Elvin Ng: From reluctant star to All-Time Favourite Artiste

The newest All-Time Favourite Artiste Award recipient looks back at the ups and downs of his career

Elvin Ng: From reluctant star to All-Time Favourite Artiste
Elvin Ng: From reluctant star to All-Time Favourite Artiste
22 Mar 2017

Elvin Ng: From reluctant star to All-Time Favourite Artiste

After ten long years of tireless voting, Elvin Ng’s legion of loyal devotees can finally rest on their laurels as the actor is inducted into the prestigious All-Time Favourite Artistes hall of fame – and no one is gladder than the 36-year-old heartthrob himself.

“I’m just relieved that I don’t have to play the game anymore, especially now that it’s getting tougher (with more nominees),” Elvin told Toggle with a grin, flashing the megawatt smile that has made him a long-time poster boy for top-grade dental hygiene (ding ding!).

On the other hand, he also feels that his flawless ascent to the ranks of the popularity giants has been a little too quick and smooth-sailing (all his Top 10 nominations have successfully blossomed into wins since 2006). “I’m still learning – I don’t feel like I’m a veteran,” he said, wistfully adding, “When things appear to run too smoothly, people might question why and whether I deserve it, which gives me a hard time too.”

He continued, “I never wanted to chase fame because it’s an illusion; it’s temporary and could change at any time. Of course, I’m not complaining – if you’re fortunate enough to ride the wave of success, enjoy the ride, but have enough wisdom to step back and not be totally immersed in it.”

This advice comes from having first-hand experience aboard the roller coaster ride of celebrity. “I would say that wondering what’s next after achieving a high point is pretty challenging.” He harked back to the time he picked up the Rocket Award (an honour reserved for those who have made great improvements over the past year) in 2010. “I was at a peak for a while, but after that things became stagnant and I was thinking of how to have a breakthrough again.”

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Elvin has a gathering with his loyal fan club Elvinology
Elvin has a gathering with his loyal fan club Elvinology
22 Mar 2017

Elvin has a gathering with his loyal fan club Elvinology

History may yet repeat itself. “Now that I’ve ‘graduated’, what’s next? So I think [times like these] are challenging periods, but you just have to grit your teeth through your lowest points and wait for a turnabout. Things won’t always be bad or good.”

Ah, Elvin, as pensive as ever. But one need only take a gander at his extremely supportive – and sizeable – official fan club Elvinology, which was set up the very first year he entered showbiz and even has a branch in Cambodia (where he won Favourite Lead Actor and Favourite Male Character at the 2015 PPCTV Awards), to see that his “wave of success” is one unrelenting tsunami. After all, isn’t a large indicator of an artiste’s prominence the loyalty of his devotees?

“From day one, my fan club has been one of my strongest pillars of support. Sometimes I wonder what they get out of this or if someone is paying them, because I’ve never asked them to do anything for me!” He chalks their allegiance up (theoretically) to the fact that they appreciate his “unpretentious”, “unedited” and “unpolished” front – something he also brought up during his Top 10 acceptance speech last year when he thanked fans “for loving the imperfect me”.

Despite all this, the self-proclaimed introvert still doesn’t think he’s suited to be in showbiz. “I’m very low profile and would prefer not to be looked at, but I’m ‘forced’ to go out in public,” he admitted. “Along the way I’ve learned how to bring out another side of myself, and now I’m a bit bipolar. (laughs)”

He also remains his own worst critic. “I feel like I’m not consistent enough – I play some roles better than others. I hope to become an artiste whom people remember as someone who somehow made a difference in their lives.”

We reckon joining the likes of iconic veterans such as Li Nanxing, Xie Shaoguang and Chen Hanwei in the All-Time Favourite Artistes club is one big step in the right direction towards that ambition.

Congratulations on “graduating”, Elvin! Click through our gallery as we walk down memory lane with a look back at his trudge to the top:

The early days: the reluctant birth of a star
The early days: the reluctant birth of a star
22 Mar 2017

The early days: the reluctant birth of a star

It all started in 2004 when Dennis Chew and Belinda Lee, who were scouting for fresh talent for variety show School Belle and the Beau, refused to take no for an answer.

