Clockwise, L-R: Pan Ling Ling, Huang Wenyong, Chen Shucheng, Zhu Hou Ren, Terence Cao, Lin Mei Jiao
With Chen Han Wei, Xie Shaoguang and Li Nanxing dominating 13 out of 23 Best Actor wins at the Star Awards (SA) since its inauguration in 1994, the wait for an acting award is real.
Is perseverance the key to success? The answer is a resounding yes, based on our interviews with several veterans who have been in the industry for more than 20 years. Most of these actors persisted for close to two decades before getting recognised, and we speak to them to find out what keeps them going.
This piece is a tribute to the many who persisted and eventually saw light after a difficult journey, and a dedication to the others who are still working hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Keep grinding, keep hustling.
Chen Shucheng (Best Supporting Actor, The Oath, 2012)
Years in industry before first acting award: 41
Years since inauguration of SA before first acting award: 18
“Acting is my dream and I want to actively pursue it. When I was younger, I may have cared more about the awards, but after I saw through it, I don’t believe in acting for the sake of awards. I do it for interest and because it is my livelihood. Acting has become my career and everyone works hard and strives hard for their careers – and I’m no exception.
“Hard work does not guarantee success but giving up means you have failed, and I’m a living example who exemplifies this - I’ve worked hard for so many years but I’ve never succeeded, but if I had given up earlier, I would have failed and I wouldn’t have won that award in 2012.
“I’m acting not for the judges or awards but because it’s my interest; when audiences tell me they like my show that satisfies me… Winning awards requires the right person to be at the right place at the right time. Maybe I’m not as lucky… but I have the audiences’ love and that’s enough. Honestly, I wouldn’t be able to sustain for so long without their love too. Nominations are a form of affirmation too and it’s good enough to have been affirmed.”
Lin Mei Jiao (Best Supporting Actress, Game Plan, 2013)
Years in industry before first acting award: 28
Years since inauguration of SA before first acting award: 19
“Just keep going – awards are not everything. Winning an award is something good to have but not something that always happens... Just enjoy your roles and take every role as a new challenge. When you’re enjoying your work – there will, naturally, be no stress and you’ll enjoy what you’re doing even more. Don’t give yourself stress, just do your job to the best of your abilities.
“[As actors] we have to work hard, do the best for our roles and not disappoint ourselves. Then, at the very least, even if you did your best and didn’t win an award, your conscience is clear.”
Pan Ling Ling (Best Supporting Actress, Break Out, 2011)
Years in industry before first acting award: 23
Years since inauguration of SA before first acting award: 17
“You need passion and patience to make it in this industry because acting is not a skill you’ll become good at overnight. For actors who win awards when they first start out, it may be in part due to luck or it may be the right role that helped them, but experience still counts - like most of us who go through a lot to get to where we are.
“I’ve been through ups and downs in my life, from winning popularity awards in the beginning and subsequently falling out of the limelight, to getting married and having kids, and eventually having to deal with cancer and my father’s death… When you’ve gained enough life experiences, your acting will improve.
“Not everyone is born a natural performer like Meryl Streep. For most people who are not born with the innate talent, it’s our life experiences that help us with acting. You cannot rush into things; you need to be conscientious and learn as much as you can. I myself am still learning today.”
Zhu Hou Ren (Best Supporting Actor, Reunion Dinner, 2010)
Years in industry before first acting award: 21
Years since inauguration of SA before first acting award: 16
“Acting awards or popularity awards are a form of encouragement but don’t make them your target. Instead, you should see it as a form of affirmation that helps you to go further, walk towards your target.
“As actors we should broaden our horizons and have bigger goals, especially when our local industry is small – we shouldn’t limit ourselves. Take for example, when I took part in my son’s short film – although it’s only 20 minutes long, it has travelled to film festivals around the world – in Poland and India – and even won awards. I feel that was the biggest breakthrough for me in all my years of acting.
“Not everything is defined by wins and losses. Awards should be a form of encouragement to bring you further on this acting journey. Winning is not everything.”
Terence Cao (Best Supporting Actor, The Best Things In Life, 2011)
Years in industry before first SA acting award: 20
Years since inauguration of ceremony before first SA acting award: 17
“In my opinion, awards are a form of recognition of what we did on that particular project only – it doesn’t mean that we are better actors than any of the younger or more veteran actors [because] it’s always the team work that counts – the storyline, the characters, and the cast.
“For me, awards are not a benchmark on whether I can or cannot act… A juicy role is more encouraging or interesting to me compared to an award. I’ll not give up just because I did not get an award. That’s not how it should work. The reason why I’m still pushing after 27 or 28 years of acting is because I’m always looking forward to the next juicy role. And if I don’t get the role, I just tell myself to keep working on it until I get one.”
Huang Wenyong (Top 10 Most Popular Male Artiste, 2011)
Years in industry: 32
Years since inauguration of SA before first top 10 award: 17
Yesterday (April 20) marked Huang Wenyong’s 4th death anniversary and, coincidentally, we can’t think of a better veteran who embodies an actor’s never-say-die attitude.
Although Wenyong has never won a professional acting award in his 32 years as an actor, it is notable that he has a total of six nominations across the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories, and picked up several accolades for his comedy performance in 2000 (Don’t Worry Be Happy), iconic TV pairing with Xiang Yun and other career achievements.
The late actor picked up his first top 10 popularity award during his 30th year in showbiz, 17 years after the Star Awards started in 1994. If there’s something we can learn from his experiences it’s that he didn’t allow the accolades – or the lack thereof, define the actor and man he was known to be, or remembered and loved for.
As he infamously said in his acceptance speech at the Star Awards 25th Anniversary Show, “I have never dropped out of the team, I have been conscientiously doing my job. I believe hard work pays off.”
Bonus: Insight of how judging for Star Awards works
Paul Chan, Lead of Branding & Marketing, Chinese Family Segment Mediacorp shared: “Once you are nominated, your work will be judged by a panel of professional judges and many are outside of Mediacorp.
“The judges don't even meet to discuss this - they judge remotely, submit their score, and the auditor will collate the scores and produce the winner - it's based entirely on individual judges, scoring the nominees remotely.
“Some nominees commented that when your contract is up for negotiation, you won't get a chance to win in the best categories. That is so wrong, in fact, it’s all based on what the judges think of you.”
Some of this year's judges, from L-R, clockwise: Man Shu Sum, Clifton Ko, Chang Long Jong and Royston Tan
Photos: Mediacorp, Toggle, Hong Kong Film Awards
The 35 judges of Star Awards 2017 unveiled at Road to Star Awards Show 3