be stereotyped as merely an actress.
In 2013, she made her directorial debut with the film “So Young.” The movie about the lives of university students made 720 million yuan (US$115.9 million) at the box office in China. It also broke the record for highest-grossing film by a female Chinese director.
Zhao’s fans often refer to her as “an ultimate winner” in life. Compared with many actresses her age, Zhao has a well-balanced life with an enviable family and a successful career.
Zhao sits down with Shanghai Daily to talk about “tiger mom,” her thoughts on parenting and her next project.
Q: What do you think of playing a tough “tiger mom?” In what aspect does the series inspire you?
A: I haven’t starred in a TV series for a long time. The script of appealed to me because of its honesty. It tackles a new and realistic social phenomenon that concerns a lot of families in China.
It is a challenging role for me. A “tiger mom” has enormously high expectations for her kid and she usually does things crazy, while on the other hand a “cat dad” often fails to do things right. Both of them represent two extreme views and do harm to family relationships.
The series is not to judge, but to inspire people to explore a new way in family education.
Q: What is your philosophy as a parent?
A: Now it is a lot easier to get along with my 5-year-old daughter. She has grown up so much and communication is simple for us. I am not a “tiger mom” in life and I don’t agree with some parents’ viewpoints that they should be totally devoted to their kids. Parents should not live for their kids. The priceless gifts parents can give to their children are love, understanding and education.
Q: You have been included on some fortune lists in China. What do you think of your capabilities in finance and investment?
A: I have been enlisted on a number of charts over the past years. But what I always bear in mind is that I am only an actress who also directs. I am not that versatile or talented. I just concentrate on my movies and creations. It is not that easy. Fame and fortune do not guarantee happiness in life.
Q: You have won a lot of acting honors including that from the Hong Kong Film Awards. What’s your secret to success?
A: I do not act for awards, but for the feelings of the audience. I do not want to let them down. I express emotion and what I am truly feeling. I like to portray women who have a flaw in their character. I don’t want to take the role of a perfect woman.
Q: Next month you will go to the United States to promote Justin Lin’s comedy film “Hollywood Adventures.” What’s the movie about?
A: It is a visually stunning movie. I play a tour guide. With many scenes shot in the US, the movie is ready to entertain with funny lines and an interesting story.
Q: What can your fans look forward to next?
A: I will take a good rest for a long while. I am tired of being both an actress and director these days.
I plan to direct a new movie in the future. Now I am working on the script. It will be a production with a new style of cinematography for me.