Last November, when Zhang Zhen Huan announced that he would be packing up and going back to China for good, speculation was rife as to the reason of his departure. Was he going home to get married? Start a business? Did he get talent-scouted by a top Chinese agency?
These questions went unanswered as he shared that he was too busy coordinating his move home and politely declined to comment.
A little over half a year later, however, we were pleasantly surprised to see him not only back on our little red dot, but also working on a new drama.
Last Saturday (Aug 3), Toggle popped by the poster shoot for upcoming Toggle Original, I Am Madam (which, by the way, isn't related to Yes Madam) in which he plays a stern army medic whose only soft spot is for Oon Shu An’s bubbly character. Aww.
But that’s a story for another day, as we were there to find out more about what Zhen Huan has been up to, and why he returned.
The cast also includes familiar faces such as Dawn Yeoh, Fang Rong, Ferlyn G, Jeffrey Xu, Kate Pang and Oon Shu An.
First impressions first: He’s lost a ton of weight. The actor chuckled that he’s been paying more attention to what he’s eating (case in point: he shared with the crew that he is abstaining from rice) and has also been religiously hitting the gym and swimming.
“I was actually hoping to have a topless scene in this drama,” he laughed. “But since I’m a medic, I don’t really need to be that buff with six-packs and all that. Maybe next time?” This newfound confidence, he shrugged, comes with his attitude towards work.
“Waiting for an opportunity to come knocking on your door before you start working for it isn’t enough. I think as an actor, I need to be ready to take on anything at any time, which includes making sure that I look good physically as well,” he mused.
Speaking of opportunities, there will be plenty for us to see him in the near future as he recently signed on with Catwalk Asia, home to other artistes such as Christopher Lee, Fann Wong and Dawn Yeoh. The label will manage his activities in Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan. For his activities in the mainland, however, he would only reveal that discussions are still ongoing and that he will only be able to share more info after he signs on the dotted line.
He has no confirmed plans after he wraps up work on I Am Madam, and will jet back to Beijing, where he is currently based. He will return to Singapore from time to time when there are projects to work on.
When asked about his mysterious departure back in November, the actor explained, “At the time, I was really busy packing up and organising my life into boxes to move home, which is why I wasn’t able to give a proper response. I was going home to chase my dreams, and I think some people misunderstood that as me deciding to do something else outside of showbiz. What I want to clarify is that I’ve always wanted to be an actor, and that hasn’t changed.”
His dream was to expand his horizons by conquering a bigger market, and this was something he felt he had to do while he still had youth on his side.
Now that we know about his future plans, we had to ask: What has he been up to in the seven months he’s been back home?
“I spent four months at home spending time with my family,” he shared, adding that doing day-to-day activities with them made him realise the importance of family. “I realised that while I was busy working on my career, I missed out on a lot of things, such as going to the market with my mum, going fishing with my dad, and simply chatting with my grandparents.”
Now that he’s based in Beijing, which is a three-hour plane ride away from his hometown of Sichuan, he will be able to see his family more often too.
Having spent so much time with his parents, who used to pester him about getting married, we asked Zhen Huan if had secretly tied the knot when he was back home.
“No, it’s nothing like that,” he grinned. “Rather than them giving up on getting me married, I think we came to a kind of understanding. I know why they want me to get married - so that I can have my own family and carry on the family name. At the same time, some things cannot be rushed, and I’m glad that they respect that I decided to put my career first, at least for now.”
Throughout the interview, he carefully skirted around the topic of his girlfriend (at least, that was what she was when he left Singapore) Sally Pan. As though he was expecting us to ask about her, he had a response the moment we asked about his relationship status.
“The answer is pretty clear if you look at my Instagram feed,” he said with a shrug. A quick check showed that all photos of them together have been removed.
Although Zhen Huan declined to comment further about the specifics of their breakup, he would only say this, “Regardless of the outcome, I’m still thankful for everything. It’s become a beautiful memory for me, and I hope that it’ll be able to stay that way.”