Tay Ping Hui happy to start over again as “a nobody”

The veteran actor, who has signed with Perfect World Pictures, says he is willing to take on nude and bedroom scenes


Photos: Tammi Tan
Video: Goh Wen Kai

For most folks, the thought of starting over after spending almost two decades climbing to the top of the career ladder is worse than any horror movie. All that blood, sweat and tears, only to find yourself as a newbie again? No, thanks.

Local veteran actor Tay Ping Hui, however, sees venturing into the bigger, more competitive China market as “a good opportunity to start from the basics, but with years of training”. The 47-year-old recently became the first Singapore artiste to sign with China-based entertainment company Perfect World Pictures, and his first project with them will be a Chinese period drama called Handsome Siblings.

Of course, Ping Hui is no stranger to working in that part of the region. He recently garnered rave reviews for his portrayal of Genghis Khan in Chinese blockbuster The Legend of the Condor Heroes. In an interview with Toggle after yesterday’s press conference announcing his transition, he summed up his eight-month experience filming in Hengdian and Lanzhou as “humbling”.

“If you’re honest about it, I’m a nobody there,” he said. “So in a way, I’m going over as a starter (I call myself a bottom feeder), which allows me to reboot certain things I’ve taken for granted here, and as much as there are challenges and difficulties, it also excites me. I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve also benefitted greatly [from this experience].”

Left: Ping Hui as Genghis Khan in 'The Legend of the Condor Heroes' (Photo: Tay Ping Hui)

This development doesn’t mean goodbye for Ping Hui and Mediacorp (he will continue to be on long-form drama Tanglin and take on new shows if his schedule permits), nor for him and Singapore, which he reiterated will always be his home despite needing to jet to the Middle Kingdom more frequently for work.

Another upcoming project on Ping Hui’s plate is Perfect World Pictures’ remake of beloved classic The Awakening, although the company’s CEO John Ho said that as the script is still being finalised, they are unable to provide more specific details about the star’s involvement.

Both parties were also unsurprisingly tight-lipped regarding Ping Hui’s new salary, although Ping Hui cheekily confirmed that he is “very happy” with it and, “If I told you, you would be shocked, so I shan’t say anything.” He remained just as evasive about his pay during our one-on-one chat, quipping, “Can I tell you how much I wish I were paid instead?”

Well, can’t say we didn’t try.

Read on to find out if Ping Hui wishes this valuable chance to expand overseas came about when he was younger, what he would and would not be willing to do (plastic surgery? nude scenes?), his advice to younger actors wanting to follow in his footsteps, and more:

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