Foreign celebs in local dramas

Who came to try their luck on our sunny island?

We take a look at some foreign stars who have shined on our shores
We take a look at some foreign stars who have shined on our shores
15 May 2015

We take a look at some foreign stars who have shined on our shores

Text: Ng Jiayi

With big-budget films such as The Queens and The Crossing featuring all-star casts from Korea, China and Japan, globalisation has made international casts even more common than before.

And who could forget our own homegrown productions featuring foreign artistes? Back when it aired ten years ago, Portrait of Home, the long-running drama serial featuring Hong Kong veteran actress Louise Lee, was a big hit with the audience.

Portrait of Home isn’t the only local production to star foreign faces, though. In recent years, more and more overseas artistes have come to Singapore to try their luck with the local audience, including popular veterans like Hong Kong actor Damian Lau and Taiwanese actress Chen Mei Feng, who’d be starring in The Dream Makers 2 at the end of the year.

As we mark 10th year since Portrait of Home’s broadcast and the rise of international collaborations in dramaland, we take a look at some foreign stars who have shined on our shores.
 

Louise Lee
Louise Lee
16 May 2015

Louise Lee

Over half a decade after she appeared in Portrait of Home, Louise returned to MediaCorp to star in 2011's The In-Laws alongside Rui En, Pierre Png, Cynthia Koh and Darren Lim.

In the 35-episode drama, the award-winning veteran actress played a woman who vowed to be a liberal mother that doesn't meddle in her children's affairs, much like her own mother-in-law did. However, she still ends up unconsciously intruding into her son and his wife's lives, causing her daughter-in-law to be unhappy and them to constantly be at loggerheads with one another.

Since then, Louise has been busy with TVB productions back in Hong Kong, with her most recent one being Romantic Repertoire with Moses Chan. However, we're sure local audiences would love to see the charismatic thespian back on Singapore screens.

Esther Yang
Esther Yang
15 May 2015

Esther Yang

Taiwanese rookie actress Esther Yang has quite the affinity with Singapore—or rather, with the popular actors here.

So far, she has come into contact with two of the hottest male stars in Singapore. Her role as local actor Pierre Png’s bubbly fiancee in the recent drama Life is Beautiful happens to be the meatiest role in her career so far, and her first onscreen kiss was also given to the latter. Esther has also collaborated in the Taiwanese television film, Forgotten, with local hunk Christopher Lee, and is even managed under the same agency in Taiwan.

The pixie-faced actress debuted through commercials when she was merely 15 years old, and has since won the Taiwanese audience over with her bright and natural performances in dramas such as Love, Now.

From Esther’s likeable performance as the bright Cai Jiayi in Life is Beautiful, we can understand how she has built up a solid fan base and recognition from the public, and can’t wait to see more of what she has to offer.
 

Chloe Wang
Chloe Wang
15 May 2015

Chloe Wang

After playing a rebellious daughter in Devotion and an aspiring performer in Joys of Life, Taiwanese actress Chloe Wang is currently acting as Xu Bin’s love interest in 118.

Chloe has been appearing in Singapore frequently, especially since she signed on to local star Michelle Chong’s talent management agency, Left Profile. The actress is also currently the ambassador for fashion brand dENiZEN here.

Although we’re seeing a lot of her in Singapore now, that doesn’t mean that the affable actress’ career in Taiwan isn’t red hot. She’s currently starring in Taiwanese idol drama, Constellation Women Series—Aries Woman, alongside popular thespians Janet Hsieh and Xiu Jie Kai, and has also been hosting variety show Game GX for the past year.

During her birthday last year, Chloe was pranked by the Game GX crew, who went out of their way to make things difficult for her during filming. However, the actress was so well prepared that pranking her was no easy feat—she even felt so much guilt over her mistakes that she apologised to everyone in tears, proving herself as a respectable actress and a star worth looking out for. 

Catch 118 on Channel 8 on weekdays, from 7.30pm to 8pm or watch it on Toggle.
 

Selena Li
Selena Li
15 May 2015

Selena Li

TVB actress Selena Li’s short stint as the female lead for the Channel 5 sitcom Spouse For House was liberating, to say the least. She stars as Jessica, who marries her high school lover John (Alaric Tay) only to get stuck in an unwanted marriage when the love fades. Drama ensues when both parties are unwilling to give up their new house.

