US actor is forever grateful to China for his big break
Ty Lawson
The first non-Asian to graduate in acting from the Beijing Film Academy is now one of the leads in the upcoming fantasy adventure, “Asura,” the most expensive production in Chinese film history.
American Matthew Knowles’s ambition of becoming a professional football player was cut short after an injury. But a chance conversation with a friend who suggested he go to China for a year would open up new possibilities he hadn’t even dreamt of.

Matthew’s China adventure:

“I moved to Guizhou where I become the English teacher at the number one middle school,” Knowles said his first time in China was the day he arrived to start work. “I didn’t speak any Chinese. I didn’t know anything about China. The people of Guizhou really shocked me at how accepting they were,” Knowles told CGTN Digital. “They were just very happy and they just pulled me into their culture.”
One year in Guizhou soon turned to two after which Knowles realized he still was not ready to go back home.
“I decided I did not want to leave China without learning Chinese fluently. Because I saw that China was heading in a unique direction. I knew that somehow, someway in my future learning Chinese was going to help me,” he said. “I was going to use it for the rest of my life.”
Matthew’s China ambitions:

 Made in China

Remaining true to his premonition, Knowles moved to Chengdu in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province to perfect his Chinese. It was their life for him would never be the same. “A friend of a friend heard me singing and he said ‘wooh! if I closed my eyes you sound like a Chinese person but I open them and you’re this tall white guy,” Knowles said. “You have to come on to my TV show and sing.”   
With some convincing, he did go on the show and sing. That’s where an agent spotted Knowles and signed him to a deal.  
“For the next two years while I was studying Chinese in Chengdu I worked as an actor, model, host, and singer all around Sichuan Province… I did everything,” he said. “I had my first taste in entertainment.”
Knowles hosted a travel tv show and was a regular on an “American Gladiators-style” show called “Happy Birds.” He said through all of those experiences in Chengdu he fell in love with acting.
Matthew Knowles with students in Guizhou Province, China.                         / Matthew Knowles

Matthew Knowles with students in Guizhou Province, China.                         / Matthew Knowles

 After four years in China, Knowles figured it was time for him to return home to South Carolina in the US.
With his bags packed Knowles headed home not knowing the surprise that would me him there.                          

A star is born

“The day I arrived in the US I received a letter in the mail that said that I had been accepted on a full Chinese scholarship to Beijing Film Academy where I would be the first ever non-Asian to study acting,” Knowles said. “Within three weeks I had moved to Beijing, enrolled in Beijing Film Academy, and started on the next phase of my life.”
He said he applied to BFA at the urging of another American he was working with in China. Knowles said studying in Chinese at Beijing Film Academy was an invaluable experience steeped in a rich legacy.
“I really got to learn how to act in Chinese because acting in Chinese is not just being able to say the words. It’s totally knowing the culture and how people react to certain situations. You can have a scene that if it’s in English that maybe you would laugh but if it’s in Chinese maybe you would cry,” Knowles told CGTN Digital. “And there is no way you can really understand what’s going to connect with a Chinese audience unless you understand the language and culture.”
Knowles said the only acting he had did prior to coming to China was in school plays growing up in Greenville, South Carolina.

Matthew's connection to China:

Speak the same language

Knowles career has taken a major stride forward. He was cast as one of the main cast members for the upcoming film, “Asura.”
“Rawa is basically the Chinese-Tibetan equivalent to Hercules,” he said. “He’s the biggest, strongest, Chinese demigod.”
Knowles said he is incredibly excited for “Asura” to come out this summer, saying it will feature stuff never done in China or the world.
The fantasy adventure is the most expensive production in China’s history with a 100 million US dollar price tag. 
A poster for "Asura" / "Asura"

A poster for "Asura" / "Asura"

Knowles will be starring alongside Wu Lei, one of China's most popular teen stars, award-winning actor Tony Leung Ka-Fai and Hong Kong actress Carina Lau.
"Asura” is expected to be a box office blockbuster when it hits theaters around the world this summer.
As for Knowles, the rising star is now finishing up studies towards a Masters' degree at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and fielding offers in Hollywood and London‘s famed West End.
Regardless of where he’s at in the world, China will forever hold a special place in Knowles’ heart.
"There’s opportunity in LA. There’s opportunity in London. But I am definitely not giving up on China by any means,” he said. “China is the future.”