First times with Shaun Chen, Rebecca Lim, Andie Chen

The cast of The Lead tell us about their first leading roles, and what they’d change if they could turn back time

First times with Shaun Chen, Rebecca Lim, Andie Chen
First times with Shaun Chen, Rebecca Lim, Andie Chen
24 May 2017

First times with Shaun Chen, Rebecca Lim, Andie Chen

Mid-year blockbuster The Lead made its debut on Monday, giving viewers a fresh perspective of the goings-on in showbiz. Revolving around the lives of Xie Guang Hui (Shaun Chen), Lin Mei Zhen (Rebecca Lim), Hong De Ping (Andie Chen) and Fang An Ya (Julie Tan), the quartet set out on their goal to become entertainment’s next big thing.

While all four of them had the same goal – to become the leading ladies and men of showbiz – not everyone’s dreams quite work out the way they want them to, and the ups and downs are chronicled in this poignant series that also takes us on a walk down memory lane as the stars revisit well-loved classic dramas.

In commemoration of The Lead’s premiere, we asked the cast about their memories of their first leading role, what they would have changed about their experience if they could, and more.

Read on to find out what they said!

Chen Han Wei
Chen Han Wei
24 May 2017

Chen Han Wei

First leading role: 1991’s Behind Bars

Han Wei quickly ascended to the position of leading man in less than three years after his debut, which he shared that he was very grateful for, given his then-meagre experience. He chuckled, “I was really skinny back then and looked really young, so when I put on the prison warden uniform it looked like the uniform was wearing me instead. I didn’t look convincing as a prison warden at all!”

If he could do it all over again…

The first thing Han Wei pointed out as something he would change is his physique: “I’d definitely work out a lot more and I’d look a hundred times more convincing on screen. I used to think that my acting was really good because of my expressions, but I realised that they’re way too exaggerated and on hindsight, it’s really gross. I get goosebumps whenever I watch my older shows!”

In addition, he had his first onscreen kiss in Behind Bars, during which he “used a lot of force”, which made him cringe at the very thought of it.

Rebecca Lim
Rebecca Lim
24 May 2017

Rebecca Lim

First leading role: 2012’s Poetic Justice

Rebecca had her first Best Actress nomination for her role in 2012’s Unriddle 2, but she chuckled that she “didn’t have a very meaty role in the drama, so strictly speaking, Poetic Justice was the first time I had a leading role in a drama. Even though I was only the second female lead, I was really excited about it at the time”.

If she could do it all over again…

At the time, Rebecca was a toddler in showbiz years (four years into her debut), and the actress admitted that her Mandarin skills left a lot to be desired.

“I used to be told off by the director for not being natural enough, and for not being able to say my lines smoothly. At that time, I’d keep asking myself what I did wrong, and I felt that my acting skills were really good. Now that I look back at it, I feel really guilty and think that the director was completely justified in telling me off,” she laughed.

She recently watched her 2008 drama, The Truth, during which she had a fluffy hairdo, and cringed at how ugly it was. “I’m really sorry to my dad and mom (and) I can’t believe that I thought I looked really good and fashionable!”

Julie Tan
Julie Tan
24 May 2017

Julie Tan

First leading role: 2009’s The Promise

Not only was the telemovie Julie’s first leading role, but also her doorway into showbiz.

“I had one foot in entertainment before that, but what left the deepest impression on me was when I was Fann Wong’s body double in The Wedding Game,” she gushed.

If she could do it all over again…

Like the others, Julie said with a sigh that she can’t bear to watch her old projects, but for a different reason. “I’d keep picking out my flaws; the director or my friends might think it’s okay, but I have the highest expectations of myself,” she admitted.

“If I could, I’d most want to change my performance in The Dream Makers II. I discussed this with Liu Songren lao shi (teacher) in the past, and he feels that in terms of her outer appearance, she was perfect. In comparison, her inner complexities weren’t expressed as well, and I agree with that,” Julie explained.

She continued, “It’s not that I made her a very flat character, but certain things can only be expressed after you have a certain amount of experience under your belt. As I grow older, I’ll realise more things about acting and my acting will also change accordingly.”

Shaun Chen
Shaun Chen
24 May 2017

Shaun Chen

First leading role: 2004’s Yi Xin Ren

Shaun sheepishly admitted that he was asked the same question by two publications prior to our interview, but that he had delivered an inaccurate response.

