In an ensemble cast, every actor has to play their part to keep audiences entertained, and it takes a special kind of actor to stand out from the crowd. And actor Kang Jen Wu (吴慷仁) is that special actor. In the gripping series The World Between Us, a 10-part series that trails the aftermath of a mass shooting in Taiwan, Wu gives us an earnest performance. He plays Wang She, a lawyer whose drive to serve society’s marginalised—including by defending the theater shooter—strains his young family. The series gives us a multi-dimensional look at all parties involved in the shooting- the killer, the victims, their families, and how the media and justice come into play. The series is not only a hit in Taiwan, but also beyond its borders. The series is now even available for streaming in the US.
But back to Wu. The versatile actor not only shines in this series as a serious lawyer, he shows his more relaxed side in another series- The Perfect Match, a comedy series where he displays some pretty great comedic timing as a celebrated chef who withholds his attraction for a girl he likes.
At 37, the actor and model has been gaining popularity and accolades for his work. Here’s what you need to know about this multi-talented actor.
Tenacity is in Wu’s blood. He started to work since he was 14, after graduating from junior high school. His parents were divorced and he needed to support his family. He worked in supermarkets, restaurants and stalls. He even tried his hand at being an on-site welder, but that did not work out well due to inexperience. He received burns in his eyes and had to stop. In all, he has done over 40 odd jobs before he turned 19. After he served in the army, he worked as a bartender, and that was where he was discovered by director Li Qiyuan, who gave Wu his start in the entertainment industry. He only started acting when he turned 27, which is considered a late start in the industry.
Taiwanese Christian Bale
Wu is highly dedicated to his craft, likely a consequence of his background. He is often compared to Christian Bale for his amazing weight loss for his roles. For instance, in 2012, he was cast as a farmer single-handedly raising his son in the movie The Third Wish. To prepare for his role, as a character stricken by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Wu famously lost 8 kilograms in 10 days. He ate only boiled eggs and guava, and ran up to 5km on most days. To fully immerse himself in the role, he started to treat child actor Chen Yu-cheng, who played his son in the movie, as his son one week before the movie began filming to create more believable characters.
Similarly, for the 2020 Formosa 1867, he underwent a dramatic weight loss that he became almost unrecognisable. In fact, he looked so different that he gave his neighbour a shock when she first saw his new look!
Social Media is Not for Narcissism
It’s almost certainly a requirement for actors these days to be present on social media, to showcase themselves in glamorous shots, living the high life and stay aspirational more than inspirational to their fans. But not Wu. Although he is very active on social media, he doesn’t believe in showcasing just glamour shots of himself. He is fond of sharing daily snippets of his life, almost taking fans behind the scenes to his life, which are more than welcome by his followers.
Wu sharing his day watching a high school volleyball practice (Source: Kang Jen Wu's Facebook)
No Agents Please
Perhaps it was due to his humbled past, Wu likes to take on everything on his own. While most of the stars at his calibre have agents doing their bidding, cashing in on the biggest roles possible, Wu prefers to not to have an agent. This way, he can choose passion projects, those that he feels invested in, rather than those that would bring in the big bucks.
Versatile and Award-Winning Actor
Wu doesn’t shrink from acting challenges. Be it playing an LGBTQ character (Fragile in Love: Poetry in Motion or 沿海岸线征友), to a rural farmer (The Third Wish or 第三个愿望) or a dashing chef (The Perfect Match or 极品绝配), he eases into each role with ease. There is no role he cannot tackle, so skill he can’t master, and no critics he cannot charm.
To date, he has won six acting awards and was nominated for 11 times. The most prestigious award he has won is for Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries for Television Film (for Wake Up) in 2015’s Golden Bell Awards and Best Leading Actor in a Television Series (for A Touch of Green) in the 2016 Golden Bell Awards. He has also won Best Actor for his role as a man with lingerie fetish in White Ant, at the 19th Taipei Film Awards, as well as Best Actor (at the 19th Taipei Film Awards for film, and Best Actor in a Leading Role at the 18th Asian Television Awards for his performance in the series, Emerging Light, as a young engineer with polio. His most recent award was for the series The World Between Us as Best Leading Actor at the 2019 Asian Academy Creative Awards.
If you can’t get enough of Wu, you can also catch him in The Making of an Ordinary Woman, an endearing comedy that follow’s a woman’s pursuit for that elusive happiness.