The serial Tình Khúc Bạch Dương (Love Stories in the Land of Birch) is being broadcast on Việt Nam Television’s Channel 1. The production truthfully portrays the life of Vietnamese people who were sent to study in Russia in the 1980s. It was full of difficulties but still beautiful and romantic.
The serial features many established artistes like Lê Vũ Long, Thanh Mai and Chi Bảo, who rarely appear on television these days.
Actress Thanh Mai stars one of the leading roles. Thanh Mai has previously played about 100 roles in television series. She studied ballet at the HCM College of Dance and music at the Vocational Ballet School of HCM City (VBSH).
As the ballerina at Sài Gòn Theatre she won a Gold Medal at the National Dance Festival in 1989. The film Cô Thủ Môn Tội Nghiệp (Poor Female Goalkeeper), in which she plays the role of heroine, won the Silver Lotus Award at the Việt Nam National Film Festival 2002.
She is one of the first Vietnamese artists to earn an MBA and she founded one of the biggest beauty salons in HCM City. She was MC of the television reality show Sức Sống Mới (New Vitality) from 2006-10.
Minh Anh spoke with Thanh Mai about her current work.
Audiences watching Tình Khúc Bạch Dương haven’t seen you on television for quite some time. What made you decide to return to the silver screen?
I have been in about 200 television episodes and performed in hundreds of fashion and dance shows in Việt Nam and abroad. Art is sacred to me. I always think that art needs to be respected. I work for art because I love it and it inspires me a lot. I never do it due to money.
I read the script like it was a novel and my tears overflowed. I agreed to participate because I liked the script very much and I believe in the professionalism of the directors at Việt Nam Film Centre, which produces the series.
In the series, you portray Quyên, a large and compelling role. But there are many contrasting opinions about your acting in the series. How do you feel about it?
I was worried about my role although I have acting experience. In recent years I just read economic books, watched news on television and read reports and diagram. My work relates to numbers and I work with surgical beauty consultants. I don’t have much time for reading novels, watching a chick flick or perusing a volume of poetry.
I’m a business woman so it is a luxury to spend time for entertainment. When I prepare for filming I spend time watching films and reading novels, aiming to gain emotions. Reading the script is a part of the film production. And acting is under the director’s guidelines in the studio. Sometimes, we have to work from 5 am to midnight. However, we are willing to work hard and I’m just one link in a chain.
I’m a little bit sad when I read feedback from the audience. But I also thank the audience who are following the series. I also receive many messages from audience members expressing that they see themselves in the series.
Are there any stories behind the scenes that have impressed you most?
When I arrived in Russia for shooting, my luggage was stolen. My character is a successful businesswoman so I had to buy luxurious costumes with my money. I didn’t want to disturb the team.
I remember a scene that actor Vũ Long and I had to do again and again. My character was beaten by her husband. One time Vũ Long accidentally slapped my face, making me dazed for a while. After the scene I burst into tears because it was so painful.
How were you turned into a businesswoman?
I aim to be professional when I do anything. I studied at HCM City Conservatory for seven years and studied ballet at the age of 10 before I became an actress. I studied business with a view to taking care my family. When I was 10 years old I learned how to sell coffee, earning money to help my family. At the age of 12, I entered the conservatory and I had a full scholarship. Additionally, I received 21 kg of rice, eggs, sugar and milk every month. It helped my family.
I could earn money from dance. At the age of 18, I opened a shop for haircuts and head washing. I could help my young sisters and brothers in their study.
When I had the chance to perform abroad I learned about foreign beauty salon business models and I decided to run this model in Việt Nam. I also studied English and business management. I became a businesswoman because I wanted to help my family.
Is there any other work you want to do?
I like to direct. I wish I could get the opportunity to study directing abroad. — VNS