(This is part of the series on behind-the-scenes while covering celebrities.)
Had this interview with Jerry Yan happened 10 years back, I wouldn’t have been able to do a proper Q&A. I probably would have sat there in front of him in a daze the way I was the first time I saw him on a tarmac at the Manila international airport.
Entertainment was not even my coverage then and the airport beat certainly not my turf, but two of my bosom buddies and I crossed professional lines (don’t try this at home or with your editors kids) and got accredited for the airport beat that day anyway because Jerry was coming to Manila with Vic Chou, I can’t even remember for what. So there they were coming down the steel staircase from the China Airlines plane and there we were on top of a platform reserved for the media. There were shouts of “Jerry!” and “Vic!” as they were quickly ushered by a battallion of bodyguards to a waiting chopper. It was really a scene from a pop star’s life and I could only stand on that platform following them with my eyes until they got into the chopper and slowly lifted off. I could see them peering from inside the chopper and waving. I wasn’t even aware I was the only one left standing there, as the other journalists had scrambled to follow them across the tarmac madly taking photos, until I heard my friends calling me. The voices were from a distance at first, as if I was on a twilight zone, until I slowly came back to my senses and realized I must have looked like an idiot standing still on the elevated stage with my mouth open.
Thankfully, none of that happened this time around.
The interview took place at the backstage of the Taipei Arena just before Rainie Yang’s concert in April 2009. My agent and I arrived in style, dropped by a
limousine nearest the entrance to the backstage. I purposely didn’t bring my DSLR because I wanted to avoid the hassle of being checked by security at the entrance. Of course I was being an idiot since that was not necessary because we were given an all-access media pass and no one even bothered to check my bag. I wanted to hit my head on the wall but it was too late now as I followed my agent to the backstage, a long hallway filled with flowers from Rainie’s fans. Along the way, we ran into one of her minders at Sony (I couldn’t imagine how many minders these people have, seriously) who acted as translator during my interview with Miss Yang herself a few days ago.
We stopped at a door marked “Jerry Yan” and shortly after, one of Jerry’s minders came out. The lady gave me a briefing on what to do and not to do. No photos as she said he was not made-up yet. I had to stick to the questions I have earlier submitted for approval. I had more or less an hour.
We stood at the hallway waiting to be called in. In the meantime, a few people passed by including Little Sweetie (one of the more famous Taiwanese hosts) and Victor, Rainie’s manager himself. We exchanged pleasantries. More waiting.
From inside, I could hear loud laughter. A man had earlier been ushered into the room and the lady minder told me that he’s one of the Sony executives who worked with Jerry before. They were chatting very loudly from inside the room, their talking voices punctuated by laughter every now and then. Jerry seemed to be in a good mood and I felt relieved.
Of course like many, I have read articles on how “difficult” he could get, how he’d often show a black face when things displease him etc etc. I asked the minder if he’s really difficult. She just smiled and assured me it may take time for him to warm up but he’s nice.
I hoped very badly he’d be nice because among the F4, he was my favorite and if I were to find out in person that he’s terrible, that would be an utter disappointment. Still, at the back of my mind, I prepared myself and expected to be confronted with a Jerry who’s brooding and moody like this:
Finally, the male guest left and was all smiles when he came out. The minder went in, perhaps to check if Jerry was ready to receive us. A few seconds later, she returned and signaled we can go in. Finally.
It was a typical dressing room, quite sparse and nothing special about it. On a table at the far side, a laptop was open and playing Jerry’s songs. Maybe he was warming up for his performance later that night as Rainie’s sole guest. The room was also kind of small but maybe that was because Jerry looked tall so he sort of dwarfed the place. He was not really exceptionally tall but he had presence. He was wearing a white track suit and true enough, wasn’t made-up at all. I walked over to him trying to push back my apprehension and to my surprise, was greeted with a Jerry Yan who was smiling broadly and a hand ready for a handshake. It seemed no warm-up was necessary tonight.
I made a quick introduction about myself and then we sat down on two chairs facing each other, while my agent sat to my left. There was no table in sight so there was a problem on where to put my recorder. And this is when Jerry, in English, offered to hold it. Of course I panicked. I couldn’t possibly make him do that. Fenny (or Penny?), his manager who’s quite known among his fans, quickly grabbed another chair and placed it in front of us. Problem solved.
One of the first things I told Jerry was how surprised I am at how he is in person, citing the articles I have read about him. And he admitted, quite sheepishly, that he is childish in real life. All this time, Fenny and another agent, aside from the lady who took care of us earlier, were listening in on the conversation and would sometimes nod their head or offer something in addition to what Jerry was saying. They especially agreed quite enthusiastically over his “childish” admission.
My agent was not in his element that night, I don’t know if his mind was already with watching Rainie’s concert, that it was obvious he was lazily translating Jerry’s answers. My suspicions over my agent’s lackadaisical mode was confirmed when I let a friend listen to the entire interview recording. (Thank you @marylngoh for saving me once more!)
I tried editing the audio to pick highlights but he spoke mostly in Chinese, which means I have to include my agent’s voice. But then I had to edit out my voice too (I hate listening to my own voice and it really distracts me when I’m transcribing interviews) and it’s really not an easy task. So I just have this very short clip of Jerry talking about his favorite actor and movie.
Celebrities are like any other subject when it comes to interviews, they appreciate if journalists have done their research beforehand. And I’m pretty sure they can tell if you’ve done your homework because these are people who are adept at interviews they can do it with their eyes closed. And I could tell that when Jerry learned I watched his work, he was not only surprised, but happy as well, and somewhat amazed at how I could watch his dramas for example when I don’t live in Taipei (I wish I did though). And that made him open up more.
At the end of the interview came the tricky part. I asked if I could take a photo with him. His agents right away jumped in saying he was not made up etc etc. He quietly sat there listening to them talk. When they were done, he asked me, “do you have a camera?” The boss has spoken and the agents could not do anything about it. The second lady–not Fenny nor the minder we spoke with at the start–hurriedly grabbed tissue and dabbed his face while I looked on half-amused and thinking, what are you guys worried about? This dude is pretty without make-up.
While we were taking photos, I saw his childish side. He’s tall and I’m not Lin Chi-ling, okay? I could sense he was doing something behind me because he was giggling like a kid doing something naughty but I did not dare turn my head to find out. He could have stuck out his fingers and given me horns and I couldn’t have done anything about it. When I checked the photo afterwards, I realised he had bent down so we would be of the same height and he had this big grin plastered on his face. That’s Jerry Yan for you.
I couldn’t find the story on our site anymore but a Jerry Yan site posted it here.
It was his birthday on January 1 so 生日快乐 and 新年快乐, 言承旭!
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2 thoughts on “behind the story: Jerry Yan”
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You’re lucky for having this interview. I always wanted to see him and have a conversation. I wonder how to reach him now.