“I was rushing to class and kept trying to avoid the camera, so to shoo them off, I left my number and ran away,” recalled Elvin, who was majoring in English Literature at the National University of Singapore. “A few days later, they called me and somehow persuaded me to take part in the competition.”

Mediacorp producers were clearly charmed by the then-23-year-old, and he was given his very first drama role in 2005’s A Life of Hope alongside Joanne Peh (who is also “graduating” into the All-Time Favourites club this year).

“Filming my very first show was very memorable because I was still in university, and I remember being very worried before the drama aired and thinking that I never want to act again,” he said of his debut, chuckling at the memory.

But lo and behold, he was offered a three-year contract from Mediacorp, and, encouraged by his mother (who called it “a rare opportunity”), he signed on, and the rest is history.

Pictured: Elvin as Liangyi in A Life of Hope (with Joanne Peh)

Star on the rise: Elvin breaks out with ‘Breakout’
Star on the rise: Elvin breaks out with ‘Breakout’
22 Mar 2017

Star on the rise: Elvin breaks out with ‘Breakout’

In 2006, Elvin’s popularity rose even more with Love at 0°C, which was his first onscreen collaboration with Rui En and another one of his most unforgettable roles. That was also the year he scored his first nomination – and win – in the Top 10 Most Popular Male Artistes rankings.

It wasn’t long before he officially landed his debut as a leading man with 2007’s Happily Ever After, which had him in a dual role as Cowherd and Yang Tian Ying and pairing up with Joanne again. With the milestone came huge pressure and the “strange” feeling of having the spotlight on himself, but he also added his second Top 10 trophy to his still-fledgling collection that year.

Then came a particularly bright spot in Elvin’s path to stardom. At the 2010 Star Awards, not only did he pick up his fourth Top 10 accolade, he also walked home with the ceremony’s first ever Rocket Award and scored his very first nominations for Best Actor and Favourite Male Character, both for his role as Huang Zhihao (nicknamed Tarzan) in 2009’s Together.

However, it is his character in 2010’s Breakout that he considers his, well, breakout role, and many others clearly agree – his portrayal of the autistic but highly intelligent Zou Jieming earned him his second Best Actor nod and first Favourite Male Character win at the 2011 Star Awards.

“I did a lot of homework for that; I even went to a special needs school to spend time with autistic children and their families to understand what they go through.” Elvin also enjoyed a newfound freedom on set. “The director gave me a lot of trust to do whatever I wanted because they saw that I knew what I was doing, and it felt good. I need that kind of support.”

Pictured clockwise from top left: Elvin as She Weixiang in Love at 0°C (with Rui En), Yang Tianying/Cowherd in Happily Ever After (with Joanne Peh), Zou Jieming in Breakout, Tarzan in Together

“I was very angsty”: the lowest point in Elvin’s life and career
“I was very angsty”: the lowest point in Elvin’s life and career
22 Mar 2017

“I was very angsty”: the lowest point in Elvin’s life and career

Sadly, a dark shadow was cast over his life just a couple years later in early 2012, when his father Ng Chye Seng passed away from a ruptured aortic aneurysm at the age of 57. To make matters worse, Elvin was forced to mask his grief as he was filming romantic comedy Absolutely Charming at that time.

“On the very first night of our shoot, my dad was hospitalised for a heart attack, so I shuttled between the studio and hospital without going home for four days.” Elvin’s voice became softer and more laced with emotion as he recounted that tough period five years ago. “Before he went for his operation, I didn’t dare to say goodbye, so I told him, ‘Ba, I’m going to work’. That was the last sentence I spoke to him.”

Elvin spent the following week in a “zombie”-like state handling his father’s funeral before diving straight back into strenuous 18-hour days on set. “I wanted to mourn with my family but I had to put aside my feelings to read my scripts and do my rom-com. It was very, very tough and I became very angsty.”

A combination of suppressed emotions, inadequate sleep (just an hour a day) and memorising lines until they appeared in his dreams eventually led to a near-breakdown. “It was a very black week; I wouldn’t want anyone to ever go through that.”