“My first leading role was in a Channel U production called Yi Xin Ren. I played a really overbearing guy who received a heart transplant after meeting with a car accident. The heart I received belonged to a really nice person, so I ended up becoming a nice guy after the operation,” he explained.

With his first leading role landing in his lap barely a year after his debut, he mused that the meaty role, along with the dual personalities he had to walk a fine line with, caused him a lot of stress at the time, and that he relied greatly on the director’s guidance to express himself well in his role.

If he could do it all over again…

“I wish I could be an even more overbearing person,” Shaun laughed. “I’d want to be the kind of guy that you want to throw eggs at after watching, but become such a nice guy afterwards that the audience can’t help but to love and hate my character at the same time.”

“I’d want to try out a villainous role again, and my recent character in The Dream Job was similar to my role in Yi Xin Ren in the sense that he starts off as a bad guy, but eventually becomes a good person,” he grinned.

Andie Chen
Andie Chen
24 May 2017

Andie Chen

First leading role: 2011’s Prosperity

Although Andie was the second male lead in Prosperity, he named this drama as his first leading role, given the amount of scenes that he had in the project.

“Even though I had quite a meaty role, they didn’t put the focus on me when we were promoting the show, because I really wasn’t popular back then,” he chuckled self-deprecatingly.

If he could do it all again…

Andie’s not one for regrets and the like, but he admitted to his health as the biggest worry over the years. “I have autoimmune disease so it’s common for me to be unable to give my best during filming because I’m not in a good condition. This is my biggest regret and struggle,” he admitted.

Zheng Ge Ping
Zheng Ge Ping
24 May 2017

Zheng Ge Ping

First leading role: 1987’s Kong Jun Zhi Fei Ying De Gu Shi (空军之飞鹰的故事)

This role was particularly memorable for Ge Ping, as he shared that this was the very last local drama that was filmed with a 16mm film camera. In the drama, he played an air force pilot, which he found particularly interesting as he recently put on the RSAF uniform again for When Duty Calls – this time as a Lieutenant Colonel.

If he could do it all again…

Ge Ping, who has been in showbiz for over two decades, mused that audiences over the years have evolved. “In the past, what they wanted were very dramatic expressions. These days, however, what they want is for us to be as natural as possible. As the years go by, the muscles on my face have become a little looser and once I move a certain part of my face, the other parts might follow suit, so I need to be extra careful about that!” he laughed.

Xiang Yun
Xiang Yun
24 May 2017

Xiang Yun

First leading role: 1987’s Yan Li Wu Wai (烟里雾外)

“I signed up for an acting class in 1987 and one of the crew members approached me to work on a standalone drama as a married university student,” the veteran actress explained. At the time, she was only 18.

Chuckling, she added that the first time she was truly the leading lady was on the day of her wedding, “because everyone was truly attending because of me!” (laughs)

If she could do it all again…

“At the time, I never experienced being married or being a university student, so it was really hard for me to understand my character,” Xiang Yun explained. “I didn’t know how to act and I didn’t know how I should school my facial expressions. I think it was really the lack of experience, which I slowly built up over the years.”

Terence Cao
Terence Cao
24 May 2017

Terence Cao

First leading role: 1994’s He Xiao Jiu Tian (鹤啸九天)

“Strictly speaking, I think the lead in this show was Chen Tian Wen!” Terence chuckled. “His character was called Zi He, and the show is called He Xiao Jiu Tian, so that makes sense, doesn’t it? Pausing to think, he added that his first true leading role was likely in Yong Zhe Bu Ju.

If he could do it all again…

“As an actor, I think we have too many regrets, and every time I look at my past projects I feel that I shouldn’t have done this or that – but it all counts as experience,” he explained.

Adding that he personally prefers period dramas, he sighed, “It’s a pity that we don’t have many of those these days. If the company decides to film one soon, I hope they consider me, because I’d really want to act in it.”

The Lead airs on weekdays, 9pm on Channel 8. Catch up on past episodes of The Lead on Toggle or watch it on Toggle-It-First.

WATCH: What are the favourite classic characters of ‘The Lead’ cast members?

Related:
Zheng Ge Ping wants his kids to learn "the hard way"
First look at 2017 mid-year blockbuster The Lead
Back from NYC better, bolder, braver: Julie Tan
Cast of ‘The Lead’ share their favourite 90s memories
Chen Hanwei, Xiang Yun pair up for the first time on TV
No more “trophy girlfriend” relationships for Julie Tan

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