Hits and misses of Hero

How did this Channel 8 drama about residents living in a soon-to-be demolished estate fare in our books?

The cast of 'Hero'
The cast of 'Hero'
10 Jan 2017

The cast of 'Hero'

Photos: Channel 8

Channel 8 drama series Hero was a fun, easy and an uplifting watch – the show had minimal angst with almost zero antagonists in its story. It revolved around the lives of a few families living in an old housing estate and was grounded by stories of kinship and friendship which, despite the seemingly mundane topics covered, is anything but boring thanks to its engaging characters.

Read on to find out which characters stood out and why this drama scored a ‘hit’ in our books.

HIT: All-rounded and well-developed characters
HIT: All-rounded and well-developed characters
10 Jan 2017

HIT: All-rounded and well-developed characters

While the drama and its characters mainly orbit around the lives of its three leads – Zhou Fada (Shaun Chen), Ye Xiao Ying (Chen Hanwei) and Zhang Weixiong (Jesseca Liu), this show is more than just about the trio. Its supporting characters are not overlooked in favour of the “bigger guys” and each person had an individual arc and story to tell, such as the former top actor-turned-druggie (Luo Bei, played by Peter Yu) trying to clean up his act and the simple-minded and timid Guan Mei Mei (played by Bonnie Loo) who stammers but harbours dreams of becoming a singer someday, just to name a few.

These small “heroes” were just as engaging as the leads and at the end of the series not one person’s story was left unaccounted for and that is a well-developed drama to us.
 

HIT: The chemistry between Shaun, Hanwei and Jesseca
HIT: The chemistry between Shaun, Hanwei and Jesseca
10 Jan 2017

HIT: The chemistry between Shaun, Hanwei and Jesseca

For those who remember, these three actors first crossed paths and worked together on the set of 2014 top-rated drama series, Blessings. Perhaps being familiar with one another helped because we saw sparks fly between the trio each time they come on the screen. In fact, Hanwei and Shaun hit it off so well after collaborating in Blessings that they became close friends in real life and this chummy off-camera friendship was easily carried over to their roles as uncle and nephew who share a love-hate relationship in Hero.

Bring Jesseca into the picture and they are like one of the A-teams in the local drama scene. The three actors lit up our screens with their natural chemistry and are such a joy to watch together, especially when they poke fun of each other and trade sarcasm-laden barbs. More, please!

HIT: Shaun Chen as ‘da ge da’ (big brother)
HIT: Shaun Chen as ‘da ge da’ (big brother)
10 Jan 2017

HIT: Shaun Chen as ‘da ge da’ (big brother)

Shaun’s the right man for the job of playing Zhou Fada (also known as ‘da ge da’ (big brother) or ‘Penang boy’) and we can’t see any other actor doing the role. As the ‘hero’ of Dakota, Fada is a glib-tongued but earnest individual who is quick to stand up for the weak and somehow always has the right solution for every problem. Despite his childish and lackadaisical mannerisms, he is actually wise beyond his words and ways (and sloppy physical appearance). Shaun’s easy, affable charm allows him to work almost any role to his advantage, just as how he managed to inject a large dose of likeability in Fada who is a “good for nothing” bum. 

HIT: Outstanding supporting actors (and characters)
HIT: Outstanding supporting actors (and characters)
10 Jan 2017

HIT: Outstanding supporting actors (and characters)

Apart from the leads, there were a few notable supporting characters that helped breathe life into this drama series. Peter’s portrayal as Luo Bei, a top star-turned-druggie, was relatable and hit close to home for the coincidental life experiences shared between actor and character, Jin Yin Ji endeared as a sprightly Granny Swordsman, and Paige Chua’s transformation to a coquettish and money-minded Ou Jinxuan was one we hated to love. 

