Taiwanese-Canadian Actor Godfrey Gao Dies After Collapsing on Set of Reality Show

Patrick Frater and Rebecca Davis

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Taiwanese-Canadian actor Godfrey Gao died Wednesday of sudden cardiac arrest after he collapsed while shooting a Chinese sports reality show in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, the show’s official social media account said. He was 35.

Gao was in the middle of a late-night shoot for Zhejiang TV’s reality show “Chase Me,” which puts contestants head-to-head in a series of athletic competitions, primarily by running through cities late at night. He was taken to the hospital but died hours later. Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating and usually leads to death if not treated within minutes.

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“I am deeply saddened by the news,” said Andrew Ooi, his friend and former manager at Echelon Talent. “Godfrey was not only a client at one point but, more importantly, a friend. We will miss him dearly, and our hearts go out to his family, especially his parents.” 

On Wednesday, “what happened to Godfrey Gao” and “Chase Me” both became top search items on China’s Weibo social media platform, where many complained that the show was too difficult and tiring for participants. Online commentary said Gao appeared to have a cold the day of his death, yet worked a 17-hour day from when the shoot began on Tuesday at 8:30AM until he collapsed while running at almost 2AM the next day. He shouted out “I can’t go on” before he fell, according to online comments from those who said they had witnessed the scene. Actors Huang Jingyu (“Operation Red Sea,” “Pegasus”), Hong Kong singer William Chan, and Taiwanese singer Calvin Chen of Taiwanese boy band Fahrenheit were also part of the same show.

Gao first rose to fame as a model, becoming the first Asian man to model for Louis Vuitton in 2011. He grew up in Vancouver, where he was a graduate of Capilano Unviersity. 

His China career took off after the 2016 local drama “Remembering Wang Lichuan,” which put him on the map for Chinese fans. Most recently, he appeared in July’s Chinese sci-fi film “Shanghai Fortress,” which was acquired by Netflix. He also had roles in Hollywood films such as 2013’s “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” an action film based on the eponymous popular young adult novel series, where he played alongside Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower.

Gao was meant to be a groomsman at former Taiwanese basketball star James Mao’s wedding this Friday. His body will be brought back to Taipei in the coming days. 

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