A photo of a scene from I Am the Actor for an article about's how the show impacts audiences. (Image via Google Images)

‘I Am the Actor’ Series Unveils the Secrets of the Performance World

The Chinese TV competition show gives viewers the chance to witness the ins and outs of the acting process.  
April 15, 2021
4 mins read

Live TV competition shows have become increasingly popular since the beginning of the 2000s. Most live competitions are focused on different skill areas, such as cooking and singing. Just like their sports counterparts, these contests captivate their audience by showing the hectic intensity and competitiveness on stage and building suspense for the ultimate outcome. However, unlike sports events, these competitions are more entertainment-oriented and have a more direct relationship with the viewers’ lives.

In recent years, acting has emerged as a new field for live competition in China. Many TV programs across the most popular channels have risen to fame, and they’re immediately followed with new seasons because of the audience’s burning desire. Here are my thoughts on the Chinese talent show program “I Am the Actor,” specifically regarding how the series successfully captures and sustains the audience’s interest.

Entertaining Yet Serious

The format of the competition on “I Am the Actor” is similar to that of “The Voice.” After watching their initial performances, an acting mentor will select from a group of actors and coach them one by one through a series of trainings and rehearsals, culminating in a final performance. Acting professionals, including the mentors themselves, will give their feedback on the competitors’ performances after each presentation.

Along with judgments from professional actors and film directors, audience ratings also contribute to the final score of each performance. The best will remain, and the losers leave. “I Am the Actor” goes far beyond being merely an entertaining TV program. Instead, it’s an intense contest where all of the participants are seriously engaged.

All of the mentors on “I Am the Actor” are renowned actors or acting teachers who are recognized as exceptional in their profession and have contributed substantially to the development of the Chinese film industry. For example, one of the mentors, Ziyi Zhang, is one of the most awarded Chinese actresses of all time, and she was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for best actress.

The show’s quality and strictness of training is at an international standard. Since all of the judges are also accomplished and experienced actors, directors or producers, the performance suggestions they give are exceptionally valuable. Benefiting from the feedback from the most experienced acting professionals, the quality of the contestants’ performances improves constantly throughout the competition.

If you have never been seriously engaged in the theater, you may wonder how acting and performing could turn so competitive. However, such competitiveness motivates the actors to be more focused on the art form, which the general public has traditionally viewed as mere entertainment.

Discloses Behind-the-Scenes Secrets

The show also engages the audience by revealing the birth of an acting performance, from the beginning to the end. “I Am the Actor” portrays the process by depicting all of the important details. For example, it reveals to the audience what factors will be taken into account when the actors select their roles to perform.

The most poignant scenes are when the mentors teach the actors to enhance the quality of their performance throughout the filming process. The audience learns how the actors immerse themselves in the story even if they’ve never personally experienced anything similar. They learn how the actors authentically perform a highly emotional scene with expressions like crying or screaming, and the audience sees how the actors collaborate with their partners to achieve seamless interactions.

Relatable Scenes

Another reason why the audience can relate to “I Am the Actor” is that they can easily understand the themes and the intense emotions. The scenes are purposefully selected to cater to the taste of the Chinese audience, exuding some of the most significant values and moral judgments in Chinese society.

The themes of the performances range from friendship and family relations to more romantic relationships. The show delivers a full spectrum of emotional experiences to the audience, motivating viewers to empathize with and reflect on significant topics in their own lives. At the same time, “I Am the Actor” also provides an incredible opportunity to approach the mainstream societal value of Chinese society for anyone interested.

Many of the participants are not professional actors; they include singers and other amateurs, which allows the show to give even more insight into the acting process from the perspective of a beginner. “I Am the Actor” is not just entertaining — it’s an enriching experience.

Benjamin Chen, Columbia University

Writer Profile

Xiaobin (Benjamin) Chen

Columbia University
Economics and Psychology

Benjamin Chen is an economics and psychology student at Columbia University. He is always motivated to innovate and change the world for the better. He is driven and guided by values, principles and love.

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