Augusta Xu-Holland is a New Zealand actress and bioenergy enthusiast.
She was born in Auckland to a Chinese father and New Zealand mother. Augusta has a Bachelor of Science (Biology) as well as a Bachelor of Arts (Asian Studies). She moved to Beijing where she broke into the film industries and hold on to her dual career in acting and in green energy. In 2015, she was cast in a leading role in the film “The Last Race – On Wings of Eagles”, playing the New Zealand nurse, Catherine Standish.
Interview by Dominique Musorrafiti
This is a selected interview from
Planet China Vol. 02 issue
celebrating International Women’s Day 2018
China-underground: How did you start your acting career in China?
Augusta Xu-Holland: I noticed a demand for foreign actors in China that could speak Chinese when I was living in Beijing. But because the industry was still at a relatively early stage, rather than taking the conventional route of film school and then signing to an agency, I looked to see what resources I had at hand and jumped in. I added a number of foreign acting agents on Wechat, started with a few commercials and then a few months in I had the fantastic opportunity of a principal role in On Wings of Eagles starring Joseph Fiennes and Shawn Dou.
“It was nice to bring a little bit of China to Cannes too like colourful kites from Weifang in Shandong province, and watching them fly on the beach”
What do you enjoy the most about acting?
I did a science degree and was working in PR and events when I first moved to China but I had always wanted to master a specific creative skill and to create art. Then the great thing about doing it in China is that I am in the frontline getting stuck in and working hard among other like-minded talents helping to define the future of the Chinese film industry in the world. It’s very rewarding for that reason.
Did you face an unexpected moment during your work experience?
I didn’t expect to be doing so much action work. It was pretty amazing to learn how to do fight skills in my last project, sci-fi action feature, Meta Area. I learnt physical skills, fight sequences and worked with a wire where you are fitted with a harness and do things like walk on walls and fly. One time, I slaughtered six enemies with two katanas and saved the day, which was pretty cool.
“I did a science degree and was working in PR and events when I first moved to China but I had always wanted to master a specific
creative skill and to create art”
What has been a highlight for you as an actress?
My current project has been a real joy so far. It’s a feature film shooting over a really long period so there is plenty of time to get the right shot. I’m playing a half Russian half Northeastern Chinese 25-year-old brothel owner in 1930’s Shanghai. The costumes and wigs are amazing and I’m working alongside really skilled talent, on and off-screen. So far I have sung a Russian opera aria in underwear, smoked thirteen filterless cigarettes, and worn four different wigs (including a pink one).
Your role in On Wings on Eagles (aka The Last Race) brought you to Cannes Film Festival. Can you share some memories of the international event?
It was delightfully what you would expect, plenty of yachts and champagne. It was nice to bring a little bit of China to Cannes too like colorful kites from Weifang in Shandong province and watching them fly on the beach.
“It was pretty amazing to learn how to do fight skills in my last project, sci-fi action feature, Meta Area”
How do you combine your work in bioenergy with your acting career?
I try to bring a soft power element to the sustainable energy industry. Since I started acting I have spent time at a bioenergy company called Kaidi Eco working on their international and local projects with the UNDP. We work on projects such as sustainable energy for farmers in Guangxi and poverty alleviation. I have been occupied with acting more lately but I am definitely open to exploring bioenergy and environmentalism further in the future but mostly hope that my interdisciplinary model encourages the Chinese market to think about how we can create a complete ecosystem of the environment, economics, technology and, well, even including the entertainment industry!
Green solutions and clean energy are important for the planet’s future. What are the main differences between China and New Zealand?
I guess the main difference is that New Zealand is much, much smaller. It has a population of around four million. This makes it easier to make national changes, coming from individuals. China is obviously much bigger but on the other hand, changes have the potential to happen on a much larger scale and the potential to be really beneficial for the whole world.
Photos courtesy of Augusta Xu-Holland
Topic: Chinese actress, New Zealand actress