BY KELVIN TAN
Succeeding in Hollywood really has myriad routes. For some, theirs is paved with stardust; for others, it can be a slightly more long and winding route.
Born in Fuzhou, China, Ludi was sent abroad to boarding schools in Australia, where he spent the bulk of his youth.
In his final year of high school, he emigrated to Canada, where he graduated and entered the University of British Columbia to study theatre performance.
That’s par for the course for most actors. But then he added a bachelor’s in dietetics and further studies in medicine.
The 29-year-old shares with Men’s Health some life lessons learned along the way, and what it takes to find, and reach, your personal life goals.
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Q: Was being an actor always something you wanted to do from the start?
I’ve got a really traditional mother. I had a choice between being a lawyer and a doctor, but unbeknownst to her, I wanted to follow in her footsteps – she used to be a traditional Chinese opera singer and actress. That’s what got me signing on for that theatre performance course. When she found out, she said that I’d better get a “real” degree afterwards. That’s why I chose medicine, and dietetics, which I have a personal interest in as it’s about nutrition and how to eat right and live right, and then med school after.
But after two years, I just couldn’t forget about acting. So I quit med school to pursue my dream. Of course, I had to kind of get that past my mother – she’s your typical Asian tiger mom. Wait, no, she’s also a tiger dad, a tiger goddess. That’s how hardcore she is. But that is amazing for me as her strength is a real inspiration.
Q: How do you look at all that now in hindsight?
I actually understand her now; she sacrificed a lot to bring me up. She’s such a unique person, and the strength of her beliefs helped make my life better.
She put everything behind her – career, relationships and our family – and immigrated out of China just to give me and my sister a better shot at a good future.
Q: You were born in Fuzhou, moved to Hong Kong at four, and then went to Australia at nine. Then at 17, you moved to Canada.
When I look back now, they were all valuable experiences. But at that time, it felt like I was a child living in a Slumdog Millionaire story – it a bit like being a vagrant, shifting from place to place and never really settling down roots.
But I stayed with a lot of wonderful people – homestay families in Australia – which helped grow my command of English. And now I can do Australian, American and British accents!
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I had a really mean drama teacher in high school, and she turned me off acting. But the hunger pangs didn’t go away despite her best efforts. She was really the kind of teacher that sucked all the soul out of learning and our creative minds.
But after I dropped out of medical school, the desire for acting just didn’t go away. I started doing American TV roles, and those old acting lessons came back. I began diving into roles, and in a certain way I like how Daniel Day-Lewis gets when he takes on roles – he completely immerses himself.
The only thing I can seem to do is compartmentalise it all. I don’t take the role back home with me, and mentally return to the person I really am. But I am starting out in my career, so who knows? Maybe some day I’ll have a role that makes this harder.
Q: What’s the most important advice you’ve ever been given?
In the midst of all that, I went backpacking for two years and received this pearl of wisdom: Most of your learning in life is outside of school.
I love the idea of a gap year after university. I went to Mongolia, China, Southeast Asia, Fiji and Argentina. Every single day was an adventure. I ate insects in Thailand, got into trouble in Laos – these experiences change you, and there’s no way you won’t be a better man after it all. And they’ve served me well in Hollywood.
If you want to be a good chef, you need to eat a lot of things, and in that same way to be a good actor, you need to have a wide variety of experiences to call upon. And that spirit of lifelong learning, I think, is the best advice I can give your readers as well.
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