I felt a little tense as we were about to film my last scene of Marco Polo season 2 — an emotional scene of great significance for the character of Chabi. Is there a different way to express what’s written in the script? Will I be able to deliver it if I could imagine an alternative? The thoughts of my own limitations as a performer threatened to surface and defeat my confidence. As I walked around trying to find a quiet and private space to concentrate, I saw Max — the 11-year-old son of my makeup artist from Kazakstan — gazing at the magnificent High Tatra Mountains in a reverie.
The sight of this little boy transfixed by the immensities of nature took my breath away. I stood there watching him, forgetting my own inadequacy for a moment. Then Max returned from his trance and noticed me. He declared in a whisper, “It is so beautiful.” I don’t think I have ever met another child with such a sense of wonderment in front of nature. Mine, who have remarkable attributes of their own, are quite unmoved by nature, especially when there are insects crawling and flying around them.
Max shifted his mood suddenly as only a child could and invited me to a game of Uno. I said I couldn’t play right now because I would have to cry in 15 minutes. He looked at me with sympathy for a second and then I saw a twinkle in his eyes, which were wise beyond years, “Can I tell you a secret?” I nodded. “If you open your mouth wide and yawn like this,” Max demonstrated as he continued, “your eyes will get teary.” I laughed out loud, imagining the director’s face watching me from the monitor as I yawn on camera at the most inopportune time.
As I spent the most casual and simple moments with Max, my worries and self-doubt dissipated. I could now see the majestic beauty surrounding me — the mountains, the waterfall, the lake, the wild flowers, the sky — and feel dissolved in something great and complete.
I was able to return to my instinct and trust it to bring me to shore from the stormy sea that was my own mind. According to the director and the producers, my fellow actor Zhu Zhu and I “nailed the scene.” I guess we deserved the huge pork knuckle that we had for dinner in a local restaurant called Humno. It was slightly cured and smoked. And utterly “porkelicious.”