CON­SEN­SUS OF ONE

Tai­wanese ac­tor Wang Ta Lu made it as an ac­tor with more than just his good looks. He’s not your typ­i­cal lead­ing man, to say the least, as his mis­chievous side still needs a lit­tle get­ting used to. How­ever, that could very well give him an edge over his r

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Everyone knows what a celebrity is. It doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean that the so- named in­di­vid­ual is driven to ac­quire fame at all costs. In fact, some who have earned such a la­bel are hard work­ers who are in­tro­verts when the cam­eras aren’t flash­ing and the spot­light is turned off. What is meant by the term is a per­son whose ap­pear­ance, be­hav­iour, ac­com­plish­ments, and public per­sona mark them out to be a mag­netic pres­ence through sheer charisma. “I love per­form­ing as a child,” re­calls Wang Ta Lu. He isn’t the bla­tant so­cial climber and par­ty­ing young punk who could be a hand­ful for his man­agers and han­dlers. “It gives me great plea­sure to be able to de­light and en­ter­tain an au­di­ence. I feel ex­tremely happy and lucky to be given the op­por­tu­nity to be an ac­tor.”

There is noth­ing more ex­as­per­at­ing to an ac­tor than be­ing com­pared to an­other ac­tor. It’s like a back­handed com­pli­ment, isn’t it? Here we are, care­fully avoid­ing pi­geon- hol­ing this promis­ing Tai­wanese artiste for fear that our es­ti­ma­tion falls short of what he is ca­pa­ble of, and there he is prat­tling away about why it doesn’t mat­ter any­way. “I feel a rush of adren­a­line when I hear the ap­plause of those who ap­pre­ci­ate the ef­fort I’ve put into a role,” he says. “It helps me to over­come the in­er­tia of tak­ing on the next project or as­sign­ment.”

One way of sort­ing out the prob­lem is to com­pare his swag­ger to ath­letes such as Chi­nese bad­minton su­per­star Lin Dan. Yes, Wang has the same bad boy vibe of a baller who struts and flexes with glee. It’s also no co­in­ci­dence that his In­sta­gram ac­count is a study in fa­cial ex­pres­sions in­ter­jected by a trib­ute to the re­cently re­tired NBA le­gend, Kobe Bryant. Wang still plays basketball in his down­time. He goes by Dar­ren Wang, but we’ll stick to Ta Lu that he ex­plains isn’t a stage name. “That’s my real name!” he as­serts in jest.

It is great fun lis­ten­ing to Wang in­tro­duce his younger self to you. “I was blessed to have act­ing and com­mer­cial gigs at an early age,” the 25-year- old would say. “Un­for­tu­nately, I didn’t take them se­ri­ously and was rep­ri­manded by a di­rec­tor who said I was a di­a­mond in the rough, but my lack of work ethic was such a waste of tal­ent. It was the wakeup call I needed.” It’s also heart­en­ing to learn that he has de­cided to take a chill pill and not let his ea­ger­ness push him into the “flame- out” cat­e­gory, as com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful as he is now as an up-and- com­ing com­mod­ity with act­ing roles in hit movies such as Our Times and De­sign 7 Love.

Ev­i­dently, Wang isn’t the al­co­hol-ad­dled, live- hard-and- die-young River Phoenix type. We’re bi­ased, of course, be­cause we be­lieve a young Robert Downey Jr. fall­ing off the edge un­leashed his im­mense tal­ent, mak­ing his por­trayal of the flawed Tony Stark that much more com­pelling and re­lat­able. How­ever, that isn’t the pre­scrip­tion we’ll be dol­ing out to this promis­ing young man. “I just need to rein it in a tad,” he con­curs.

“My abil­ity to fo­cus dur­ing crunch time helps,” he adds. “At the end of it all, I need to set­tle down and work hard. I’m happy with where I am now, and such is life that we al­ways learn from our mistakes. Only fools re­peat them. For ex­am­ple, as a child, I was re­minded by a teacher that even a white lie is dan­ger­ous. That’s some­thing that I carry with me. To be hon­est and sin­cere in terms of how I carry my­self and it also trans­lates into an hon­esty when I’m por­tray­ing a char­ac­ter.”

And so, he read­ily ad­mits that he doesn’t mind fol­low­ing the sim­i­lar path that Joseph Chang, best known for his role in Eter­nal Sum­mer, took to his suc­cess. That would be a fairly tried-and-true ca­reer arc, but he takes us on a quick de­tour and de­cides that a gig with leg­endary Hong Kong funny man Stephen Chow is the mad, bad and awe­some punch line that he wants on his re­sume as well. “The pack­ag­ing does not mat­ter,” he says, as­sured of his hi­er­ar­chy in the pyra­mid as a promis­ing star. “What’s more im­por­tant is our com­pass in life. It doesn’t mat­ter how many times you get knocked down in life. You just got to get back up.”

How­ever, be­fore you march away de­rid­ing his flaw­less fea­tures for get­ting in the way of his funny bone, he clar­i­fies that it is mis­chievous char­ac­ters such as Sun Wukong (the Mon­key King) and Wei Xiaobao in The Deer and the Caul­dron that he would like to rein­vig­o­rate with his own brand of brash cheek­i­ness. “There are way too many takes on these two iconic char­ac­ters,” he ac­knowl­edges. “Yet, I would love to try my hand at giv­ing them my own flair and wit. I’m com­mit­ted to rein­vent­ing my­self and pre­pared when there is an op­por­tu­nity to take on a chal­leng­ing role. I want to play com­plex char­ac­ters that are suave, ar­ro­gant, bum­bling, and iron­i­cally hu­mor­ous all the same.”

Eas­ier said than done, but we’re cer­tain that Wang is well on his way to be­com­ing the ver­sa­tile ac­tor he wishes to be. Af­ter go­ing through the dif­fer­ent stages of a bud­ding artiste, he also re­alises that some­times, a smirk and a raised eye­brow is all it takes to weather the hard times in his ca­reer. “Everyone has his or her niche,” he con­cludes. “We play to our strength and make that in­cre­men­tal progress with the end goal in sight. I’m liv­ing my dream and it gives me mo­ti­va­tion to move for­ward. All I have to do is work hard, work hard, and work hard.”

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