It would be months before he could finally find time for himself. “I was on the beach one night just looking up at the stars, and I started tearing nonstop. I think it was the aftereffects of bottling everything up before. I wanted to be professional and responsible [while filming Absolutely Charming], so I covered up what I was really feeling inside.”

Elvin would eventually pour a bit of his grief into a section of his book Our Epic Little Lives, which was published in 2013. “In the last part, there’s a poem saying ‘give me a second more’, but at the end of the day I realised it’s not about that one second more, but about all the seconds that have happened before that.”

Pictured left to right: Elvin as Song Haomin in Absolutely Charming (with Cherry Hsia), Elvin at the launch of his book

An honest look at “Best Actor” let-downs
An honest look at “Best Actor” let-downs
22 Mar 2017

An honest look at “Best Actor” let-downs

While Elvin clearly isn’t lacking in the popularity area, one achievement continues to evade him: the coveted Best Actor accolade. His last nomination in the category was at the 2011 Star Awards, and he admits that he is disappointed (who wouldn’t be?) that he did not emerge victorious that night (the gong went to Qi Yuwu for The Family Court).

However, he received a consolation prize in the form of affirmation from his seniors. “Joanne [Peh] called me and said that she thinks that it’ll be either me or Ah Wu [who wins], and that was a huge acknowledgement. [Zhang] Yaodong also gave me a call and encouraged me.”

Elvin was also candid about having his hopes dashed when his role in dialect drama Eat Already!, which had him overcoming the obstacle of speaking limited Hokkien and earned him rave reviews from viewers, did not land him a nod at this year’s ceremony.

“Many people expected me to be nominated [for that role], but I was snubbed. I don’t always think so highly of myself, but sometimes others will raise my expectations, so of course I was disappointed, especially since some people talked as if I would be in for sure.”

He continued, “Sometimes I feel like I have to do a lot more or be super outstanding just to get a certain level of recognition. But I don’t want to specially go out of my way to prove myself, because the more you go after something, the more it will elude you.”

Still, Elvin chooses to see the glass as half-full and aims for something beyond just collecting trophies. “Perhaps the roles that I thought would be nominated were sixth or seventh in line. (laughs) I’ll just keep on looking forward to my next breakthrough. Along the way it’s not just about being nominated, but wanting to grow as a person and as an actor.”

So what kind of actor does he want to be? “I wish to be a good and professional actor who fulfils his tasks with great competency, as well as an artiste with great market value, demand and presence. Ultimately, an actor who can walk into audience’s hearts because it’s essentially about connecting with them.”

Pictured left to right: Elvin as Ah Bee in Eat Already?, Elvin attends the 2011 Star Awards

The “boy-next-door” endorsement king’s dark side
The “boy-next-door” endorsement king’s dark side
22 Mar 2017

The “boy-next-door” endorsement king’s dark side

Well, if you ask us, we don’t think Elvin has ever had any problems connecting with the public. What else would explain his seemingly endless and ever-expanding résumé of endorsement deals? At the moment, his high-profile representations include dental company Systema, automobile giant Mercedes-Benz and eye lenses Crizal.

The ad darling cringed slightly with embarrassment when remembering his very first commercials for bath and body brand Shokubutsu, which inevitably had him flaunting his chiselled bod in steamy, sudsy commercials. “I felt paiseh (ashamed) because I was always half-naked lah! (laughs)”

Elvin also had to go topless for scenes in dramas, such as 2009’s The Dream Catchers. “Rui En and I went to Japan [to film], and I had to strip even though it was snowing. I was freezing!”

Despite the struggles and shame, his ambassador stints undoubtedly helped cement his status as “this good, clean, healthy boy-next-door”. But Elvin is quick to add, “Of course I do have a dark side; I have a temper and can be quite rebellious – if I can get away with breaking the rules, I will do it, so I guess I have a devil inside me! (laughs)”

Perhaps that explains why he’s always been so eager to shake off his goody-two-shoes image on screen…

Photos: Screengrab, Elvin Ng/Instagram

Elvin’s dream future role: a psycho killer
Elvin’s dream future role: a psycho killer
22 Mar 2017

Elvin’s dream future role: a psycho killer

Elvin has never kept his desire to go to the dark side for TV a secret, telling us a few years ago that he’s had it with constantly portraying upright characters (such as a nurse in You Can Be an Angel Too and a cop in the C.L.I.F. series).

