Irene Ang: Rookie artistes are the hardest to manage

Girl boss and multi-hyphenate Irene Ang finally makes a Mandarin drama comeback, and she talks about the challenges in running an artiste agency 

Irene Ang: Rookie artistes are the hardest to manage
Irene Ang: Rookie artistes are the hardest to manage
28 Nov 2017

Irene Ang: Rookie artistes are the hardest to manage

She might be best-known for her role of Rosie on Channel 5’s Phua Chu Kang, but did you know that Irene Ang had her roots in Channel 8 dramas as a stuntwoman (she once played Zoe Tay’s stunt double in Navy).

Making her grand return to the Mandarin-speaking reel-life world next year in Toggle Original VIC, Irene shared that it’s been “a long time coming” for her to take on this project. Also starring Carrie Wong, Desmond Tan and Sheila Sim, the series will span 16 episodes, with each episode lasting 30 minutes.

Irene’s role this time around isn’t too far off from her real-life self – she plays Victoria, a CEO of an real estate agency who rules with an iron fist but switches souls with Carrie’s character, which leads to all sorts of hilarious hijinks.

Speaking to Toggle during her imaging session (which, we might add, took all of 15 minutes), the 49-year-old grinned that it was her who brought up the idea of making a return to her roots earlier this year, when she ran into a friend while working on a Channel 5 production.

“I told him that I really missed being back on Channel 8, but the reply was that I was too expensive for them to hire,” she chuckled. “I responded that they shouldn’t talk money first – tell me what the drama and role are all about, and we’ll be able to work something out.”

And with this, Irene also hopes that the notion that she charges exorbitant rates to take on a drama is a thing of the past, as she emphasised that she hopes to take on Mandarin-speaking roles in the near future – and she’ll do it as long as the script is interesting and filming dates can fit into her packed schedule.

When it comes to packed schedules, Irene probably takes the cake. After establishing FLY Entertainment in 1999, she now has over 40 artistes (that includes the Ah Boys) under her wings. On top of that, she also has two F&B ventures, the Fry Rooftop Bistro & Bar, along with the Naked Bar, to oversee.

For more on Irene on her role as a mother (to her artistes, of course) and the types of artistes that get on her nerves, read on for more.

Irene as a boss – or rather, mother
Irene as a boss – or rather, mother
28 Nov 2017

Irene as a boss – or rather, mother

With so many artistes signed under her label, we asked Irene about how she manages them and the restrictions (think dating bans and social media censorship) she’s placed on them.

“Actually, I treat all of them as my children lah,” she mused. “For the artistes who are based overseas, like George Young and Henry Golding, I can’t really meet up with them that often, but for everyone else, I try to meet them and have a chat over red wine so that we can just sit and chit-chat, or talk about what’s on their minds.”

Her meet-up locations of choice, she grinned, are her two bars, but when it comes to personal matters, Irene will invite them to her home. “You know how it is – Singapore is so small, it’s very easy to be overheard. When we’re in the safety of our homes, they can really tell me what’s on their minds, or I’ll be able to tell them what they’ve been doing that should be changed.”

The youngest artiste under her wings, Noah Yap, got into trouble last March when he was caught for cannabis use, and sentenced to nine months in the detention barracks as he was still serving his National Service.

“Actually, this time around in Ah Boys to Men 4, you’d have noticed that Noah gets a lot of parts in the movie,” Irene shared. “Those scenes were originally (Wang) Weiliang’s, but he told them to just give them to Noah, which really showed the brotherhood among the boys. I was really touched – my boys are really all grown up.”

(Continued on next slide: What sort of artiste grates on Irene’s nerves?)

Photos: Irene Ang/Instagram. Clockwise from left: Irene with Patricia Mok and Chua Enlai, Irene with Tosh Zhang and Wang Weiliang, Irene with Maxi Lim, Charlie Goh and Noah Yap

What sort of artiste grates on Irene’s nerves?
What sort of artiste grates on Irene’s nerves?
28 Nov 2017

What sort of artiste grates on Irene’s nerves?

That doesn’t mean that she’s all-forgiving when it comes to work, however, as she pointed out that artistes who “complain about the company, saying that we don’t give them opportunities, yet never think about improving themselves” are the sort that grate on her nerves the most. In short, she summarised, “Your attitude as an artiste is the most important.”

Bringing up Henry Goudling’s casting as the lead role in upcoming movie Crazy Rich Asians, Irene went on to say, “When we sign artistes, it’s not about how much we think they can do immediately. Some people take a bit more time to find their footing – just look at (Chua) Enlai – he was a theatre actor for about 10 years and he only found mainstream popularity after going on The Noose.

“It’s the same for Henry – he wasn’t the most sought-after, but he landed the lead role this time around, so I always believe in having patience when it comes to letting my artistes grow.”

She quipped that the ones who “really can’t bring any money in” have already left the company, but later clarified that there are indeed some artistes under her label who have yet to bring in much income for the company, but that she will continue to nurture them.

Irene continued, “Whether or not they earn money is one thing. What I look at is their potential – some of them are very talented and good-looking, but the right opportunity just hasn’t come about yet. You need the stars to align for certain things to happen.”

(Continued on next slide: The hardest, and easiest artistes to manage, as told by Irene Ang)

The hardest, and easiest artistes to manage, as told by Irene Ang
The hardest, and easiest artistes to manage, as told by Irene Ang
28 Nov 2017

The hardest, and easiest artistes to manage, as told by Irene Ang

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the artistes who have been around the longest who are the hardest to manage – it’s the rookies, at least, according to Irene.

“Artistes who have been around for some time have all that experience under their belts, positive attitudes and know how to think for themselves. In that sense, they’re the easiest to manage,” she mused. “For example, when Jaime (Teo) starts on a new project, she’ll have a lot of suggestions and will take the initiative to present the organisers with these suggestions two days in advance.”

The younger artistes, in comparison, tend to have a bit more friction with the management because “everyone is just starting to get to know one another, and we’re just not used to the way each of us work (…) The first one to two years are the hardest,” she admitted.

With her career going so swimmingly, does this mean that Irene will be ready to put her personal life in the front seat in the near future? With a laugh, she grinned, “I’ve long forgotten what being in love is like. I have so many ‘children’ under my wings to look after, so I doubt I’ll ever have time to get married.”

Watch Irene Ang in Splash to Victory on Toggle.

Pictured: Irene in Splash to Victory, a Channel 8 drama aired in 1989

Irene's most well-remembered role remains Rosie from Channel 5's Phua Chu Kang
Irene's most well-remembered role remains Rosie from Channel 5's Phua Chu Kang
28 Nov 2017

Irene's most well-remembered role remains Rosie from Channel 5's Phua Chu Kang

Catch up on past seasons of Phua Chu Kang on Toggle.

Photos: Channel 5, FLY Entertainment

VIC premieres March 2018 on Toggle.

WATCH: What's Irene Ang like as a boss? 

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