If you are a TV addict like myself, chances are you’ve seen Fei Ren’s beautiful face before on shows like Lucifer, Supernatural, and The Magicians, as well as Canadian shows This Blows and The Romeo Section. And if not, you should probably change that immediately and go watch her in her latest project Polar on Netflix. In Polar, Fei plays badass, super assassin Hilde, who leads a very interesting group of assassins on a chase across the country.
Thank you so much! So happy to hear that you enjoyed it! I auditioned for Polar with a self-tape. I was on holiday, enjoying the isolation of Joshua Tree Park, when I got the audition. I think walking in the desert helped me to get into the body of an assassin as well. The next day, I got notes from the director Jonas Akerlund and taped again. Then the rest is history…
The cast of the movie drew my attention immediately. What was it like on set?
In the beginning, I was star struck. It was a bit intimidating to work with such fantastic actors and a director whom I have admired for so long! But everybody was so down to earth and passionate about their craft. We all come from very different cultural backgrounds, so during lunch we would share goofy stories and I had a great time once I realized they are just human. Great people! Like Johnny Knoxville, who taught us how to play pool in between set changes. Mads Mikkelsen offered to run the scenes even when he didn’t need to be there. Jonas replied to all my long-ass email questions prior to the shoot when he was so busy on set. The A-team would hang out and go to karaoke! It was such a beautiful ensemble.
Did you get a chance to read the comics before filming?
Yes, when I was preparing for the callback, I bought the graphic novel. I remember I really enjoyed it and it has such a distinct style! Also knowing the tone and not having much dialogue, I felt free to do my own interpretation of Hilde.
Hilde is a badass! What’s one trait she has that you’d like to have, and one that you think you both have in common?
One trait I admire in Hilde is her confidence and her assertiveness in getting what she wants. I was taught to always be very considerate and have the tendency to please and serve others. It’s a good trait, but now I am on a growth path of also figuring out what I want for myself, and I really fight for it — taking control of my own destiny and breaking some of my social programming and ideas of being a nice girl! We are both similar in fierceness I would say, and I can be very passionate.
What’s the response been like to the film?
I have people telling me how much they enjoyed the movie, or how they loved how badass Hilde is through social media! During the premiere, we watched in a small theater, and the audience laughed, gasped, and were shocked at times! You can feel they were in for a wild ride and it was quite fun and rewarding to observe their reactions. At home, all my friends and fellow actors have been supportive. I have felt very loved! Now Polar is the number one trending film on Netflix. It’s quite surreal!
Going back to the beginning of your career, how did you get your start in acting?
When I first started training in acting, I was going through a bit of an identity crisis after graduating from university, working in nine-to-five jobs while taking care of my grandpa whose mental health was decaying. Inside me, there was a voice screaming, “life is short, you can’t live for other people’s expectations anymore!” I needed an artistic outlet, and I always loved performing. And I knew from my modeling experience that the feeling of being on stage was what I liked most, so I started training. Then the training got so serious that I invested everything I earned into it. I really didn’t expect bookings or making a career out of it, but within two years I realized I didn’t need to keep other jobs and I went into acting full time. It happened really fast! I think passion and hard work aligned with the right opportunities. It’s rather rewarding and fulfilling, but it is not an easy journey.
You’ve popped up on several popular shows here in the US. Are there any shows you’d love to be in?
Omg, so many! The quality of today’s shows is also so high nowadays, that there are more shows that I love than there is time in the day to follow them all. I had the chance to audition for some great roles, so I consider myself lucky. I don’t think I can say much about the future, unfortunately. Auditioning can be stressful and can be fun, but it’s just part of this career. Patience and perseverance are the keys!
Your bio states that you’ve directed multiple plays in the theater. Do you aspire to direct film or television?
Yes, definitely! I like to explore all aspects of storytelling. I think being a director can be even more challenging than working as an actor, but it is also rewarding to have creative control and to find ways to bring the best out of others! And you can really shape the whole picture, and story, not just a single character.
I have a few projects lining up both in theater and film, so stay tuned! When the time is right, I will definitely let you know…
Lastly, our site is called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have something we nerd out over. Is there anything you are currently nerding out about?
Let me nerd out about the craft of acting for a second. There are quite a few people who asked me where to train or what school of acting works. I believe there is no one way, really, that works with everyone. Like a painter experiments with different brushes and media, an actor should have a large toolbox that they can employ for different roles and find what works best for them. I personally find that method acting really helped me understand my emotional life and how to use it in service of the character. But I also think Meisner, which some people think is the opposite of method, is very complementary to method training. It brings your attention outwards, outside of yourself, and you start to build skills in listening and it allows room for instincts to come. I also find physical theater can be helpful in finding and building characters and lately I’ve been also training in clowning, which I found quite liberating. Studying relaxation helps, costume helps, finding the animal for your character helps. Overall, I advise if you want to try acting, try to train with different school of thoughts and see what you can learn from each– what works for you, and what you can add to your personal toolbox.
Photo Credit: Angelo Pesce