Photos: Toh Zi Yi, Mediacorp Channel 5, Tata Cahyani/Instagram
The King of Fruits, durian, has a reputation that far precedes its famed pungent smell. Much like Taiwan’s stinky tofu, you either love it, or hate it.
For Singapore-based American actor-host Bobby Tonelli, he used to stand firmly in the “hate it” camp.
“When I first came to Singapore, I had durian and frog legs, and I couldn’t stand both of it,” he shared in an interview at the media conference for Channel 5’s new info-ed show Steady Lah!, which he co-hosts together with Lush 99.5FM deejay Rosalyn Lee (also known as Rozz).
“I still don’t like frog legs, but now, I love durian,” Bobby let on.
His love-hate relationship with the fruit started in 2009, when he was filming for Channel 8 drama New Beginnings. He played the husband-to-be of local actress-host Jade Seah in the show.
“We had to film a gatecrashing ceremony, where I had to eat durian. Bu I couldn’t stand the fruit,” he recounted. “Tay Ping Hui was in that drama as well, and he told me, ‘You might not like durian now, but the more you eat it, the more you’ll like it.’ I had to eat three to four seeds and I almost gagged the first time I ate it.”
But lo and behold, Ping Hui’s words held true, and by the time Bobby was done with his scene, he saw the fruit in new light.
“I guess you can say that Tay Ping Hui taught me how to like durian,” the 41-year-old laughed, adding that he prefers the sweeter variety.
However, the King of Fruits will not be making any special appearances in Steady Lah!. Instead the show will take a light-hearted look at how Singaporeans build community bonds and celebrate diversity, with hosts Rozz and Bobby posing uniquely Singaporean challenges to a group of foreigners who have set up homes in Singapore. Challenges include being a tour guide or a hawker for a day, becoming a dragon-boater and more.
“The Hawker for a Day episode was good. We had a good time doing the coffee, I had so many cups of kopi! I was literally speaking so fast, Rozz even asked me if I was okay,” Bobby laughed, imitating the sound of a machine gun.
With filming more or less completed for the eight-episode series, Bobby, who first set foot in Singapore in 1997, proclaimed he’d be very “steady lah” if he were a participant on the show.
He may, however, have problems coping with the cooking portions. “I’m not really a good cook," he laughed.
(Continued on next page: What’s next for Bobby Tonelli in 2017?)
2017 is shaping up to be a busy year for Bobby, who has a slew of activities lined up. Aside from hosting season 2 of reality entertainment series Celebrity Car Wars, Bobby will be doing a car review show with Caltex, which will be available for viewing online later this year.
The 41-year-old will also be jetting off to Indonesia in five months' time to shoot a film, in which he plays a Dutch captain in the 1800s, during the Java War.
That's not all. He decided to go into business and has invested in a local art portal which is set to go online in the next few months. Bobby revealed that he will be working on it with two local partners and his girlfriend of four years, Tata Cahyani, an Indonesian entrepreneur.
“It’s more of a social directory, a community to connect people to finding art. We’re in our final beta stage so it should be launching soon,” Bobby shared, adding that he expects the site to go live by April or May this year.
Speaking of his girlfriend, Bobby revealed that they are "working towards" marriage, although nothing is planned for now.
“Last year, I said I was going to do it (get married), but it didn’t happen. So I say that we’re not giving it a definitive time, but we’re working on it, we’ve talked about it. I mean, even though I might act young and feel young, my driver’s license says I’m not so young anymore.”
One thing’s for sure though, when Bobby does pop the question, eventually, he promised it'd be a romantic affair.
It'd be nothing like the "Singaporean way"of proposing - asking his other half if she's like to buy a flat together, he assured.
"As guys, we gotta be romantic!" he chortled. "Go to a nice dinner, go somewhere nice [and] after she says yes, then you ask her about the flat."
Guys, we hope you're taking notes.
Catch Steady Lah! on Channel 5 every Tuesday 8.00pm from March 28 onwards.