His own man

> Ris­ing TV host Harry Yuan was in Kuala Lumpur to talk about his projects for the Na­tional Ge­o­graphic Chan­nel


IT WAS only as I was about to leave af­ter the in­ter­view with Harry Yuan that I was told that his mother is fa­mous ac­tress Cheng Pei-Pei, best known for her por­trayal as Jade Fox in Ang Lee’s Acad­emy Award-win­ning Crouch­ing Tiger, Hid­den Dragon.

He could have men­tioned it dur­ing the in­ter­view but then again, his mother’s le­gendary sta­tus might di­vert our at­ten­tion from Amer­i­can-born Yuan’s own quest to make a name for him­self.

A for­mer fit­ness coach-turnedTV host and pro­ducer, Yuan’s ca­reer be­gan when he and a friend de­cided to travel around the world and record their ex­ploits for a video called Or­ganic Hobo in 2011.

“I would call [this trip around the world] my ‘de­gree’ in film,” said Yuan.

It was while he was shoot­ing Or­ganic Hobo that he was con­tacted by the Na­tional Ge­o­graphic Chan­nel (NGC), and was asked to pro­duce some con­tent for the chan­nel.

He sub­se­quently set up Dou­ble H Pro­duc­tion, and along with sis­ter Jen­nifer, pro­duced the pro­grammes Route Awak­en­ing, Tai­wan: Tropic of Ex­treme and Kung Fu Mo­tion.

Route Awak­en­ings saw Yuan travel through the heart­lands of China, guided by the coun­try’s two long­est rivers – the Yangtze, and the Huang He or Yel­low River – ex­plor­ing the an­cient cul­tures and tra­di­tions he en­coun­tered on the way.

Tai­wan: Tropic of Ex­treme fol­lowed Yuan as he ex­plored ev­ery­thing the coun­try had to of­fer in­clud­ing food, fun and ad­ven­ture.

The last pro­gramme, Kung Fu Mo­tion, was a five-part doc­u­men­tary se­ries where Yuan trained un­der masters of move­ments in var­i­ous parts of China.

“I don’t think that go­ing back [to China] was to learn about my her­itage per se,” he said.

“My main ob­jec­tive was to pro­duce a show. Dur­ing the [process] that is what you end up do­ing, which is learn­ing about your her­itage.

“I am kind of a for­eign per­son to [the Chi­nese]. They look at me and ask me where I got my ac­cent from. Most of the time they think I am Korean or Ja­panese.”

Kung Fu Mo­tion was shot in 2012, but was only aired in Fe­bru­ary 2014.

Ac­cord­ing to Yuan, the rea­son for the de­lay was due to “NGC’s metic­u­lous­ness with facts” and re­search.

How­ever, he said that Kung Fu Mo­tion did not suf­fer as a re­sult of the de­lay be­cause the art forms are still here to­day.

“They are all [an­cient] art forms that have been there for a long time.”

Now, view­ers who missed Kung Fu Mo­tion the first time can catch its re­peat on NGC (As­tro chan­nel 553) this Satur­day at 7pm. The episodes see Yuan cover var­i­ous art forms, in­clud­ing lion danc­ing, and stilt danc­ing, with a hip-hop twist. He also per­forms a ‘Sichuan rolling oil lamp’ com­edy sketch, dis­plays his skills at the iconic ‘man jug­gling act’ taught by the Shan­dong Ac­ro­batic Troupe, and also plays the Mon­key King at the Beijing Opera. These days, Yuan is busy work­ing as a pre­sen­ter for shows pro­duced by his own com­pany. He also re­cently di­rected his first fea­ture film, Cook­ing for Two, which will be screened at the Hawaii Film Fes­ti­val on Nov 7. “It is a mu­si­cal com­edy about two hosts of a cook­ing show,” he said. “Jen­nifer and I got to­gether two years ago and wanted to do a movie for our sis­ter, Mar­sha, who is a singer and dancer. It was [orginally] meant to be a TV minis­eries.” In the film, Mar­sha stars as a TV chef whose rat­ings be­gin to slip. Net­work ex­ecs then pair her with in­ter­net cook­ing sen­sa­tion Rick (played by Hong Kong-born ac­tor Rick Lau) to help gain new view­ers. Aside from con­tin­u­ing to pro­duce his own shows, Yuan said that his dream is to build a fan base big enough that he will be able to pro­duce his choice of pro­grammes in the fu­ture.

Yuan ... (clock­wise from be­low) play­ing the Mon­key King; with a mask at the Beijing Opera; and in char­ac­ter dur­ing the Sichuan rolling oil lamp sketch in Kung Fu Mo­tion.

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