updated 24 Dec 2010, 21:16
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Sun, May 30, 2010
New Straits Times
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Safer to stay single

THE ad-nauseam reply most Asian celebrities give when asked about their romantic rumours are either “We’re just good friends” or “I’m still single”, even in the face of hard photographic evidence.

Indeed, unlike their Western counterparts who have no compunction about openly declaring or admitting that they are in a relationship with so and so, Asian artistes appear to be perpetually single.

But are they really? If they are not, why is admitting to a relationship such a taboo? “I never thought it would be so difficult until I entered this industry,” says Moses Chan, 39. “You will find that there are certain things that (you do or say) will bring a lot of consequences. Once you expose (a relationship), it is not about you and her anymore.

We’ll become targets of the paparazzi and all our private stuff — good or bad — will be dug out and become topics of discussion. I like to keep it low profile, so that I can still have my own private life, be able to walk the streets and be able to have some freedom.”

Chan is a multi-award winning drama actor contracted with one of Hong Kong’s most popular TV station, Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB), with over 30 dramas under his belt.

Although he first debuted in the Asian E-circle in 1994, he only rose to prominence in recent years after his role as a royal guard in War And Beauty, a drama set in China’s Forbidden City during the Qing Dynasty. It focuses on the power struggle between royal concubines who manipulate, corrupt, deceive and even kill to secure the emperor’s favour.

In 2007, he won both the coveted Best Actor and Most Favourite Character Awards at the 40th TVB Anniversary Award show for his role as Duk Duk Dei in the record-breaking drama series Heart Of Greed. In the same year, he won the awards for Favourite Actor and Favourite Character in the Astro Drama Awards held in Kuala Lumpur.

“It is not a matter of whether fans can accept the relationship or not. It is the horrific invasion of privacy after the admission,” adds Chan.

But won’t the unrealistic insistence of being single lead to more rumours, like the ever popular, albeit sly “gay theory”?

“I never really care about what people say about me. They can say I am a housewife killer (read ‘idolised by many housewives’). But I don’t think I’ve ever really heard people say I’m gay. Do they really?” he asks.

Colleague Natalie Tong, who was talent-scouted and starred in her first TV drama, Hearts Of Fencing, six years ago, has also learned that an artiste should never admit to any relationship.

“I’m not very good at covering up if I’m in a relationship. But I won’t ever admit to anything again because the media will just focus on the relationship instead of my work.”

Although a relative newcomer, Tong has already been nominated for various TVB’s most improved and best supporting actress awards.

However, pretty-boy Ron Ng insists he is single and that has no wish to lie.

Ng has been riding high on his success in Triumph In The Skies, a drama series that won him legions of fans in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and China, although some critics say it was all due to his good looks.

“I think fans are more mature now and they know that we are normal people, with normal needs and desires. If I am in a relationship and I think it is a stable one, I will admit to it if asked. I don’t see the need to lie,” says Ng, winner of the Mainland Most Popular TVB Artiste of 2007 and the Yahoo! Buzz Award for Most Popular TV Male Artiste 2009.

But he agrees that although it is not a must, it pays to maintain a squeaky clean and healthy image as an Asian artiste — unlike in the West where the more scandals there are, the more popular one is likely to get.

“In different places, there are different rules of the game. It is hard to draw a parallel. For instance, Brad Pitt only focuses on acting, but in Hong Kong, actors must also know how to sing and dance. Of course, the money that Brad makes is vastly different,” he adds.

Is it because fans cannot accept it if their idols are anything less than perfect paragons of virtue? “I don’t think they want us to pretend to be good, but rather they want us to stay true to ourselves and be sincere,” says Ng.

It’s not about wanting to appear perfect, says Tong, but rather because “we are aware that there are a lot of young people who look up to us. We don’t want them to think that it is all right to do something wrong or rebellious because they think that we have done it, so it’s okay.”

