Liu Shishi famously started her performing career as a dancer. She was a graduate who majored in ballet from the Beijing Dance Academy when she first dabbled in acting, making an appearance in the 2005 television series “The Moon and the Wind.” Although it has been many years since she left the world of dance, there are still clear remnants of Liu’s years of training — seen in her stance, poise and elegance. In pictures and on screen, she has impeccable posture, and the long, lithe lines of a dancer. But despite these beginnings in another art form, it is clear that Liu has also made her mark as an outstanding actress, one known for her nuanced and truthful performances.
Liu was named one of China’s new four dan actresses in 2013. The press christens new four dan actresses with each new generation. But despite these pressures, both financial and creative — she has handled her career with grace. She is the ambassador of top brands like Chanel makeup and Omega watches, again an indication of her status as a fashion icon and her commercial value. But what stands out most is her practical and hardworking approach to both her career and her individual roles.
Chanel dress and earrings.
When T Singapore asked Liu, via an email interview, if her dance training brought any new dimension to her acting, her answer was tellingly pragmatic. “Dance students are very patient, [so] for martial arts, people who studied dance will find it easier, as they are able to remember the movements faster,” she says. It’s no wonder then that in her career Liu has seemed to gravitate towards projects that tapped on her training in the past — such as wuxia films, a genre that focusses on the adventures of martial artists in ancient China. Some of her most popular performances have been in wuxia or wuxia-adjacent television series including, “Chinese Paladin 3,” that was based on a video game, and 2008’s “The Legend of the Condor Heroes.”
Still, Liu, who is appearing in a more contemporary drama series and film this year does not consciously gravitate to particular genres or periods. “It all depends on the storyline. There are no specific restrictions. However, I have not participated in a period drama for quite a while now, so I can consider this genre for my next role,” she says.
Chanel dress and earrings. Beauty Note: Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Foundation and Rouge Allure Laque in Unlimited.
When it comes for selecting roles though, Liu, though highly regarded as a well-known actresses, is not concerned about whether a role is awards-bait or not. “For me personally, I will not put so much consideration about winning awards, in fact, there is no need to put such pressure on myself. The most important is to play the role well,” says Liu. She has a logical, three-step approach to playing a character. “The most important factor will be studying the character’s occupation, followed by her personality and her experiences growing up. If the character holds a career that I have not yet experienced or I’m unfamiliar with, I will look into it first in advance,” says Liu.
Ralph Lauren Collection jacket and blouse. Kenneth Jay Lane earrings, available at Lane Crawford; Chanel top, skirt, belt and sandals.
“The most important factor will be studying the charcter’s occupation, followed by her personality and her experiences growing up.”
Bottega Veneta dress, Rosantica necklace, available at Lane Crawford; Chanel top and Coco Crush white gold necklace with diamonds.
One of her latest roles in the upcoming series “My Best Friend’s Story” opposite fellow Chinese actress Ni Ni, which explores female friendships, she plays Jiang Nan Sun, a woman from a wealthy family, who sees things objectively and is soft on the outside, but tough on the inside. Liu found this role, along with another role in 2020, as a salesperson named Li Siyu in the television series “Dear Myself” as some of her more challenging work, because both characters are so drastically different.
Brunello Cucinelli sweater and skirt. Giuseppe Zanotti heels. Beauty Note: Chanel Rouge Allure Laque in Experimente and Le Vernis in Rouge Puissant.
When speaking about her time filming “My Best Friend’s Story, Liu is enthusiastic. “It was an enjoyable experience for me. The director has a lot of experience in shooting and had a strong ability to coordinate. At that time, I had just finished shooting ‘My Dear Self’ so there was a comparison to Li Siyu. The role of Jiang Nansun is very different,” says Liu. Liu, who was born in Beijing also adds that it was her first time playing a Shanghai-centric character. “Although we didn’t deliberately emphasise the Shanghai location, we paid attention to certain details. For example, we paid attention to the word order of usual speech, and I also consulted the local Shanghainese around me,” she says.
Describing Jiang Nan Sun as someone who would not want to rely on others nor want to owe others anything, she took pains to channel that into her portrayal. “Gentleness is just an impression on the surface. Jiang Nan Sun is actually pretty free and straightforward in person,” says Liu. Still, the drama, which portrays a close female friendship, is something that Liu says she herself has experienced in real life, and which she feels is very much needed. “It’s important to believe in yourself and follow your conscience. And believe in the power of friendship. Have a good friend who you can really trust and rely on, especially one who spreads positivity to your life,” she says.
Brunello Cucinelli sweater.
As someone who has built an acting career in both television series and films, Liu is the first to admit that the differences between filming the two are huge, “First of all, the length is different, the format of broadcast is different, and the scene is also different,” she says. In China, television series can run for long periods — “Scarlet Heart,” lasted 35 episodes, so filming a series is understandably a bigger time commitment.
After giving birth, many of her fans have been eagerly awaiting Liu’s return to the acting world, and it seems that she has returned both confident and renewed
Chanel dress, earrings, belt, cuffs, and sandals.
As someone in the spotlight, one who appears luminously beautiful on screen and picture-perfect during red carpet appearances, it is no surprise that Liu appears flawless at every appearance. Despite the glamorous aura that surrounds her, and the fact that she undoubtedly faces an unspoken pressure to appear physically perfect at all times, Liu paints the picture of someone who would opt for the down-to-earth option if given the choice. When asked what her style is, she says simply that she prefers to be comfortable. In her spare time, Liu enjoys food, drink, staying at home and reading novels. She also enjoys travel — a small luxury she has in her spare time. Although she is far from an everywoman, one can almost imagine for an instant, that perhaps Liu is not so different from us after all.
Liu Shishi fronts T's “Culture” January 2021 issue in a Chanel dress, earrings belt and cuffs. Beauty Note: Chanel Beauty Les Beiges Healthy Glow Foundation Hydration and Longwear, Rouge Allure Laque in 80 Timeless and Le Vernis in Rouge Puissant.
Photographs by Oliverjune/Warmstudio
Styled and produced by An
Hair: Wen Zhi
Makeup: Yang Dan using Chanel Beauty
Manicure: Muun Muun
Styling assistant: Dara, Ren Jing
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