What advice would Kenneth Ma give himself if he could go back in time?

We had a chat with the Hong Kong actor, who made his first visit to Singapore since his very public relationship hoo-ha.

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Well, this is awkward.

The last time Kenneth Ma was in town, he was still happily attached and gushing to us about how “perfect” this then-girlfriend Jacqueline Wong (who was also here with him) is. The couple even shared that they were dating with marriage in mind.

Who would’ve thought that a year and a half later, Kenneth would be back in Singapore not just a single man, but one bearing invisible scars of having being cheated on while the world watched in shock and anger through a damning dash cam (for the handful who might have somehow missed the news, Jacqueline was caught making out with Sammi Cheng’s husband, Andy Hui, in the backseat of a car back in April).

But we certainly weren’t going to hound the 45-year-old about it any further. After all, he’s made it clear that he’s said all that he needs to say and has not only forgiven, but defended the disgraced actress, cementing his status as Asian showbiz’s ultimate Mr. Nice Guy (if there were a silver lining amidst this whole commotion, we guess that would be it, other than the wake-up call about his ex not being so “perfect” after all).

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Kenneth and Jacqueline in happier times. (Photo: TPG)

So, when we met up with Kenneth for our interview at Singtel headquarters back in late September (he was here with fellow Hong Kong actors Lai Lok Yi, Mandy Wong, and Rebecca Zhu to mark the launch of two new channels, TVB Jade and TVB Xing He, on Singtel TV), we opted to focus on more light-hearted matters, such as the fact that he’s gearing up to be a landlord.

A few months ago, it was reported that the actor had purchased a luxury apartment with the intention to rent it out. He confirmed this during our chat, saying that he bought two units: one for him and his family, and the other as an investment. However, the latter is still under renovation and will not be ready for another two months at least, and he’s still in the midst of searching for tenants.

Oh, and in case anyone has any ideas about heading to Hong Kong and looking up residences rented out by Kenneth Ma, don’t bother. He made it clear that he won’t be listing himself as the owner (though that might have been a good way of boosting interest and possibly even the rate, but we digress).

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Lai Lok Yi, Rebecca Zhu, Mandy Wong, and Kenneth Ma.

Another money-making venture Kenneth has been thinking about is launching his own business with friends. “Some of my university classmates said they have some ideas and asked me if I’d like to join them and do something together,” he said. “I think acting isn’t necessarily something I can do my entire life, so if the opportunity arises, I’d like to try something else, but we’re still in the process of brainstorming.”

In the meantime, Kenneth will have his hands full until the end of the year with his current project, TVB drama Line Walker 3, in which he plays Moses Chan’s vengeful brother (that’s why his hair is in a silver shade).

“I’ll be playing the bad guy, and I hope [it] looks good,” he grinned (referring to the show in general, not himself, although it won’t hurt to be a handsome villain either). It certainly seems like a far cry from his role in Big White Duel as a doctor who puts his patients above profit, but according to Kenneth, he had the same goal for both portrayals: to make his character look as interesting as possible.

That proved to be a surprisingly challenging task for Big White Duel. “The simpler and more ordinary a character is, the more difficult I find it is to play them,” he explained. “It seems easy, but the challenge is in presenting him in a way that looks good and will appeal to viewers.” In other words, there is a risk in being too boring.

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Kenneth as a doctor in 'Big White Duel', and as the bad guy in 'Line Walker 3'. (Photos: Weibo/Kenneth Ma)

Judging from his own buddies’ reactions to his work, it’s safe to say he accomplished what he set out to do. “When my friends watched Big White Duel, they told me, ‘We’ve watched your shows for over 10 years and never realised how cool you can actually be!’ (Laughs) Really! They said that!” he said with a hearty chuckle. “I said that I honestly thought I looked quite cool since the day I started acting and they were like, ‘No, we never thought so.’ So I consider that a success. (Laughs)”

This feedback prompted Kenneth to think back on all the fashion mistakes he might have made throughout his career. “If I could go back in time and give myself one piece of advice when I first joined the industry, it would be to pay more attention to my styling,” he said, roaring with laughter (confession: we were this close to showing him the Style Evolution we did on him, but we managed to stop ourselves).

But the past is in the past, whether it’s unfortunate choices in wardrobe or women, and the only way to go is forward. For Kenneth, he’s taking things one step at a time, choosing to focus on doing a good job on his current drama without thinking about anything else, including his next relationship, which he told other publications he will leave “to fate”.

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Personally, we’re rooting for Kenneth to find a partner he really deserves, and who deserves him. After hearing reports of how pleasant and unassuming he is, it was nice experiencing that first-hand, from the amiable vibe of our conversation to how he tried to make small talk with us as we were packing up to leave.

Earlier, he seemed genuinely perplexed when we asked him how he stays so grounded. “I don’t know!” he exclaimed. “People say I’m down-to-earth but I just do very normal things without thinking about whether they’re ‘down-to-earth’ or not, like grocery shopping with my mum or playing soccer with my friends. But to be honest, I really enjoy these ‘down-to-earth’ aspects of my life.”

Yup, no “celebrity disease” from this guy, and we think an attitude like that is far more valuable than just looking cool on the telly.

Big White Duel will be available for on-demand viewing from November 1 on e-Le (Singtel TV Ch 11/501).​​​​​​​

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