Last year, while Selena was in Singapore to film for the show, she openly gushed about the more relaxed filming conditions in Singapore, which are extremely different from filming in Hong Kong. Although it was her first time acting in English, which was uncomfortable at first, the shorter filming hours and looser schedule made acting in Spouse for House feel like a holiday for the star.

In fact, Selena loved it here so much that she returned for a second season of the well-received sitcom that is currently airing on Ch5, but we think it’ll be even better if we could one day see the talented actress in one of our blockbuster dramas.

Catch Spouse For House Season 2 on Wednesdays, 10pm, on Channel 5 or watch it on Toggle.

Allen Chen
Allen Chen
15 May 2015

Allen Chen

Taiwanese model-actor Allen Chen, having played parts in popular local dramas, is one foreign actor who just might have a bright future in Singapore.

Other than his role as veteran actor Lee Nanxing’s little brother in the blockbuster drama The Journey: A Voyage, he was also involved in another blockbuster, C.L.I.F. 3, and showed off his sculpted body as a rugby player in the Channel U drama Scrum!. The actor most recently played a supporting role in the drama Life is Beautiful, as female lead Shen Chuyi’s (Rui En) boyfriend, Ding Zhanpeng.

For Allen, acting in The Journey was his breakthrough role; he had only managed to play “passerbys" in previous Taiwanese dramas. Hence, he considered The Journey to be his first real acting role, and we think he’s managed to show a lot of potential as the kindhearted Zhang Tian Ying. After all, even Christopher Lee and Fann Wong showered him with praises after the drama aired, complimenting his acting for being very natural.

Other than his career, the budding star’s love life seems to be on the right track as well—he was spotted hanging out with popular actress Julie Tan a while back, sparking rumours that they are in a relationship. Singapore was the place that kickstarted his entertainment career; will it be the place where he finds love as well?
 
Watch Life is Beautiful on Toggle.

Tender Huang
Tender Huang
15 May 2015

Tender Huang

Those who remember Tender Huang would probably know him from the extremely popular Taiwanese family drama Story of Time, where he served up one of the cutest love stories ever with co-star Tammy Chen.

He first appeared on our shores as a lazy but kind child psychiatrist in the 2010 local drama Secret Garden, where he navigates a complicated love triangle and murder mystery with local stars Yvonne Lim and Paige Chua. After that drama, it was a long three years before we saw Tender on our TV screens again, when he returned for the highly anticipated Wawa Pictures production, Disclosed.

Having seen the serious acting chops that the actor is capable of whipping out, we have to admit that we were rather disappointed with his underwhelming stint as the taciturn PR practitioner, Wen Chang Yu.

Tender is currently busy with his career in Taiwan, having starred in idol dramas Big Red Riding Hood and High Heels and a Scalpel. Last we heard, he’s filming for the new Taiwanese drama Tian Ruo You Qing, but it’s been two years since his latest local drama—we think it’s time he returned to wow us with another breakout role.
 

Ha Yu
Ha Yu
15 May 2015

Ha Yu

Hong Kong veteran actor Ha Yu almost seems like a semi-permanent fixture in local dramas now, and judging from his great impression of local stars, it seems we’ll be seeing him around for a long time to come.

Ha Yu, a former TVB artiste, is popular in Hong Kong, as well as other Asian countries for his many Hong Kong drama serials. However, he left TVB in 2012 as he was displeased with the way the TV station treated its contracted artistes.

The 69-year-old has been steadily appearing in local productions since his first local drama, 2011’s Love Thy Neighbour, received raving reviews and a high viewership of 941,000. His comedic role as an ex-gambler in It’s a Wonderful Life was well-received by viewers, and he returned in 2014 to play the tormented football coach, Mei Renxin, in World at Your Feet.

What is it about Singapore that has kept him returning? It seems that the greatest pull for him is his familiarity with the local actors and good filming experiences. Ha Yu once praised local talents for being willing to learn, and also shares amiable friendships with stars like Dennis Chew, who co-starred with the former in World at Your Feet.

Alien Huang
Alien Huang
15 May 2015

Alien Huang

Popular Taiwanese singer-actor Alien Huang’s first and (currently) only local drama is the blockbuster Joys of Life, a drama set in post-war Singapore and revolving around a group of friends and their dreams.

Alien’s character, Zhao Ming Xing, is a young man who dreams of becoming a star. He is friends with other characters played by Rui En, Chloe Wang, Kate Pang, and Andie Chen. The artiste also got many chances to interact with the top actors in Singapore, as he shared a loveline with Rui En and acted as veteran actor Chew Chor Meng’s son.

