Credit:The New Paper
WHEN hit Taiwanese idol drama series Meteor Garden became a worldwide sensation nine years ago, American-born Chinese actor-singer Van Ness Wu was considered boy band F4's least popular and swoon-worthy member.
F4 - now known as JVKV and also comprising Jerry Yan, Vic Chou and Ken Chu - starred as a rich-boy quartet in Meteor Garden.
Van Ness was criticised for his sub-par acting skills and poor Mandarin diction in the drama.
His character had the least screen time among the foursome, and the only one who didn't have a love interest.
Now fast forward to the present, and the 32-year-old is a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry.
Van Ness's latest Taiwanese drama Autumn's Concerto, which debuted last October in Taiwan, has garnered top ratings (8.2 per cent), beating previous front-runner The Prince Who Turns Into A Frog.
It premiered in Singapore on E City (StarHub Ch 56) in January, and resumes telecast on 6 Mar at 7pm after a short hiatus.
The series revolves around an arrogant law student (Van Ness) who loses his memory and then falls in love with an orphaned canteen stall owner (Ady An).
Autumn's Concerto has also won the ratings battle against the rest of F4 by achieving almost twice the viewership of Jerry's Hot Shot (4.2 per cent), Vic's Black & White (4.8 per cent) and Ken's Momo Love (3.4 per cent).
Solo projects-wise, Van Ness is also the only F4 member to have filmed eight movies, released six hit solo albums and own a jewellery line (3.V.0.7) - far surpassing his fellow members' achievements.
He also co-owns entertainment company Smash & Grab productions, lifestyle apparel line Triumvir and luxury nightclub Primo.
Apart from collaborating with international music superstars such as Beyonce Knowles for the 2004 hit single Crazy In Love, he was also the opening act for rapper/producer Kanye West's Glow In The Dark Tour in Shanghai two years ago.
So how did he do it?
First, there was the physical transformation.
For Autumn's Concerto, Van Ness had to work hard to get rid of his American accent and replace his baggy 'street' clothes with well-fitted collared shirts.
Circle lenses were also used to enlarge his pupils so he would have the doe-eyed look that attractive Japanese manga characters are often associated with.
While he had long rebonded hair previously, he now sports a manly crew cut.
His biggest obstacle, however, were the scripts.
But Van Ness won the language battle by transcribing all the Mandarin words into romanised characters so that he could properly memorise them.
Then there were the 'girl problems'.
During the filming of Autumn's Concerto, Ady had been reluctant to film the kissing scenes with him.
According to previous Chinese media reports, Ady - who has been an actress since 2002 - reportedly had some bad experiences with men in the past which caused her to develop a phobia of filming intimate scenes.
Van Ness told the Taiwanese media that he was extremely concerned and constantly questioned whether the problem lay with him.
Van Ness, who is a staunch Christian, said he prayed to overcome the problem.
Ady also had some alcohol just before their kissing scene. The final take was a successful one.
On the film set, in front of the media, Ady apologised to Van Ness.
Said Ady: 'I had the courage to film the scene only after I was slightly drunk but Van Ness had already quit drinking because of his religion.'
She then turned to Van Ness and asked: 'Did I smell of alcohol?'
Van Ness could only offer a smile.
Ady added that she was moved to tears when Van Ness had one day pulled her into a room and prayed for her because he had noticed that she was in a bad mood.
Since then, Van Ness and Ady have successfully filmed many other intimate scenes in the drama, including kissing scenes set in an ice-skating rink and in a garden.
But after Ady got over her fear, it was Van Ness who kept fumbling during the love scenes.
The production team then set in place a fine, where Van Ness had to pay NT100 ($4) whenever he had an NG ('no good' take).
Van Ness, who revealed he lost his virginity at 17 and has had six girlfriends since, including Taiwanese sex kitten Vivian Hsu, has since taken a vow of celibacy.
The actor said he is now focused on marriage and children.
'Maybe I was naive, and drank a little as well. The person (whom I lost my virginity to) was just a friend, but not someone I loved.
'I regret it. Even when I get married, I will still regret it. This is not something good. Kids should never do this,' he said.
He revealed that he was tempted to break his vow soon after he had signed a celibacy card in 2008. But he has learnt to curb his desires with prayer.
Despite his new perspective on life, Van Ness has not been free from scandal.
His personal assistant is currently being investigated for a drug offence, and those around him - including Van Ness - are now also suspected of taking drugs.
But the star has said he's willing to take a drug test to clear his name.
Now that's a new rock star attitude - by saying no to sex, drugs and alcohol.
Oh yea~ Autumn's Concerto over all other dramas! I believe in you, V!