HIT: Pan Ling Ling and Zhu Xiufeng’s acting performances
HIT: Pan Ling Ling and Zhu Xiufeng’s acting performances
10 Jan 2017

HIT: Pan Ling Ling and Zhu Xiufeng’s acting performances

Out of all these actors, there were two actresses who touched us the most with their portrayal of their characters’ relationship. Granny Mahjong (Zhu Xiu Feng) was loathsome as a nasty, vile monster-in-law initially but eventually won us over with her caring and sentimental ways towards her daughter-in-law (played by Pan Ling Ling) after the latter is struck with dementia. Similarly, Ling Ling’s portrayal of a long-suffering and subservient daughter-in-law, who eventually succumbed to dementia after her husband passed away, was equal parts heart-breaking and tear-inducing, and is unlike any other “aunty” roles the actress played before. Well done! 

HIT: Bonnie Loo and He Ying Ying’s acting performance as a pair of fraternal twin sisters
HIT: Bonnie Loo and He Ying Ying’s acting performance as a pair of fraternal twin sisters
10 Jan 2017

HIT: Bonnie Loo and He Ying Ying’s acting performance as a pair of fraternal twin sisters

A pair of young actresses who were as “steady” as the veterans in their acting delivery as fraternal twins, Guan Meiyu and Guan Meimei, is He Ying Ying and Bonnie Loo. Following Ying Ying’s acting debut on Toggle web series Run Rachael Run last year, this is her first role (and a pretty meaty one) in a Channel 8 series. Despite her inexperience, the Hey Gorgeous runner-up was a breeze to watch as a sharp-tongued and rebellious young adult and is definitely a new face to keep an eye on. Likewise, Bonnie is proving to be a young actress who can hold her own against the veterans and her portrayal as a gullible and kind-hearted Meimei is one of her best roles to date. 

MISS: James Seah and Sheila Sim speaking Mandarin with an accent
MISS: James Seah and Sheila Sim speaking Mandarin with an accent
10 Jan 2017

MISS: James Seah and Sheila Sim speaking Mandarin with an accent

Okay, out of all the characters we adored, there were two that we couldn’t connect with -- Fan Fangfang and Chen Bangqing (played by Sheila and James), who are two Mainlanders trying to carve out a living for themselves in Singapore. To look and sound the part, the two actors enunciated every word and curled their tongues when they spoke. Props to them for trying, but their attempts to speak and sound like native Chinese fell flat and it was extremely grating to sit through their conversations when they spoke in halting Mandarin. Admittedly, it’s not easy unless to speak with an accent unless you are fluent and eloquent in the language to begin with - or have a flair for slangs, like Michelle Chong.

HIT & MISS: Chock-a-block star cameos in the beginning of the show
HIT & MISS: Chock-a-block star cameos in the beginning of the show
10 Jan 2017

HIT & MISS: Chock-a-block star cameos in the beginning of the show

There was much hype about all the famous actors that would be making cameos in the show – Zoe Tay, Xiang Yun, Tay Ping Hui, Kym Ng, Jack Neo and Mark Lee, just to name a few, and most of these famous cameos are featured heavily in the beginning of the show. While we love the idea of "borrowing" star power from these A-list actors and having them play sugar mummy, superstars, hawkers, random passers-by or ordinary heartlanders, we thought it could have been more impactful to evenly distribute their appearances throughout the show. Some had hit-and-miss appearances in the early part of the series because viewers were still trying to warm up to the regular characters and could not differentiate between a cameo and a fixed cast member. 

HIT: The drama's nostalgic setting
HIT: The drama's nostalgic setting
10 Jan 2017

HIT: The drama's nostalgic setting

Set in the soon-to-be redeveloped Dakota estate, the story’s environment brimmed with nostalgia and served as a timely throwback and reminder of the old housing estates in Singapore that we are rapidly losing today. As said in our year-end review, we are losing memories (of old spaces, in this sense) faster than we can save them, and Hero’s a perfect example of how we can capture and recreate them to look back on someday. This one’s going into the memory bank of dramas based on an iconic location in Singapore, like Around People’s Park.

Photo: Xabryna Kek/Channel NewsAsia

Watch past episodes of Hero on Toggle.

Related:
The “villainous” sides of the ‘Hero’ stars
No sugar mummies for Ian Fang
Peter Yu makes drama comeback after 19 years
Kym Ng and Tay Ping Hui make a cameo appearance in Hero

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