If you have studied Chinese in Taiwan, chances are you’ve used the Practical Audio-Visual Chinese textbook series. It’s a decent series of textbooks, with a number of supplementary learning materials. If you were lucky enough to have access to the VCD versions of the textbook conversations then you’ll be familiar with the American character Gao Wei Li and the astonishing number of Chinese classmates he has in what is purported to be an East Coast American University. This is his picture here.
I watch the VCDs on a semi-regular basis as a way to enforce things I have studied before. I often find myself wondering about the ‘actors’ (I use that term very loosely here) playing the roles of the textbook characters. What are they doing now? Do they have these VCDs at home? Does Gao Wei Li still use his Chinese? I’m not even sure if the Chinese we hear him speak in the VCDs is actually his voice, as the audio is obviously dubbed. Maybe his Chinese is actually pretty crap. Who knows? I’m sure somebody does, and I want to find out. WHERE IS GAO WEI LI? And furthermore, what is his real name? The VCDs don’t have any real credits letting us know who plays who, so I can’t even google the guy.
Most of the footage is shot on the Shida campus in Taipei. The guy who plays Gao Wei Li was likely a student at the Mandarin Training Center. I remember his former teacher saying that his Chinese absolutely rocked. However, they had a huge faculty debate about whether or not to dubbed Gao Wei Li. In the end they decided that although he sound almost like a native, he still had a bit of an accent. So, they dubbed over him… such a disappointment… my hero!
Judging from the style of clothing, and a few other hints dropped within the films I’d say they were produced in the early nineties. Let’s say 1991-1992ish. So by my calculations and estimations that puts the guy who played Gao Wei Li at about 40 years of age. He looks like an American. Could be Canadian. I’d bet a lot against European, but it’s possible. If you’ve seen this man, please report back here. If you know his name let me know. I’ve no idea why I care, but every time I watch these VCDs I find myself wondering about him. Maybe he’s stll in Taiwan? Maybe he’s become wildly successful? Maybe his brush with acting in Taiwan spurred him to pursue a career in the performing arts? Maybe he cut his hair. I hope he cut his hair. I had similar hair in the early-mid nineties. It looked as bad on me as it does on him. I never consciously did that weird curly thing on my forehead though. That’s just creepy. Too much like Michael Jackson in a lumberjack shirt.
So please keep the feelers out for Gao Wei Li. I doubt I’ll be successful in my quest, but sometimes the internet can be a wonderful thing…
Gao Wei Li 4 ever