The actor

He lives in a two-bedroom apartment of less than 100 square meters. From the living room and bedroom to the kitchen and bathroom, the walls are crowded with photos, pasted or hung. Even the ceiling was almost covered with photographs. Big and small, vertical and horizontal, black and white, and color, all are stills, which are a concentrated display of the various roles he has played in movies, TV shows and on stage for most of his life.
He is over 70 years old and has white hair. Not long ago, he was invited to play the role of Yang Bailuo in a segment of the White-haired Girl in a community amateur performance. The old man has been acting since his childhood, and has acted hundreds of characters so far. He plays the leading role and the supporting role, but more often he only acts as a walk-on extras. In many plays, he has no words or only one or two “nonsense” sentences. From the photos, he played farmers, village heads, landlords, butchers, drivers, doctors, police, bandits, judges, thieves, bosses, whors, governors, cheats, teachers, hooligans, generals, agents, emperors, minions, and so on and so on, multifarious, all kinds. Even pretending to be an emperor or a general is the foil of the play. The scene is very light, only a few scenes, or even a flash. As the supreme ruler of the Qing Empire, he only said to his ministers, “Retire!” Because it was a wuxia drama, the emperor was just an ornament, the equivalent of a stone or a tree on the side of the road. His longest line as a general was: “Get out and shoot me!” He practiced this line for ten days and gave the director a bath for a month. Although he plays a small role, but he is very serious, from the expression, dress, gesture, to only one sentence of the lines are carefully thought over. He can say “fuck you” and “Tea please” in dozens of dialects. He rehearsed the word “come” no less than ten thousand times in his role as a whoring customer. He even wears several hats in one film, one moment as an eighth Route Army soldier, another costume as a Kuomintang soldier and bandit. No matter what small role he plays, he can be lifelike and accurate.
He’s been acting all his life, but seldom in the lead. No matter how realistic the performance is, it is also fleeting and difficult for the audience to remember. He knows a lot of celebrities and takes pictures with them. So on the walls of his home, you can see some familiar faces that everyone knows, from the kitchen, the toilet, to the living room, the bedroom, glancing all the way along the wall, and then looking up at the ceiling, basically a 60-year history of Chinese film and television.
He was said to have been married three times and had a son and a daughter. The main reason for the breakdown of their marriage was that he could not play the role of a husband in real life. He never knew what to say or do as a father or a son, so his children and parents cut him off.
Today, he still lives alone in his apartment building, drawing pictures on the wall and repeating short sentences from the play. Once, he dragged me to his house to see his “one-man show.” He performed to me the characters of that year’s play happily, changing over twenty roles in succession, panting with exhaustion. During his tea break, I casually asked him, “Of all the roles you’ve played in your life, which one was the least successful?”
He pondered for a moment, his face darkened with frustration and tears welled up in his eyes. His lips began to quiver and he was about to stop. I handed him a napkin, and he wiped his eyes and the corners of his mouth before finally saying something that surprised me: “Myself!” He took a sip of tea and added, “I’ve been playing other people all my life, but I can’t play myself!”