What’s it like being a BL actor? Hear from cast members of HIStory 4 | campus.sg

History 4
Image: Viu

If you’re a fan of BL (Boy’s Love) dramas, then you may be familiar with Taiwan’s HIStory 4: Close to You, which is currently airing on Viu every Sunday. For the uninitiated, a BL series is basically a light-hearted romance drama where both protagonists are male (for a brief intro to “BL” and popular predecessors, read this).

HIStory 4: Close to You is a comedy/drama that features two pairs of couples: the first are Xiao Licheng (Charles Tu) and Teng Muren (Anson Chen) who are colleagues and buddies at a wedding company. When Licheng falls in love with a new colleague, Mei Fang, he discovers that she’s a BL fan. So his “plan” to court her involves pretending to pursue Muren in order to appeal to Mei Fang’s interest. And so begins the awkward relationship between Licheng and Muren.

The second couple are Ye Xingsi (An Jun Peng) and his very serious stepbrother Fu Yongjie (Lin Chia Wei), whose story weaves in a more serious family drama to round out the more comedic storyline of Licheng and Muren.

Even though the HIStory anthology series has been around since 2017, all the actors in Close to You are first-timers to the BL genre. We had a chat with the main cast to get the lowdown on their filming experience.

Anson Chen (left) & Charles Tu (right). Image: Viu

From comedy to family issues: actors share experiences

Actors Charles, Anson, Jun Peng, and Chia Wei all had their individual challenges when playing their respective roles. This is especially so for Anson, who was not only new to “BL”, but also to acting in a drama series. For Charles, who has never played a comedy role before, his challenge was to portray a typical alpha male who thinks his “manliness” is his best virtue.

Meanwhile, Jun Peng’s and Chia Wei’s roles both tackled the more serious topic of family vs relationships. Jun Peng took on this role specifically because it gave him the opportunity to play a role where kinship and relationship collide – what happens when one comes out to their family? In fact, it was the scene where he confronts his family that makes him feel most accomplished as an actor: “It was so emotional I kept crying,” he says.

Chia Wei, who proclaims to worry a lot and is a people pleaser, played the role of Yongjie – a serious character who doesn’t care what people think. Yongjie is a rather complicated character who seems selfish and creepy on the surface, but has more depth to his personality.

Chia Wei (left) & Jun Peng (right). Image: Viu

Memorable scenes?

Anson describes his most difficult scene to shoot was one of the scenes at the hotel where it took an hour of just staring at Charles to create a picture-perfect shot. For Chia Wei, one of his intimate moments was quite public – in a crowded and loud library, he describes accidentally spitting on Jun Peng during a kiss scene, with random spectators laughing from the sidelines.

The series is nearing its end soon – it’s already 8 out of 10 episodes – so for those who hate waiting weekly, you can pretty much binge watch all the episodes.

Taiwanese foray into BL

As its title suggests, HIStory 4: Close to You is the fourth installment of Taiwan’s popular BL HIStory anthology series, each with very different, unrelated stories – there are tales involving schoolmates, gangsters & cops, reincarnation, second chances, and more. Read more about the previous editions of the HIStory series here, all of which are also streaming on Viu. HIStory4 breaks with the tradition in that it’s the first of the series to have a ‘comedy’ label.

Taiwan may not be known for its profusion of BL dramas like Thailand – which has been voraciously producing them since 2017 and has a huge roster of actors known for their BL roles – but they aren’t new to the LGBT genre of films. These include comedies like Formula 17 (2004) and Go! Go! G-Boys (2006) to the critically-acclaimed Wedding Banquet (1993) and Your Name Engraved Herein (2020) which was Taiwan’s first LGBT-themed blockbuster to surpass NT$100 million in sale.

Your Name Engraved Herein

However, Taiwan has been producing more BL drama series of late. The year kicked off with the super popular We Best Love – with 2 seasons titled No.1 For You and Fighting for Mr 2nd – which tells the story of a pair of university enemies-turned-lovers and the continuation of their story after they enter the workforce, confronting obstacles along the way.

Currently airing is Papa and Daddy, which is about two men who are raising a young son, while the next confirmed upcoming release is Be Loved in House (May 20) that pits together a stoic boss and his employee who’s hell bent on finding out his boss’ secret past.

As the BL genre gains in popularity across Asia and the rest of the world, we can count on more series coming out from Taiwan.