Chan says he does not consciously think about keeping a clean image, maintaining an icon-status or pretending to be cool. “Just be yourself, focus on your work and give the best performance you can — that’s the best way to get fans to like you because ultimately, everyone is a product.

“How do you persuade people to ‘buy’ you? You have to show the best of yourself, but never pretend, because time will reveal all eventually.” But, Ng notes, there are times when no matter how truthful or sincere an artiste is, what he or she says can still be twisted and the facts turned around.

“These days, some magazines exaggerate reports and they don’t even bother to ask us for our comments. I think it is sad when basic journalistic principles are compromised. It is not a healthy trend and will only lead to a worsening relationship between artistes and the media,” says Ng.

The interview with the trio was made possible by Astro, after the trio met with some 200 loyal subscribers of the satellite TV station last Sunday.

Below are excerpts of the interview:


Q: When do you feel most helpless?
A: Whenever I take on a new project because no one can help me understand the character. To give a convincing portrayal, it helps if you have the right experience to draw on, but this is not always the case.

Q: Have you ever lied to your fans?
A: If someone asks me a direct question, I answer. If I’m not asked, then I won’t say.

Q: If you’re no longer popular, what would you do?
A: I will continue acting. Fame is a bonus but if I don’t get that anymore, I would still act because it has become a real passion.

Q: Is it possible to fall for a co-star?
A: I fall in and out of love all the time. I have to convince myself to love my co-star in every drama to be able to fully realise the character I play. When the project ends, the love ends. The cycle begins when I start another project.

Q: Proudest moment?
A: Being able to give my mum a more comfortable life.

Q: If you can support a cause, what would it be?
A: Education for children because it is everyone’s basic right to get an education. I hope one day I will be able to build a school and sponsor books for poor children.

Q: Favourite books?
A: I like books about ancient battle strategies like Romance Of The Three Kingdoms.


Q: You have garnered multiple drama awards. What next?
A: I think my focus will remain on TV. The challenge is to continually be able to portray a different role convincingly. That’s my responsibility to the audience.

Q: Have you ever felt totally helpless?
A: Ever since joining E-circle, I’ve always thought of leaving. Because I never know what’s going to happen next. There are a lot of uncertainties.

Q: Proudest moment?
A: After making my first drama. I felt like I was the best actor in the world and that everyone was just mediocre. Of course, I now realise that many are better than me.

Q: Have you ever had to lie to media or fans?
A: I don’t like to lie so I will choose not to answer the question directly.

Q: If you can put your support behind a cause, what would it be?
A: It would be related to an illness like cancer or AIDS. My father is a doctor and my mother is a Chinese sinseh. Through them, I see how important it is for us to lend support to those afflicted to recover from their illnesses.

Q: What do you hope people will know about you that they don’t already?
A: I’m just an ordinary person. What you wouldn’t do, I wouldn’t do. What you would do, I will too.

Q: Will you ever bare all for a drama or film?
A: Depends on the script and director. I’d really like to try my hand at something more artistic and, if going naked will make the drama or film better, I will have no reservations.


Q: The competition is intense in E-circle, especially for women. What makes you different? A: I think I’m very warm and friendly and that shows through. It makes the characters I portray easier to relate to.

Q: What’s your proudest moment?
A: After acting in A Fistful Of Stances (yet to be released in Malaysia). I think it’s my best drama to date. Q: If you could choose, what cause would you champion? A: Issues related to children — whether poverty, AIDS or education. And cats, because I’m a cat lover and there are too many horrifying cases of abuse and neglect.

Q: Saddest moment?
A: My mother’s recent passing. I was acting at the time and inevitably, I poured all my grief into the character I played.

Q: What do you hope people to know about you that they don’t already?
A: That I’m not all innocent and sweet, that I’m very much like everybody else — with similar flaws and weaknesses.

Q: If you ever leave the industry, what would be the most likely cause?
A: If I marry and become a mother.

Q: Favourite book genre?
A: Autobiographies. It is interesting to learn how others have lived and managed the challenges they faced.

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