Photos: Elis Ching
Video: Aaron Ho
It’s 9.30am on a Monday morning and we’re with Qi Yuwu at one of Mediacorp’s TV studios, filming a 10-second clip for a special holographic opening footage which air during the Star Awards. The two-time Best Actor winner nails his shot, effortlessly, in a few takes before his wife, who's next in line, takes over.
When Joanne finally appears, the couple obliges to our request for pictures of them posing together. All glammed up and dressed to the nines, they preen and pose for a handful of cameras in what they jokingly call “a wedding photoshoot”. It sure feels like one - he looks at her with a gentle loving gaze while she flashes her brightest smile for the cameras; he goofs around for the cameras and she follows suit.
Love is in the air and we feel like the brightest light bulbs in Studio 4.
When his wife finally takes centre stage, Ah Wu cheers her on from the sidelines like he is her biggest fan - all he's lacking is a huge placard that reads ‘I love Joanne Peh’. After his mini outburst, he proceeds to unpack two lunchboxes containing his breakfast, prepared by Joanne. As he quietly nibbles on the sandwiches, we tease him for having a “lunch box made with love” to which he casually remarks (as if trying to downplay the romantic notion of homemade lunchboxes), “Isn’t this (the toast) what you get at coffee shops?”
Uh, okay. Yuwu 1: Us 0
Later we learn that our fateful breakfast exchange with him is just one of the many poker-faced remarks the 42-year-old is capable of. In fact when he’s in the mood, he’ll crack jokes too, says Joanne, “Like his character in Mind Matters which bears a slight resemblance to how he behaves in real life.”
As a person of few words, Ah Wu is known for being a reticent man, but we think his wife has a better (and more accurate) description of him -- ‘men sao’ (a Mandarin term used to describe someone who is cold on the outside but warm inside).
We’ll take Joanne’s word for it because she’s a frequent “victim” of his jokes. Like that one time when the actor said her white clay art piece (see above image) resembled a ‘boat’ and an ‘orange’ when it was in fact a dog with two eyes and a tongue. “I realised that he was pulling my leg because he said it with such a straight face! That’s how he cracks jokes,” she chuckled.
Guess you could say, art and humour, like beauty, lies in the eyes of the beholder.
Lucky for us, the man was clearly “in the mood” for jokes as he generously dished out several cheeky one-liners during the couple’s 45-minute interview with Toggle on Monday.
For example, when we spoke to Joanne about her next drama project (it’s a Channel 8 series called ‘Xi Gua Tian Bu Tian’ which translates as ‘is the watermelon sweet?’) and quizzed her about her motivations to take on this series, he valiantly volunteered an answer on her behalf: “Because she’s thirsty.”
Watermelons are thirst-quenchers, but that's beside the point. We think he probably means she's just thirsting to act again.
(Continued on next page: Joanne fills us in on her massive 'baby' project)
His dad guilt
With both parents due to return to work in March (Ah Wu will be filming an extra-terrestrial-themed drama in China, while Joanne will be doing a brand new Channel 8 drama series), the kids (3-year-old Baby Qi and soon-to-be 1-year-old Qi Didi) will be left in the good hands of a caretaker.
Like all parents with full-time jobs, there are no two ways about it. “We are working to give them a better life to and to enrich ourselves. When we feel ‘enriched’ we are in better positions to bring them up well,” said Joanne, confident that the kids will be all right.
On the other side of the spectrum, Ah Wu feels the impending separation pangs more keenly than his wife, what with him being several thousands of miles away from home.
“When I think about it, I feel crushed…” quipped Ah Wu as he leaned his head towards Joanne’s arms in a rare affectionate gesture, as if seeking emotional support from his spouse.
“It’s not about being separated for a long time, but when you see your two cute little kids [growing up and you’re not there], it leaves me gutted,” he said with a resigned air. The father-of-two's struggles and FOMO (fear of missing out) were clearly palpable during the interview.
Thankfully, he’ll have a good month or so to spend with his family in Guangzhou, China where they are currently at for the upcoming Chinese New Year festivities before work comes a-calling.
Her ‘third baby’
Amidst all the hustle and bustle of full-time parenting, Joanne’s been busy planning for another baby – a massive project revolving around early childhood education.
This ‘third baby’ has been in the works for a full year and will officially kick off with an enrichment camp during the March school holidays this year. The actress hopes to give children a “platform to showcase their imagination via their interests” and aims to foster creative thinking in kids through story-telling.
She is currently working with a group of early childhood educators to plan lessons and facilitate workshops and these 5 to 6-year-old participants will walk away from the sessions with, ideally, better story-telling abilities and a physical record of what they were like at that age.
“I think story-telling is a very important skill. Everything in our lives revolves around a story now, from brands to YouTube videos and even YouTube channels – you need a storyline for everything... The ability to think of a story and come up with a story is very important and that’s why I want the children to have the courage to pursue their interests and understand how a story is told,” she explained.
If the pilot project takes off, Joanne has plans to focus more time on pursuing her ‘education’ interests. “Even if it’s not successful, I hope to improve on it with the aim of finding success,” she quipped.
This entire programme is still a one-woman-show for now, said the self-declared conservative business owner, who declined to reveal how much has been invested in this venture so far. “But I’m more than happy to have investors. If anyone is keen to invest, please contact me via Instagram – direct message me."
With demanding work schedules and parenting being a full-time job, every minute spent together – and alone, is a luxury. It's no wonder the couple have no plans to expand their brood for now.
“Sometimes I’ll wait for him to come home or he’ll wait for me to come home, before we have a meal together,” shared Joanne. “We’ll rush through dinner and be busy working on our own stuff afterwards.”
“The enrichment programme is my third baby,” she chuckled. “I’ll wait for my third baby to be big enough to walk on its own before we consider anything else.”
WATCH: Qi Yuwu and Joanne Peh want more time for each other
Mind Matters debuts February 8, 9pm on Channel 8. Watch the full series on Toggle-It-First now.
I still don't see my kids often in Singapore: Qi Yuwu
Joanne Peh & Qi Yuwu’s love life in pictures