Chor Meng, in particular, has had a profound impact on the budding actor. To Alien, Chor Meng is someone whom he looks up to as a mentor; the latter shared many insights about life and acting with him.

Other than Chor Meng, acting in Joys of Life has also given Alien the chance to forge precious bonds with local actors. When Andie and Kate were in Taiwan for the variety show Going Home, they ran into Alien, who sat down for a chat with the couple and even took several pictures with their son Aden. Michelle Chong is also among the list of his local actor friends, as he acted in the former’s movie, Already Famous, with her.

Since Alien has made quite a few good friends from Singapore through his acting ventures here, we wouldn’t write off the possibility that he might return for a cameo or even starring role some day—one can only hope.
 

Kingone Wang
Kingone Wang
15 May 2015

Kingone Wang

Who would have ever thought that we would one day see Taiwanese actor Kingone Wang in a local production?

The 34-year-old is popular in Taiwan for his many swoon-worthy roles in hit idol dramas such as Devil Beside You, Why Why Love and Love You, and has co-starred with other big name stars such as Rainie Yang, Mike He and Vic Chou. Despite that, he graced our screens in local drama Yours Fatefully in 2012, taking up the role of Su Xiaoyi, a photographer who is burdened with taking care of his sick father alone.

While Kingone had a loveline with Jesseca Liu in the drama, he had previously also played lovers with Felicia Chin in the Channel U feature film Love, 50%. That’s two more names added to the list of local actresses that he knows—the actor had previously admitted that he didn’t know much about Singapore’s entertainment industry, and was only familiar with names like Fann Wong and Jack Neo.

Yours Fatefully was quite popular amongst the audience, which would probably explain why we’re a little disappointed that Kingone hasn’t been back since that one drama. Currently, he’s brooding it out as Kristen Jen’s leading man in the Taiwanese drama Someone Like You, so we don’t think we’re going to see Kingone back in Singapore anytime soon.
 

Jessica Hsuan
Jessica Hsuan
15 May 2015

Jessica Hsuan

Hong Kong-based Chinese actress Jessica Hsuan is another one of the big names from Hong Kong who have come to Singapore to participate in local productions.

The actress has a stunning resumé, with a list of co-stars that include popular male stars such as Chilam Cheung, Louis Koo, and Nick Cheung.

The local dramas that she starred in, Parental Guidance and the 2011 Channel 8 drama Bountiful Blessings, were also very popular among the audience. In particular, her character in Parental Guidance, frazzled newbie mum Ling Toh, got her a Best Comedy Performance nomination at the 2007 Asian Television Awards.

Since her departure from TVB in 2006, Jessica has been gradually moving her acting career to Mainland China, where she now enjoys a steady stream of dramas and popularity. To top it off, the actress has also found her love in the form of her Italian boyfriend, Fran. Their relationship was revealed last year—soon after she revealed a slimmer figure after a successful diet—and the glowing thespian received blessings from fans and family alike.

We honestly think her life couldn’t get any better right now.
 

Steve Ma
Steve Ma
15 May 2015

Steve Ma

Since we’re talking about foreign celebs in local dramas, it seems almost necessary to bring up Taiwanese actor Steve Ma, who was probably one of the pioneers of this movement, back when acting in another country’s productions wasn’t as common amongst stars.

Back in 1998, Steve starred as leading man Lu Dongbin in the then Television Corporation of Singapore’s (TCS) period blockbuster, Legend of the Eight Immortals, where he romanced former MediaCorp actresses Jacelyn Tay and Phyllis Quek. The series was a great hit, and even now is often lauded as the best drama that then-TCS (now MediaCorp) had ever made, on top of being the most watched drama in that year.

With great results like that, can you blame the TV station for wanting to recreate their biggest success? Two years later, the company reached out to Steve again, who returned to play Linghu Chong in The Legendary Swordsman, which was adapted from the famous Louis Cha novel, The Smiling, Proud Wanderer.

This time, the cast was even more star-studded than before, with Fann, Ivy Lee, Chor Meng, and Jacelyn included. The company also invested large amounts of money for the drama’s pre-publicity, creating a lot of buzz for it. However, it was eventually unable to become the success that its predecessor was, as ratings slowly declined throughout its run.

Steve might not have been able to create two consecutive successes in Singapore, but nevertheless, he was one of the first actors who displayed the huge potential that international casts can have in Singapore. Since more than 17 years have passed since his first hit show here, perhaps a reunion drama is in order?

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