Vampire protector with a baby face

At 30, actor Babyjohn Choi still has baby-face looks. And he is perfectly happy with them even though it means he might not be suitable for more mature roles.

Speaking in English over the telephone from Hong Kong, he says: "For me, this is a gift of nature, so I just accept it and enjoy the type of characters I can do now."

The Hong Kong actor quips: "Maybe when I'm 40, my baby face will disappear and I will become adult John and not be Babyjohn anymore." The name was taken from a character in the musical West Side Story that he had played when he was in secondary school.

It is because of his boyish visage that he can still take on roles such as Tim, an aimless young man in the horror comedy Vampire Cleanup Department, which opens here tomorrow.

Tim's life takes a turn when he runs into a vampire. He discovers there is a secret government department dedicated to destroying vampires and decides to protect the human-looking vampire, Summer (Min Chen), from it.

The challenge Choi faced was that Summer does not speak throughout the movie.

He says: "The communication between us was solely through eye contact, so I had to open up my senses. When I had to make her happy in a scene, I really thought about how to do that. Even though there were no lines, I needed to focus and make the scene real."

Also daunting was learning that his fellow cast members included veterans such as Chin Siu Ho, who had starred in vampire flicks such as Mr Vampire (1985) and Rigor Mortis (2013), and Lo Mang, who had roles in cult martial arts movies such as Five Deadly Venoms (1978).

He admits he felt "lots of pressure" at first as he was worried that he would delay the shoot. "After they talked with the action director just once, they could remember the action sequence of 16 steps and did not even need to rehearse."

The veterans were patient with him, though, and rehearsed with him and gave him tips on how to fight and maintain eye contact.

As for the scrapes and bruises that he got on set, he brushes them off earnestly.

He says: "I enjoy the pain. If there was no pain, that would have meant I didn't give 100 per cent of my power to shoot the movie."

Choi graduated from Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts' acting department in 2009 and has acted on stage, for television and in movies. His break-out role was in the inspirational youth movie, The Way We Dance (2013).

He sees acting as a lifelong career and seeks to constantly improve himself, be it picking up a new language or learning how to fight.

"I'll learn how to ride a horse because maybe one day, I'll need to ride a horse in a movie. I don't know what the future will bring, but I know I need to equip myself," he says.

Vampire Cleanup Department opens tomorrow.

This article was first published on March 15, 2017.
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