Taiwanese-Canadian model and actor Godfrey Gao, whose star was on the rise in mainland China, died early Wednesday after collapsing during the filming of a popular reality TV show in southeastern China. He was 35.
Gao had been shooting a segment as a guest contestant on Zhejiang Television's hit show Chase Me in the southeastern Chinese city of Ningbo. Chase Me's format involves two teams taking part in physical contests in urban areas after midnight. The show is famous for being physically demanding, requiring its celebrity contestants to exert themselves almost constantly during filming.
According to a statement released by Zhejiang Television, Gao suddenly slowed down during a running challenge and fell to the ground unconscious.
"The on-site medical staff started treatment immediately and transported him to a hospital," the statement said. "Unfortunately, after two hours of rescue treatment, the hospital pronounced him dead of sudden cardiac arrest."
China's Tencent News reported that an audience member heard Gao shout, "I can't keep going," before collapsing. Chase Me's cameramen initially swooped in for a closeup and continued filming, reportedly believing that his fall was just a typical dramatic moment in the episode.
Gao was born in Chinese Taiwan, but later moved to Vancouver, Canada during his youth. After finishing college in Vancouver, Gan returned to Taiwan and found fast success as a model.
In 2011, he famously became the world's first Asian model to appear in a global campaign for Louis Vuitton. He soon transitioned to acting, appearing in a spate of TV dramas and films, and later made his Hollywood debut in 2013 as Magnus Bane in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.
In 2016, Gao starred in the Chinese romantic drama Remembering Lichuan, which became a nationwide sensation with young Chinese viewers, making him a major star in the country. In August, he co-starred in China Film Group's big budget sci-fi spectacle Shanghai Fortress, appearing opposite fellow heartthrob model-actors Shu Qi and Lu Han.
On Wednesday afternoon, Gao's agency JetStar Entertainment released a statement on social media service Weibo, reading: "In the early hours of Nov. 27, our beloved Godfrey collapsed while filming on set. Following three hours of rescue efforts, he unfortunately left us. We are very shocked and saddened and even until now find it impossible to accept."