Just two months ago, Hu Ge was still best known as the dashing hero Li Xiaoyao, a character that audiences remembered from the decade-old fantasy series Chinese Paladin (《仙剑奇侠传》)
But since then, he has redefined himself, by adding two new, iconic roles to his repertoire. Hu recently played the bubbly, patriotic agent Ming Tai in The Disguiser (《伪装者》) and the resourceful strategic adviser Mei Changsu in Nirvana in Fire (《琅琊榜》).
Getting the role of Li Xiaoyao was affirmation of his success as an actor, Hu told the Beijing Evening News. But he worried that he would be stuck playing the same kind of character for the rest of his career. "The scariest thing for an actor is being typecast."
To escape that fate, Hu has taken roles outside of the mainstream. He acted in modern dramas, and he even disappeared from the screen entirely, to devote himself to stage acting for one year.
But his efforts to be taken seriously as an actor were to little avail, until he received the script for Nirvana in Fire. The role of Mei Changsu was different from the mostly one-dimensional characters that Hu had previously played in a string of period dramas.
"Mei Changsu is a man who is ill and weak. I could not make many physical gestures or dramatic expressions. All of his expressions had to be subtle and nuanced," he told The Beijing News.
Playing the role was difficult, but the character resonated with Hu.
In 2006, Hu was severely injured in a car accident. After several operations and about 100 stitches on his face and neck, a visible scar still remains near the corner of his eye.
This experience helped Hu to better understand the role. "Definitely. An actor's greatest inspiration will always be his life experiences," he said.
Hu's pretty face was once a stepping-stone for his success, and the scar traumatized him for a long time.
But in recent years, Hu has become more confident about revealing his full face, the scar included.
"If I myself am not bothered by it, no one else will care. I have to move past it. Otherwise, how can I continue my acting career?" he said.
Hu's increasingly sophisticated roles have earned him critical acclaim. But Hu doesn't see himself as an actor in transition.
"A transition seems like a complete repudiation of your past… I just turned around to let viewers see another side of me," he told Beijing Evening News.