Actor and model Godfrey Gao, who grew up in British Columbia and was an ambassador for Canadian tourism, collapsed and died while shooting a TV show on Wednesday.
His agency, JetStar Entertainment, confirmed that Gao died in the “early hours of Nov. 27” in a statement posted to microblogging site Weibo and cited by South China Morning Post and Women’s Wear Daily.
Gao, 35, was filming “Chase Me,” a reality TV show for China’s Zhejiang Television that features competitive sports, in the eastern Chinese city of Ningbo, according to Apple Daily.
“Our beloved Godfrey collapsed while filming on set. Unfortunately following three hours of medical rescue efforts, he left us,” said JetStar’s statement. It added that his family “rushed to the scene.”
The show’s producers released a statement on Weibo, revealing that Gao was running when he collapsed, and that the hospital said he suffered a “sudden cardiac death.”
They added: “We feel grieved and very sad.”
Gao was born in Taipei, but he grew up in North Vancouver, B.C., and graduated from Argyle Secondary School and Capilano University.
In 2011, he became the first Asian male model for luxury brand Louis Vuitton. A few years later, he appeared in Hollywood movies “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” and “The Jade Pendant,” followed by starring roles in several Chinese and Taiwanese blockbusters.
In 2015, he became an ambassador for the Canadian Tourism Commission, hosting a travel program aimed at drumming up interest among visitors from China.
“I grew up in B.C. It is one of the most beautiful provinces in Canada. Vancouver is so multicultural and that’s one of the things I enjoyed most while growing up in Vancouver, as you get everything from culture to cuisine,” Gao told HuffPost B.C. in 2016.
Watch from 2015: Gao returns to Vancouver for Canadian tourism campaign. Story continues below.
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Gao was an avid basketball player as a teenager in B.C. In a TEDX talk in September, he talked about using his influence to help children in a positive way, such as youth basketball camps that he ran every summer in China.
Gao’s death was a hot topic on Weibo, the popular site used by Chinese citizens. Many criticized the production and the wider reality show industry in China for lax safety oversight.
Gao was seen as a trailblazer for Asian men in the entertainment industry. Actors Henry Golding and Canadian Simu Liu shared their shock and condolences online.
Some of Gao’s last social media posts showed him dressed in a tuxedo before a gala event on Instagram, and playing tennis with actor Adam Sandler on Twitter.