Taiwanese-Canadian model-actor Godfrey Gao died in China on Nov. 27, 2019. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Taiwanese-Canadian model-actor Godfrey Gao died in China on Nov. 27, 2019. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Death of Vancouver-raised model-actor Godfrey Gao sparks outpouring of grief

Born in Taiwan’s capital of Taipei, Gao moved to Vancouver as a child and went on to study at Capilano University

Fans and fellow artists are remembering Taiwanese-Canadian model-actor Godfrey Gao as a gentle soul whose charm and strong work ethic earned him a devoted following around the world.

Gao died after suffering an apparent heart attack while filming a sports reality show in the eastern Chinese city of Ningbo on Wednesday. His agency, JetStar Entertainment, confirmed his death on its official Facebook page.

The 35-year-old was filming “Chase Me,” a Chinese variety series, when he reportedly fell while running. He was rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to his agency.

Born in Taiwan’s capital of Taipei, Gao moved to Vancouver as a child and went on to study at Capilano University.

His career took off when he returned to Taiwan, where he appeared in TV shows, films, fashion ads and magazine covers.

He rose to international prominence in 2011 when he became the first Asian male model for the luxury brand Louis Vuitton.

In 2013, Gao starred in the big-budget fantasy flick “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” based on the series of young-adult novels.

Its Toronto-based producer Don Carmody remembers fans of the books “went crazy” when Gao was cast as cat-eyed warlock Magnus Bane.

“You needed somebody who was a bit androgynous but really good-looking,” Carmody said by phone Wednesday.

“(The fans) were really, really for it … He’d been in their imaginations apparently for quite a while.”

READ MORE: Vancouver-raised model-actor Godfrey Gao dies on set

Carmody described Gao — who went by the nickname “G” on set — as a charmer, recalling that Gao often indulged autograph requests from starry-eyed extras.

Despite his gentle demeanour, Gao was “willing to do anything” for the sake of a scene, said Carmody. When the director made a last-minute decision that Gao should go pantsless onscreen, the actor stripped down to his boxers without complaint.

Paul Eberhardt, who was Gao’s basketball coach at Capilano University in 2004 and 2005, said the one-time aspiring athlete was always a team player.

Gao left for Taiwan with plans to pursue a basketball career, said Eberhardt, but ended up surprising his teammates when he found his stride in front of the camera.

“When he would come back, they’d tease him about it … because it was so unexpected,” Eberhardt said by phone. “He was a very big name with what he accomplished.”

The coach said it’s been hard for him to square how Gao could die so young.

“It’s very shocking,” Eberhardt said. “I just don’t expect that, tremendous athlete that he is, that at 35 years of age, something like this would happen.”

News of Gao’s death sparked waves of grief across social media.

“My heart is absolutely shattered,” tweeted Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu, who’s been cast as Marvel’s first big-screen Asian-American superhero. “Godfrey left us far too soon and in far too tragic of a way.”

Kevin Zegers, Gao’s Canadian co-star in “The Mortal Instruments,” tweeted the actor was the “kindest guy I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with.”

Actor and dancer Harry Shum Jr., who starred on ”The Mortal Instruments” TV series “Shadowhunters,” paid tribute to his predecessor in the role of Magnus Bane on Twitter.

“(Gao) was a pioneer in the Asian community that stretched our imaginations on what was possible in the industry,” wrote Shum, who also co-starred on the musical TV series “Glee.”

“To the original Magnus Bane who left us too soon, I hope you know that you made an impression on the world that will last forever.”

Australian actor Remy Hii, who acted in the hit rom-com “Crazy Rich Asians,” tweeted that he was “beyond devastated” by Gao’s death.

“This is a loss to us as a community, as Asian artists.”

Gao’s body will be transported to Taipei on Wednesday.

— with files from Associated Press

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The process to bring a community forest to Golden is still ongoing. (File photo)
Local group works to bring community forest to Golden

The group will be working in cooperation with local First Nations groups

Business district is pictured during a traffic jam in Jakarta, Indonesia, June 20, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
Morning Start: By 2050, 95 percent of North Jakarta could be submerged

Your morning start for Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020

Masks are now officially mandatory in all City of Campbell River facilities. (Black Press File Photo)
Interior Health reports 49 new COVID-19 cases overnight

302 cases remain active; two in hospital

It’s crucial to follow provincial health guideliens to stop further spread of the virus, according to the Physicans of Golden. (File photo)
Positive COVID cases confirmed in Golden

The exposure occured at the Golden arena through one of the hockey cohorts.

After nearly 20 years, the Golden and Area A Community Forestry Team is trying to bring a community forest to the Golden area. (File photo)
Bringing a community forest to Golden

There’s been a desire to bring a community forest to the area for over a decade

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

A fentanyl test strip is used at Vancouver Coastal Health in Vancouver, Tuesday, January, 21, 2020. The test strips will be made available to drug users to ensure that their drugs are safe and free of Fentanyl. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Drug overdoses lead to 5 deaths each day in October; drug toxicity continues to increase

COVID-19 crisis continues to exacerbate the overdose crisis

The Vernon Public Art Gallery is looking to the community to support its programming, which VantageOne Credit Union is matching for Giving Tuesday. (VPAG image)
Vernon art gallery gets a boost for Giving Tuesday

VantageOne Credit Union matching donations

The Vernon swimming pool is closed Friday. (morning star file photo)
Swim, skate and play fees rise 5% in North Okanagan

Weekend hours also reduced as rec centre struggles with fewer people and fewer funds

The City of Salmon Arm erected a fence around the Ross Street Plaza on Nov. 24/2020, citing reasons centering on safety and security due to camping by people who don’t have homes. The closure is temporary but it’s not known when it will be reopened. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
City of Salmon Arm erects fence around public plaza to prevent camping

Lieutenant says lack of public space affects people without homes but he understands city’s decision

An employee of the Adventure Hotel was taken to hospital on Nov. 20 after she confronted a customer of Empire Coffee about not wearing a mask. File photo.
Nelson hotel employee suffers heart attack after being assaulted in anti-mask incident

An accountant at the Adventure Hotel is in hospital in Kelowna

Interior Health and School District 83 are responding to a confirmed COVID-19 exposure at the Salmon Arm Secondary Sullivan campus. (File photo)
COVID-19 exposure confirmed at Salmon Arm Secondary Sullivan campus

School District 83 says member of school community self-isolating at home

Gord Portman has been reunited with his dog Zippy after reaching out to the community for help covering the cost of Zippy’s surgery. Zippy had successful mouth surgery Nov. 19, 2020 and has made a full recovery since. (Jesse Day - Western News)
Penticton rallies to save dog’s life

Gord Portman reached out to the community to help with the cost of his dog’s surgery

Damien Smith, with father Thomas Smith, is “frozen” with joy as he watches a special message Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds recorded for Damien’s 9th birthday on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. (Contributed)
Shuswap boy celebrates 9th birthday with family, community and Ryan Reynolds

People from around the world send birthday cards showing young Canoe resident he’s not alone

Most Read