First time for everything

It's hard to forget such a beautiful face - and unusual name - as Angelababy's.

Since being spotted by a modelling agency in 2007, the 23-year-old Chinese actress, who lives in Hong Kong, has risen to become one of the top models there.

But Angelababy - a combination of her English name, Angela, and her family's nickname for her, Baby - is proving that she's more than just a pretty face.

She has made notable performances in a string of movies, like Hot Summer Days, Love In Space and now, First Time.

In the romantic film currently showing in cinemas, she plays soft-spoken Song Shiqiao, who's afflicted with a muscle disorder.

Shiqiao's medication is slowly robbing her of her memories.

Worried that she won't live long enough to experience first love, Shiqiao's mother pays a rogue musician (Mark Chao) to pretend to be the girl's high-school crush, Gong Ning.

The two fall in love, but their bittersweet romance gets more complicated than expected.

Angelababy, who's rumoured to be dating Chinese actor Huang Xiaoming, talks about her on-screen kiss with Taiwanese heart-throb Chao, 27; her real-life first love and rediscovering her femininity for the role.

We heard you had to do a kissing scene with Mark Chao the first day you started filming the movie.

Yes. At the beginning of filming, Mark and I were not familiar with each other at all. We hadn't even seen much of each other.

We began filming the first time we met and it felt like I didn't even really understand who he was.

I felt as if the director was pulling a prank on me for arranging us to kiss on the first day.

But later, I thought it was a rather good start because we didn't feel that awkward with each other after that scene.

I wasn't resistant or reluctant to do the scene because I'm the sort who goes along with what others say. I simply prepared myself emotionally for it.

So what was your first kiss with him like?

I know he did a lot of preparation, like he brought his toothbrush and toothpaste.

He suddenly disappeared before we filmed the scene and I saw him brushing his teeth.

I didn't prepare anything because I thought it would be just a peck on the lips.

I was a bit nervous at first. But I had gone through the scene in my head many times before, so I was comfortable when we filmed.

How did you portray the throbbing excitement of first love?

I've always kept that child-like part of me.

This movie stirred up a lot of feelings of my first love, which was a bittersweet one.

Sometimes, I would play back the songs I listened to in the past to recall feelings like disappointment, like when I waited for (my first love) at the track and didn't see him.

On the other hand, my pairing with Mark is pretty fresh, so I just immersed myself in the role.

We went through a process to become familiar with each other and that's similar to the feelings of first love.

What tips did director Han Yan give you to play your role?

He told me that my character, Song Shiqiao, is a very feminine girl.

But the roles I played last year were all that of very strong women, so the way I sat, spoke and even my gaze had become tougher and more masculine in a way.

In my last movie, I played a martial artist, and then for First Time, I had to suddenly transform into an extremely gentle girl.

The director told me to relax my lips to make Song Shiqiao appear more at ease and feminine.

She has a muscle disorder, so every time before I started filming, I would relax my shoulders.

I think she would find it hard to hold her body straight as it would probably sap too much energy from her.

So I made it such that she always appeared a little hunched.

You also tried contemporary ballet in this movie?

Yes, that's also why I really wanted to do this film.

I've always liked to dance, but I've never had the time to learn it. So I accepted this role as it gave me the opportunity to learn.

While my character usually appears hunched, I wanted her to look very different when she's on stage dancing. So when she's on stage, she stands straight and tall.

It was quite difficult filming the dance scenes because I didn't think I danced and acted well the first time... It bothered me a lot, but everything went much better in our second take.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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