Tay Ping Hui and the cold hard truth on the fame game

Want to make it big in showbiz? Here’s what Tay Ping Hui, judge on The 5 Search, has to say 

Want to make it big in showbiz? Here’s what Tay Ping Hui, judge on The 5 Search, has to say

Photos: Channel 5

Said Tay Ping Hui, in all honesty, when asked to describe his judging stint on Channel 5’s latest reality-based talent show The 5 Search, “We’re looking for a unicorn – it doesn’t really exist.”

And the actor isn’t joking. The programme, which debuts tomorrow night on Channel 5 and seeks to uncover the next big thing in the local entertainment scene, has such an extensive search criteria it would turn even the bravest of souls and most confident contestants into jello. 

The judges, comprising of actors Ping Hui and Bryan Wong, head honcho of Dream Academy Selena Tan and a weekly-rotating guest judge, are looking for “someone who can host, act, think on their feet, who is funny and can preferably sing and dance.” 

Basically an all-in-one or in Ping Hui’s words:  a unicorn.

“In my personal opinion, it’s a really tough criteria to fulfill,” he admitted, not too envious of the practically vertical learning curve the contestants face. “If you look at the professional industry right now, most of the actors are actors. If you ask them to host, they suck. Some hosts can host very well but if you ask them to act, they’re not as good.” 

The resident judges of The 5 Search and host Jean Danker

Known for his straight-talking ways, he’s not one to mince his words or mollycoddle the contestants too, and he tells us matter-of-factly: “I call a spade, a spade; I tell them the truth.”

“But I’m not mean,” he clarifies later, “If I say something negative, I tell them not to look at it personally [because] I approach it in a technical aspect. And for me, the devil lies in the details [of the performance]… Some of them seem to have an ego problem and they need to hear it (feedback) in the rawest form for it to hit them.” 

Fortunately for Ping Hui, a former model, he has never had a taste of his own medicine (i.e. being under the scrutiny of a judging panel) and was talent-scouted to join the TV station at the ripe “old” age of 29 years old. Likewise, he’s been spared from getting “ripped apart” by directors and was allowed to grow at his own pace instead, he shared.

“I don’t know, maybe it’s my only gift in life,” he mused, rather self-deprecatingly, “Other than that I’m quite slow in other things. But I picked up acting quite organically… All the training I had was OTJ (on the job) and I wasn’t expected to be a super actor (like The 5 Search contestants) in weeks.” 

Read on as Ping Hui sheds more light on making it big in showbiz today and shares with us his plans for the coming year.

xinmsn: How has your judging experience on The 5 Search been?
Ping Hui: It’s been quite interesting because I see a lot of passion in these young kids. Obviously they came in with a dream – I really admire them actually. It takes a lot of courage to stand there and be scrutinised by strangers. 

Have there been a lot of tears on set so far?
Tears on set? All the time! Sometimes I feel bad after giving my opinions ‘cos they look so devastated. It’s very dramatic and with tears, definitely. I hate telling someone their dream has ended. And when I tell the person in front they are eliminated, those behind are all crying. None of them are really happy they got through and I think it’s a testament to how close they are. 

Do you think it’s harder to become a famous personality today as compared to in your time?
I always think it’s not that difficult to become famous. You can be famous, but you can be infamous too. There are examples on the internet of certain individuals who do certain things and they become infamous. I think with social media nowadays… it’s not that tough to become famous as compared to last time. But on the other hand, if you look at it – those who have made it in the past, the earlier days before the explosion of social media, it’s easier for them to maintain their level of success… But today, success comes too fast, you can reach certain positions but you’re not really equipped or capable.

I think it’s easier to become famous but it’s harder to maintain your fame or status because of the fact that there’s so much more [people] coming out all the time. Everyone’s trying to climb to the top position. It’s not how long you take to climb, but how you maintain your position. I tweeted this before – it’s always easy to become a seasonal dish in a restaurant but it takes a lot more time and skills to become a signature dish.  

So apart from The 5 Search, and an upcoming Channel 8 drama, Mind Games, what else have you been busy with?
I just did a show about campaigns we used to have in Singapore for Channel NewsAsia. It talks about the impact some of these campaigns have left society with – for example, the Stop at Two campaign. Did you know we used to have this ridiculous campaign – the no long hair campaign (for men) where people were hauled into jail, forced to shave their hair before getting released during the 70s? 

Any other plans to direct a second movie following Meeting The Giant this year?
I’m planning for a movie with (Zhu) Hou Ren Da Ge, we’re like the evil duo – maybe because no one wants to work with him (laughs). I’m kidding. We have a good chemistry, at least this is what I think, and we can really tell each other things. I don’t have to sugarcoat anything with him.

What will the second movie be about?
The script is still being developed now. But the concept is a biography of a certain individual that I’d say most Chinese all over the world would know. It’s not Lee Kuan Yew, don’t worry. (After much probing and guessing) She’s been to Singapore – it’s a she. Don’t guess lah.

What will you do differently for this sophomore film project?
Everything! It’d be version 2.0, of course. I think Meeting The Giant was really, on hindsight, a very ambitious project for a first-time director. ‘Cos for first projects, you normally directly simpler things or lovey-dovey stuff, but not only did I have to direct characters, there were also action sequences for basketball scenes which I had to choreograph. We had a choreographer on set to do it, but I got so into it that he didn’t have to do anything eventually. 

I’m quite hands-on but I’ll definitely learn to delegate more ‘cos I looked like death during the filming period. Not that I don’t look like it now – but I look worse (chuckles). 

The 5 Search premieres tomorrow night, Sunday on Channel 5 at 9.30pm.

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