He finally got his wish with last year’s If Only I Could, in which he stars as a philandering playboy (complete with bed scenes with a bevy of beauties). However, it seems that his performance didn’t quite live up to his expectations.

“It would have been better if I brought more depth to my character,” he mused. “It was my first time taking on such a role after 11 years of always playing the good guy, so I either did not have enough time to fully prepare for it, or I just didn’t know how to.” (Guess Elvin was having an “if only I could” moment of his own in real life.)

Now that the “bad boy” checkbox has been ticked, what does Elvin have his sights set on next?

“An extreme role that would stand out, such as a psycho killer.” He would even consider going completely nude for film, provided it’s artistically done, not crude or in-your-face, and “if [the audience] wants to see it lor! (laughs).”

At the end of the day, it seems his goal is to let go of the burden of keeping up a façade of being Mr. Perfect Idol, especially if it’s going to continue affecting his casting calls. He used 2015’s Let It Go as an example: “Cavin [Soh] got to play an effeminate makeup artist, while I was the straightforward gentleman; the director probably thought, why would he want to cast me as a feminine character and spoil my image?”

But again, we get another glass-half-full philosophy from Elvin. “There are many types of characters I would love to try playing, but everyone has their limitations, whether it’s set by themselves or by others, so for now, all I can do is give my best in whatever ‘box’ I’ve been put in.”

Still, that won’t stop him from pining after fresh ventures. After conquering his first Cambodian production in 2014 with telemovie The Jade Elephant, Elvin is looking forward to racking up silver screen credits and dabble in Channel 5’s English-language programmes. “I hope to do a variety of things.” 

Pictured clockwise from top left: Elvin as Zhang Guixiang in C.L.I.F. 4, Fu Jiazi in You Can Be an Angel Too, Huang Degang in If Only I Could (with Tracy Lee), Mark Chow in Let It Go (with Cavin Soh)

The perils of being too handsome
The perils of being too handsome
22 Mar 2017

The perils of being too handsome

Public figures are no stranger to criticism (whether constructive or cruel). During the first two years of his acting career, Elvin drew flak from the public for his odd pronunciation, which was caused by the lingual braces he was wearing at that time.

The braces and speech “impediment” are long gone, but accusations that he’s only getting by thanks to his handsomeness remained. Even his own family members have not spared him from these rather insensitive claims.

“Once my siblings said something like, ‘Luckily you have that face’, and I got so mad that I told them off!” he said, clearly – and understandably – irked by the allegations. “This is not just ‘a face’ – good looks may help you for a short period of time, but you have to rely on a lot of other things like character, hard work and discipline in the long run.”

“I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into my career, not just my face, so please show me some basic respect. I know I’ve worked hard to have come this far.”

And for the record, even Elvin himself has his “off days”. “I’m just like anybody else – some days I wake up and I don’t feel so good about myself, and other days I find myself quite handsome. (laughs)”

Pictured clockwise from top left: Elvin as Zou Jieming in Breakout, Tarzan in Together, Liu Guowei in I'm in Charge

Elvin with his Top 10 wins over the years (from 2006 to 2016)
Elvin with his Top 10 wins over the years (from 2006 to 2016)
23 Mar 2017

Elvin with his Top 10 wins over the years (from 2006 to 2016)

WATCH: A look back at Elvin Ng's most memorable roles

Watch this year's All-Time Favourite Artiste graduates' past shows on Toggle:
Watch Elvin Ng's past shows here.
Watch Joanne Peh's past shows here.
Watch Quan Yi Fong's past shows here.

Visit the Star Awards 2017 official microsite for more.

Catch The Road to Star Awards 2017 LIVE every Sunday from March 26 to April 9, 9pm, on Channel 8 or Toggle.
Catch the Star Awards Walk of Fame on April 16, Sunday, 5.30pm on Channel 8 or Toggle.
Catch the 2017 Star Awards ceremony LIVE on April 16, Sunday, 7pm on Channel 8/U or Toggle.

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