My Day: Hong Kong television actress Luvin Chingwai

Luvin Chingwai in various roles Image copyright Luvin Chingwai

Luvin Chingwai works as a television actress in Hong Kong. She frequently acts in historical or police dramas, and has been trained in martial arts and Cantonese opera.

My daily timetable can be erratic - it very much depends on my filming schedule.

I originally started TV acting with the channel TVB. Sometimes I'd be working for three or four days, pretty much nonstop, and I wouldn't be sure whether it was daytime or night time.

That's because TVB shoots most of its outdoor scenes during the day, and its indoor scenes by night - indoors, they don't need natural light. So if your scenes happen to be scheduled around the same times you can be working continuously for a few days, which is very tiring for the actors.

At my current company, HKTV, I get more chances to rest because my shift patterns are no longer than 12 hours per day.

But it's still hard work - I recently finished filming a series called Night Shift, which was completely shot at night time.

This meant I had to adjust my sleeping patterns completely, because I was working 1700-0600 shifts for four months.

Even on the days when I wasn't working I'd have to follow that pattern so my body was adapted to that working schedule. Often, getting to sleep in the morning is the hardest part.

Image copyright Luvin Chingwai
Image caption Luvin Chingwai has played both male (left) and female characters in Cantonese Opera

A lot of interesting things happen when you film at night. For example, most shops and offices are shut at night, so we need to use public toilets. And the lights are often switched off there - so sometimes we have to navigate our way around with a torch!

I play a police officer in Night Shift. People often mistake my colleagues and I for real police officers late at night - even some of my colleagues who are very famous.

People sometimes end up approaching us to ask for directions or to report crimes - my colleagues and I compete to see who gets mistaken for a police officer the most. It's happened to me at least five times.

Once we were filming a police chase for another series - and people started chasing the suspect with us. One person tried to block the suspect with a bicycle, and other people even summoned other, real, police officers to help!

It was quite intense, but we had to keep going until the director said "cut" - we generally try not to stop acting mid-way in case we ruin a shot.

Weibo and rabbits

I generally eat simply unless I'm meeting up with friends. I tend to have cereal for breakfast, and make noodles with vegetables and some meat for lunch and dinner.

I'll also visit a Chinese doctor and take Chinese herbal medicines to stay healthy.

If I'm not working, I train or work out nearly every day. I train in martial arts, judo and dancing at least two to three days a week, and I play badminton on Fridays.

I try to update my Facebook page and my weibo [Chinese microblog] feed at least once a day - I see sharing my work or what I'm up to with followers as part of my job.

My acting schedule often doesn't match with my friends' work schedules, so I try to see them whenever we're both free.

I like hearing about their jobs too - it always helps to understand how other industries work in case they come up in a script one day!

I have five pet rabbits - I live alone, so it's nice coming back to them when I finish work.

Male roles

I didn't start out as a TV actress. I've liked the performing arts since I was in secondary school, and I trained in Cantonese Opera, a type of Chinese opera that combines singing, dancing, martial arts and acting, at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.

It was tough. When I started out, I had to learn to do the splits. I had to do stretches for two and a half hours every morning and it took me two years before I could do it properly.

Image copyright Luvin Chingwai
Image caption Luvin Chingwai says acting involves a lot of hard work

My classmates and I joked that people would call us silly for subjecting ourselves to this sort of abuse every day! But it's paid off, because I can control my body well and do kung fu moves, like kicking above my head, quite easily now.

Cantonese Opera is a very detailed art form, with lots of traditions that need to be followed in terms of movements, voices and costumes.

I originally trained for female roles, but I'm quite tall, which makes it harder to match my character to a male character, so my trainers suggested I learn to play male roles. A male character played by a female tends to look prettier, too!

I saw it as another skill to learn - when I started playing male characters I was told I had too much of a girlish air, but now that I've learned to play both I think it helps me when I need to act as sterner, tougher female characters on TV too.

When I finished training in Cantonese Opera I freelanced and taught drama for a year, but the audience for Cantonese Opera is relatively small in Hong Kong, so I decided I should work in other mediums too.

I started TV acting after joining a trainee programme with the channel TVB, where we were trained in things including wire stunts, dubbing, hosting shows and speaking to the media.

I mostly work in the TV industry now, but I haven't given up on the stage. I hope that, one day, if I become famous, I'll also be able to encourage more people to appreciate the theatre and Cantonese Opera.

Image copyright Luvin Chingwai
Image caption Period dramas can involve complicated costumes

I don't know if it's to do with how I look, but I end up playing characters in historical dramas a lot. Normally, period dramas are shot during the summer, because there are more outside scenes that need natural light - and the outfits are more complicated and take longer to put on.

There can be several layers to put on, which means it can get very hot.

People think acting is fun and glamorous, but it's also a lot of hard work! If you're shooting an outdoor scene you can be out in the sun all day, and sometimes you'll get injuries from training or doing action scenes.

I think every job has its challenges, and if you find a career you like then the work is always worthwhile.

Hong Kong TV series tend to get distributed quite widely around the world, because wherever there is a Chinese community, there'll be people who are interested.

However, I think the TV industry will need to up its game. There is more and more competition across Asia now, from mainland Chinese, Korean and Japanese dramas, and now that people can go online, people have more choice in what they watch, and will demand higher quality programmes.

Luvin Chingwai was talking to the BBC's Helier Cheung.

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