Godfrey Gao, the Taiwanese Canadian actor and model, has died at the age of 35 after collapsing while filming a reality TV show in China. He was on the set of the Chinese show “Chase Me” on November 27, 2019, when he fell ill. He was rushed to the hospital and was later pronounced dead, according to a statement from his representatives, JetStar Entertainment.
“We are shocked and saddened,” JetStar said. The company thanked “friends in the media and everyone who supported Godfrey,” and said the family has asked for time to mourn.
“Chase Me,” which is produced by Zhejiang Television, is a competition show that pits celebrities against regular people in a variety of physical challenges.
Gao was known for playing Magnus Bane in the 2013 movie “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” and he appeared on several TV shows and movies in Taiwan and China.
Here’s what you need to know about Godfrey Gao and his death:
Gao Had Been Filming the Reality TV Show for 17 Hours Before He Collapsed, & Audience Members Say They Show’s Staff Originally Thought He Was Exaggerating
Fans and fellow actors are calling for an investigation into Godfrey Gao’s death, saying that he was working in unsafe conditions while filming the Chinese reality show “Chase Me.” Audience members at the filming posted on the Chinese social media site Weibo that Gao had been filming for 17 hours before he collapsed. The show requires the celebrities who take part to engage in several physical competitions.
According to those in the audience, the staff members for the reality show initially thought Gao was exaggerating his tiredness and discomfort, but he eventually said he could not go on any longer. After he collapsed, Chinese actor Johnny Huang yelled for a doctor and the film crew realized something was seriously wrong.
Zhejiang Television said in a statement that Gao, “suddenly fell down to the ground while running, medical staff treated him on the spot, he was then rushed to hospital for treatment.” The producers added they, “feel extremely distressed and extremely sad,” and will be talking to Gao’s family, “to properly handle the aftermath.”
Fans are calling for a boycott of “Chase Me,” saying that the show makes unreasonable demands of the celebrities who appear on it. According to social media posts on Weibo, Gao had a cold on Tuesday, but still showed up for filming. He was on set from 8:30 a.m. Tuesday until about 2 a.m. Wednesday, when he collapsed.
Xu Zheng, a prominent actor and director, said in a social media post, “The show’s awareness of safety precautions is too poor. It must be held responsible!”
Gao Was Born in Taiwan & Moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, When He Was a Child
Godfrey Gao was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and moved with his family to Vancouver, British, Columbia, Canada, when he was a child. His father, who was originally from Shanghai, China, was a general manager at Michelin, while his mother was a former model who won the Miss Penang beauty pageant in 1970, according to the Central News Agency.
Gao said that growing up in Canada, he experienced racism.
“Oh yeah, I definitely [experienced racism],” he told NextShark. “When I immigrated from Taiwan to Canada back in ‘95, we moved to North Vancouver where there weren’t a lot of Asians. There were a few Asians here and there, but not a large community.”
He said he found diversity in the English as a Second Language classes he took during his childhood in Vancouver.
“When I moved on from ESL to the regular classes they were all Canadian — all White kids and I rarely saw Asian faces. At the time, they weren’t as mean as you might see on TV and movies, and I tried to include myself with them,” Gao told NextShark. “One thing I did was offer them candy. I’d always get candy from Asia and had bubble gum with me. I’d say, ‘Hey! You want some candy?’ and they’d think it was cool. So we kind of became friends like that. It started with me offering them candy and they’d always ask for seconds. Then we started being friends, playing basketball.”
He added, “In high school, the older ones always looked at you as a yellow face. They’d think you were Bruce Lee or that you knew Kung Fu, so they always made that Bruce Lee sound to me. I got that every day, and it did get old but fortunately for me, it didn’t get to the point where I had to defend myself.”
Gao Played Basketball at Capilano University in Vancouver
Gao, who was 6’4″, played college basketball at Capilano University in Vancouver. He continued to play basketball in charity games after he became a model and actor. Gao was also a blackbelt in Taekwon Do.
“I run a basketball camp every summer in China. With me as one of the coaches, the camp provides kids with a good basketball programme to improve their skills,” Gao told Asia One. “And we always invite an NBA star (such as Ray Allen) to attend the camp. I am a very sports-oriented person and it has taught me a lot. Basketball has taught me about friendship and life, and when you’re struggling, about teamwork. When I was in high school, I spent most of my time with my basketball coach. He becomes like your second dad, teaching you about life experiences.”
Gao was set to be a groomsman in the upcoming wedding of his friend and former Taiwanese basketball star James Mao, according to his social media posts. The wedding is set for this weekend.
Gao Returned to Taiwan & Became a Model & Actor, Including Becoming the First Asian Man to Appear in a Louie Vuitton Campaign
After college, Godfrey Gao returned to his native Taiwan and began pursuing a career as a model and then as an actor. In 2011, he became the first Asian male model to appear as the face of Louie Vuitton.
Gao began acting in 2006, appearing in Chinese television dramas and then in movies. His first Hollywood film was in 2013, in “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” playing Magnus Bane. He also had a voice role in “Toy Story 3” and played a role in “The Jade Pendant in 2017.”
Gao’s other notable roles include starring in “Remembering Lichuan,” a 2016 drama movie that was a hit in China, along with the 2015 film “Wedding Bible,” and the 2017 romantic comedy “Love Is a Broadway Hit.”
Fellow Actors Paid Tribute to Gao, Calling Him a ‘Torch Bearer’ & a ‘Pioneer in the Asian Community’
Several fellow actors paid tribute to Godfrey Gao on social media after his death.
Yoshi Sudarso wrote on Twitter, “Godfrey Gao was one of the first Asian men I heard about when I entered the business. He was a huge torch bearer for most of us. To see him pass at such a young age is unsettling. Thank you for your inspiration and for knocking down walls so we didn’t have to. RIP.”
Simu Liu tweeted, “My heart is absolutely shattered. Godfrey left us far too soon and in far too tragic of a way.”
Actor Harry Shum Jr. tweeted, “I am shocked & heartbroken to hear of Godfrey Gao’s untimely passing. He was a pioneer in the Asian community that stretched our imaginations on what was possible in the industry. To the original Magnus who left us way too soon, you left an impression on us that’ll last forever.”
Another actor, Remy Hii, wrote on Twitter, “I am beyond devastated to hear about the death of Godfrey Gao. This is a loss to us as a community as asian artists and it’s fair to say it will never be the same without him.”