There’s something wonderfully grounding about Gwei Lun Mei. Perhaps it’s because she’s not afraid to get lost.
Once a journalist herself, the award-winning Taiwanese actress carries an old-school sense of wonder and willingness to explore the world and life around her without the trappings of luxury and comfort. Even when approaching the new and unfamiliar, be it environment, scripts or characters, the actress believes in embracing life’s experiences fully and wholly. Despite having played seemingly fragile girl-next-door roles, her independence and dedication to developing a unique perspective by getting her hands dirty and delving into authentic environments has carried her to greater heights each time, imbuing each of her characters with believability despite their seeming frailty, as was the case in the 2007 mystery-romance Secret.
A veteran in the industry with a decade of experience under her belt and works to her name of such quality that the Macau Film Festival recently held a three-film retrospective of her work: Secret, The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (2011) and Forêt Debussy (2016). Praised in reviews internationally, Gwei is guaranteed to bring depth to each character she portrays, finding the filament of strength in each one. We took the opportunity to sit down with her after her appointment as the face of Montblanc Bohème.
You’re known for your fresh, girl-next-door persona, but do you have a wish to explore characters of a different genre?
I’ve always wanted to try out for characters from an autobiography, but now I’m hoping to experiment with urban romantic comedies, like When Harry Met Sally or Sleepless in Seattle.
Since Blue Gate in 2002, how have you approached choosing scripts and characters?
After 10 years of performing, my perspective on choosing scripts and characters has changed, along with my realisations of life and the lessons from films I’ve watched. More importantly, it’s about whether or not I understand a character’s desire, whether the story resonates with me, and if there might be a spark in the collaborative process between the director and the cast. I look for thought-provoking stories and characters.
Does your background as a former magazine columnist affect the way you investigate and approach your roles?
Writing is often a way for people to organise their thoughts and ideas. In order to share your thoughts with others, you need to open up your five senses and embrace life as it is. That’s the same with performance. It’s the art of sharing everything you experience in life.
We know that you’re an avid solo traveller. Do you have a particularly memorable experience from your travels?
In 2004, when I was still a sophomore in college, I applied for the school’s student exchange programme to study for a year at the Jean Moulin University Lyon III in France. That year I had a phenomenal experience travelling alone through southern France. Starting out from Aix-en-Provence, I went to Marseille, Arles, Avignon, Nîmes, Orange, and Cassis. It was a slightly anxious yet exciting venture, to be wandering around unfamiliar and foreign cities. On the beach at Cassis, surrounded by completely naked women, I’d drifted off comfortably feeling thegentle breeze, then woke up five hours later with sunburn all over my body. After that, even the slightest gust of wind would bring a lot of pain to this first-degree burn. The scars took a long time to fade.
Back then there was no Google Maps, only travel guides and paper maps. I ended up witnessing the true everyday lives of the locals. As a tourist passing through, it wasn’t easy to enjoy all the various aspects of life and the real charm of the cities. The way I prefer to travel is to live in a city for a longer period of time, if there’s a chance, and pretend that I’m a local. There’d be no rush to make it to all the tourist spots and there’d be time to just live comfortably, stroll the traditional markets, and go for a walk on the streets.
You’re the face of Montblanc Bohème. Why did you decide to partner with Montblanc, andwhen did your collaboration begin?
I began my collaboration with Montblanc’s Bohème women’s collection in the spring of 2014. I was thrilled that Montblanc features the traits of a strong, independent woman, in contrast with the public’s impression of graceful feminine beauty. The watch’s design with the culture film wide frame also showcases women’s spontaneity. I also respect how Montblanc encourages young artists. As the brand continues to advance with time and age Montblanc holds on to its traditional craft, but at the same time allows young artists the opportunity to explore. I love the interchange of new and old ideas and arts.
Have you always had an affinity with Montblanc and the art of the Swiss watch?
When I was young, my memory of Montblanc is my father’s fountain pen on his desk. The icon of the six-rayed star left an impression in my mind and drew me closer to the understanding of the image of Montblanc. I’ve also heard much about the intricate craftsmanship of the Swiss watch.
With a demanding work schedule, what are your secrets to keeping your face and body healthy and in tip-top shape?
A healthy nutritious diet, plenty of water, and sleep. Removing my make-up completely every day and a good skin hydration routine is a must. I do yoga once or twice every week and whenever I can I try to walk instead of riding in a car.
How about for the red carpet?
Getting enough rest the night before. Comfort and confidence are your best wardrobe.
Do you have any favourite designers for the red carpet, and which are your favourites for daily wear?
I don’t have a preference for specific brands on the red carpet because each brand varies its designs for every season. I choose what I like to wear based on whatever outfit best suits the occasion and gives me the most confidence. As for everyday wear, I like brands such as Comme des Garçons, Rick Owens, Toga and Uniqlo.